Clothing, Pay and Provisions
Savannah River Squadron
by John Kennington
Two able, professional paymasters operated the Office of Provisions and Clothing, the bureau responsible for paying, clothing, and feeding the navy: John De Bree and James A. Semple. As paymasters they were responsible for paying, requisitioning, storing, issuing, maintaining, and accounting for food, clothing, small stores, and other items a sailor might need for personal use. Under their control the navy never wanted for food and, most of the time, had adequate clothing. Their only failure, if indeed it was their fault, was that they could never provide adequate pay.
John De Bree, Chief of Bureau from 1861 to April 1864, had forty-four years service as a U.S. Navy paymaster. James A. Semple, Chief of Bureau from April 1864 until the end of the war, had eleven years service in the "old navy." These two men, in the face of overwhelming adversity from the blockading U.S. Navy, the invading U.S. Army and the ever competitive C.S. Army, provided clothing to each squadron, ship, sailor, and, after January 1865, each officer of the navy. It is just short of miraculous that they functioned as well as they did.
The Savannah Squadron had eight paymasters from 1861 to 1864. The chief station paymaster, C. Lucian Jones, Assistant Paymaster, C.S.N., served from 1861 to 1863. Jones was responsible for all provisions, stores, pay, and records at the Savannah station. Charles W. Keim, assistant paymaster, replaced Jones in 1863. Dewitt C. Seymour, Assistant Paymaster, was the squadron purser from 1862 to December 1864. All other squadron paymasters were under his direction.
The task of clothing and feeding the new navy was daunting. The need to maintain the navy's personnel grew as quickly as the navy grew. Initially congress authorized the C.S. Navy only 500 men. The Bureau clothed these men by using existing stores captured at Norfolk and Pensacola in 1861. By late 1861 congress authorized the navy to increase its strength to 3000 men and the need to find other sources of supply was increasingly paramount. Stephen R. Mallory, Secretary of the Navy, sent naval purchasing agents throughout Europe to acquire the necessary supplies. James D. Bullock, Commander, C.S.N., was the chief procurement officer in Europe. Under his guidance the navy never wanted for adequate equipment and clothing; however, supplying the necessary clothing to vessels of the Savannah Squadron was a different matter.
The Navy Department instructed Bulloch, in May 1861, to purchase, without insignia, "cloth or cassinette pants, shoes, cloth jumpers, woolen socks, cloth round jackets, blankets, duck pants, blue cloth caps, blue flannel overshirts, pea jackets, blue flannel undershirts, barnsley sheeting frocks, blue flannel underdrawers, and black silk neckerchiefs." Some of these items made it through the blockade, several did not. Apparently much British uniform material reached the Confederacy. Supplies reaching Savannah, Georgia, on the Fingal were issued to Savannah Squadron crews. Evidence of this is the issue of "blue pea jackets," "English clothing," and "blue satinette trousers." The "Gray Navy" that Secretary Mallory and Commander John M. Brooke envisioned was slow to come about because the army utilized most of the gray cloth and the Department continued to issue blue clothing captured at Norfolk.
By late 1862 gray began to seep into the enlisted ranks. The cost of importing the traditional "navy blue" was prohibitive. One English visitor remarked that "the cultivation of indigo to make blue dye is now entirely discontinued . . .they were not able to make the naval uniform of the Confederacy blue as everyone knows a naval uniform ought to be. It is now the same color as the military uniform."
The riverine sailor may not have been as well dressed as his "deep water" counterparts, but he was much better off than his army comrades. The paymaster issued uniforms to sailors upon induction and promised them a substantial clothing allowance to maintain their kit, but the pressing need for funds elsewhere in the Confederacy deprived the enlisted men of their much needed allowance. Robert Watson, wrote in his diary that "we are not allowed any clothing money but have to pay for everything we draw out of our wages." Deficiencies resulted in the issue of new clothing to the sailor and the cost was deducted from his pay account. Clothing prices could range from as high as fifteen dollars to as little as ninety-five cents. A landsman's (raw recruit) pay was $16.00 a month. The cost of the initial uniform was $100.12. It would take a new sailor, barring any other expenses and devoting his entire pay to the task, a little over six months to pay for his uniform. After deducting the clothing issue from their pay and forwarding any allotments to their families, many sailors were without money and would probably not see any for the entire war.
