The Uniform That Demoralized a Regiment
This Brooklynite in the 14th Regiment, New York State Militia, is dressed in a newly designed uniform that had unexpected consequences. A brigade inspector reported on Oct. 18, 1858: “This regiment has, I regret to say, deteriorated both in numbers and discipline during the past year. Owing to a difference of opinion regarding a change of uniform, a feeling has been engendered that has been most unfortunate in its results.”
MI Senior Editor Mike McAfee explains that, “Since individual members of the regiment paid for their own uniforms, and most equipment, changing into a new and expensive uniform could generate problems as the regiment’s individual companies all had to agree.”
The militiamen appeared to have resolved the controversy by February 1859, when, according to the state’s Adjutant General, another design was adopted.
It was, however, also short-lived. “In 1860,” notes McAfee, “after the visit of Elmer E. Ellsworth’s U.S. Zouave Cadets that summer, the 14th voted to adopt the red and blue chasseur-style uniform that the regiment was noted for during the Civil War.”