"What color uniform should our unit
use?", is a common enough question among Confederate reenactors. And it
is being asked more frequently, now that an increasing number of manufacturers
are providing living historians with high quality wool/cotton jean and
all wool yard goods in a variety of colors and shades.
There is ample evidence to suggest that Confederate military clothing (or "variforms" as Freemantle called them) represented little effort to maintain a consistent or uniform appearance within a command. However so few images remain of Confederate soldiers in the field, that most statements made regarding this issue have been conjectural at best.
However, two remarkable images remain which do show large groups of Confederate soldiers of major commands (i.e. Army of Northern Virginia) fresh from campaign. These are the "Prisoners at Belle Plain-The Punch Bowl" (Fig 1.) and "Prisoners at White House Landing" (Fig 2.), from "Millers Photographic History of the Civil War". It would be interesting to see whether image analysis of these phtographs could shed any light on this question.
(now if you're a "non-technical" person, y'may wannna skip this part!)
One of the techniques used in evaluating images is the determination of relative "lightness" or "L" value. By creating an internal "L" value standard for a particular photograph or image, quantitative data can be generated which will aid in component analysis of objects within the image.
We applied this technique to measuring relative shades of Confederate States Army uniforms in the Punch Bowl (Fig.1) and White House Landing (Fig. 2) photographs.
Thus, for each individual soldier,
where both trousers and jacket could be clearly discerned, "L" values were
determined by photodensitometry and compared to the standard ranges. We
were able to make out 25 soldiers (n=25) in the "Punch Bowl", and 20 (n=20)
in the "White House Landing" photograph.
Our analysis yielded the following data:
1. First and foremost, what this little analysis tells us is that there are often "trends" in data that cannot be ordinarily made out by "casual" observation (which unfortunately is the way most reenactors do "research").
2. Secondly, although at the unit (company) level, there should be a moderate level of variability expressed in uniform color choices, battalion level organizations might be wise to approve certain "quotas" for uniform colors within their member companies, which would apply "across the board" so to speak. This would produce a reasonable level of uniformity throughout the battalion (as seen in these photographs) yet allow the battalion and its companies to retain sufficient individuality.
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