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"Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

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  • "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

    Hello all,

    I remember my very first event as I was introduced into this hobby. A raw private, just being handed an Enfield rifle to improve my farby impression, I was eager to engage with the public at a living history event.

    It was a hot, muggy Virginia day. Finally I got my break from the hordes of people and I sat down and removed my Zouave jacket. Suddenly, a rough, hard-ass First Sergeant told me to put my jacket back on. His reasoning: wearing your braces in public was considered like “wearing your underwear in public today.” He also told me to button just the top collar button as well.

    Not sure if this question has been posted yet, but does anyone know the validity of this procedure? I’ve seen several pictures of men in camp not wearing their jackets and not having the top collar button buttoned (See photographs below). Why is what I did wrong or still potentially wrong?

    Thoughts? Pointers?

    Thanks,

    Jason
    Last edited by Shockoe Hill Cats; 02-17-2009, 02:07 PM.
    Jason C. Spellman
    Skillygalee Mess

    "Those fine fellows in Virginia are pouring out their heart's blood like water. Virginia will be heroic dust--the army of glorious youth that has been buried there."--Mary Chesnut

  • #2
    Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

    I was told to do it, "When leaving camp." Could go without in camp.

    Jerry Holmes
    Jerry Holmes
    28th GA. Inf
    65th GA. Inf (GGG-Grandfather)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

      Hopefully, Mr. Wickersty will follow with the early image of the nudist colony playing chess. Scanda-freakin'-lous.
      Attached Files
      Last edited by FranklinGuardsNYSM; 12-20-2006, 07:15 PM.
      Marc A. Hermann
      Liberty Rifles.
      MOLLUS, New York Commandery.
      Oliver Tilden Camp No 26, SUVCW.


      In honor of Sgt. William H. Forrest, Co. K, 114th PA Vol. Infantry. Pvt. Emanuel Hermann, 45th PA Militia. Lt. George W. Hopkins & Capt. William K. Hopkins, Co. E, 7th PA Reserves. Pvt. Joseph A. Weckerly, 72nd PA Vol. Infantry (WIA June 29, 1862, d. March 23, 1866.) Pvt. Thomas Will, 21st PA Vol. Cavalry (WIA June 18, 1864, d. July 31, 1864.)

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

        Tell that to the naked guys that show up in several LOC images bathing in the various rivers and streams. There's even one guy completely in the buff in water up to his knees looking right at the camera.

        I'm busy studying for a mid-term right now, but there are HUNDREDS of images of soldiers with the top-buttons undone, their shirt buttons undone, shirt sleeves rolled up, no shirts, trousers rolled up, standing barefoot, wearing caps backwards... and some of these in the presence of officers, too.

        Spend some time floating around the LOC's online images and download them in high-res rather than listening to reenactor sergeants.
        Last edited by ThehosGendar; 10-16-2006, 11:40 PM.
        Jason R. Wickersty
        http://www.newblazingstarpress.com

        Received. “How now about the fifth and sixth guns?”
        Sent. “The sixth gun is the bully boy.”
        Received. “Can you give it any directions to make it more bully?”
        Sent. “Last shot was little to the right.”
        Received. “Fearfully hot here. Several men sunstruck. Bullets whiz like fun. Have ceased firing for awhile, the guns are so hot."

        - O.R.s, Series 1, Volume 26, Part 1, pg 86.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

          1863 Federal camp outside of Chattanooga Tennessee. Quite a variety of buttoned, unbuttoned along with the no jacket at all. The officer to the right wearing the cap seems to be O.K. with it all.

          Library of Congress Image
          Last edited by boozie; 02-08-2008, 09:30 PM.
          sigpic
          Grandad Wm. David Lee
          52nd Tenn. Reg't Co. B


          "If You Ain't Right, Get Right!"
          - Uncle Dave Macon

          www.40thindiana.wordpress.com/

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

            Here's the PG version of "LC-DIG-cwpb-01807, White House Landing, Va. View down river, with supply vessels." He ain't wearing nothing, along with the guys on shore, in full view of the supply ships unloading. And don't tell me that guy isn't smirking.

