Trans Mississippi Penitentiary Jacket

In conjunction with Fred Baker, Skillet Licker Products is offering a limited run of the "Huntsville, Texas Penitentiary Jacket", perfect for the upcoming Mansfield, LA event and, indeed, all far West events. Run is limited to 15 jackets, first come first served, at a cost of $195. Prototype jacket will be pictured on the site and orders will then be taken. Description and information pertaining to as follows:

The Penitentiary Jacket is a garment without surviving examples and very little in the way of period images. No known photographic image survives although sketches of the garment exist from period lithographs and other like works. Additionally, these garments are mentioned in a good many letters and reports. Historians Fred Adolphus and Don Smith have both done a significant amount of research into Penitentiary Jackets and have concluded the following- the garments were constructed of a "military styled" pattern, the jackets featured little in the way of adornment or embellishment, and finally, there was no set number of buttons nor other points of uniformity. The shared trait of all Penitentiary items was the cloth of which they were made. During the war the state penitentiary in Huntsville, Texas put its inmates to work looming and weaving millions of yards of cloth to provide to the lacking people of the State of Texas as well as the Confederacy as a whole. Much of this fabric was sold or provided to families for personal needs. However, vast quantities were also transformed into jackets, trousers, and other badly needed uniform items for both State and Confederate forces. A large proportion of the cloth manufactured at Huntsville was undyed, both to speed production and reduce the cost of making it. Therefore, thousands of jackets and trousers were constructed of "natural" (or undyed) cotton jean cloth. Another advantage inherent in making uniform items from light colored, cotton cloth was the comfort of the combatants. Trans-Mississippi soldiers on garrison or on campaign in the torrid summer heat of Texas or the thick, muggy humidity of the Louisiana cane breaks no doubt appreciated any relief afforded them. Thus, Penitentiary uniforms were a very common sight in the states west of the Big Muddy. Moreover, there is building evidence which indicates similar types of uniforms were worn by troops east of the Mississippi as well. Several letters and diaries make mention of Confederate troops clad in white uniforms, particularly around the time of the Chickamauga campaign. Finally, it is important to remember that these garments were not known as "Penitentiary Coats" during the time of the war. Rather, that term is one crafted by modern historians and material culturists as an identifier, much the same as the "Mystery Jacket" or the "Richmond Depot III."

The Penitentiary coats made for the up-coming Mansfield/Pleasant Hill Preservation March will be constructed of the highest quality materials available. Both the jean and lining material will be either from Family Heirloom Weavers or Ben Tart. Buttons will include coin buttons from Wooded Hamlet or military buttons from Jim Kindred. All interior/hidden seams will be machined and every jacket will be top-stitched by hand. Buttonholes will be hand-sewn as well. Although the color and style of every jacket will be quite similar, the button arrangement will not. Some jackets may have 8 button fronts while others may have only 5.

You want it? We have it! (or can get it!)

When I started this business over 3 years ago it was with the mindset that living historians needed to a place where they could get exceptional goods fast and efficiently, however, we are so much more than that!

Simply because an item is not listed or is out of stock does not necessarily mean that we do not make it or you have to wait an inordinate amount of time for it. I welcome your phone calls (1-800-431-1862) and emails ( for any item that you might be interested in.

Some of the goods that have been made recently which have not appeared on the site are:

    • Jr. Officer trousers of kersey
    • Staff officers trouser
    • McDowell federal private purchase caps
    • Military style private purchase vests of kersey
    • Cavalry trimmed mounted service jackets
    • States Rights frocks
    • Pleated frocks
    • Balmoral shoes
    • and a host of other items...

Give me a call to discuss your needs!

Mansfield Preservation Quilt

In April 2, 2004; quality living historians from around the country will meet at Mansfield, Louisiana to recreate the campaigner battalion of the 15th Texas Infantry, Polignac's Brigade, Mouton's Division, Taylor's Army of West Louisiana during the Red River campaign. The purpose of the 15 mile march from Mansfield to Pleasant Hill is to raise funds to help save the historic Mansfield battlefield.

