Current as of June 2023
Welcome to the unit!
The purpose of this page is to help you navigate the various kit you will need to participate in 28th Massachusetts events. We strive to uphold a high standard of authenticity based on the equipment available, our personal financial constraints, and the latest historical research. For many, it’s a continuous work in progress so by no means should you feel stressed or not join our fine unit based on not having everything noted below! We are here to assist, and we are always learning and refining our own impressions.
This can be intimidating – there is a lot to buy. However, this should NOT dissuade anyone from giving reenacting with the 28th a try! Nor do we recommend you run out and buy everything at once. The unit has loaner gear for those who want to give reenacting a try before committing to buying the kit needed. The kit recommended below is the most historically accurate – however it can also be the most expensive. Don’t let that dissuade you – we merely provide the recommendations to guide your journey within your interest level and financial abilities. We will turn no one away! In the end, ask before buying as any of us would be more than happy to guide you through this very meaningful hobby!
We welcome any man, woman, or kid, of any age (and we do have quite the age range!) not just to portray soldiers, but civilians as well. And we are happy to help you in perfecting your civilian impression should that be your interest.
The bottom line is all are welcome! Continue reading with that in mind!
The most authentic sector of the hobby replies: “Because it’s right, darn it!” This is a simple and powerful argument.
We are supposed to be presenting a reasonably accurate impression to the public. What is considered “reasonably accurate” has changed over the years as higher-quality, more authentic items become more available. Since the mid-2010s and coming out of COVID, the overall standards of the hobby have changed to become more authentic, and we have followed suit. Unfortunately, the old poor-quality stuff is still easily obtainable, which can create problems.
We present the impression of a generic Army of the Potomac regiment, generally mid-war, except on those fine days when we can be the 28th. We have a company impression, not a flag of convenience for various ideas of what a Civil War soldier looked like. What we do, we do as a unit. We wear sack coats, not frocks; we wear forage caps, not kepis. We don’t wear gaiters, Hardee hats or infantry bugles.
We always find the best uniforms and equipment we can, subject to availability and our financial resources. The minimum standards are always reasonably priced, and we should not settle for anything less. We avoid “fads” or cheap imports. These are usually wrong and often disruptive.
We don’t need (nor want) to “count stitches” on every item, conduct uniform inspections, or argue about the construction of an 1850 vs 1860 rope. However, we don’t wear things that violate the guidelines just because of an “I gotta be me” or “I’ve always done it this way” attitude. This is unfair to everyone trying to do it right. The onus is on the individual members.
Some things – commonplace to the Union soldier – we will not reproduce; lice, “prickly heat,” 19th century size distribution, camp diseases, malnutrition, eating rancid meat, drinking stagnant water, 30-mile forced marches, etc. are better read about than experienced! But this is not an argument to deviate from our reasonably accepted guidelines. We should do the best we can, always.
• Ask someone before you purchase.
• When there is a choice, buy early-war rather than mid- or late-war kit.
• Buy at least the minimum acceptable standard.
• Equipment can add up and be expensive. Plan to spread your purchases out. The unit has items to borrow as do members. Members will often have items they are selling for steep discounts.
• Quality items are usually handmade, as they were in the 1860s. The wait time for issue shirts, sack coats, pants, etc. can run 3-12 months. Weapon wait times can run 5-16 months. Don’t get discouraged, but plan ahead, and be patient.
• When looking to buy clothing, ask where the material came from. B&B Tart is one of the foremost providers of fabrics in the hobby and their use is something vendors will usually highlight.
• Disregard what you know of and like about modern fashion. The uniform items of the time were meant for mass production and function, not for comfort or fashion. Items will fit very different than what you are used to, may look “silly” to the modern fashion eye, and many will be very scratchy. Please note the details of the items below on proper fit.
Part of providing an accurate historic impression to the public is research on just what a 19th century Union soldier would look like. While we don’t expect you to know when the buttonhole sewing machine was invented (1854) or make your own hardtack (Recipe), we do expect you to have a basic understanding of the uniform and equipment you wear. When talking to the public, you’ll be asked a lot of questions, such as “Q: Why are you wearing wool when it’s so hot?” (A: Answer) “Q: Why did they use muzzleloaders?” (A: Its complicated, but blame BG James Ripley, the Union chief of ordnance and a risk-averse bureaucracy!) “Q: What is in your haversack and what did they eat?” (A: See below and show ‘em!)
We recommend the following references:
• Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union (Time Life Books). This is a great, fully illustrated reference with examples of the arms, equipment, hats, flags, personal items, etc., of the Union Army during the war.
• Hardtack and Coffee (John Billings). This is one of the foremost insights into the life of a Union soldier during the war. Billings goes into details regarding food, tents, uniforms, the daily life of a soldier, and much more. He’s also pretty funny!
• A Taste for War; The Culinary History of the Blue and the Gray (William C. Davis)
• Irish Green and Union Blue: The Civil War Letters of Peter Welsh, Color Sergeant, 28th Massachusetts
• Any published diary or wartime reminiscences, such as A Diary of Battle (Charles Wainwright), Four Years in the Iron Brigade (Rufus Dawes), History of the 124th Regional of New York State Volunteers (Charles Weygant), etc.
There are also numerous forums and Facebook groups, such as ‘The Authentic Campaigner’ that are there to assist anyone looking to improve their impression.
“What should I buy first?”
