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History of the 37th IL and impression guidelines for Christmas in Camp

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  • History of the 37th IL and impression guidelines for Christmas in Camp

    37th Illinois Infantry
    Impression Guidelines

    At the time of the Battle of Prairie Grove, the 37th Illinois was a veteran regiment, having already been engaged in and suffered heavy casualties in the Battle of Pea Ridge some nine months earlier, along with being involved in active campaigning in Missouri and Arkansas for over a year.

    At the time of Pea Ridge, most of them men were probably wearing their state issue Illinois jackets, along with a mix of dark and sky-blue trousers. Most probably still had forage caps at that time, although there were probably some civilian hats as well.

    Although there is no direct documentation, it is reasonable to assume that the jackets were put into storage during the warmer months of the summer, but they may have been retrieved by some of the men that fall prior to the Prairie Grove campaign.

    The regiment was armed mostly with Belgian rifles except for the two flank companies, A and K, and the color guard. These were equipped with the 200 Colt Revolving rifles that had been originally scattered throughout the regiment, but had been consolidated in these two companies and the color guard.

    The 37th is one of the few Trans-Mississippi regiments for which we have photographic evidence. Several images of their color guard exist showing them mostly in state jackets and dress coat or two, along with mostly civilian style hats. Another image of an unidentified soldier of the regiment shows him in a state jacket and forage cap and holding a Colt Revolving rifle.

    Their Colt Revolving rifles had saber bayonets which were much too heavy and which one officer described as a “humbug.”

    37th Color Guard.jpg


    A painting by artist Andy Thomas shows the 37th during the fighting at the Borden House. He depicts them in a mix of civilian hats and forage caps, the former including a few brown and gray in color, as well as state jackets. Lt. Col. John C. Black can be seen on his horse in the center background, his arm still in a sling from having been wounded at Pea Ridge. In the foreground is Company K, commanded by his brother Captain William P. Black, with their Colt Revolving rifles. John Black won the Congressional Medal of Honor at Pea Ridge and William did so at Prairie Grove, thus making them one of only five pairs of brothers ever to win that high honor. Two other members of the 37th also won the medal, one at Newtonia in October 1862 and the other at Fort Blakeley in April 2865.

    37th IL at Borden House.jpg

    The best current source of information on the 37th is the regimental history by Michael A. Mullins. Sadly, it is currently out of print but may be available through your local library.


    Impression Guidelines

    1st choice: civilian hat, mostly black but also a few brown, tan or gray
    2nd choice: forage cap, early-war Type I preferred, late-war Type II acceptable
    3rd choice: plain dress Hardee hat without insignia

    1st choice: state issue infantry jacket, Illinois pattern preferred (8-button front, cloth epaulettes and plain sleeves
    2nd choice: state issue infantry jacket from other states such as Ohio or New York
    3rd choice: plain dress (frock) coat without shoulder scales
    4th choice: fatigue (sack) coat, issue 4-button preferred

    Required – sky-blue infantry pattern

    1st choice: infantry bootees (brogans)
    2nd choice: issue infantry or civilian black boots of appropriate style

    1st choice: issue wool of tan, gray, cream or dark blue color
    2nd choice: civilian shirt of cotton, linen or wool in various colors
    1st choice: period issue or civilian cotton or linen
    2nd choice: winter wool or heavy cotton

    1st choice: issue or civilian wool in various colors
    2nd choice: white cotton

    Winter Clothing – optional but recommended
    Issue overcoat (“great coat”), sky blue
    Woolen scarf and gloves or mittens

    1st choice: either a Belgian rifle-musket or Colt Revolving rifle
    2nd choice: 1855/1861 Springfield Musket/Enfield rifle-musket
    3rd choice: 1842 smoothbore musket
    saber bayonet preferred but socket bayonet acceptable

    .58 cal. rifle musket cartridge box with shoulder belt (sling) and plates
    cap pouch – early war “shield front” version preferred
    waist belt with “US” oval buckle – early war version with leather keeper preferred
    bayonet scabbard – early war completely sewn or two-rivet versions preferred
    rifle belt (sling) – optional but recommended

    Field Equipments
    Black issue haversack
    Federal issue canteen – smooth-side preferred over ringed (“bullseye”) version; gray or tan jeancloth preferred over sky-blue or dark blue; leather sling preferred over cloth
    Knapsack – issue double-bag only; optional but recommended
    Woolen blanket – issue gray or tan
    Rubber blanket – infantry style (no hole) preferred over mounted
    Tent – issue common (A-frame) style, 7’ height preferred but 6’ acceptable; no dog tents as these hadn’t been issued yet at this point!

    Mess Equipments
    Tin or pewter plate or canteen half
    Period utensils or combination set
    Tin cup or boiler

    Personal Items
    Books, Bibles, playing cards, smoking equipments, newspapers, letters from home and other items with which to do living history activities in camp

    Christmas Items
    Packages from home containing winter clothing, cakes, cookies, etc
    Last edited by Pennvolunteer; 02-19-2019, 12:50 PM.
    Frank Siltman
    24th Mo Vol Inf
    Cannoneer, US Army FA Museum Gun Crew
    Member, Oklahoma Civil War Sesquicentennial Commission
    Company of Military Historians
    Lawton/Fort Sill, OK

    Pacifism is a shifty doctrine under which a man accepts the benefits of the social group without being willing to pay -- and claims a halo for his dishonesty. Robert A. Heinlein