            And, officers did it, too (the shirtsleeve thing, tho' I'm sure they had to wash sometime, too.) - "LC-DIG-cwpb-00230, Fauquier Sulphur Springs, Virginia. Officers of the 60th New York Volunteers." And look behind the officers... soldiers with their sleeves rolled up and jackets off.
            Attached Files
            Last edited by ThehosGendar; 10-17-2006, 12:17 AM.
            Jason R. Wickersty
            http://www.newblazingstarpress.com

            Received. “How now about the fifth and sixth guns?”
            Sent. “The sixth gun is the bully boy.”
            Received. “Can you give it any directions to make it more bully?”
            Sent. “Last shot was little to the right.”
            Received. “Fearfully hot here. Several men sunstruck. Bullets whiz like fun. Have ceased firing for awhile, the guns are so hot."

            - O.R.s, Series 1, Volume 26, Part 1, pg 86.

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

              Talking with Mr. Wickersty about this now, it raises an important question -- is there ANY hope for the alleged Civil War knowledge base that perpetuates reenactorisms like this? The oft-asked question of "are all the NCO's in your unit dead?" can easily be substituted with "are all the NCO's in your unit spouting the same BS they were taught?"

              It's an eternal question, asked many ways over the years by many people, but really...airdrops of leaflets? Sucking it up and taking a full-page ad in CCG? How do you counteract a widespread rumor, which is all these "rules" amount to? Why is it harder to start a "there's no visual evidence of propriety when it comes to military men off-duty" rumor?

              Perhaps it's because that following what they perceive as "19th century etiquette" makes them a better living historian, when instead it makes them hokey and just plain wrong.

              Heard that some of the "support arms" at Perryville would have made me cry.
              Marc A. Hermann
              Liberty Rifles.
              MOLLUS, New York Commandery.
              Oliver Tilden Camp No 26, SUVCW.


              In honor of Sgt. William H. Forrest, Co. K, 114th PA Vol. Infantry. Pvt. Emanuel Hermann, 45th PA Militia. Lt. George W. Hopkins & Capt. William K. Hopkins, Co. E, 7th PA Reserves. Pvt. Joseph A. Weckerly, 72nd PA Vol. Infantry (WIA June 29, 1862, d. March 23, 1866.) Pvt. Thomas Will, 21st PA Vol. Cavalry (WIA June 18, 1864, d. July 31, 1864.)

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                Oh, and here's what Mr. Hermann was referring before, about the early nudist colony chess match. From "Dressed for the Photographer," an 1850s image of men without their jackets AND their sleeves rolled up... NEAR A WOMAN! And... the woman has short sleeves! GASP!

                According the rules of etiquette that 94% of reenactors go by, all those men should be jabbing their eyes out.
                Attached Files
                Jason R. Wickersty
                http://www.newblazingstarpress.com

                Received. “How now about the fifth and sixth guns?”
                Sent. “The sixth gun is the bully boy.”
                Received. “Can you give it any directions to make it more bully?”
                Sent. “Last shot was little to the right.”
                Received. “Fearfully hot here. Several men sunstruck. Bullets whiz like fun. Have ceased firing for awhile, the guns are so hot."

                - O.R.s, Series 1, Volume 26, Part 1, pg 86.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                  I defend no one with this reply (I hate when people say such stupid re-enactorisms as well), but I do have an idea of where "button the top button" may have come from.
                  In the 1861 U.S. Regulations there is;
                  1459. On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned and hooked at the collar.

                  Now that can be interpreted numerous ways. In my opinion it says, buttoned and if you have a coat with hooks (ie; frock coat) also hooked while on duty. Quarters could be replaced with Camp.
                  Photo evidence definately shows things were done differently. But I'm just giving a thought as to how it may have gotten started.

                  Kurt Loewe
                  Botsford Mess
                  Kurt Loewe
                  Botsford Mess
                  Member, Company of Military Historians

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                    Of course, as with everything, this must be taken into context. Most of the pictures provided on the thread are pictures of men in casual settings, away from the "public" and ladies. As the one member shows, it seems to be in the regulations to have at least one button closed when on duty.

                    I would think that the 1st Sgt in this case was implying that you were still "on duty" and in the public's eye, so you should keep one button done.

                    As to the lady in the last picture, who know her role with the army if any.