What they were supposed to look like
Regulations established in 1862 for the enlisted personnel of the Confederate States Navy were the same regulations adopted by the U.S. navy in 1859, except that the Confederates replaced all references to blue with steel gray and changed the U. S. Navy's rating badge, the eagle and anchor surmounted by a five pointed star, to a fouled anchor.
The regulations described clothing for petty officers, firemen, coal-heavers, seamen, ordinary seamen, landsmen, and boys at muster as steel gray cloth jackets (round jackets) and trousers, or steel gray wool frocks (jumpers) with white duck collars and cuffs, black hats, black silk neckerchiefs and shoes, or boots in cold weather. In warm weather, the uniform was to consist of white jumpers - collars and cuffs to be lined with blue cloth - white trousers, black or white hats as the commander may direct, black silk neckerchiefs, and black shoes. Thick gray hats without visors could be worn at sea when not at muster.
The gray jacket, known as the round jacket or monkey jacket, was a waist length, eighteen button, shell jacket with a rolling collar. There were usually three buttons on the cuff. Button styles and types varied. The blue jacket worn by Lt. Robert D. Minor of the C.S.S. Virginia had U.S. artillery buttons. The blue jacket worn by C. Lucien Jones, paymaster, had Confederate naval buttons. Both of these jackets were officer's clothing and reflect superior workmanship an officer could afford. Enlisted men were not expected to maintain their uniforms to the standards of the officers and the color and button styles could vary radically.
The frock, or jumper, resembled the modern naval jumper with a few minor exceptions. Shoulder seams dropped off the shoulder, giving a more bloused appearance. The yoke - the joining of the upper part of the jumper to the lower - was of no set pattern or non-existent. The collar varied in length but was usually less than six and a half inches. Contemporary drawings and photographs showing jumpers are extremely rare. One drawing of a prisoner at Fort Norfolk in 1864 shows the seaman wearing a jumper with a five-button neck closure and two-button cuffs. The body is very full and the sleeves appear tapered to fit the arm. The collar is unlined and appears to be of the same material as the rest of the jumper.
The trousers of the enlisted sailor varied in pattern as much as the other articles of clothing. Clothing records indicate that the squadron issued blue trousers throughout the war. Gray trousers did not become an item for issue until 1863. The Confederate government issued trousers in three different patterns: fall front, seam pocket, and mule ear. Government records did not distinguish which type of trouser was issued. Fall front trousers were the "traditional" sailor pants with a seven to thirteen button, bib front closure. The legs and seat were full to allow free movement and the leg cuffs were open so that the pants could be rolled to the knee. Located on the waist band seam was a drawstring for size adjustment. There are no existing records, photographs, or drawings indicating Confederate sailors wore this type of trousers. It is unclear if this type of trouser was part of the captured stores from Norfolk. Clothing manifests do not identify the trouser type. Seam pocket trousers appear to be the most common trouser type. These trousers are characterized by a four button fly and seam pockets. The trouser cuff covers the top of the shoe and the waist had the same style drawstring adjustment as fall front trousers. Existing photographs of Confederate seamen show this style of trousers.
Mule ear pocket trousers resemble the button fly trousers in every way except that the pockets, closed with a button, are sewn into the front of the trouser leg, much like modern blue jeans pockets. Land forces favored this type of trouser and they were a very common issue. The navy may have issued these trousers as well. Of the three types of trousers issued, most photographs show the seam pocket style of trouser. The drawing of a prisoner at Fort Norfolk is interesting because it illustrates a pair of trousers with no fly and apparently closed by a draw string. There is an existing federal navy uniform in the Smithsonian Institute's Museum of American History of a similar pattern. The Smithsonian trousers were made of white cotton duck and closed with a drawstring; much like modern sweat pants.
