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"Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

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  • #46
    Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

    Going through the book, "Touched by Fire" by William C. Davis there are dozens of pictures of men without coats with braces showing. Most are posing for the picture. There are also men on the cover with coats open and one with only a middle button buttoned. In a book by General Hagood of SC the battalion surgeon orders that the men should not drill in the heat. There are also pictures of men manning the cannons without coats in the Charleston harbor. I would think that common sense took over when heat was involved.

    Claude Sinclair
    South Carolina
    Claude Sinclair
    Palmetto Battalion


    • #47
      Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

      The following are from the journal of Corporal John P. Reynolds in the collection of the Clements Library of the U. of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Corp. Reynolds was in Co. J of the 8th Mass. Vol. Militia stationed at Camp Essex, Elkridge, Maryland, just across the Patapsco River from the Relay House south of Baltimore, June and July, 1861.

      Monday, June 24, 1861:

      "By this time it had reached the usual scorching temperature, the refreshing breeze of the morning had completely died away, and the atmosphere was very close, and sultry. Nothing like a comfortable place could be found anywhere in our portion of the encampment. The sod cloths were thrown up, and the boys might be seen lawling about in every conceivable attitude, with their hats and jackets thrown off, barefooted, and engaged in reading, writing, etc.." [p. 108]

      Sunday, July 7, 1861:

      "At eight o'clock guard mounting took place and at nine the assembly sounded and the Regimental line was formed for inspection. Without delay we were wheeled into column by companies, ranks were opened, and the inspection commenced with the Company on the right, each company as it was inspected being marched to their quarters and dismissed. As soon as we were through with, we returned to our quarters and leaving our jackets in the tents, formed company again and proceeded to a lot half a mile or so from the camp to the south-west, where we in turn discharged our muskets which had been loaded since our Tilghman adventure, at a mark set up for the purpose and some very good shots were made, one in particular by Sergeant Gray." [pp. 188-189]

      The "Tilghman adventure" had been a night raid on the home of a man suspected of hiding weapons for secessionists.

      "At half past five we fell in for supper and at six the assembly was beaten and the line was formed for divine service which was held in as [sic] shady portion of the encampment selected for the purpose. The services were conducted by the Chaplain, and the band and choir furnished excellent music and singing. The instrumental music of the Band attracted a number of visitors to the camp many of whom were ladies, and after the services were over the line was reformed and companies were dismissed for company drills under the supervision of their respective commanders.

      "Our time was now come, but the Captain was a little considerate and ordered us to throw off our jackets which we did. We then 'pitched in' for nearly an hour for the accommodation of our visitors, and returned to quarters wet to the skin with perspiration." [pp. 109-191]

      Monday, July 8, 1861:

      "The Regiment with the exception of our own company were then drilled for a considerable time in battalion movements by Lieut. Col. Elwell, Col. Hinks being absent. The Company occupied a portion of the camp by themselves, and drilled for an hour and a half in our shirt sleeves and without arms, in company movements by the Captain." [pp. 192-193]

      "At about six the line was formed and the Regiment proceeded under the command of Major Poore, to an adjoining lot northwest of the encampment, where we were reviewed by Colonel Hinks. After the review the Company returned to camp and after divesting ourselves of our jackets, we were drilled by the Captain for nearly two hours in all the different branches of the Tactics, before an immense crowd of spectators who thronged the camp, and among whom were a number of distinguished ladies. This was about the toughest drill we had experienced at any time since our entry into service, and we were almost melted when we had finished." [pp. 195-196]

      So there you have it: lying about camp in various states of undress, drilling in shirt sleeves without arms, marching out of camp armed but without jackets, and drilling in front of ladies and spectators without jackets.

      The Captain referred to in the journal was Arthur Forrester Devereux. Devereux had been a cadet at West Point before dropping out and becoming a business partner of Elmer Ellsworth in Chicago. He was a member of the Illinois National Guard with Ellsworth and learned the drill of the US Zouave Cadets from him. He returned to Salem, Massachusetts after their business failed and was elected Captain of the Salem Light Infantry. The SLI became the first Zouave company in Massachusetts in the summer of 1860. They were mustered in as Co. J of the 8th MVM in April of 1861.

