What US uniform is this?

Post-photographic 19th US century dark skirted stripe embroidered jacket, hard brim and top forage cap, light trousers, sword.

(click to enlarge; picture purchased as part of an album from Pennsylvania)

2 Answers 2


The uniform here is a musicians uniform, civil war era.

A picture at the Library of Congress shows an individual wearing a similar uniform. enter image description here

The image has the label (emphasis mine)

[Private George V. Capron, bugler, of Co. G, 2nd Connecticut Heavy Artillery Regiment in uniform]

Another LOC image shows another musician, this one with sword. enter image description here

Caption reads (emphasis again mine):

[Two unidentified soldiers in Union uniforms, one wearing musician's uniform and holding Model 1840 musician's sword, the other holding Colt Model 1851 Navy revolver]

The sword on his belt in the OPs image is a better match for the 1840 NCO sword however, not the expected 1840 musicians sword. You can see both side by side at this web site: enter image description here

  • FYI: I believe the correct terms are 'tunic" in place of "smock", and that the breast decoration is referred to as "piping". Commented May 23, 2020 at 4:58
  • 1
    Yes, I had seen another entry which called it a 'frock'. Its late here, I wrote it up as smock. Editing.
    – justCal
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 5:20
  • Would you believe that "frock smock" is a noun-phrase? Commented May 23, 2020 at 7:23
  • The breast decoration is sometimes described as a "birdcage". If the subject was a chief bugler he might wear a NCO swoard isntead of musician's sword.
    – MAGolding
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 17:49
  • So, it is not an imitation uniform of a soldier, but a uniform of an imitation soldier :-)
    – Gangnus
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 17:57

IMHO, that it is an imitation of the cavalry uniform. Reasons:

  1. The light stripes on the breast are drawn, not made of the lacing, as it was normal even for privates for all 19-20 cent.
  2. Such stripes were used in cavalry only. The sabre, even the straight one, also points to the cavalry. So poor uniform could belong only to a private. But they could not adorn their hats. The only privates that wore feathers in some armies were forest sharpshooters. But they were foot soldier, and a sabre badly fits with a rifle. And, normally, even cavalry privates had better clothes.
  3. The hat looks too fancy and obviously simply cannot hold on the head during any fast movement. Even much more deep models were kept on the head by bands under the chin. Can you imagine such a person running into an attack, holding the sabre in one hand and the hat on the head by another one?
  4. The soldier has no pistols. A foot soldier could manage without a pistol, but he would have a rifle and no saber. If it were an officer, he could manage with the sabre only, but even if he didn't have the obligation to wear a pistol, he could buy it, and they always did. But even being such officer-pistol hater is highly improbable due to the utter cheapness of the clothes, as I said.

A cheap imitation of a uniform could exist in the later Confederation, (But the hat needs a special legend) or simply a theatre imitation. By the way, the theater imitation could explain why somebody in the 19th century wanted to be expensively photoed in such cheap and disordered clothes. Normally, any sergeant would punish a private so untidy.

Oh! It could also be an imitation especially for photographing. Then the photo could be made not so far ago, really - everywhen.

I would say, they wanted to imitate something as the third or the eleventh person here:

enter image description here

  • I am not sure what you mean. The uniform looks like a United State army uniform. The birdcage patter on the jack looks like that on the dress uniform of a musician.
    – MAGolding
    Commented May 23, 2020 at 17:46
  • That pattern normally was made of lacing, I haven't ever heard of any uniform, where it was painted on clothes. The musicians always had and have much MORE adorned uniforms.
    – Gangnus
    Commented May 24, 2020 at 10:05
  • Musicians' lacing, and yes, sewn on lacing, was not cavalry only. It was worn by Infantry in light blue, artillery in red, and, before 1860, dragoons in orange. Cavalry, with yellow lacing, Field Artillery, and Dragoons musicians would carry appropriate sabers; Infantry and Heavy Artillery musicians would sport the musicians' sword. Photo in OP question appears to be infantry as the mounted arms would be wearing shell jackets vice the frock coat in the photo.
    – R Leonard
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 15:25
  • Oh, and lest they feel left out, also before 1860, musicians of the Regiment of Mounted Rifles wore the lacing in green.
    – R Leonard
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 15:33
  • Offhand,I'd venture that the OP photo is not only an infantry musician, but specifically from the either the 149th Pennsylvania Infantry or the 13th Pennsylvania Reserve Regiment, both of which sported the moniker "The Bucktails" as evidenced by the adornment on the side of his cap.
    – R Leonard
    Commented May 25, 2020 at 15:42

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