Enlist | Irish Brigade Reenacting, 28th Mass Re-enacting info

The Re-created 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company B :

The recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, Company B, was formed in 1985. Since its establishment, Company B has continued to grow and to establish itself as an active and highly respected part of the Civil War re-enactment community. The company today has a membership of about 50, including an active military cadre, a functioning field hospital, and a growing contingent of civilian re-enactors. The unit’s primary goal is to create an authentic impression of the Civil War soldier.

Our unit can offer a distinct advantage to recruits who are new to reenacting because of the experience in the unit: we have accumulated within our membership well in excess of 100 man-years of knowledge and expertise to pass on to those interested in sharing the reenacting experience. This experience enables us to maintain and teach proper and safe conduct in camp and on the field. Like our sister units in the 3rd Battalion of the US Volunteers, we are dedicated to an accurate portrayal of the Federal infantryman, emphasizing authenticity in uniform, camp life and proper military conduct. But we never forget that over 140 years have passed since the Civil War, and that reenacting is a hobby. While we stress the military aspects of the hobby, we also welcome family support. This not only makes the family part of your hobby, but also broadens our ability to educate the public about all aspects of life in the period.

We try to participate in about 5 to 7 major events, from March to December, each year. These events are usually of two types. Living histories, in which we usually participate by invitation, provide a small encampment and interaction with visitors in order to help the public better understand what life was like in the Civil War. Reenactments are much larger events (from a few hundred to thousands of participants) that involve restaging a battle, or elements of a battle, for the public. Usually we will participate in two or three parades, five or six major reenactments, and several living histories. We strongly encourage members to share their knowledge and enthusiasm for American history with the public through group and individual demonstrations, lectures, and similar contacts, both at scheduled events and, less formally, at schools and civic associations.

We publish a yearly schedule of events and provide more detailed information about two weeks before each critical date. We do not make attendance at any events mandatory. We realize that people are busy, particularly those with families, and we are happy to see members participate whenever they can. This is a hobby, and we want it to be as much fun for you as it is for us. We do specify events that we encourage people to attend, but understand that we can’t always join the line at the sound of the drum’s dread tattoo. The following are a few of the questions that we are most often asked by prospective recruits:


Frequently Asked Questions:

I have never re-enacted. I’m not sure I’ll like it, so I don’t want to spend the money until I know for certain. What should I do?
If you have never seen the unit at a re-enactment or a living history, it is always wise to check out a unit before joining. In addition, it is often possible, with lead-time, for us to assemble proper uniforms and equipment for loan so you can experience camp life or even a battle.

I want to get into re-enacting, but I’m not sure the 28th is for me. What should I do?
Each re-enactment group has its own “personality.” We recognize this and respect those differences. We would not be offended if you decide to join another unit, one that matches more closely your own preferences. Some units are strictly family-style, with relaxed and less-authentic encampments; some units stress authenticity down to the smallest detail. We try to do both, allowing a selection of events that satisfy the members’ needs for conviviality as well as more demanding “campaign-style” activities.

The 28th Massachusetts, Company B, is most distinguishable from other units by our emphasis on realistic small-unit tactics and authentic operating procedures in the field. We have taken a lead in increasing the hobby’s understanding and appreciation of how the original soldiers campaigned and fought, as well as their details of uniform and equipment.

Note: You should understand before you join that we have accepted standards of authenticity in uniform, equipment, and behavior. If you want a unit that is willing to accept a wide range of careless impressions and a rejection of teamwork and self-discipline, the 28th is not for you. We have a great time, in the field and at living histories and other activities, because we are proud of what we are and what we do. Attitude is everything.

If you are still undecided about which unit to join but want to wear blue, you can simply begin by purchasing equipment that is standard for all units. These are items you will need no matter which Federal infantry unit you join.

Do you have monthly meetings?
No; our membership is too scattered to make frequent meetings practical. In any case, we have monthly events from March through December, so there is ample opportunity to meet and talk. We hold an annual meeting in the Washington area in late January — a business meeting at which we plan the year’s events and conduct elections. In March, we usually start the year by marching in the Alexandria, Virginia St. Patrick’s Day parade (and the New York parade if they don’t conflict). The field events begin in April and run through the Fredericksburg event in December.

I’m convinced. How do I join?
You should contact our unit recruiters by email (the link is on our homepage). You will be invited to participate at a field event. Once you have that experience under your belt, you will be sent an application that you should complete and return with your dues to cover unit expenses, upkeep of the company flags, and other necessities. If it is near the end of the season, we may waive or prorate the dues until January. This will be explained by the unit’s secretary.

As soon as you officially join, you will have a “sponsor” or NCO assigned. This veteran member will contact you directly and begin the process of orientation. He will provide you with standards and suggestions about the uniforms and equipment you should order, the schedule of coming events, and the expectations of the company.