To that end, Mike Anderson of Anderson Dry Goods is donating a beautiful Mid 1800"s "homespun" utility quilt, as carried by many CW soldiers on both sides. Aprox. size is 58" X 90". Back side is a "homespun" cotton, off-white or light tan in color. Cotton batting between the two outer layers. Top layer is alternating vertical panels of plain "homespun" , then a panel of four-patch blocks set on point. (Similar to quilt on page 29, bottom right, in the book Southern Quilts by Bets Ramsey & Merikay Waldvogel)

Plain panels are of FHW "homespun", Shenandoah pattern. Hand quilting will be done in the "fan" pattern.

Pictures to the left are portions of the front side.

How it works: Chances are $5 or 3 for $10. Purchase $125 from me and you are automatically entered. Just before the event I will post all the entry forms (which I fill out on this end for you) and will mail them to Mike Anderson who will be attending the event. Mike will then notify the winning party who will either receive the quilt at the event, if they attend, or it will be shipped out by Mike to you. All checks should be made out to Joe Hofmann with Mansfield, LA in the memo line. I will then send a lump sum check to the organizers.

Below are images of the various patterns and overall bacground material of the quilt. Recerse side will be tan.

This quilt is valued at over $300!

New Year Sale!

Tons of great deals throughout the site! For example: Beautiful unlined sack for $85! Check them out, but hurry, supplies are limited!


The long awaited run of black or printed cotton pattern cravats by NJ Sekela are in stock! Hand stitched onto blued spring steel coil to retain shape, one size fits all adjustment, these cravats are truely an item that is coveted by Citizen, Soldier and Officer alike! While supplies last, specific cotton print cravats have a free matching handkerchief as well!
Act now! See site for details under Citizens Articles.

Camp Shoes!!!

Limited run of Canvas camp shoes beginning now! The list is growing and only a limited number will be made, so be among the first to get them as they become available!

Check them out!!!

Accoutrements, the finest available!

Prices are right, the quality is unsurpassed, new runs continually in progress, now is the time to grab the finest US goods as crafted by NJ Sekela or States Rights goods made by Cary Davisson.

"For Fatigue Purposes The Army Sack Coat 1857 - 1872" by Patrick Brown is now in stock and, as our moniker states, ready to ship! The price is $22.50 plus postage & handling.
Pat Brown's sack coat monograph

In conjunction with my new book "For fatigue Purposes... The Army Sack Coat of 1857 - 1872", I am undertaking a run of fatigue blouses from the pages of the book.The coats in this run are facsimiles of a Nathan Gale contract coat, copied from an unidentified original in a private collection. The original coat sports the stamp of a Philadelphia (Schyulkill) arsenal inspector and early war "dot" type size markings. The reproduction coats are stamped

"Nathan Gale / 28 State Street / Boston, Mass."

For more information on the Nathan Gale contract coat click on the "Blouses, Frocks and Overcoats"

Most strikingly, the original coat had a pocket added by the original owner on the bottom front where a modern suit coat pocket would be. This fine reproduction sports two added outer pockets, plus a hook and eye collar per the original and period images. A truly unique collectors item garment of a style of coat commonly worn by Federal troops, these will only be produced on a limited run. The run is in progress and pre-orders are being taken now.

Shirts! Shirts! Shirts!

From Civilian to Contract variant to the humble domet issue, we carry them all!

There is only so much that a living historian can do when trying to recreate the life of a soldier. After all, you are not dodging bullets, fighting raging smallpox, experiencing the ravages of dysentery or fighting never ending boredom of camp life. However, nothing says more about your commitment to living history than to spend even a short amount of time in a domet issue shirt. These shirts were issued by the hundreds and one absolutely belongs in the kit of any serious Federal living historian.

We at Skillet Licker would like to welcome Ted Quednau, the manufacturer of a quality domet flannel issue shirt. Ted is no stranger to those "in the know" about where to get first rate goods and we are pleased to be able to offer this shirt.

Ted drafted his pattern from Dean Nelsons article on the army shirt, the article included US regulation measurements of cut out pieces before assembly and the Saroni contract measurements. With the generosity of William Brewster of the Wisconsin veterans Museum, Ted studied, measured and photographed the original in their collection. Their original was worn by Pvt. David C. Hotchkiss, Company C, 13th Wisconsin Infantry. Also invaluable to Ted were his conversations with Don Troiani. The shirt was reviewed in the Fall 1999 issue of the Watch Dog.

We have this shirt in stock in "large" size only

World War II

There is a new page added onto the site for those of you who also reenact WWII. Presently it contains German goods but will expand to include more German as well as G.I. goods as well. Click here to check it out!


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