                    Not saying it isn't overdone, but I'm not ready to call it a "reenactorism" quite yet either.
                    Mike "Dusty" Chapman

                    Member: CWT, CVBT, NTHP, MOC, KBA, Stonewall Jackson House, Mosby Heritage Foundation

                    "I would have posted this on the preservation folder, but nobody reads that!" - Christopher Daley

                    The AC was not started with the beginner in mind. - Jim Kindred

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                      Kurt,

                      I agree, my interpetion of the regs is that all buttons INCLUDING the top button and hook will be buttoned not strictly the top button alone.



                      Originally posted by KCLoewe
                      I defend no one with this reply (I hate when people say such stupid re-enactorisms as well), but I do have an idea of where "button the top button" may have come from.
                      In the 1861 U.S. Regulations there is;
                      1459. On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned and hooked at the collar.

                      Now that can be interpreted numerous ways. In my opinion it says, buttoned and if you have a coat with hooks (ie; frock coat) also hooked while on duty. Quarters could be replaced with Camp.
                      Photo evidence definately shows things were done differently. But I'm just giving a thought as to how it may have gotten started.

                      Kurt Loewe
                      Botsford Mess
                      Jim Kindred

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                        Originally posted by KCLoewe
                        1459. On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned and hooked at the collar.

                        Now that can be interpreted numerous ways. In my opinion it says, buttoned and if you have a coat with hooks (ie; frock coat) also hooked while on duty. Quarters could be replaced with Camp.
                        Photo evidence definately shows things were done differently. But I'm just giving a thought as to how it may have gotten started.

                        Kurt Loewe
                        Botsford Mess
                        I think Kurt has summed it up. It could be cleared up with a comma: "On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned, and hooked at the collar."

                        It is ambiguously worded for us. Its meaning was probably perfectly clear within the army before the war. Its meaning MAY have been ambiguous to the hundreds of thousands of volunteers after 1861. But I don't really think so.

                        Logic and reason have to come into play. Unless we want to believe that those who wrote the regulations were slaves to fashion, and we also want to believe that the fashion in 185x was for formal wear that buttoned only at the neck, you have to read this as saying that the coat should be buttoned (all the buttons) and that the hook at the top, necessary to make the collar stand up properly, must also be engaged. Why would the army expect men on duty not to use all the buttons on their coat or jacket? Why do we think there's a "minimum standard" of "buttoned-at-the-neck is OK?" How does this work out in January at Fort Snelling? (Darned chilly, is the answer). Is there also a minimum standard for "charge bayonet?" How about "28 inches and 90 to the minute?" Is it OK to go 29 inches and 92 to the minute? No. The army regs are absolutes, so if those who interpret this as "buttoned at the neck only is correct" want to be consistent, they will have to enforce that and make those who are fully buttoned conform, by ordering them to unbutton all but the neck while on duty.
                        I invite "neck only" officers and sergeants to try that sometime, because often saying it out loud in the presence of othes brings home the absurdity of things far more effectively than reading it on a computer screen.
                        Bill Watson
                        Stroudsburg

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                          Thanks all who responded, your help is greatly appreciated!

                          I think that we can all deduce that the regulation point that has been found obviously was not enforced in camp. Various pictures displayed by Mr. Busenbark, Mr. Hermann, and Mr. Wickersty are testaments to that.

                          As to whether I was on or off duty, that is questionable. But won't get into what I was or wasn't doing. The point is that casual lounging in camp with your coat off, on, or unbuttoned, is as history shows acceptable. And like Marc said, it could be turning into a reenactorism soon by people who have no idea on 19th Century etiquette.
                          Jason C. Spellman
                          Skillygalee Mess

                          "Those fine fellows in Virginia are pouring out their heart's blood like water. Virginia will be heroic dust--the army of glorious youth that has been buried there."--Mary Chesnut

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                            And for those who actually do look at the photos, check out the large number of lads in group shots who folded back their federal issue sack coats to create lapels -- often sporting a cravat.
                            [B]Charles Heath[/B]
                            [EMAIL="heath9999@aol.com"]heath9999@aol.com[/EMAIL]

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                            • #15
                              Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                              "And like Marc said, it could be turning into a reenactorism soon by people who have no idea on 19th Century etiquette."

                              Could be turning into a reenactorism? I don't want to bust any bubbles but this was a reenactorism more than 25 years ago and still continues.
                              Jim Kindred

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