The 95th Pennsylvania Uniform in the Field

Soldiers in abandoned Confederate works near Centreville, Virginia, one of three photographs taken by George Barnard in March 1862. (Library of Congress)

Soldiers in abandoned Confederate works near Centreville, Virginia, one of three photographs taken by George Barnard in March 1862. (Library of Congress)

As well documented as the original Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania uniform design is, there have been questions regarding distribution of the complete uniform among the companies, how the fighting equipment was worn with the uniform, and about details of uniforms worn by the line and field officers. Most surviving individual photos are studio images taken without the soldier’s basic equipments- accoutrements, haversack, canteen, and knapsack, and also show some variations of the uniform between individuals. But what did the regiment appear like once it had gotten into the field? Was it a totally uniform organization or were there some variances in appearance between each company? Fortunately, a set of images in the collection of the Library of Congress help answer this question by providing us a unique view of soldiers from Company F and how they appeared while on campaign in the spring of 1862.

The story behind these images:

Detail from Barnard photograph of Confederate works near Centreville, Virginia

Detail from Barnard photograph of Confederate works near Centreville, Virginia

In March 1862, photographer George Barnard accompanied General William Franklin’s force as it marched on Manassas Junction, which was abandoned by the Confederate forces that had wintered there. Barnard took several images of Union troops lounging in the Confederate fortifications near Centreville, three of which include soldiers of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania. Poorly reproduced versions of these images have appeared in books published in the 1960’s and 1970’s but none were clear enough to identify the zouaves posing by the false cannon aligned within the formidable earthern works.

Fortunately in 2000, the Library of Congress reproduced a selection of their images for the “American Memory” section of the Library of Congress web site and these photos taken by Barnard finally revealed the true identity of the zouaves standing on these abandoned earthworks. The high resolution images are clear enough to show the brass numerals “95” on many of the men’s caps as well as many other details such as the soldier eating the piece of hardtack in the detail at left, which was taken from the image at the top of this page. What the three images show is interesting specifically when understanding how the uniform was worn in the field and what the enlisted men had and did not have at this early stage of their wartime service. Details like the one here show not only the zouave uniform but also how the equipment was worn by Gosline’s men while on campaign.

The details presented here are taken from all three of Barnard’s photographs.


There are subjects fully accoutred in all three of Barnard’s images, like these examples here. The soldiers wear standard Federal issue accoutrements with haversacks and canteens slung from the right shoulder. Note that all of the enlisted men have cartridge box shoulder belts or slings with the eagle breast plate. It has been commonly thought that zouave units wore the box on the waist belt alone without the shoulder belt, but the opposite is true with this company and was probably so with the regiment. The shoulder belt is missing from the illustration of a Ninety-fifth soldier that appeared in Philadelphia in the Civil War (on our History of the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry pages and based on an early war photo of John Cook), and only appears in the few field photos of the regiment that have survived.

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CAPS: What is noticeable in this image is the lack of the chasseur caps as designated for the Gosline uniform. All of the men on this image are wearing the standard Federal-issue 1858 forage cap or a McDowell pattern variant. The proliferation of the standard forage caps in this group leads me to believe that this company never received the uniform cap designed for the regiment. I doubt whether this was an exception; other companies in the Ninety-fifth regiment most likely did not receive the chasseur caps either (apart from A and D Companies) and the 1858 forage cap was issued instead but they did receive the other parts of the uniform supplied by Rockhill and Wilson. Most of the men have a company number and the regiment’s numerals on the top of their caps while one soldier- the last one in the images below- has added some extra brass to his cap, possibly a national shield (eagle with spread wings) pin designed for the dress hat.

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The lone exception of the above is the soldier lying on the outside of the earthworks at the far right of the image at the top of this page. His cap appears to be the chasseur pattern with red trim.


