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Antebellum Warriors

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.”

This militiaman, left, dressed in the controversial uniform, poses with a U.S. Model 1816 musket. His white accouterment belts are held together with a plain polished brass plate. The headgear on the table next to him is a “National Guard” pattern shako, named from the adoption of an early style used by the 7th Regiment. The hat is embellished with an 1858 New York State Militia regulation cap plate—the wreath surrounding the state seal plate is an extra addition. Quarter-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Rick Brown Collection.Pvt. John Frederick Tinker, right, of the 14th wears the uniform styled on Ellsworth’s U.S. Zouave Cadets in this 1861 portrait. During his three-year enlistment in the regiment, which mustered into federal service as the 84th New York Infantry, Tinker rose in rank to first lieutenant of Company K. He barely outlived the war, dying in 1876 at age 35. Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Steve Karnes Collection.
This militiaman, left, dressed in the controversial uniform, poses with a U.S. Model 1816 musket. His white accouterment belts are held together with a plain polished brass plate. The headgear on the table next to him is a “National Guard” pattern shako, named from the adoption of an early style used by the 7th Regiment. The hat is embellished with an 1858 New York State Militia regulation cap plate—the wreath surrounding the state seal plate is an extra addition. Quarter-plate ambrotype by an anonymous photographer. Rick Brown Collection.Pvt. John Frederick Tinker, right, of the 14th wears the uniform styled on Ellsworth’s U.S. Zouave Cadets in this 1861 portrait. During his three-year enlistment in the regiment, which mustered into federal service as the 84th New York Infantry, Tinker rose in rank to first lieutenant of Company K. He barely outlived the war, dying in 1876 at age 35. Carte de visite by an anonymous photographer. Steve Karnes Collection.

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.”

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