      My favorite story from the journal is from Thursday, July 11, 1861 describing dinner at 12:30 pm:

      "While we were thus engaged, the boys returned from bathing, and were not slow in taking their customary places around the festive boards. They brought with them a good sized keg of lager, which they had obtained from a brewery on their route, which was placed in the Captains tent and generously distributed to all hands, who 'put away' one glass after another, until the Captain thought it prudent to shut off the stream. Considering the intense heat of the noon day sun, the cool lager worked in admirably and was very refreshing. The only thing we had to regret was that the faucet didn't fly out when the Captain attempted to shut it off, for we all stood ready with our dippers." [pp. 217-218]


      Paul Kenworthy


      • #48
        Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

        I have to agree with several of the last posts. Disptie any manual, at some point common sense takes hold and you say "wow, it's hot". I can't see where too many officers or NCO's would have a problem with thier men trying to cool off a bit.

        Ricky Jones
        -Ricky Jones

        [FONT="Georgia"][COLOR="DarkRed"]In Memory of [SIZE="3"]1[/SIZE]st. Lt. David Allen Lawrence, 44th G.V.I. / K.I.A. Wilderness, Va.[/COLOR][/FONT]


        • #49
          Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

          Since it is in the regulations. Whether to "Button the top button" depended on three things.

          1) What you're superior told you to do.
          2) When you were or were not on duty (which could vary from minute to minute).
          3) A smart officer using his authority to watch out or the health of the troops (too hot) or the condition of the equipment (example digging ditches in shirt sleeves).

          So then the "reenactorism" is in how it is applied not on if it was done. Isn't it?

          And since a superior can order the buttons to be buttoned up (when on duty) is it ever really a "reenactorism"?

          Generally my Officer/NCO requires me to wear the coat (buttoned) if I'm off the company street. If I'm not on duty on the street I can do what I want. If it's too hot we can ask for permission to leave the company street without our coats. And wood detail is done without our coats.

          And if you coat is without a top button there had better be one in place by the next inspection.

          Officers would be worried about fashion or 'showing style' but us lowly privates, we just want to be comfortable.
          Bob Sandusky
          Co C 125th NYSVI
          Esperance, NY


          • #50
            Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

            Bottom Line, if a superior officer or a higher ranking NCO gave you an order, follow it period. "Reeanctorism" or not, if you want to present an "authentic" military impression, you did right by following the order. Practicaly speaking, the common soldier would do whatever he felt made his miserable lot in life more bearable...until he was ordered differently.

            Jerry Coffee Nunnally
            Montgomery Guard


            • #51
              Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

              Can I spin our topic just a bit? There are numerous paintings of battle scenes which were made within 15-20 years of the event depicted, in which men are shown fighting in their shirtsleeves, sleeves rolled up, braces off, etc. The heroic series of the battle of Gettysburg in the Pennsylvania State House pictured in the Time-Life series book on Gettysburg specifically comes to mind. I've been reenacting a looooooong time, and I've rarely, if ever, seen soldiers off their coats to fight. In time frames where you have a flintlock ignition system, it may be considered a safety precaution to put an extra layer of clothing between yourself and fire. What about the above-mentioned?
              Rob Weaver
              Co I, 7th Wisconsin, the "Pine River Boys"
              "We're... Christians, what read the Bible and foller what it says about lovin' your enemies and carin' for them what despitefully use you -- that is, after you've downed 'em good and hard."
              [I]Si Klegg[/I]


              • #52
                Re: "Button That Top Button!" Arrggh!

                Originally posted by KCLoewe View Post
                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

                I think the key point to this regulation is that the uniform coat, or mounted uniform jacket were to be buttoned when on duty, and the collars hooked. Notice that it says "except fatigue." I understand when on fatigue duty in quarters or garrison the men would wear the fatigue sack coat. The sack coat has no collar hooks. I gather per the reference to "quarters" and the exclusion of fatigue dress, that this regulation means nothing to troops in the field or in their fatigue wear.

                James Marshall
                James "Archie" Marshall
                The Buzzard Club (Saltmakers for the south)
                Tampa, FL