Sir Peter Tait’s Clothing Factory in Limerick has been the topic of a number of posts on this site. Tait was a regular producer of uniforms for the British Army, but in 1864 entered into a contract which was somewhat unusual. This saw the factory make large numbers of uniforms for the Confederacy, with these garments then being shipped through the Union blockade to the South. These Irish Confederate uniforms are the subject of a book by Frederick R. Adolphus entitled Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Ireland, Volume 1 of the Civil War Sesquicentennial Uniform Series.
It is interesting to note that not all of the ‘Tait’ uniforms were necessarily manufactured by the Peter Tait Company. In fact three separate companies provided uniforms to the specifications of the Tait jacket, namely Peter Tait & Company Limerick, Hebbert & Company London and Alexander Collie & Company Manchester & London. This book outlines the history behind the Tait contracts with both the Confederacy and the State of Alabama and also estimates the number of uniforms supplied in total, based on the amount of clothing bales brought in on the Blockade Runners. It also examines their distribution around the South and where the uniforms were employed.
Of the thousands of Tait jackets imported into the Confederacy only eleven are known to survive today, with a twelfth example made from an unfinished Tait set also known. The main portion of the book explores each of them and examines the different variants in detail: the ‘Plain’ Jacket, the ‘Collar Trim’ Jacket, the ‘Full Trim’ Jacket, the ‘Welt Trim’ Jacket and the Alabama Contract uniforms. The book also discusses the possibility that the trousers accompanying some of the surviving jackets may be of Tait manufacture, though as the author points out this is difficult to ascertain with certainty. Frederick Adolphus is an expert on his topic and the book is filled with detail on all aspects of the jackets, from the buttons through to the trim. The appendices contain information on the scale of sizes for uniform tunics and trousers in a British infantry regiment for 1858, the percentage of different uniform sizes made for a regiment of 800 men in the British Army (the majority being aimed at an ‘average’ height of 5’7”), the size stamps on existing Tait jackets and the characteristics of Tait uniform buttons. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of the publication is the lavish number of photographs that grace the pages, no fewer than 134, with the majority of them colour.
The primary audience for Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick will undoubtedly be those with a specialist interest in the manufacture and technical specifications of American Civil War uniforms, and the book is exceptionally comprehensive in this regard. It is not intended as a history of either the Tait company or a detailed examination of Tait’s relationship with the Confederacy. Rather it is an examination of the specific product which this relationship created. For the non uniform specialist the book remains of interest, not least as it documents through colour photographs every known surviving example of a Tait uniform. The work was clearly a labour of love for the author, and is a fine addition to our knowledge of the Tait uniform in the Confederacy.
References & Further Reading
Adolphus, Frederick R. 2010. Imported Confederate Uniforms of Peter Tait & Co., Limerick, Ireland. 71pp.