The round hat, or pork pie, a blue or gray cloth cap, was the common hat style for the mid-nineteenth century sailor. Regulations called for sennet hats - white or japanned black, straw hats - for dress wear; however, there are no records of sennet hat issue. There is one example of a seaman's cloth hat at the Columbus Confederate Naval Museum. The hat is constructed of heavy, dark gray wool. It has no visor and is lined with muslin. The hat band is adjusted in the back using a draw string. The Herrington plate of the Confederate sailor prisoner of war shows a hat of similar design. The Herrington hat also has a ribbon, with the word Merrimac painted or embroidered, tied around the hat band with a bow. This illustration is unusual in that most contemporary photographs of Union and Confederate sailors do not show a painted hat ribbon. Instead, the hat ribbon was left plain. Dress hats (sennet hats) normally carried the painted ribbon bearing the ship's name. The cloth hat, considered a work or fatigue hat, had traditionally been left plain. Federal forces adopted the round hat as the dress hat later in the war and the practice may have spread to the South. A photograph of William Gilmore, pilot of the C.S.S. Arkansas, shows him wearing a military style forage cap with a naval device attached. It is possible that caps issued from 1862 to 1864 were of the army pattern. An indication of military cap may be identified by the word "cap." The naval and army issue shirts were identical and came in an assortment of patterns that changed minimally over the war years.
The shirt, as issued from 1861 to 1865 was an off white, or cream, color flannel with reinforced shoulders and slit head opening. The shirt had a square collar closed with a metal button, tapered sleeves, closed with a single button, and a full cut body. Confederates issued this type of shirt, in wool and cotton, throughout the war. Confederate sailors supplemented their shirt issue with civilian clothing from home adding various color and style differences. In a study by Dr. Edward S. Franzosa of eight existing Confederate military shirts, three were white, three were brown, one purple, and one blue. One shirt had no collar, four had turn down collars, and 3 had stand up (square) collars. Five shirts had no pockets, one had one pocket, and two had two pockets. Button holes on the head opening slit were either three or four, with one shirt having no button holes. Four shirts had glass buttons, one had mother of pearl, one bone, and one metal. Only one shirt had ruffs, possibly indicating an officers shirt. Shoes were the hardest items to acquire. Sailors who climbed rigging and worked sails could go barefoot; however, standing watch on ironclads and steam ships required shoes. Non-insulated decks adjacent to the fire and engine rooms became very hot and in winter a thin layer of ice covered the iron armor and upper decks.
Shoes were the most serious problem for sailors. The Navy Department set up a shoe factory in Graniteville, South Carolina, but the army seized the factory when the War Department thought that the army's needs far outweighed the navy's. Naval agents had to scramble to fill their shoe orders and, as a result, most shoes purchased by the navy came from England. The Office of Provisions and Clothing sent each squadron a pattern for canvas shoes and asked them to try to get them produced locally. Shoes, however, remained a problem throughout the war and the navy continued to import most from abroad. The C.S. Navy apparently never solved the "shoe problem." In November 1864, the men of the James River Squadron stood watch on freezing decks without shoes, coats, or blankets. What they really looked like.
Early clothing issues to Savannah sailors were almost entirely blue in color. The uniform consisted of a blue cloth hat, blue jumper, blue trousers, blue shirt, blue round jacket, a black silk neckerchief, and shoes. Issues of gray overshirts occurred regularly in 1861, and by 1863, the Department issued gray cloth, gray jackets and gray trousers to most squadrons. Paymaster John De Bree set up clothing manufacturing centers in Richmond, Savannah, and Mobile using mainly domestic materials. Despite the zeal of De Bree and paymaster Semple, the Confederate sailor looked more like a merchant seaman than a naval sailor. The few surviving photographs of Confederate sailors indicate a varied uniform consisting of many different colored shirts, blue, white, or gray trousers, black silk neckerchief and a gray or blue round hat.
