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by (Bvt. Sgt.) Pvt. Mike Palada
With regards to the Federal soldier's footwear, the terms brogan and Jefferson Bootee are one and the same. But, just where-the-devil did these names come from. Brogan is derived from Brogue, an English term for a rugged shoe covering the ankle, but not as high as a boot. Jefferson Bootee, on the other hand, is contributed to Thomas Jefferson, himself. Up until the French Revolution of 1789, large-fancy shoe buckles were all the rage and the mark of the upper crust of societies. Jefferson, a staunch supporter of the French Revolution, lowered himself to the ranks of the middle and lower classes by wearing laced-up shoes at his 1801 presidential inauguration. From thence on until the early twentieth century, the adjective Jefferson continued to refer to laced-up shoes.
So which brogan or Jefferson is correct: the stitched sole or the pegged sole?
Before the war, all army brogans were of the sewn variety (and mostly smooth side out, not rough. Try blackening and polishing rough leather…it makes sense!) and came from the Susquehanna Arsenal. Pegged shoes were considered as the cheaply made alternative, the method being reserved for the making of cheap work shoes for the immigrant class and plantation (slave) trade. Then the war came... In either case, both rights and lefts were made. The myth that soldiers were issued two shoes void of rights and lefts is just that...a MYTH. Army uniform regulations, as well as government contracts throughout the entire war, specifically called for RIGHTS AND LEFTS; government inspectors from 1861 to 1865 scrutinized this.
Evidence shows that the army did everything it could to force contractors to deliver sewn and smooth side out shoes. While a pair of sewn shoes would bring the contractor $1.80 to $2.00 per pair, the Government refused to pay one cent more than $1.25 for pegged shoes that they considered inferior. The same proportional differences existed in the payment for cavalry boots as well. In a January 9, 1862, letter to Congress from Col. G.H. Crossman, Asst. Quartermaster General, Crossman clearly states that the small number of pegged shoes purchased by 1862, were only bought, "...when the necessities of the army required them immediately and the sewn [italics in the original] could not be had." Crossman's figures of 1,102,700 pairs of shoes purchased by January, 1862, show that only 60,000 pairs (less than five and a half percent) were of the pegged variety. Both were made of rights and lefts though.
However, as the war dragged on, more and more of pegged shoes found their way into the army. The sewing of the soles was done completely by hand, whereas the pegged soles were being constructed by pegging machines, thus allowing quantity of shoes over quality of construction. By war's end, it is estimated that a total of 40% of Jeffersons were pegged, most coming in the later months of the rebellion.
The one difference between pegged soles then and the reproductions now is that soles then were pegged with two staggered rows, allowing 9 pegs to the inch, and driven all the way into the sole. Modern reproductions use one row of pegs, usually 4 to the inch. These pegs are mostly cosmetic, the shoe being held together by modern glues, not the pegs.
So, which is correct? Well chums, a case can be made for both. But hands down, the desired choice and the more common one was indeed the sewn shoes. Although, the correct style of pegged shoes (double row, 9 to the inch) could pass for a late war, cheap contract bootee.
The Fugawee Company once made pegged shoes, but after careful research make only sewn shoes now, as per regulations. Also, ARTILLERYMEN, they are now making sewn ARTILLERY BOOTS copied from an original. This boot has the correct one-piece molded upper (made just as the originals). Check out their top-rail products at http://www.fugawee.com A link is listed on their site also for a copy of Col. Crossman's letter. The research for this article was shamelessly stolen and reprinted from their technical notes provided on the Fugawee website. Check it out.However, I wonder how many of you will be saying "so what" after reading "Sew What...?" Questions, comments, concerns? Fan-mail, hate-mail, something you want to see in a future article? E-mail it to me at TheBarleycornBoys@military.com, bend my ear at an event, or see if you can catch me at home. Bully!
This article was originally published in the November-December 2001 issue of The Shrapnel, the newsletter of the Turner Brigade. For information about The Shrapnel, contact Capt. Randy Baehr, Editor.