The numbers multiply into new questions and ideas for how to think about three days in July, 1863. Count on it!

In early July, 1863, troops from General Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia (the Confederates) met up with a patrol of Union cavalry on the outskirts of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Over the next three days, this encounter grew into a turning point of the Civil War. Lee’s forces battled against General Meade’s Army of the Potomac (the Union). When the battle was over, Lee’s army was defeated, and his aim of taking Civil War fight into the north had ended. The war would continue for another eighteen months, but Gettysburg changed the course of the conflict.

Soldier Clothing

What did the Gettysburg soldier wear?

Thread Counts

Packed and Ready

By the Yard

Covering Costs

Although soldiers often brought clothing from home to wear, and Confederate soldiers suffered from shortages of equipment that meant they did not always have a full uniform, Civil War soldiers usually wore:
Cotton drawers (underwear)
Shirt
Socks, wool
Trousers, wool
Shoes (brogans)
Neck stock (tie)
Sack coat (wool)
Forage cap

At the Battle of Gettysburg, there were approximately 70,000 Confederate Soldiers and 90,000 Union soldiers. We know that while some men wore no underwear, others may have had an extra pair, so we can estimate that there were 160,000 pairs of underwear!

Most men had an extra shirt, so there may have been as many as 250,000 shirts!

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Questions:
How many shirts, pants, socks, and shoes do you own? How does this compare to people your age in other countries?
Ask your grandparents how it compares to the clothing they had at your age. How do you explain the differences?

Sources for this information:
A Union Soldier's Uniform from the Civil War
Battle of Gettysburg Facts
The Civil War Union Soldier

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What did it cost to outfit one soldier? One recruit noted his costs in 1860s dollars:
$27.99

Adjusting for inflation, that’s about $394 in today’s money. If you were to outfit the approximately 160,000 soldiers at the Battle of Gettysburg in today’s dollars, it would cost $63,040,000!

Research question:
Who paid the bill for Civil War soldier’s clothing and equipment?
Did the soldiers themselves have to buy all or part of it?
How does that compare to who pays in today’s military?

Sources for this information:
Life of a Soldier
The Inflation Calculator

If it takes about 2 yards of fabric to make a pair of civil war trousers and 2.5 yards to make a civil war jacket, that means it took a lot of wool to outfit the soldiers who fought at the Battle of Gettysburg:

160,000 soldiers x 4.5 yards of fabric for a pair of trousers and a jacket each = 720,000 yards of fabric!

Most soldiers had the shirt they were wearing and a spare shirt in their pack. With 160,000 soldiers, that’s 320,000 shirts. If a Civil War style shirt requires about 3.25 yards of 45” wide fabric to make), that means 1,040,000 yards of fabric. All those shirts total over 1 million yards of fabric!

If we made it into one HUGE piece of fabric, it would be a strip of fabric 45” wide stretching 591 MILES!

At the time of the Civil War, each mill worker could produce about 75 yards of fabric per week , which means it would have taken 13,867 workers each working for a week to make enough fabric for all those shirts!

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Research Question:
How many workers for how long does it take for modern day factories to produce two of the shirts you wear?

Sources for this information:
Uniform Cloth and Kit Vendors
How much fabric (cotton) does it take to make a men's shirt?
Teaching Industrial History through Mathematics Students

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What did uniform items cost?
On the Confederate side, one source says that:
• Shoes cost $6.00 a pair. If you adjust for inflation, that’s $105.00
• Trousers cost $3.00 a pair. If you adjust for inflation, that’s $52.50
• Caps cost $2.00. If you adjust for inflation, that’s $35.00
• Socks cost $1.00 a pair. If you adjust for inflation, that’s $17.50
Does it surprise you that clothing was actually more expensive then than it is now?

What about today’s soldier’s uniforms?
Today’s soldiers pay about $76 for their complete uniform, but that price does necessarily show the true cost of the uniform. You can buy a pair of military boots online for about $200.

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Questions:
Why would it cost more for clothing items in 1863 than it does today?
What has changed about how clothing was made?
Why might today’s uniforms cost the soldiers less than their “actual” cost?
Who pays the difference?

Sources for this information:
Confederate Supplies
The Inflation Calculator
Army Combat Uniform
Patriot Surplus

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