I’m definitely interested, but I can’t afford everything right away.
In other words, you’re like the rest of us. Don’t let it discourage you. Check out our unit schedule and you can begin collecting catalogs and price lists and hinting broadly to your family when Christmas and birthdays loom near. You can visit (at events) or email sutlers to gather the items that need to be fitted (uniforms and shoes). Once you have the items that need a personal fit, get in touch with us and we can usually arrange to loan the missing items. The idea is to maintain interest and set goals that will eventually enable you to join the firing line. Your sponsor will supply you with a source list and — just as important — with advice and encouragement.

IMPORTANT: Do not purchase ANY uniforms or equipment until you have talked to your sponsor or NCO. Your first impulse will be to start ordering things as soon as possible. Resist that temptation – you will waste a lot of money on substandard items you will want to replace all too soon. Trust us on this – we’ve all been there!

There are far more expensive hobbies than reenacting, but if you take up the hobby, be prepared for an initial outlay in the first year of at least $1,500 (if you buy everything at once). The good news is that this is mostly a one-time cost — most additional expenses will go to replacing equipment as it wears out, and adding “nice-to-have” items.

We (and many others in the hobby, and in particular in our brother companies of the 3rd Battalion) have spent a good deal of time and research investigating how soldiers dressed, fought, and lived. The results of years of curiosity provide very comprehensive guidelines to help you acquire your “kit.” We strongly recommend taking some time and the advice of your sponsor to get it right. Not all sources of uniforms and equipment (called “sutlers”) are of the same quality, and your pards in Company B can help you avoid the pitfalls. Here are some general rules:

  • If you can afford it, buy the better, more authentic, quality items. You will be more satisfied in the long run. There are sutlers, for example, who will take a lot of time and effort working with you in creating your impressions, and others who will simply sell second-rate “costumes” off the rack. Remember: the price tag doesn’t always tell the tale in this hobby. Some shoddy products are more expensive than better ones. Your sponsor will give you the necessary sources and advice.
  • Don’t learn from your own mistakes; anyone can do that. Learn from other peoples’. There is a lot of word-of-mouth that informs this hobby. Take advantage of it. Ask people who have been there before. Once you make a decision to join, visit a big reenactment and shop around with your pards, who will be happy to help a “fresh fish.”
  • When you join, you should take note of the company standards. This is a necessary reference for your purchase of uniforms and equipment. Reading this document is a good way to begin acquiring knowledge of the hobby and the way B Company works.

Almost all acceptable clothing and equipment for CW reenactors is copied from museum specimens. This increases accuracy, but adds a certain frustration. Take time to examine the best overall guide (Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union, Time Life Books, 1991 — a recommended purchase), and you will begin to see why.

When we join Company B, we are really pledging to be historians. And one practical and very satisfying result is that we actually influence the accuracy of reenactment products by demanding research and by supplying information and ideas. There is a growing “hard core” of sutlers that have an active dialogue with their customers and, whether out of enlightened self-interest or (with amazing frequency) a real pride and joy in their work, show endless ingenuity in making the best impressions possible.

Your basic “kit”
To participate with the unit at reenactments and living histories, you will need the following basic items:

Uniforms:

  • Sack coat (4-button, indigo-dyed, lined, acceptable quality)
  • Trowsers (sky blue wool kersey), acceptable quality
  • 2 shirts (preferably one issue “domet flannel” shirt and one civilian-style spare shirt)
  • Jefferson brogans (Army boots)
  • Cap, forage, model 1858
  • Cap, forage, McDowell-pattern (buy this later)
  • Stockings, wool (not modern rag socks)
  • Suspenders (AKA “braces”)

Equipment:

  • Enfield 3-band musket and sling
  • Bayonet and frog (Springfield pattern)
  • Waist belt with oval US buckle and keeper
  • Cartridge box, black leather, with US plate; shoulder sling with eagle plate
  • Shelter half, approved quality cotton duck
  • Canteen, oval smooth tinned, with cotton sling and cover
  • Haversack (ration bag), black tarred
  • Wool blanket, gray, approved type
  • Gum blanket or poncho, approved type
  • Mess equipment: approved quality plate, dipper, utensils

In addition to these items, we strongly recommend you acquire the following as soon as possible:

  • Greatcoat, infantry pattern
  • Knapsack, Federal 2-bag design

As you begin to acquire your gear, certain pieces will be stenciled with your company identifying number and other information for authenticity and security. Your corporal will help you with this. In addition, many items need modification to be worn properly. Again, we will help you make necessary adjustments. Please visit the “Links” section of our site for information on vendors.

Eyeglasses: This one item will do more to destroy or to complete your impression than anything else. Original frames are widely available, though the years have made the metal rather brittle. There are very good reproduction frames available. If you have eyewear under your medical insurance, period glasses can be charged as a second or replacement pair.

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