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Richmond Depot Mid War Kepis

An Overview

Looking through the various books and websites you can find articles on jackets, trousers even socks. One article of clothing you find nothing written about is the humble Richmond Depot Kepi or Cap.

This article aims to shed some light on the appearance of the Richmond Depot kepi around the mid war period, but is not meant to be definitive on the subject.

The Cloth

Firstly and, most controversially, the cloth. It seems that everything these days is not authentic if it is not made from Jean Cloth. However evidence does point to the fact that the South did produce large amounts of wool kersey throughout the war. This is not to say that Jean Cloth is not correct, it is, as the majority of local production was Jeans and Cassimere, however wool was available.

The largest mill in Virginia was the Crenshaw Woollen Mill in Richmond, which made "all wool goods". Another mill was the Danville Manufacturing Co. in Danville, Virginia. This firm also supplied "thousands of yards of Kersey" throughout the war. Therefore at the mid war point thousands of Kepi's would have been made from wool.

Chinstrap

Most if not all Richmond Depot caps would have a chin strap, but minus the brass buckle because Brass was scarce and was required for other items. The strap may have been functional or non-functional made from tarred canvas/cotton or leather. A non-functional strap was a single piece of canvas/cotton or leather. The strap would be ½ to ¾ of an inch wide.

Visor

Due to the scarcity of leather by 1863, the visor, like the chin strap would be made of canvas/cotton that consisted of two or three layers stitched together and painted black. Alternatively the visor could be made from layers of thin card, which were glued together and covered in black painted cloth.

The main point to note about the visor is that it would have been flat, and would not have been folded down at the edges like the modern baseball cap. The visor would be bound around the edges with a thin piece of leather or tarred cotton/canvas and would be 2 inches long.

Lining

The lining could be Osnaburg or cotton shirting in checks the same as the civilian shirt. Local mills also made cotton shirting.

Buttons

The chin strap was fastened by two small buttons, which were usually pewter coin buttons, English brass buttons or brass union eagle buttons.

Sweatbands

This was made from un-dyed leather or black painted cotton/canvas and would be 1 - 1½ inches wide.

Colours

By 1863 the caps produced by the Richmond Depot could have had coloured bands or crowns. Three existing caps at the museum of the Confederacy show this. One cap made by the Depot for the Artillery has a red band and crown with cadet grey sides. Another cap has a cadet grey band with the rest of the cap being made in red wool. The third cap has red wool sides with a cadet grey band and crown. Therefore it is likely that the caps for infantry would have been similar except blue coloured bands and crowns. The 2nd Maryland Infantry were documented as wearing these. However the vast majority of caps would have been plain grey. All shades of grey would have been used right through to a tan colour due to the vegetable dyes oxidising. Logwood dyes which were widely used to make grey dye, usually faded quickly with exposure to sunlight.

As previously stated this is not a definitive article just an overview of an item of uniform previously overlooked but widely used by men in grey.

Sources:

  1. Correspondence with Greg Starbuck
  2. New Richmond Depot Catalogue by Chris White
  3. Don Troine - Regiment & Uniforms of the Civil War
  4. Echoes of Glory
  5. 7th S.C. Vols by Ron Field

Greg Starbuck can be contacted by email by clicking here.

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


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