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Uniforms & History

The 10th Regiment of the New York State Militia was originally based in New York City. Its officers however, refused to adhere to an effort by state officials to make the uniforms of the New York militia consistent. At the 1859 Fourth of July parade in the city, one observer reported that its lack of a regimental uniform and the mixture of company uniforms within the line “was a jumble.” He went on to suggest that, “If the Tenth cannot change, let them withdraw and give up.”

“If the Tenth cannot change, let them withdraw and give up.”

And, that was exactly what happened. Later that same year, the 10th was removed from the roster of the New York state militia.

In 1860, a new 10th was created upstate in the capital of Albany. At first, a mixture of company uniforms plagued the regiment—an irony prompted by drawing together scattered military companies from outside the city.

The new regiment did strive to create uniformity. The first regimental uniform was described as “merely a short, single-breasted jacket of rather light blue material, trousers of red. The second uniform … a little more elaborate, made of blue material throughout, with fatigue cap. The coat was a sack, buttoned at the neck and cut away in front, with a row of brass buttons on each edge, exposing the blue flannel shirt underneath.”

Around the same time, the regiment’s Company A, the Albany Zouave Cadets, adopted a quasi-Zouave dress copied by the 44th New York Infantry. Similar in style to the regiment’s second uniform, it had rows of buttons on each side of an open jacket, but appears from photographs to be of a more substantial nature. Later, in 1862, a formal regimental uniform of dark blue frock coats with shoulder knots and “dark maroon red” trousers were adopted and worn until 1876, when new uniforms with white coats replaced the blue.

From December 1862 until September 1863, the 10th served as federal volunteer regiment, renumbered the 177th New York Volunteer Infantry. Sent to Louisiana, the regiment lost four members in combat and 152 from disease and accident. The 177th wore standard federal uniforms for this campaign, but its men often retained the militia number 10 on their caps.

The accompanying photographs show the variety of uniforms worn by the 10th in wartime.

Carte de visite by Haines & Wickes of Albany, N.Y.
Carte de visite by Haines & Wickes of Albany, N.Y.

Members of the 10th Regiment, wearing the 1862 dress uniform, lined up in an upstate New York field for this group portrait.

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer.

Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer.

These four members of the Albany Zouave Cadets proudly display their new Zouave style uniforms, undoubtedly inspired by the visit of Elmer E. Ellsworth’s U.S. Zouave Cadets in 1860.

Carte de visite by S. J. Thompson & Co. of Albany, N.Y.

Carte de visite by S. J. Thompson & Co. of Albany, N.Y.

John A. VanLeuven wears a Zouave-inspired uniform with his company letter D broadly splashed across the top of his cap.

Carte de visite by Huested & Wendell of Albany, N.Y.

Carte de visite by Huested & Wendell of Albany, N.Y.

Hospital Steward George R. Binder wears a regulation uniform, except for the slouch hat decorated with a US within a wreath.

Carte de visite by the Thompson Gallery of Albany, N.Y.

Carte de visite by the Thompson Gallery of Albany, N.Y.

This unidentified corporal of the regiment wears the 1863 state militia jacket adopted for all infantry within the system. Not to be confused with the 1861 state volunteer jacket, this version was piped in white.

MI Senior Editor Michael J. McAfee is a curator at the West Point Museum at the United States Military Academy, and author of numerous books. He has curated major museum exhibitions, and has contributed images and authoritative knowledge to other volumes and projects. The images pictured here are from his collection.

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