Many of the Rebels (and fewer of the Union soldiers, but some) at Knoxville in 1863 were barefoot, or, like the novel’s Private Bird Clark of the 13th Mississippi, wearing only tattered stockings.
But when they had shoes, or could get them, this is what they looked like. Not too awfully different from what people wear today, except for the hobnails on the heel and sole to help provide traction. It’s not hard to imagine them wearing out quickly, especially after many miles of marching on the embedded stones of turnpike roads designed for iron carriage wheels and horseshoes.
So few men in McLaw’s old division had shoes, according to historian Joseph T. Glatthaar, that twenty-two with cobbler skills were detailed that winter of 1863-64 to make fifteen hundred pairs and repair hundreds more.
The Civil War reenactment hobby thus benefits even those who don’t care to participate by stimulating a minor industry in these reproduced accouterments. Allowing all of us to see into the past.