Union Army Uniforms and Insignia of the Civil War

Home, Sweet Home

Winslow Homer's Home, Sweet Home 1863

Winslow Homer worked as an artist and war correspondent for the magazine Harper's Weekly. He spent time with the soldiers and accurately captures a camp scene. In the foreground are two federal infantry privates. Both are wearing four button sack (fatigue) coats worn casually. The seated soldier, who was writing a letter, has only the top button fastened, while his companion only has the bottom one fastened. Their forage caps (kepis) have a brass infantry horn toward the front of the crown with a regimental number in the center and a company letter, perhaps "G" above. They both wear sky blue trousers, which for privates lack any kind of stripe. On their feet are brogans, also called bootees or Jefferson boots. The clothing allowance called for four pair to be issued to the soldiers per year but even so these saw heavy service. These ankle length brogans are laced with four eyelets and most modern observers would call them a shoe rather than a boot as the regulations refer to them. In the painting the brogans are brown, which is how they were issued. Soldiers were supposed to apply boot black to them, but often had more important duties.

The scene also includes a fair amount of equipage. On the stake is suspended a haversack and less visible, a belt, cartridge box and bayonet scabbard. The haversack was a cloth bag and strap, which was painted black. It had an inner unpainted bag, which could be removed and washed. The haversack was used to carry rations and cooking gear. These rations were issued to the soldiers loose and unpackaged: hard bread (hardtack), salt pork, sugar, coffee and salt. The haversack was closed by a single buckle and had three bone buttons sewn to the inside to hold the inner bag. Period examples measure about 12 1/2 by 14 inches. Several pieces of hardtack can be seen in front of the tent.

Also in front of the tent is a knapsack. These were non-rigid cotton cloth painted or tarred black with black leather straps and closures. A typical one had two sections, which folded together. These were used to carry clothing and personal items. The regimental number was often painted on the knapsack. Veteran soldiers often discarded the knapsack and wore a blanket roll.

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