Union Army Uniforms and Insignia of the Civil War

Officers' Fatique Coats and Jackets

Two Officers
Two Staff Officers in Short Coats
Sack Coat and Cut Down Frock

There was only one standard regulation uniform coat to be worn while on duty by officers of the U.S. Army during the Civil War. This was the frock coat. The regulations also mention a round jacket for undress duty for light artillery, a body coat not "dress for any military purpose" and for mounted officers, a jacket for stable duty. However, period photographs show that there were a large number of non-regulation short coats, sack coats and jackets in use by all categories of officers. These were worn for fatigue or undress duties, which would be almost all of the time in the field. These can be broadly classified as one of three basic types:1) Sack Coats, 2) Cut Down Frock Coats or 3) Jackets.

In many cases, officers appear to be wearing enlisted men's sack coats. One of these can be seen in an 1864 image of Captain Edward A. Flint of the First Massachusetts Cavalry. These were not issued to officers, but might be acquired by purchase. In other cases, coats have the basic form of a sack coat but differences in cut and style. One on the two staff officers above wears a coat with a loose cut and four buttons, typical of a sack coat, but it is certainly unlike a typical enlisted man's sack coat. Other examples have greater length than enlisted sack coats. Grade insignia and likely buttons would be appropriate to an officer. Notice that on all of our examples, where cuff buttons are visible, there are three cuff buttons, typical of a Civil War period officer's cuff.

Cut down frock coats have the basic appearance of frock coats with button patterns per regulation. They are more tailored than a sack coat, but do not have the length in the skirt typical of regulation frock coats. One of the two staff officers in the above photograph is wearing one of these. Collars were often a more comfortable rolled or lapel type rather than the standing collar of the regulation frock coat. Collars of all types of short coats and for all grades of officers might be velvet, while only generals had velvet collars on a regulation frock coat. One photographic examples has a velvet collar.

Jacket Sack Coat
Infantry Officer in Jacket Captain Flint in Enlisted Sack Coat

The last category is jackets. Some of these resembled cavalry enlisted jackets with multiple buttons. Others had button patterns similar to regulation frocks, including double breasted ones for field officers. In some cases, sleeve braid similar to that worn on the officers' overcoat was used as an extra feature. Multiple buttons are required to get a good fit on the tighter jacket than on the looser sack coat.

More: Additional Discussion of Captain Flint's Uniform
Additional Images of Officers' Sack Coats
Infantry Colonel's Jacket
Artillery Officers' Jackets
Cavalry Officer in Short Jacket
Illustration List
Index to Links
Back to Regulations
Home Page