Coat or Jacket
The Confederate soldier's coat or jacket (along with his hat) represented, perhaps, the least uniformity of all his "uniform" components. Rebels wore everything from civilian and military frock coats to fancy militia jackets, sack coats, and the ubiquitious "shell jacket" (pictured above.) By mid-war, most soldiers were wearing shell jackets, however, since they were shorter and required less fabric - wool became rather scarce as the blockade became more effective. Jackets were typically constructed of wool or a wool-cotton blend referred to as "jean wool". They came in a number styles, depending on the depot which issued them and the period of the war. The style above, for example, is a Columbus (Georgia) Depot jacket in Tuscaloosa Gray with six buttons (the number of buttons varied as well.) Jackets are available either unlined or with an onaburg, linen or cotton lining. Many reenactors prefer lined jackets since the lining wicks persperation and actually results in more comfort in hot weather - believe it or not.
Research seems to indicate that the initial uniform for the 3rd Georgia regiment included a shell jacket in mixed gray wool with black trim on the collar and cuffs. However, by mid-war this militia style look is very likely to have faded into a hodgepodge of different styles and colors, dependent only on whatever happened to be available to the soldier when his first uniform wore out.
Jarnagin shell jackets are quite good, although the very discerning reenactor may prefer to make his own jacket from a kit, using more authentic reproduction fabrics and handsewing all visible seams. High quality kits (such as those sold by Charles Childs of County Cloth) usually run somewhat more than machine-stiched Jarnagin jackets. If you are not particularly good with a needle, you can hire someone to assemble the kit for an additional fee, resulting in a garmet approaching double the price of the middle-ground mail order equivalent.
When ordering by mail, be sure to take your measurements carefully. You may not be able to return a coat that is customized to your specifications. For this reason, if you are hard to fit, you may also want to consider purchasing this article from a local sutler so you can try it on first.
Most reenactors do not clean their jackets - ever! The build-up of black powder and other odors are thought to add to the authenticity of the impression. If you (or your wife) feel differently, however, you can consider an occasional dry cleaning. Avoid washing wool garments in water, however, as they can easily shrink. Brand new jackets look rather "farbie" at first - some reenactors hang them outside for several days, fading the fabric, to make them look "campaigned in." Super hardcores even soak their brass buttons in urine overnight to oxidize them! However, if you are patient, you will achieve this look in a season or two of reenacting anyway.
If you plan to galvanize, this is where you will have to double-up. You should expect to separately purchase a dark blue wool sack coat or frock coat for a Yankee impression.
C & D Jarnigan & Co. (2000 prices)
#904 Richmond Depot Shell Jacket (ANV)
in regular wool, does not include buttons
$119.95 #904 Richmond Depot Shell Jacket (ANV)
in jean wool, does not include buttons
$139.95 #512 Sew on set of Shell Jacket Buttons
(Brass Block I (Infantry) or Georgia State Seal)
For those who want a more authentic look, consider ordering a kit from County Cloth:
County Cloth, Inc.
13797-C Georgetown St. N.E.
Paris, Ohio 44669
1998 prices for Shell Jacket kits run $99 in any style and fabric. Buttons extra. Send for a catalog and fabric samples before ordering. If you do not wish to assemble the kit yourself, contact Don Smith of Trans-Mississippi Depot Co. You can have the Childs kit shipped to Don and he will assemble it for you for a fee.
Trans Mississippi Depot Co.
718 E. Alvarado Ln.
Cottonwood, AZ, 86326
Another source for extremely authentic coats and jackets is C. J. Daley: www.cjdaley.com
For cold winter days (and evenings) you may want a vest. Here are some Jarnagin prices for same:
C & D Jarnigan & Co. (2000 prices)
#912 Military cut vest (nine buttons) $59.95 #911 civilian pattern $64.95