Uniforms of the 3rd Texas Cavalry

Some Thoughts on the Clothing of the 3rd Texas Cavalry Trooper

by Randy McDonald (2007)

It is safe to say that there is no official uniform of the 3rd Texas Cavalry and that the entire regiment never all wore the same uniform. In fact, most of the time, the regiment probably wore a mixture of both civilian and military style clothing in a variety of colors, styles, and materials. This is both good news and bad news for us as re-enactors. The bad news is we cannot go to our favorite sutler and simply order the 3rd Texas Cavalry kit; there is no such thing. The good news is that for a general impression, no matter what you wear, with the exception perhaps of some VMI uniform or a Richmond style jacket, no one can definitively say that what you are wearing is inaccurate. Unless, of course, it is not period correct. That being said, however, there are some things that we can do to try to be more accurate. For the newcomer looking to buy their first outfit, or for those of us who can't help shopping for new items to add to our wardrobe, these ideas may be helpful.

The clothing styles of the soldiers in the 3rd evolved somewhat during the different stages of the war, however, there are some items that probably remained generally constant over the entire war. Belt buckles, for example. While the liberated US buckle worn upside down was actually documented among Confederate soldiers and is a cheap way to get your first belt, a soldier in the Third would more likely have worn a belt with a buckle in the Georgia frame, rolling buckle, forked-tongue, or Texas star style. Military styled vests would have been rare except among officers. Every kind of period correct hat would have been worn by the Third throughout the War. Except for an occasional Texas star pin, members of the Third would not have worn brass ornaments, numbers, feathers, or other decoration on their hats. Yellow trim, an accurate identifier of Civil War cavalry, is documented to have been worn by at least some of the Third some of the time. However, like brass and other fancy decorations, yellow trim on jackets, hats, bugle cords, etc. would have been rare among Confederates from the Trans-Mississippi theatre. Although I personally prefer boots due to the fact that it helps distinguish our re-enacting unit as a cavalry unit, among members the historic Third, brogans were probably just as common as boots.

The Original Uniform
The most "uniformity" the regiment ever had was in the very beginning when the companies were being mustered from the different counties. We know, for example, that the well-to-do Company A from the Marshall area, all rode out of town wearing nice looking grey uniforms with black trim. The men of Company B did not have uniforms per se, but did make an effort to all purchase brown pants, black boots and black hats. Few details are known about the clothing of the other companies but it is recorded that on some occasions the men had to tie strips of colored cloth on their arms so they could to distinguish between their units.

April 1861 to December 1862
Almost all clothing during this period was supplied by local citizens and Ladies Aid societies who collected clothing and sewed a few uniforms as the Confederate government was unable to adequately supply uniforms. My estimate is that during this period, at least 75% of the regiment would be seen wearing nothing but civilian clothing including civilian vests, sack coats, and frock coats. (See www.crescentcitysutler.com for good examples of civilian clothing.) The remaining 25% would be wearing a mixture of civilian and homespun style uniforms parts. Any uniforms would have been mostly in the "common" or commutation style and made from loose-woven wool-jean or jean cloth type of material rather than pure wool and often would have included wooden buttons. Grey would have been the favored color but more and more brown and butternut wool-jean would have appeared as the War drug on. (See fcsutler.com for a good example of the "common" wool-jean jacket.)

Winter of 1862-1863
In April, 1862, about 10 days after the Battle of Shiloh, the Third crossed the Mississippi into the Western Theatre and joined forces with what became known as the Army of Tennessee spending the rest of the War in Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee. By the winter of 1862 the clothing of the Third had become well-worn and they were noted as being "barefooted and naked' (though for the sake of safety and modesty, I wouldn't recommend we adopt either of these styles in our re-enactments). In December 1862 the look of the 3rd probably made a visible shift after a successful raid of Union clothing and supplies at Holly Springs. After this raid, my guess is the 3rd would probably be seen wearing a mixture of clothing parts including about 50% civilian style, 25% captured Union items, and 25% military style grey and butternut wool-jean pants, jackets, and kepis.

Late War
Although I have found no official documentation saying so, it seems logical to think that starting about mid-1863, members of the 3rd would have been issued an increasing number of the jackets known to be most popular among the Army of Tennessee. The most popular of these was the blue-trimmed Columbus style, followed by the Atlanta style and the Alabama style. All of which would have been made from various shades of grey or butternut wool-jean material. (See www.fcsutler.com or www.brigadesutler.com for examples of these jackets). So during the Late War period, my guess is the 3rd would have worn a mixture of clothing parts including about 30% civilian style, 20% captured Union items, and 50% Confederate uniform parts including jackets mostly in the Columbus and common styles.

Obviously, it is difficult to identify any one style of clothing for a soldier in the historic Third Texas Cavalry. Hopefully these observations will contribute to our informed discussions and promote our efforts to honor past and current soldiers by portraying the lives they lived as accurately as possible.