- Tom Fagart
What did the Confederate soldier look like on the battle field?
The Southern soldier was not well equipped with uniforms.
Having a uniform was extremely rare especially for the enlisted man and lower ranking field officers. At the beginning of the war many units were given homemade uniforms by the citizens of their communities.
Such was the case for Pvt. Franklin Cauble, Co C, 42 nd North Carolina Infantry. When Co C was formed in Albemarle, Stanly County, North Carolina on February 28, 1863 the men of Co C were outfitted with uniforms made by the ladies of Stanly County. At that time there was but one sewing machine in Stanly County and under the directions of a local tailor the uniforms of Co C were made. Co C in their new uniforms marched through town on their way to Salisbury, North Carolina to be mustered in. They had no rifles, only two fifes and a drum. As they passed through the square and by the Marshall Hotel,
Louisa Thomas Hearne appeared on the hotel balcony and sang “The Old North State”. That was the best that Co C, 42 nd NC would ever look. Pvt. Cauble would later die of dysentery in Elmira on October 28, 1864. He had been captured in the Battle of Cold Harbor.
The best example of what the Confederate soldier looked like was captured in a famous Civil War photo taken by Matthew Brady at Gettysburg. What is unique and rare about this photo is that it shows what Confederate soldiers looked like right off the battle field and not depleted as in prisoner of war camp photos. Their appearance only became worse once they became a prisoner of war.
Possibly Brady’s most famous photo “Three Confederate Prisoners” , aka “Three Tar Heel Prisoners”, was taken in Gettysburg after the famous July 3, 1863 Pickett’s Charge against Cemetery Ridge. It is reported that these three Confederate soldiers have been identified. They are Left to Right: Pvt. Ephraim Blevins, Co K “Alleghany Tigers”, 37 th NC Infantry, Capt. Thomas Jefferson Baldwin, Co D “Grayson Hornets”, 50 th VA Infantry, Pvt. Andrew Z. Blevins, Co K “Alleghany Tigers”, 37 th NC Infantry. The Blevins men are from Alleghany County, NC and Capt. Baldwin is from Ashe County, NC. Company D “Grayson Hornets”, 50 th Virginia was made up of men from both Ashe County, NC and Grayson County, VA.
Another unique feature of this photo, in addition to clearly showing their sparse equipment, is the fact that these three men are reported to be related. Pvt. Ephraim Blevins is the son of Pvt. Andrew Z. Blevins and Capt. Thomas Jefferson Baldwin is their cousin. Alleghany and Ashe Counties are adjoining counties and located on the Virginia state line. Grayson County,
Virginia is located on the North Carolina state line. All three counties join together in the mountains, only to be separated by the North Carolina and Virginia state lines.
After the Battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia, another epic photo was taken of Confederate prisoners on June 9, 1864 at White House Landing, Virginia located on the banks of the Pamunkey River. Again, a photo shows what the Confederate prisoner looked like off the battle field of Cold Harbor. This photo is of special interest to the Elmira Prison Camp for the greatest majority of the Confederate prisoners captured at Cold Harbor would be sent to the Elmira Prison Camp after spending a short time at Point Lookout Prison, Maryland. The question is, how many of these men were in Elmira and how many of them died in Elmira?
Photos taken of Confederate prisons fresh of the battlefield are rare and these two photos are considered to be the finest for studying Confederate military equipment and uniforms. Special attention should be paid to their headgear, haversacks, and footwear or lack of. The scarcity of Confederate uniforms during the war has brought about the very high value of any such uniform that exists today. For this reason, the Confederate soldier uniform value is much higher than the uniform of a Union soldier.
Tom Fagart, Concord, NC Member Friends of Elmira Civil War Prison Camp, Elmira, NY