TROUSERS: Most of the men wear the original issue trousers with material gathered around the waistband, baggy legs with the red trim on the outer seam. The first issue trousers are obvious on the soldier at left, seated in the center of the photograph. The figure at right maybe wearing regular issue trousers as the legs are not as baggy as those worn by the other men and the waistband does not have the gathering of material. One other soldier (in the photo at the top) likewise may have regular dark blue issue trousers instead of the zouave trousers.

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So the question is do these two just have tighter fit zouave trousers or had their original zouave trousers worn out and these men drew regular issue trousers, which do match in basic color? Close examination of the high resolution images really cannot answer this, though I suspect there was not a shortage of original chasseur trousers when first issued and these men maybe wearing issue trousers as a substitute.

LEGGINGS: (gaiters or leggins) All of the soldiers wear the mid-shin high leggings issued with the first uniform. A close look at these show they have five buckles and straps to close the side of each legging around the shoe and shin, with another similar sized buckle and strap that ran under the sole of the shoe. The buckles on the figure at right are quite shiny, suggesting brass buckles in place of japanned iron buckles. We know from photos of members of Company A and D that they were provided leather leggings, though the leggings on these Company F men appear to be made of heavy canvas or cotton drill because of the way they gather around the base of the shoe and ankle, not usually seen in photos of soldiers wearing the leather leggings. These leggings all appear to be made of three pieces with no seam on the inside of the legging. It is unclear whether the top of the legging has a leather binding piece around the top, a detail seen on a pair of leggings at the Smithsonian Institution documented to another Pennsylvania zouave regiment.

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Though we know the leggings issued to some companies (A and D) were made of leather, shortages or the added cost may have prevented Rockhill and Wilson from providing similar leggings to the remainder of the regiment and they produced these as a substitute. Given the darkish tone of these leggings in the photograph, I doubt they were issued in white but were dyed in an attempt to match the russet leather leggings previously issued. Unfortunately a documented set of leggings issued to the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania is not known to exist in any museum or private collection.

WEAPONS: The first firearm issued to the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Infantry was the Austrian-Lorenz Rifle in .54 caliber.
uniformdetail-0021One of Gosline’s men here presents his rifle in profile, showing the reverse side of the weapon. Though widely used in both armies, Austrian Rifles were one of the least favorite foreign-made weapons because of their tendency for the bolster to become choked with residue after only a few shots had been fired and their notorious inaccuracy beyond 150 yards. The extra length of the Austrian bayonet also provided a poor fit for the standard Federal issue bayonet scabbard as evidenced by other men standing upon the works. Notice that the Austrian Rifles provided to F Company had the cheek piece on the stock.

OFFICERS: Surviving studio portraits of Ninety-fifth officers show most dressed in regulation officer’s dress coats with an officer’s kepi or a non-regulation hat. What was unknown was is any of the line officers wore the zouave uniform to match the enlisted men in each company and this detail provides us with an answer. Close examination of one of the images reveals these two officers in the back of the group, “arm in arm”. The standing officer wears the zouave jacket with shoulder boards sewn to the coat, dark wool trousers with no leggings and sports an officer’s cap with what could be a bound leather visor, typical of the fine quality officer’s caps available from Philadelphia cap makers and military suppliers.

officerdetail-012eThe officers of Company F were 1st Lieutenant David Hailer and 2d Lieutenant Charles Shughrue though it is impossible to know who this standing officer is without images of either officer being known to this author. The soldier to his left upon whose shoulder he rests his hand (partially hidden by the standing enlisted man) wears the zouave jacket, baggy chasseur trousers similar in style to those issued to the enlisted men, and wears a McDowell pattern cap. What identifies this man as an officer is the shoulder strap of his sword belt, finer quality waist belt, and what appears to be a sidearm and holster under his jacket. Despite the hand on his chin covering part of his face, this man appears to be Edward Carroll, then captain of Company F and destined to command the regiment later in the war.

95th Pennsylvania Uniform Field Study, Page 2