Uniforms of the Twenty-Second New York National Guard

The dress uniform
The dress uniform

No military organization has ever been formed in any city which contained, in the first instance, so many well-known and influential men as those who composed the Union Grays. Through their influence, and under the prestige which was justly attached to the name of Colonel Monroe, the ranks of the regiment were rapidly filled up, in spite of the fact that the volunteer regiments in the field were absorbing almost everybody having military inclinations. It soon numbered over 400 men.

They adopted as their uniform a single-breasted frock coat, cut in the French style, with the skirt reaching to the knee, made of gray cloth, with red collar and cuffs, trimmed with white piping. The trousers were of gray, with a red stripe edged with white piping down the sides; the cap was a gray kepi, with red band and top, each edged with white piping. Yellow leathern leggins were afterwards adopted, which were greatly liked in the field, excluding the dust and keeping the trousers free from mud. The uniform and equipments were paid for by the men themselves. No more tasteful or trim-looking uniform has ever been seen in the City of New York than this, and the wearers were soon known as the Strawberry Grays. They also decided upon a gray fatigue jacket, but it was never procured.

Application was made at once to the State and Federal Government for arms for the new organization, but none were to be had, the authorities being at their wits’ end to supply the troops then at the front with guns. So great was the demand that Belgian guns of antiquated pattern, which were as apt to go off at half-cock as not, were being imported at high prices in order to arm the volunteers. Under these circumstances, the Union Grays purchased and imported Enfield rifles from England for their own use. These, unlike many of the guns which the Government was purchasing, were well-made and serviceable weapons. They were provided with sword bayonets, which presented a very formidable appearance, but which subsequent experience in the field led the men to think were inferior to the triangular bayonet. The average opinion was that they made the “rifles” “muzzle-heavy,” and were useless, even for chopping wood.

Unlike American rifles, the parts of which are made interchangeable, those of each of the Enfields used by the Twenty-second were different from the other. This difference was too slight to be detected by the eye, but it was sufficient to constitute an intense annoyance in service. If a man did not pick up his own gun, which was frequently the case on duty, his bayonet would not fit, and when the guns were taken apart to be cleaned, if the parts belonging to two guns were mixed, it was a most aggravating task to separate them. The sergeants’ rifles were much shorter than the others.

History of the Twenty-Second Regiment of the National Guard of the State of New York, General George Wingate, 1896
Photos of troops in field at Harper’s Ferry, LOC Archives

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