Frederick Todd shows a photograph of possible Confederate seamen in white shirts and trousers. The only indication they may be Confederate sailors is the fact that they are wearing neckerchiefs and reversed U.S. Navy belt buckles. There were times when the Confederate sailor looked the part. The uniform of Matthew Pielert, captain-of-the-hold of the C.S.S. Torpedo, shows what appears to be a totally gray uniform including round jacket, round hat, shirt, and trousers (Figure 3-8). The date of the photograph is unknown but gray cloth availability and issue dates (middle to late 1864) suggests 1864 as most probable. Pielert's photograph, although from the James River Squadron, is a good example of the Confederate enlisted naval uniform and illustrates that the navy was at least trying to meet the uniform regulations.
After reporting on board the C.S.S. Savannah Watson drew a hammock, clothes bag, two flannel shirts, one pair of pants, one cap, and one mattress from the paymaster. A month later he drew a pair of shoes from the naval store. Dissatisfied with his cap, he "made [himself] a cap during the day." Whether the cap issued to Watson was naval or not is questionable. The style of cap might have prompted Watson to replace it with a more naval looking hat. Watson also wrote that, while on parole in New York after the war, the provost marshal ordered him out of his "Confederate uniform" by the next day or he would be subject to arrest.
It is apparent that the Confederate enlisted naval uniform was easily identified by the northern populace. What type of uniform was Watson wearing in New York? His last clothing issue was at Wilmington, N.C., in March 1865. He drew one pair of pants, two pair cotton drawers, and two cotton shirts. The cotton drawers he promptly sold in Wilmington for food. Clothing records for the C.S.S. Georgia in 1863, show issues totaling ninety-nine white jumpers and ninety-three grey trousers. Supplementing this were 45 blue trousers, (6 Oct 1863), and 17 blue jumpers, (1 July 1863). Records also show as late as 1864, blue and white uniforms were common on the river squadrons. On 20 January 1864, six blue wool caps, twenty-four pair of blue wool trousers, and 12 dozen flannel shirts were issued to the men on the C.S.S. ram Savannah. Seven days later, seamen stationed at Drewry's Bluff, Virginia, were issued "gray pea jackets." This in itself would not be remarkable except that 16 days later the paymasters at Savannah issued the entire squadron eighty pea-jackets along with three-hundred pair of English shoes and gray flannel shirts. Thomas Conolly's diary recorded sailors of the C.S.S. Virginia II as "men all standing round at attention & all neatly clad in confed:[sic] grey shirts." Although these men were in the James River Squadron, clothing issues appear to be the same as the Savannah Squadron.
Officers in Savannah noted the uniformity and demeanor of sailors from the Chattahoochee, dressed in gray cassenette, when they arrived in Savannah to join the Savannah Squadron in 1864. Routine issues of gray shirts continued in Savannah from 1863 until the evacuation of the city in December 1864. James H. Tomb, of the Torpedo Bureau, recorded that, in 1865, seamen laying torpedoes at Shell Bluff below Augusta found two soldiers sleeping by a fire. The soldiers "surrendered" because "when they saw our men, who had on blue uniforms - clothes taken from the Water Witch - they thought we were Yanks, and said they were tired of war and going home."
The Confederate sailor began the war wearing Federal blue because that was all that was available, and by the end of the war, he was again in blue. The height of the gray period in Savannah was 1863 and returned to blue in late 1864. As the blockade tightened the navy depended on existing stores of cloth that the army did not need (blue) and the few expensive imports from England.
Two basic branches existed for seamen; those who could assume command (line) and those who could not (staff). The regulations called for "boatswain's mates, gunner's mates, carpenter's mates, sailmaker's mates, ship's stewards and ship's cooks to wear a black silk-embroidered fouled anchor on their right sleeve above the elbow in front." All other petty officers were to wear the same device on their left sleeves. It is unknown how many sailors, if any, actually wore this device. There are neither existing issue records nor photographs of Confederate sailors wearing any type of device to denote rank.
Although Pielert was rated a petty officer, his photograph does not show any rank indication. The lack of rating devices in the naval service may be due to a rapid personnel turnover normal for a fledgling navy or the small number of men assigned to Confederate vessels. All sailors enlisted as either seamen, ordinary seamen, or landsmen. Civilian experience and the amount of time in service affected a sailor's rating. Sailors with previous experience advanced faster in grade. Advancement to a petty officer rate came from the ship's captain and was non-transferrable.
