Regimental Pride and the Regular Soldier
By Corporal Charles A. Poltenson

The new seasons is just about upon us, and many of us long to be again in camp and on the field of glory. Thoughts glide to the camaraderie about the campfire and the chance to put down the rebellion once and for all. But just what are we about and why are we doing this? With snow still on the ground I thought it would be appropriate to share a sense of what it is we really need to do.

First, a word about Regimental Pride. Esprit de corps and unit cohesion are essential characteristics of an effective fighting organization. Military history has demonstrated that units with high esprit, a sense of tradition and pride in past achievements perform well in combat. It develops in soldiers a sense of loyalty and commitment, which comes from long-term identification with a unit, and the opportunity to highlight the history, customs and traditions behind the regiments.

The regiment as a clearly defined military unit emerged in the late Middle Ages. During this period the regiment came to be a basic building block of many state's military machines, very much as the legion had performed the same function for Imperial Rome. The word "regiment" is derived from the Latin word regimen, meaning a rule or a system of order. In most armies it denoted a body of troops headed by a colonel and organized into companies, battalions or squadrons.

While the battalion became the basic tactical unit in most armies, its parent unit, the regiment became the principal instrument of garrison administration: recruiting, training and centralizing wartime command (such as the 12th's home base of Fort Hamilton, NY). As armies became permanent royal (later national) organizations and professional in character, regiments (especially those with an illustrious history of achievements in combat) increasingly became objects of institutional loyalty, pride and esprit, particularly among their leaders. Both state and the army consciously promoted cohesiveness by endowing each regiment with a distinctive name, number, colors, uniform and insignia. Excellent examples of these include the 42nd Royal Highland Regiment (The Black Watch), which has a tradition going back 250 years.

In the American Civil War, regiments of both sides recruited regionally, enormously enhancing unit cohesion. Such temporary regiments usually combined with other regiments when losses compromised their combat effectiveness. Yet the glue that held the Union Army together was the Regular regiment. Major Allen and 1st Sgt. MacMillan have provided essays in other newsletters (and hopefully will do more) on our noble Regimental history. Read it, learn it and you will better understand what we portray and the heritage we continue. But the purpose of this article is to focus on the more basic principals of looking like a cohesive unit. Appearance is important.

We linger about the company street and on the field with a myriad array of uniforms and styles. Some look good in their frocks, others wander about in sacks and sky blues. What is proper and what is not. Some have Hardee's that look like something out of a cowboy movie. Others look like their weapons have been buried in the sod since the Great Famine (when our beloved 1st Sgt. came over and found a career guiding us through thick and thin).

Should we be wearing Frocks? Yes. In the early war period we wore frocks and dark blues. Later in the war we wore Sack coats and sky blue trousers. That is conventional wisdom. However, if one reads the Army Regulations as it pertains to the uniform there are a couple of surprises. For example. The forage cap (never a kepi) by regulation only had the company letter on the front. No other brass was attached. The Hardee hat also had specific directions for wearing of brass (most of us have it right) and the number of feathers. The following was copied from an excellent web site (linked off of the 12th's site) for the Civil War Regular Army (http://www/ is not longer available). The following note only those sections that are noted for infantry, but I would encourage anyone who can to check out the resources on this site.



No. 6.

Washington, March 13, 1861.

For Enlisted Men.

12...The uniform coat for all enlisted foot men, shall be a single - breasted frock of dark blue cloth, made without plaits, with a skirt extending one - half the distance from the top of the hip to the bend of the knee; one row of nine buttons on the breast placed at equal distances ; stand - up collar to rise no higher than to permit the chin to turn freely over it, to hook in front at the bottom and then to slope up and backward at an angle of thirty degrees on each side ; cuffs pointed according to pattern, and to button with two small buttons at the under seam ; collar and cuffs edged with a cord or welt of cloth as follows, to wit: Scarlet for Artillery; sky blue for Infantry; yellow for Engineers; crimson for Ordnance and Hospital stewards. On each shoulder a metallic scale according to pattern ; narrow lining for skirt of the coat of the same color and material as the coat ; pockets in the folds of the skirts with one button at each hip to range with the lowest buttons on the breast ; no buttons at the ends of the pockets.

