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Why did Confederate soldiers wear gray uniforms?


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Not all of them did. In the early years, many were in blue. Gray was relatively easy color to die cloth in and didn't require imported dyes to do it. Wool usually was some shade of gray after making cloth. At the start of the war, most of the uniforms were supplied under what was called the Commutation System (April 1861 - December 1861 / January 1862). These were uniforms procured either locally or nationally, with the Confederate Government agreeing to reimburse the cost. Many uniforms were issued by State authorities, some were from units that had been militia prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Many were made by local families for their sons, brothers, and husbands. There are cases of soldiers requesting items from home, as these first issue, or procured pieces, became useless. These tended to be items of need that were not met, usually socks, underwear, etc. The first depot jackets appeared around late 1861, spring of 1862. What was called the second depot jackets appeared from spring 1862 to mid 1864, whilst the third and final depot jacket was issued from early 1864 onwards to the end of the war. Confederate soldier's uniforms would often wear out or be badly torn and they would use the uniforms of the Union soldiers often causing problems as far as "who was the enemy." Grey uniforms were quite common during the early 1800's. Many military academies wore uniforms of this color. Since there were several military schools in the South, it was quite natural that they adopted this color. When dyes became scarce, Confederate manufactures restored to using a dye made of copperas and walnut hulls, which produced the color known as "butternut", that was a light brown. For excellent photos of uniforms, see "Echoes of Glory; Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy" by TIME-LIFE publishers.