Seniority dictated a sailor's relative rank aboard a vessel. For example: seaman Jones, with two years prior experience in the navy or merchant service, shipped aboard the Savannah in May 1863. As the 100th sailor to ship, he would receive the number 100. His relative rank was his muster roll number even if the next lower number had shipped the day before and had less experience. His chances for advancement depended upon his greater experience being brought to the attention of the captain.
Economic Matters: Pay
The sailor's pay rate depended upon his relative rank. A sailor's pay account reflected his rating, location, and the vessels he had served on since his induction. His pay record consisted of enlistment papers (shipping articles), advancements in grade, previous payments (including clothing and provisions), commutation of the spirit ration, and any pay advances. This pay record, endorsed by the sailor and the paymaster, followed the seaman wherever he went, except on short trips to the naval hospital. The Confederate Congress determined the rate of pay for each enlisted grade in 1862. The three basic enlisted rates (seaman, ordinary seaman, and landsman) earned twenty-two dollars, eighteen dollars, and sixteen dollars per month, respectively. Sailors could have allotments sent home but had to retain six dollars for themselves. They used this money to repay the government for anything due for clothing, pay advances, or small stores the sailor purchased. A sailor could supplement his pay by commuting any unused spirit ration at the paltry rate of three cents per day.
In 1864, the Navy Department raised the commutation rate to twenty-two cents but it was too late. To make matters worse, as a preventative measure against desertion, the commander of a squadron or the ship's captain could order up to three months pay withheld. It became so bad that in 1864, the Navy Department warned officers not to let the men sell their clothing. To alleviate price gouging, the Confederate Congress enacted a law restricting the amount that could be charged for clothing. The measures taken by the Congress did not help and, to supplement their income, sailors often sold parts of their clothing to civilians. Watson wrote in his diary that I went to town and sold 15 undershirts and drawers for $180.00 and bought 100 lbs. corn meal at $1.00 per lb and 1 lb soda for 15.00. There are 15 men in our mess and each man put in a garment, for we are short of breadstuff.
Pay for Confederate sailors was infrequent and usually inadequate. Families of seamen often had insufficient funds and faced much hardship. When a crew did get paid it was usually a very small amount, usually ten percent of the total due. Seamen who needed money for their families had to depend on Richmond for their allotments, and Richmond seldom paid. The paymaster, usually Seymour or Keim, would issue pay to the enlisted men on board each vessel. Watson recorded on 10 May 1864 that "The crew was paid off during the day but I got no money and don't expect to get any for the next six months for it takes nearly all my wages to pay for my soap and tobacco . . . Some of the men have been on board over a year and this is the first time they have drawn any money and none of them drew over $30.00. Some did not draw a cent."
When a sailor died in service, his possessions remained the property of the navy until the paymaster received approval from the Treasury Department to release them to his executor or representative. If he were in debt to the government his clothing might be seized by the navy and sold at auction. Otherwise the paymaster held the sailor's possessions until they could be delivered to the deceased's agent. Under certain circumstances, the Navy Department would bear the funeral expenses for those who fell in action or while on duty. The navy also extended this honor to free blacks who served with the Confederate Navy. Such was the case when Moses Dallas, a free black pilot with the Savannah Squadron was killed in action while boarding the U. S. S. Waterwitch. The Navy Department paid the entire expense for his funeral. An interesting aside about Moses Dallas is that his funeral may have been premature. Moses Dallas initially entered the U.S. Navy as a pilot in 1863 and deserted to the Confederate Navy on 31 May 1863. Commander William A. Webb rated him as a pilot and set his pay at $100 per month because he was the "best inland pilot on the coast." Clarence L. Mohr cites Dallas as appearing on the muster rolls of the 128th U. S. Colored Infantry three months after the Water Witch incident. Dallas was from Duval County, Florida and the Dallas who enlisted in the U.S. Army returned to Jacksonville after the war. It is possible there were two men named Moses Dallas, but it is unlikely that they hailed from the same place. It is also interesting that the receipt for his funeral expenses includes a coffin. It is strange that, if they were unable to recover Dallas's body after the fight, the Navy Department would bury an empty coffin. Someone was in the coffin, and the C.S. Navy thought it was Moses Dallas.
