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Monday, December 3, 2012

Confusing friend and foe in Civil War Missouri

As I've mentioned before on this blog, it took some time on the western fringes of the Civil War for uniforms to settle down to the familiar blue and gray.

The First Kansas Colored Volunteers, a Union regiment, wore gray uniforms. At the Battle of Wilson's Creek, the detachment of the Union army under Col. Franz Sigel confused the advancing 3rd Louisiana for the 3rd (1st!) Iowa, a Union regiment that wore gray. They didn't realize their mistake until they got fired upon. Even the Confederate South Carolina Flying Artillery wore blue at the beginning of the war.

In Missouri, many local militia had no uniforms at all. The Union militia near Lancaster wore white hatbands to show who they were. On October 18, 1862, a large troop of them were hunting some rebel bushwhackers. The rebels decided the militia's "uniform" was easy to imitate and made themselves some white hatbands. The poor militia let most of them escape, even though they greatly outnumbered the rebels. They simply didn't know who was who!


  1. I imagine it was all rather confusing!

  2. Not sure if the first time got wiped or not...

    One small mistake in your entry, it was the 1st Iowa at Wilson Creek. To add more to the story about the 1st Iowa at Wilson Creek, prior to the battle they decided to strip off their grey coats and went to battle wearing whatever civilian shirts that they had. Sigel was not told of this and would had probably fired on them had it really been them instead of the 3rd LA. Also this stripping down to civilian shirts caused another battlefield confusion when one company of the 1st Iowa got separated from the RGT and started to line up on rebel company in the middle of the battle field. Amazingly, the Company commander of the Iowa company spied one of the other officers and knew him as a pro-secessionist and stopped the company from forming on an enemy company.

    Also to add to the statement about delays on the blue uniforms for the forces on the Frontier, the famed 8th Wisconsin wore gray uniforms until they were finally issued blue uniforms in the summer or fall of 1862 (I can't remember the actual date.)



    1. Whoops, you're right! That made me run to my book Missouri: An Illustrated History to make sure I had it correct there. I did. Whew! A mistake on a blog is easily fixed. A mistake in a book, however. . .

    2. Oh, and I have moderate comments turned on. I got it on your first try. It's just that with me being in Spain my blogging hours are way different than other people's so you'll see my comments at odd hours!

  3. Yes, confusion reigned supreme then. When Kansas called out it's State Militia in response to the Price Raid in October 1864, The men were asked to attach a bit of red cloth to their coats to identify them as Union. As such red cloth was unavailable, the quick thinking Kansans detached the changing leaves on the brush they plodded through and called themselves the "Sumach Melish".


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