February 5, 2015

Civil War Knitted or Crocheted Army Mittens or "Shooter's Mittens" Patterns

Civil War Soldier Mittens, Trigger finger
Image courtesy of the New-York Historical Society

Tensions were high in 1861 and even before the first shots were fired, men and boys lined up to join the coming fight. As loved ones left home and took their spots in rank, the wives, sisters, mothers and children at home were busy doing their part to keep their loved ones safe and as comfortable as possible. Women formed handiwork groups and people commented that girls no longer sat idle in public at any time but were always working on some garment for the soldiers.

Many organizations were created or took part in collecting items for the soldiers. Money, foodstuffs and clothing made up the bulk of donations and organizations were not shy in their requests for items:
"WOOLLEN MITTENS.—An officer from West Point who commands one of the finest regiments in the service, suggests that woollen [sic] mittens for the soldiers will be greatly needed when the cold weather begins. Will not all who can employ themselves in this way, help to furnish 500,000 pairs? They should be knit with one finger to allow the free use of the first finger and thumb. It is said there were more soldiers disabled in the Crimean war from frost bitten fingers than from any other cause."
 -Delaware State Journal and Statesman, November 5, 1861
The need was great enough that there were knit, crochet and even sewn patterns printed for this style of glove. Woollen mittens with a separate finger and thumb were so associated with soldiers that they found their way into a poem printed in The Ladies’ Repository in 1861,

"Knit-knit-knit-
With a warm heart and a true!
Knit-knit-knit-
The stockings warm and new.
The mittens with a finger and thumb complete,
The gloves for the drummers their drums to beat-
And the nice warm socks for the shivering feet-"

As the war raged on, the pattern stopped appearing in publications, likely due to the war frenzy dying down. Women were still knitting and sewing items but many utilized the patterns they had collected early on.   

By January 1865, E.A. Paul, a correspondent from the New York Times to Sheridan's army reported that the weather had been cold, icy and wet and that 1 out of 4 soldiers did not have mittens. He postulated that the extra money spent on Christmas dinners could have covered the expense of the 50,000 pairs of mittens the army needed.  

Different versions of the pattern:

Civil War Shooter's Mittens

1860s Mitten pattern Free
Civil War Army Mittens Pattern

Civil War Knitting Pattern
Photo courtesy of Bren Woodard
Click here for a modern pattern for  "Shooter's Mitts."

References:

http://historydetectives.nyhistory.org/2014/04/blast-from-the-past-mittens-and-slippers-during-the-american-civil-war/

http://cyrusforwood.blogs.delaware.gov/tag/us-sanitary-commission/

2 comments:

  1. These look wonderful! Do you remember what (modern) size needles and yarn you used?

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  2. If I had to guess I'd say the needles are around a 1 or 0 and the yarn a sock weight.

    There is a modernized pattern however the casting off is done a little differently: http://www.p2designs.com/pdfs/MittShooters.pdf

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