Civil war costumes

Civil War costumes are popular amongst historians.

civil war costumes
Nowadays, there are actually reenactment groups who simulate war times for entertainment as well as to keep the memories and history of those times alive for future generations.

The reenactment on the left depicts the 1864 battle of Cedar Creek in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley.

Whether the costume is for a reenactment event or for a costume party, it will be useful to know some background about this war and the renowned characters that played a big part in the war.

Costume background

The American Civil War began in 1861 and continued until 1865.

The war began when southern states declared secession from the United States. A lot of people think that slavery was the only issue at stake; however, there were many causes of the secession.

They included the threat to slavery in the south when the plantation owners were reliant on slaves to run their plantations.

In 1787, slavery was banned in the Northwest states and by 1860 there was opposition about the expansion of slavery.

Other issues included sectionalism and nationalism as the North was becoming industrialized and the south was dependent on slave worked plantations.

The southern states were worried about states’ rights while the northerners were concerned with slave power and free soil. They feared that slave owners would buy up all of the good land leaving other land owners farming marginal land.

Tariffs were also of great concern. Slave states had already become a minority in the House of Representatives and the election of Abraham Lincoln as President presented a great threat to the slave states because he campaigned against the expansion of slavery.

abraham lincoln
Abraham Lincoln in 1865
Eleven southern states claimed secession from the United States and established the Confederate States of America.

After the secession, the United States was referred to as the Union and the southern states became the Confederacy.

The Union was led by President Abraham Lincoln and the Confederacy was led by Jefferson Davis.

union soldier costume
A Union soldier
confederate costume
A Confederate soldier
The war began when Confederate soldiers attacked the United States Military base in Fort Sumter, South Carolina claiming the South Carolina was no longer part of the Union.

The Battle of Fort Sumter resulted in surrender of the Fort, but Lincoln ordered forces to retake the federal property from the Confederates.

Robert E. Lee was the renowned Commander of the Confederate forces and Ulysses S. Grant was the Commander of the Union that Lee eventually surrendered to which ended the Civil War.

So, if you wish to create a Civil War costume, it would make sense to dress as Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, or Ulysses S. Grant.

If you are not into leadership, you might choose to be a Union soldier or a Confederate soldier.

Soldiers wore either a Confederate Kepi or a Union Kepi along with their uniform while officers wore either a Confederate Officer hat or a Union Officer hat.

Mutton chops side burns were also popular in the day.

Abraham Lincoln is widely remembered for wearing a top hat and having a beard and mustache. Every picture that I have seen he was dressed in a black suit.

Costume wise, Southern Belle and Southern Gentlemen costumes are also associated with the Civil War.

Here’s a lady dressed in civil war period clothes for a reenactment:

lady wearing civil war period costume
Civil War costumes can create excitement for costume parties or plays. They can even be used to accompany a speech in a history class – talk about bonus points!