John B. Cook (also listed on the muster rolls as “Cooke”), a native of Philadelphia, enrolled in Company D, 95th Pennsylvania Infantry with which he served throughout the war, mustering out as a sergeant in 1865. As a veteran, Cook was active in the G.A.R. (Grand Army of the Republic) and the association of veterans of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry. Fortunately some of his personal items have survived including his jacket, canteen, reunion ribbons, and photographs he had taken during his service.
The photograph at left was probably taken in Alexandria, Virginia during the regiment’s first stay in the defenses of Washington and when the uniform was relatively new and complete. Company D was provided uniforms from the lot produced by Rockhill and Wilson from patterns based on the first uniforms produced at Schuylkill Arsenal, so this photograph shows what that company produced. Cook is apparently wearing a Federal issue shirt under his jacket, the early shirt having been discarded or left in his personal belongings. Of the uniform shown here, only the jacket has survived and in the collection at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in Fredericksburg, Virginia.
Sgt. Cook wears the chasseur cap, this with a patent leather bill. His trousers are the baggy chasseur-style with gathering around the waistband and a red stripe in the outer seam of the leg. The leggings appear to be russet leather with a five buckle closure, very similar in style and cut to those worn by the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry (“Birney’s Zouaves”), a Philadelphia regiment that was also supplied by Schuylkill Arsenal and Rockhill and Wilson. His shoes appear to be the standard Federal-issue bootee. Cook’s attire matches the uniforms and headgear of other members of Company D, photographed in the field at about this same time. (See our field study pages.)
What’s unclear about the leggings is whether all of those issued to the Ninety-fifth were made of leather or made from canvas or cotton drill and dyed to match the first pattern. It is suggested in a letter from a soldier in G Company that the leggings issued to him were made of “starched cotton” but at this time the author is unaware of any leggings, leather or cotton canvas, documented to the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania that are still in existence.
Details of Sgt. Cook’s Jacket in the Collection of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park Fredericksburg, Virginia
General Characteristics: Sgt. Cook’s jacket shows wear and age but is in remarkable condition given that he probably wore it all fours years of service. The jacket is most likely a Rockhill and Wilson contract, made of a medium weight dark blue wool with padded chest, cotton-jean body lining and muslin sleeve linings. The jacket has a three piece exterior body machine sewn with hand-finished details, the thread long haven turned to the characteristic brown typical of 1860’s thread dyed with logwood. There is a four piece lining with quilting by machine in the chest, the pieces being machine sewn and hand finished with a whip stitch at the sleeves. Though it’s impossible to tell what the padding material is, conservators believe it to be a medium weight cotton and not burlap found in many Federal clothing items as stiffeners. The lining pieces are machine sewn together with the side and bottom edges pressed under and whip stitched over the wool facings. There is also a pocket set into the left breast, the opening along the lining edge with the pocket made of a polished cotton material. The throat hook and eyelet are sewn into the coat body with a small piece of wool material whip stitched over each to hold them in place.
The wide trim is stitched with two lines of machine stitching, which passes through the entire thickness of the jacket and serves as the jacket’s top stitching. The narrow cord trim (actually a very narrow wool strip) is sewn onto the coat body by hand. Two pieces of the cord also lie horizontally across each lower back vent. There are separate inner facing pieces in the cuffs.
Exterior back of jacket.
The jacket body is composed three parts- two for the front and one for the back with no center seam in the back. The vents at the bottom of the jacket are offset from the vertical seams approximately two inches with the red trim and cord (soutache) around the edge. Top stitching is evident on the trim and well as inside the facings of the bottom of the jacket. (Portions of the cording are missing from the back side of the coat.)
Interior lining, back of jacket.
The brown jean lining is composed of four pieces, two in the back with a center seam. The breast lining has several lines of horizontal machine stitching that holds the thin layer of padding between the lining and jacket body. The lining is machine sewn, hand finished. What is not readily visible is the small pocket in the left breast of the coat that opens along the edge of the lining. The pocket body is made of greenish brown twill cloth, not unlike the polished cotton used for pockets in tailor made officers uniforms.
Interior lining, lower back of jacket.
The lining is stitched to the edge of a 2 inch-wide facing at the bottom of the jacket, the end of the lining folded under and stitched in place. Note that it ends just above the back vents.
Collar detail, back of jacket.
The two-piece collar has cording in the seam and along the upper edge with the 1/2 inch space between it and the tape trim sustained around the collar, which stands at 2 inches high. The interior of the collar is also made of two pieces, the top folded inside with the bottom edge left raw and whip stitched into place along the lining.
Exterior left front of jacket.
The exterior of the jacket has 1/2″ twill tape along the entire edge with the cord placed approximately 1/2″ in leaving the gap for the row of buttons, thirteen per side. Tape and cording exhibit a top stitch that is most likely machine-sewn because of it’s consistent spacing around the jacket and above the back vents. The buttons are 5/8 inch brass bell buttons, not round as we believe most zouave buttons to be but more of a mushroom shape when looked at from the side. After examining original jackets in photos and in person, we find there were some variances in the number of buttons on jackets, the average being thirteen per side up to fifteen per side. This variance maybe due to later production jackets having had additional buttons placed on the lapels, but is something we will explore further as research continues. Note how the curve of the jacket’s lapel is designed to flow open from the throat closure, with the gentle curve at the bottom of the front piece.
Vent detail, lower back of jacket.
The cut in vent in the back of the jacket is offset from the back seams approximately four inches on center. Note the double piece of cording sewn under the edge tape which slants toward the front of the jacket. Not all of the jackets known to exist exhibit this cord detail, so this maybe a detail particular to jackets produced by Rockhill and Wilson. This cord across the vent detail has been seen on a jacket documented to the 23rd Pennsylvania Infantry.
The sleeve lining is hand whip stitched to the edge of a two inch-wide facing at the edge of the cuff and cuff split. The two cuff buttons are missing from Cook’s jacket, though the holes where they were are still obvious. Might Cook have removed them to replace missing buttons on the front?
Interior sleeve lining detail.
The muslin sleeve lining is whipped stitched to the edge of the body lining. Both lining and body of the sleeve are one piece, what is often referred to as “French cut”. There is no maker’s stamp nor size marking in the coat. The stitching across the chest lining is evident in this view, extending to the upper part of the chest. That Cook wore this well made jacket for all four years of service is obvious by the amount of stain and fading from perspiration in the armpit area. Cook’s jacket has no contractor’s markings of any sort, unlike the jackets that are attributable to Schuylkill Arsenal.
The source information on this page is from notes taken by John Heiser at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park in 1978-1979 and from notes taken by Craig Schneider in September 2008. Many thanks to Craig and Janice Frye at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, Fredericksburg, Virginia, for their assistance with this project including the photographs presented on this page.