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While there has been an enduring popular image of the Confederates as a “ragtag Rebel force” without a specific uniform, in fact the Confederacy’s Quartermaster General had put into place a clothing issue system for the whole army by the fall of 1862. However, the pattern and materials used varied from location to location owing to the availability of materials and manufacturing resources. The government-issued uniforms were often supplemented heavily by the soldiers with homemade, state-issued, and captured items, resulting in the often mismatched look of the Confederate forces.
The Haversack’s online store offers the 2nd edition of the Museum’s popular Uniform Catalogue, featuring an introduction by guest curator, Les Jensen. This reexamination of the Museum’s collection is arranged alphabetically by the name of the soldier who wore them, known provenance, and detailed descriptions.
Of the few hundred known remaining uniforms of the Confederate forces, the largest and most significant collection is preserved by The Museum of the Confederacy. One of the most prized artifacts in the 215-item collection is the uniform frock coat of General Robert E. Lee worn at the surrender in Appomattox. The collection also features garments from the western theaters and the Confederate Navy. There are several uniforms from Civil War notables, including: Richard S. Ewell, William Dorsey Pender, John Bell Hood, Patrick Cleburne, and Ambrose P. Hill.
Every wartime photograph of Robert E. Lee shows him wearing a uniform coat bearing three stars on his collar; the insignia denoting the rank of colonel in the Confederate Army. Why did Lee prefer the insignia of a Confederate colonel? Lee had finally attained the rank of colonel in the U.S. Army on the eve of the war and some have speculated that Lee wore the three stars as a gesture of Lee’s famous modesty. Another explanation is that three stars had been in the U.S. Army the appropriate insignia for a lieutenant general a rank that only two men had held: Lee’s idol George Washington and his mentor Winfield Scott.