A.C.W.S.
Ltd (UK)

A Look At Blankets & Substitutes
in the
Army of Northern Virginia

This article intends to look at the various types of blankets and substitutes that the ordinary soldier in the A.N.V carried with him through the conflict. At the beginning of the war thousands of woollen blankets were issued by the Quartermasters's Depot in Richmond. The Crenshaw woollen mill of Richmond made "Heavy Civilian and Military Blankets", the firm produced blankets on one of the few power looms set up for making blankets in Virginia.

It supplied its blankets to the Richmond Depot until an accidental fire during the summer of 1863 completely destroyed the mill and its machinery, due to the damage to the building and contents, no attempts were made to rebuild it.

Another manufacturer Jacob Bonsack produced blankets of coarse wool and jeans. By 1862 the supply of military blankets became so scarce the Quartermasters Dept. began to purchase large amounts of ingrain carpet to augment supplies of military blankets. These "blankets" were strips of flat woven reversible wool carpet, the 35th N.C. Ransoms Brigade, Hills Corps. Documented receiving 'carpet blankets' on November 15th 1862 These "blankets" were still being issued prior to the Gettysburg campaign.

Of course the biggest supplier of blankets to the men of the A.N.V. were the enemy and the folks at home.

Civilian coverlets, blankets and quilts were sent from home to the men at the front.

At the beginning of the war some southern communities tried to raise money to buy gunboats and the 'gunboat' quilts were made, through fairs, raffles, enough was raised to buy three ironclad gunboats.

During 1862 enthusiasm waned when naval defeats made it look likely southern ports would fall to the enemy, so the ladies decided the funds and quilts should go to the army instead.

The U.S. Sanitary commission also made quilts for the U.S. Army. 125,000 were distributed by the Christian Commission alone. These were made during the blanket shortage in the North during the early war period. Another U.S early war blanket was the 'emergency blanket' This was a tan blanket with a brown end stripe and was issued in lieu of an issue blanket.

U.S. Volunteers were ordered on August 29th 1862 to 'take a good woollen blanket' when enlisting. Issue blankets according to General order No 31 were to be woollen, gray with the letters U.S. In black, four inches long in the centre, to be 7ft long, 51/2 ft wide and weigh 5lbs.

All these U.S. Blanket and quilts would have been captured or issued to some A.N.V. Soldiers after the victories at the Seven Days, 2nd Manassas, Fredricksburg and Chancellorsville.

Coverlets were made of wool and/or cotton in many colours and patterns. As the looms could only produce a certain width, two halves were stitched together to make one full sized coverlet.

Civilian blankets were either made of wool or jeans, either plain, checked or striped, again two pieces stitched together and were natural or earth toned in colour, brown, greys, some reds, blues and other colours were popular, but because they were mineral or vegetable dyed the colours, were muted as these dyes couldn't produce modern 'bright' colours.

By 1864 the Confederate Quartermaster Dept. were forced to rely totally on imported British blankets. A report by Quartermaster General Alexander R Lawton dated August 5th 1864 stated "our entire supply of blankets has to be drawn from abroad."

These British blankets were of blue or blue grey wool, the state of North Carolina also imported these British blankets, N.C. purchasing agent John White responsible for purchasing in England imported 50,000 of these blankets from the firm of Alexander Collie & Co. From June 1863 to January 1865 some of these blankets were sold to the Central Government, for instance Mahone's Division of Hill's Corps were issued Blue/Grey blankets with N.C. stitched in the centre.

Hundreds of thousands of the blankets were run through the blockade. In the last six months of 1864, 74,000 alone were imported.

These then were some of the blankets and substitutes that the Confederate soldier carried with him on his journey into history.

Vendors

  • Civilian Jean/Wool Blankets, Coverlets from Family Heirloom Weavers
  • Quilts, U.S. Blankets from Joe Hofman (Jersey Skillet Licker)
  • English Blue/Grey Blanket from County Cloth (Charlie Childs)
  • Civilian Jeans Blanket from S&S Sutler (Gettysburg)

Sources:

  1. Soldiers of American/Regiments and Uniforms - Don Troiani
  2. Richmond Depot. Catalogue - C White
  3. Lifeline of the Confederacy - S Wise

Article supplied by By David Burt Co G 18th VA Inf


The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, August 2003