The Cost of Army Uniforms

By Patrick McSherry


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General:

During the Spanish American War, officers had to purhase their uniforms privately. However, for enlisted men, including non-commisioned officers, the U.S. government provided a uniform allowance. The men could purchase uniform components from the government. If they used less than their allowance, they had no issues and would be reibursed for their costs. If they used more than their allowance, then the overage came out of their pay. It is notable that the allowance was higer for the first six months of the enlisted man's service, and dropped off considerably in their second six months period. This was because the government recognized that the men faced a higher cost initially as their got outfitted for the first time. The cost would drop off later as the men only to replace worn out or lost uniform components.

The odd item is that the band musicians had he highest uniform allowance initially, but the lowest in the second six months period.

In addition, the non-commissioned officers - sergeants, corporals, etc. - had to purchase their own chevrons (insignia to show their rank, worn on the arm), and stripes, which were worn on the trousers.

Below we list the clothing allowance based on rank. After that, we list the cost of the uniform components and non-commissioned officer chevrons and stripes.

Based on this, a private had a clothing allowance of $55.85 for the first six months and $9.67 for the second six months. To outfit himself with a minimum of two shirts (one wool and two "blue"), a sack coat, trousers with suspenders, three pairs of underwear, two pairs of wool stockings, leggings, shoes with shoe laces, hat, overcoat and blanket would cost $32.38, or $33.40 if he would add the canteen, haversack, cup, meat tin, fork knife and spoon. Some may think that more clothing should be added to this, but it must be remembered that the soldier has to carry all of his clothes with him along with marching rations, shelter tent, ammunition, his weapon, etc.  Of course, since the soldier has fewer items of clothing, the pieces he has will wear out more quickly and will have to be replaced.

Those troops who deployed to the front often experienced the situation of stacking their knapsacks, and then going into action. More often than not, they either did not get back to the same location to retrieve them, or the knapsacks were "acquired" by the enemy or by Cuban allies who were always short of supplies  and food. In these cases, everything in the knapsacks was lost and had to be replaced at the soldiers' cost if the allowance was exceeded.


  Clothing Allowance by Rank 

Rank
Allowance 1st 6 months ($/day)
Allowance 2nd 6 months ($/day)
Sergeant Major
0.331
0.054
Quartermaster Sergeant
0.327
0.054
Principal Musician
0.329
0.054
Color Sergeant
0.326
0.054
First Sergeant
0.325
0.054
Sergeant 0.322
0.054
Corporal 0.317
0.054
Musician 0.312
0.053
Artificer 0.306
0.053
Private 0.306
0.053
Band Musician 0.361
0.006

Government Clothing and Equipage Costs

Clothing Item
Cost (July, 1898)
Cost  (Dec., 1898)
Shirt (wool)
$0.40
$0.59
Shirt (blue)
$1.95
$1.78
Blouse (lined) [over shirt or "sack coat"]
$4.45
$3.93
Drawers (Canton flannel)
$0.48
$0.46
Stockings (cotton)
$0.06
$0.06
Stockings  (wool)
$0.23
$0.23
Trousers  $2.75
$2.63
Suspenders $0.19
$0.19
Leggings (canvass, pair)
$0.46
$0.62
Shoes $2.25
$2.23
Shoe Strings (cat gut)
$0.10
$0.10
Hat $0.83
$0.85
Overcoat
$11.49
$10.07
Blanket
$3.33
$3.40
Canteen and Strap
$0.43

Haversack and Strap
$0.72

Meat Can
$0.14

Cup
$0.08

Knife, Fork and Spoon
$0.08


Non-Commissioned Officer Chevron and Stripe Costs

Non-commissioned Officer Rank
Chevron Cost
Stripes
Cost (July, 1898)
Stripes
Cost (Dec., 1898)
Sergeant Major
$0.37


Quartermaster Sergeant
$0.32


Principal Musician
$0.34


Color Sergeant
$0.34


First Sergeant
$0.33


Sergeant
$0.18
$0.26
$0.21
Corporal
$0.14
$0.12
$0.14
Musician

$0.24
$0.27



Bibliography:

Roehrer, William F., Record of Fourth New Jersey National Guard, Volunteer Infantry, Spanish American War, 1898-1899. (Jersey City, NJ: William F. Roehrer, 1902), preface, 16.


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