Fatigue blouses were issued to soldiers in the millions and were the favored garment for US troops in all theaters throughout the war. Originally intended to be worn during fatigue details only, the blouse quickly proved its usefulness as a garment that was much better-suited to active duty, lighter weight, and less costly than the dress coat. Though not as stylish as the dress coat, or even the rebel’s short jacket, the simple four button sack coat won a place in the hearts of the grateful federal soldiers who wore them.
With the onset of the war, and the explosion in the size of the US army, the government contracted with dozens of private companies to produce fatigue blouses, dramatically expanded their production capacity at the Schulkyll arsenal, and created several new arsenals in locations such as Stubenville and Cincinnati, Ohio, and St. Louis, Missouri (to name a few) which had their own production capacity to make government issue clothing and equipment.
For the federal living historian, a quality US sack coat is an essential item, and for those looking to upgrade their impression there is no other item that is more visible than a sack coat. While it can be initially daunting figuring out what type of sack coat you should have for an impression, a standard four button contractor-made coat, heavily machine-sewn, with hand-sewn buttonholes will cover most impressions.
Wambaugh, White and Company’s reproduction US fatigue blouse is copied from an original in a private collection that exemplifies common features seen on millions of sack coats during the war, but also has small details found on the original blouse that make it no less than a faithful copy. The blouse is made from custom 8 oz. blue wool flannel dyed to an indigo blue color, and is lined in a lightweight green wool flannel. Sewn largely by machine, it has hand-sewing where appropriate, such as the sleeve linings and buttonholes. The blouse features extensive piecings in the facings and under collar, as well as a body that is slightly shorter than some surviving original blouses and most reproduction blouses made today.
The blouse is stamped with sizing dots and the inspector mark of F. H. Shafer. Shafer inspected clothing at the Cincinnati Depot from September of 1863 until the end of the war, effectively dating the blouse from that period (though it should be understood that there is nothing in the patterning or materials of this coat that would preclude it from use in other periods or theaters of the war.) While it is not known whether the original blouse was produced at the Cincinnati Depot or made by a contractor and simply issued through the depot, either scenario could be valid.