An Identified Confederate Officer’s Uniform


Military clothing has always fascinated me. Thirty years ago, I began studying Civil War uniforms and reproducing some of them for historical interpretation. Surviving Confederate uniforms are fairly rare, and when they are identified it adds a great human element to them.

I received a uniform from a museum who had deaccessioned it as it was not related to their mission. The records as well as the name written in the back of the coat and the pocket of the trousers identify it as belonging to Johnston De Lagnel. He was born in New York in 1831 to a military family. His father, Julius Adolphus De Lagnel was an army ordnance officer who died in 1840. In his youth, Johnston ended up in Alexandria, Virginia with his brother, Julius Adolphus De Lagnel. When the Civil War broke out in 1861, both brothers joined the Confederacy.

Johnston was a captain in the 20th Battalion Virginia Artillery and manned heavy guns around Yorktown, Virginia in 1861 and 1862. By late 1863, he was stationed in Charleston, South Carolina. While there, he had C.D. Carr, a tailor on Broad Street, make him this uniform as the original receipt was still in the pocket. There are a handful of surviving uniforms made by Carr and they have some distinct features. Sadly, De Lagnel didn’t have much of a chance to wear his new uniform as he died on April 7, 1864, of pneumonia and his body was shipped by steamer back to Alexandria.

The coat is made from cadet gray superfine broadcloth with bright red superfine broadcloth collar, cuffs, and piping. The cut of the front around the chest is a Carr signature. The coat has some Confederate staff buttons; however, someone stole some of the buttons off the front when it was being displayed at some point. The lining is green wool/silk blend, and the sleeves are plain woven white cotton. The collar has another Carr feature: gold embroidery to denote a captain. The sleeves are adorned with two rows of gold galloon. The trousers are made from the same cadet gray with bright red welts set into the out seams. The cotton watch pocket is marked on the outside “Capt. J De Lagnel” and has the inseam and waist measurements on the back side of the bag.

One of the very cool things about this uniform is the original receipt for its purchase from C.D. Carr. It is dated January 20, 1864, and he was charged $200.00 Confederate for making and trimming the coat, and $30.00 for the trousers. Although the uniform could be attributed to Carr, the receipt is the icing on the cake.

It does need a little conservation work and some replaced buttons, but it is still a wonderful piece of Civil War history that has survived the ravages of time …and the moths.


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