14...For all Musicians - the same as for other enlisted men of their. respective corps, with the addition of a facing of lace three - eighths of an inch wide on the front of the coat or jacket, made in the following manner: bars of three - eighths of an inch worsted lace placed on a line with each button six and - one - half inches wide at the bottom, and thence gradually expanding upwards to the last button, counting from - the waist up, and contracting from thence to the bottom of the collar, where it will be six and one - half inches wide, with a strip of the same lace following the bars at their outer extremity - the whole presenting something of what is called the herring - bone form; the color of the lace* facing to correspond with the color of the trimming of the corps.

15...For Fatigue Purposes - a sack coat of dark blue flannel extending half way down the thigh, and made loose, without sleeve or body lining, falling - collar, inside pocket on the left side, four coat buttons down the front.

16...For Recruits - the sack coat will be made with sleeve and body lining, the latter of flannel.

17...On all occasions of duty, except fatigue, and when out of quarters, the coat or jacket shall be buttoned and hooked at the collar.

Note: This might help answer the questions as to what recruits need to buy.


28...For Enlisted Men, except companies of Light Artillery - dark blue cloth; sergeants with a stripe one and one - half inch wide; corporals with a stripe one - half inch wide, of worsted lace, down and over the outer seam, of the color of the facings of the respective corps.

29...Ordnance Sergeants and Hospital Stewards - stripe of crimson lace one and one - half inch wide.

30...Privates - plain, without stripe or welt.
All trousers to be made loose, without plaits, and to spread well over the boot; to be re - enforced for all enlisted mounted men.


32...For Officers. Of best black felt. The dimensions of medium size to be as follows:

Width of brim, 3¼ inches,
Height of crown, 6¼ inches,
Oval of tip, ½ inch,
Taper of crown, ¾ inch,
Curve of head, 3/8 inch.
Tire binding to be 1/2 inch deep, of best black ribbed silk.

33...For Enlisted Men: Of black felt, same shape and size as for officers, with double row of stitching, instead of binding, around the edge. To agree in quality with the pattern deposited in the clothing arsenal.


45...For Enlisted Men, except companies of Light Artillery: The same as for Officers of the respective corps, except that there will be but one feather, the cord will be of worsted, of the same color as that of the facing of the corps, three - sixteenths of an inch in diameter, running three times through a slide of the same material, and terminating with two tassels, not less than two inches long, on the side of the hat opposite the feather. For Hospital Stewards the cord will be of buff and green mixed. The insignia of corps, in brass, in front of the hat, corresponding with those prescribed for Officers, with the number of regiment, five - eighths of an inch long, in brass, and letter of company, one inch, in brass, arranged over insignia. Brim to be looped up to side of hat with a brass eagle, having a hook attached to the bottom to secure the brim - on the right side for mounted men and left side for foot men. The feather to be worn on the side opposite the loop.

46...All the trimmings of the hat are to be made so that they can be detached; but the eagle, badge of corps, and letter of company, are to be always worn.


49...For fatigue purposes, forage caps, of pattern in the Quartermaster General's Office: Dark blue cloth, with a welt of the same around the crown, and yellow metal letters in front to designate companies.

This should give folks a passable idea of what a soldier should look like based on published Army Regulations (which to the 12th would be the Bible). We do not have the distinction of being a "local" unit from anywhere, so we do not have that regional or local flavor sought by some reenacators. Yet the pride, dedication and the tradition of the Regular Army lies not only in the hearts and minds of those who serve today, but on hallowed ground such as Malvern Hill, Gaines Mills, Gettysburg and Bull Run. It should rest as well…in our hearts.

I remember at the 140th Gettysburg we formed up with the 4th US for the presentation of their colors. Captain Child's put all of those who had the proper uniform in front and we took station on the right of the line. One witness testified to me what a grand sight, to see the Regulars…sharp, tall, proud and distinctive. That, my friends and comrades, is what we should continue to strive for.

Last Updated on 1/31/2016

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