101 Shirt Tips for Your Authentic Civil War Uniform Shirt
- 101 Tips for Your Authentic Civil War Uniform Shirt
by Paula and Coach McCoach
So you want to make or upgrade your Civil War uniform shirt, but you
don't know where to start. What type of material do you use, should
you use metal, porcelain or bone buttons, should you have a collar on
your shirt, what about the cuffs - how many inches are they supposed
to be, should you hand stitch the button holes, where should you put
the pocket on your shirt, Ahhhhh!
Your questions about making your Civil War uniform shirt authentic
are answered in this shirt article and continue to be answered in 101
Tips for Your Authentic Civil War Uniform Shirt Course at
Here are some of the tips for making Your Civil War Uniform shirt
4. To start, you could purchase a shirt that is already made that has
machine buttonholes in it and rework the buttonholes to make it look
more authentic. Take a seam ripper and pick out the buttonholes and
5. I would pick out and redo by hand all exposed machine stitching.
Someone can show you how to do that in about 15 minutes. You should
have about 6-7 stitches per inch. You have just increased the value
of your shirt and made it more authentic.
32. "Pockets were not sewn on most shirts, and not at all on the army-
issued shirts. Heavier shirts had a breast pocket or two. The pockets
were generally lower on the shirt and larger than breast pockets on
33. Buttons were metal, wooden or bone, or sometimes commercially
made from other products, such as glass or ceramic materials. For
Southern troops, different styles of buttons can be used, including
bits of wood, bone, or even acorns. You can use dental floss to tie
them on, but make sure the modern materials are not visible.
38. Battle shirts are a bit controversial. Some troops, especially
early-war Southern troops, had a tunic or heavy shirt instead of a
wool uniform coat. It would fit over a regular shirt but was not as
heavy or bulky as the wool jacket. Before you get a battle shirt,
make sure one is documented for your regiment's history, since they
were not typical and are controversial.
39. Cuffs on Civil War uniform shirts varied as much as all of the
other parts that we have discussed. Cuffs can be added using the
material of the shirt or a different color or material. Most cuffs
were about 2 inches wide.
41. Next, get yourself some good buttons. Stay away from plastic and
modern buttons. Go with glass, bone, shell, metal, porcelain, 2-hole
cat's eye or Mother of Pearl. Metal buttons are authentic but they
have the potential to rust and stain your fabric.
45. Some shirts had button on collars, and many shirts were
collarless. ECHOES: The Confederate Version shows seven shirts on
pgs. 154-155, and each one has a different collar. Pvt. John Burgwyn
MacRae Starr's North Carolina is a dark blue wool collarless pullover
shirt while the one below, Pvt. Andrew Thomas Beam, 28th South
Carolina Volunteers' shirt is a white cotton with a square edged
collar made of the same color and material.
50. My rule of thumb is that I only make Civil War uniform items that
I have seen in an original photograph or museum. Note: what is in
museum is only the very smallest tip of the iceberg because there are
very few actual items that made it through the war. The vast majority
of the original clothing is long since gone. Some of the fabrics and
colors can be seen in very old quilts because they reused everything.
53. Note the different collars, buttons, and fabrics, color
combinations. I personally do not like solid color shirts. I like
something with a little color to it. These shirts have original glass
buttons on them. I prefer glass buttons for shirts because I like to
match the color combinations.
55. Keep everything 100% wool and 100% cotton. Make sure that the
material is a good grade, like homespun. If you are going to take the
time and energy, to make your own shirt, buy something high quality
that will last. The price of the shirt material is negligible
compared to the time and energy you will put into making it.
70. Original coin buttons are still available and affordable if you
want to look for them. You can find them anywhere from one to three
dollars. You might even want to go with a mismatched set - one or two
state seals and the remainder coin buttons.
Do you have more questions, have them answered
2004 permission granted to reprint this article in print or on your
website so long as the contact information is included to
Paula and Coach McCoach, 10606 Piney Island Dr., Bishopville, MD 21813