Provisions And Stores
The primary responsibility of the paymaster was to issue food and small stores (jackknives, needles, tobacco, mustard, and other items) to each sailor. The Confederate Congress ordered that all laws enacted under United States jurisdiction and not inconsistent with the Confederacy would remain in effect. By this act the Confederate Congress adopted the Naval Provision Act of 1842. The law established the quantity and type of food for issue, but it did not specify the quality of that food.
The Office of Provisions and Clothing placed dietary emphasis on salt pork, salt beef, fresh pork, fresh beef, bacon, rice, and dried peas or beans. Local paymasters furnished fresh fruit and vegetables to vessels when they were available. Watson wrote that his first receipt of fresh food was on 10 May 1864, two months after reporting on board. In Savannah the diet revolved around fresh bread and rice. When corn meal and flour became scarce in 1864, rice became the main substitute. Many items on the rations list (cheese, butter, and raisins) were obtainable only in small quantities and at exorbitant prices. Tea and coffee, easily obtainable early in the war, later became scarce and prohibitively expensive. However scant the variety of food, the quantity was never in question. When one of his friends deserted Watson wrote that "I. . . am greatly surprised at his desertion from the navy where he had plenty to eat and little to do." The squadron was issued salt beef, salt pork, or bacon at least four days a week.
Home squadrons could expect fresh meat and vegetables at least three days a week and fresh bread was delivered weekly. Existing records indicate that from October 1861, to November 1864, naval agents delivered 191,670 pounds of meat of all types to the vessels of the Savannah Squadron. Fresh beef made up eighty-seven percent of the meat issued; salt beef (6%); salt pork (3%); and fresh pork and bacon (2%); however, the exact amount of meat issued is difficult to ascertain because of the scarcity of accurate records. The weight of fresh vegetables was never recorded so quantification is not possible.
Fresh beef, rice, and bread were the main staples of the common sailor in Savannah. In 1863, the bureau ordered paymaster W. W. J. Kelly to set up a meat packing plant in Albany, Georgia for processing pork for the Savannah Squadron. The navy was eating so well that in April 1864, De Bree requested, in the interest of inter-service harmony, to have a review board appointed to examine the navy ration and reduce it. Instead, in the summer of 1864, the Army Commissary Department received the responsibility for furnishing rations to the navy. Still, as late as October 1864, the navy had six to eight months supply of bread on hand and loaned the army 620 barrels of flour. By December 1864, the navy had set up a flour, grist mill and bakery in Albany, Georgia that supplied the forces in Savannah, Charleston, and Columbus.
The most controversial issue was the spirit ration. The naval custom of issuing a spirit ration was upheld by the surgeons of the navy and the regulations. Surgeons thought it should be served as a stimulant with breakfast. Most officers; however, opposed the issue on disciplinary grounds. De Bree opposed the spirit ration on the basis of cost alone. Nevertheless, the navy set up a distillery in Augusta, Georgia solely for production of spirits (corn liquor) and naval agents continued purchasing much needed grain and corn.
The "pay department's" responsibilities included pay, procuring provisions and issuing clothing. Under the direction of John De Bree and James A. Semple the Office of Provisions and Clothing, failed in issuing pay, but was able to provide ample food and adequate clothing for each enlisted man in the navy. The Confederate sailor had a difficult job to do. Not only had he to contend with no pay and long, tedious days but he also had to combat disease and invasion.
|John Kennington is a graduate of East Carolina University with a Master of Arts Degree in Maritime History and Marine Archaeology. John has been researching the Confederate Navy for 14 years and will have his new book "Gray Jackets In Savannah" published within the next year by White Mane Publishing. John is the commanding officer of the James River Squadron, and a member of the Savannah River Squadron. He was one of the founding members of both groups. He has lectured to Civil War Round Tables, SCV, and UDC groups throughout the southeast about the roles of the U.S. and Confederate Navies. John is a Board of Directors member of NMLHA.|
E-Mail the author: John Kennington