Re: Department of Alabama Jacket
John and all,
This post may have been up for a day or two but I've been kept away from the computer for a few days.
My wife and child both had to undergo surgery late last week so it may take me a bit to get some specific information up here but let me preface that discussion with the following points.
One, although Marse Jensen's fantastic study is a valuable tool, it is certainly dated. Relying soley on that work as THE authority in CS uniforms is, in my opinion, no longer the only valid option. To explore a bit within the few paragraphs devoted to this type of jacket within the "Confederate Issue Jackets" treatise, there honestly is quite a bit of ambiguity. First and foremost is the Donald/McDonald jacket which Jensen concludes was "most likely" issued to the McDonald in New Orleans near the war's end. There is no solid evidence to support that claim any more than there is to say that the jacket actually belonged to the pre-Vicksburg J.M. Donald. Thus, although the confusion regarding the name causes some havoc with positively IDing the jacket to an owner, the very real eventuality exists that the first of these jackets could have been issued in the days prior to the fall of Vicksburg. Cockrell's Missourians were certainly in the vicinity which leaves that door open.
Two, I can't recall the gentleman's name, I want to say Rich Saathoff, but I could be incorrect. At any rate, he has an image with a date stamp of 1863 of a soldier wearing what looks to be a Dept of Alabama jacket.
Three, although I don't have a physical copy of the OR's at hand, I do recall reading through an inspection report filed on the eve of the 1864 Nashville campaign citing issuance of many items, ranging from shoes, uniforms, and accoutrements. Tragically the inspector did not elaborate to the length of "10 Mystery Jackets, 10 Columbus Depot Jackets, 10 Department of Alabama jackets" etc. Inconvient? Yes. But at the very least it shows that uniforms (although the general destitution of the men even at the onset of the camapaign shows that it was a case of too little, too late) were reaching the fighting men. Clearly these garments could have come from a variety of depots and distribution points but it leaves open the very real possibility that at least a portion of that supply came in the form of what we now refer to as Department of Alabama jackets.
To be clear, I'm not countering a supposition with further suppositions but rather illustrating that a great deal, particularly from this late point in the CS side of the war, remains unknown and may forever be that way. With that said, men were drawn from that department before the campaign who could have very realistically been wearing that type of jacket and the Army of Tennessee, both before and after the ill-fated campaign would have drawn from that area too.
Certainly this is a fascinating issue that really sits as a "tip of the iceburg" sort of question regarding CS uniforms in general. It's my opinion, but too often we blindly and unwaiveringly cling to now decades-old theories and hypotheses in this realm of scholarship. Future discussions of equal interest might center along the lines of the "Mystery" jacket, the two "types" of Columbus jackets and what point in the war each is "correct" for, or Atlanta manufactured items. Indeed, with Columbus Depot items showing up in manifests for ANV issuances and Richmond rifle muskets seeing service as far west as Prarie Grove, Arkansas, the old, pre-set "knowns" are continually being challenged.
To conclude- photographic evidence would suggest that jackets meeting the criteria of what we now refer to as Department of Alabama Jackets exists poiting to issuance as early as 1863, surviving clothing issuances leave open the possibility that at least a portion of Hood's troops were issued items from that manufactury en route to Nashville, and finally, I would argue Taylor's POST-WAR account is a fairly thin foundation to posit that "then and only" then were Dept of Bamy jackets issued to the Army of Tennessee. Indeed, I would put more stock in some of the issue items documented in the OR's and CSR's being of the above mentioned pattern rather than a few general, sweeping statements written years after the fact by an army commander who would have had no use for knowning what exactly those uniforms looked like, just so long as his men were provided for. Really, Taylor gives little-to-no true insight- no description, no dept of origin, nothing beyond the documented fact that the army was in a dreadful state of supply and morale and that efforts were undertaken to alter those conditions as best as was possible. The fact that Missourians, Louisianians, and Mississippians in the infantry, artillery, and cavalry are attributed to the surviving garments of this type suggests that issuance was very widespread. This, combined with production figures that Jensen himself sites furthers my belief that it is incorrect to say with any remote degree of certainty that Department of Alabma jackets were only a very late-war issue item.
My two cents in my present sleep deprived state.
I look forward to extending this discussion.
"You may call a Texian anything but a gentleman or a coward." Zachary Taylor