Our suggestion is to start with brogans, and issue shirt, and forage cap as these are the most personal of the visible items. These are also the items closest to your skin, so having your own just feels better! You are going to sweat a lot in the summer! (Same goes for drawers, but as those are not visible, they are not a priority). Next, purchases should begin with whatever the loaner kit lacks in either fit or availability (e.g. if the loaner trousers don’t quite fit right, start there, etc), with the goal of eventually weaning off the need for loaner kit.
The basic infantry (enlisted) uniform:
Notes: The practice of “rolling” cap visors like a modern baseball cap was not practiced in the Civil War, and we should avoid it. The visor should be left straight or folded up in front. An authentic forage cap has a painted or shellacked visor top. Do not add brass or other ornamentation (e.g., corps badge) unless the dispatch calls for it. Always prohibited are infantry bugles, Fenian harps, feathers, squirrel or buck tails, etc.
Acceptable: Model 1858, McDowell pattern forage cap, Type II
• While we recommend the models above, as we are not generally “cast” as the 28th, this is not the most important first purchase and any of the acceptable types will work.
Unacceptable: Kepis, slouch hats, Hardee hats.
Sources: Dirty Billy (Recommended pick), Russell Osmianski-made, Kepi Nation/Greg Starbuck (Facebook), Connor Timothy-made, and Keune-made are also acceptable. The C&D Jarnagin model 1858 caps are minimum acceptable.
- Uniform Coat
Notes: We wear sack coats, the mainstay of the Federal Army during the war. A good-quality sack coat is made of light (around 8-oz) wool flannel or broadcloth, not heavy, fuzzy flannel. It has a simple, shallow roll collar and four brass General Service buttons. Three of every four sack coats were lined during the war, and yours should be too, with wool of a neutral color, and muslin sleeve linings. “Schuylkill Arsenal” pattern coats were made at the Schuylkill Arsenal which existed before the war and were all hand sewn. Schuylkill couldn’t keep up with the demand for coats and manufacturing was contracted out. Contract coats were usually machine sewn, except for the buttonholes which were hand sewn throughout the period. Period sack coats came in just four sizes, enjoy the size options that exist for you today!
Acceptable: Either a Schuylkill Arsenal or quality Contract sack coat are acceptable. Some coats are available that reflect the tendency of some original fabric lots to have a lighter shade than others and have a sort of dark teal hue. They are available from better producers and are acceptable.
Unacceptable: Shell jackets, frock coats, less than minimum quality sacks. A low-quality sack coat – and there are many available from general sutlers – is easily recognizable at any distance. Common errors are heavy wool, fuzzy wool, improper construction, improper dying, etc. Dying is critical – cheap sack coats tend to fade to a purple (not possible for indigo-dyed wool) or a sort of sickly mottle. Sack coats with synthetic blends will “pill.” Avoid all these. Any button other than standard issue General Service buttons are also unacceptable.
Sources: There are several great vendors for sack coats, but as most are handmade there will be a 3- to 12-month lead time depending on where you order from. The Honest Sutler (Facebook), Wambaugh, White & Co, K. Windahl & Co., Richmond Depot, and NJ Sekela are all good quality. There are many more, and it is best to ask around before purchase and other’s experience. The minimum quality would be a lined sack coat from C&D Jarnagin. Those handy with a needle and thread can save some money by purchasing a garment kit from places like Wambaugh, White & Co and do the construction themselves.
Reference: Notes on the Sack Coat
Notes: Soldiers wore any of several similar patterns of trousers from various manufacturers; however, they were all very similar, made of 12 oz. wool kersey dyed sky blue. Your trousers should be of proper fabric, proper weight, and proper design. They WILL NOT fit like modern pants. They will sit around your navel and be higher in the back than front. Issue trousers had a 1” vent in the outer hem seam, however based on the limited sizes (four sizes just like sack coats) soldiers would roll, cut, or re-hem their pants as needed. You will need period, non-elastic suspenders (or braces) as well.
Unacceptable: Cheap sutler trousers, dark blue, and pre-war versions.
Sources: Same sources and lead time as Sack Coats.
- Shirts (Two shirts is recommended)
Notes: One of the most underrepresented items in this hobby is a proper Federal Issue Shirt. A proper issue shirt should be made of domet flannel, be entirely hand sewn, and have very long tails – they come halfway to the knees. Many soldiers had a second shirt, in addition to their domet flannel issue one. These would include a second Issue shirt, an issue gray flannel, or a good-quality civilian shirt. The most common inaccuracy is shirts of modern material (e.g., very light printed cotton), particularly when made of a bright color or pattern. Civilian shirt fabric was generally of woven pattern (though printed patterns were becoming available). Collared and collarless shirts were available.
Unacceptable: Shirts of modern style or materials, bright colors, unbleached muslin. There are so many possible slips in the matter of shirts, it is best to ask before buying. Any shirt made of white cotton or unbleached muslin is almost certainly unacceptable. Modern collared shirts are obviously unacceptable.
Sources: As proper domet flannel is only made by one company (B&B Tart), and it is often backordered which limits availability. Good sources include South Union Mills, K. Windahl & Co., Wambaugh, White & Co (sometimes), NJ Sekela, The Honest Sutler (Facebook), and others. As these are all handsewn, expect some time to find one and then have it made. Most of these vendors will also make high-quality civilian shirts as well. As with other items, if you are handy with a needle and thread you can buy a kit and do it yourself. This will save time and money and you’ll be very proud of wearing something you made yourself!
- Stockings/Socks (Two pairs of socks is recommended)
Notes: In the past, the hobby had to make do with rag wool sports socks. These are now shunned. Period socks were made of wool yarn, hand sewn, and were rather long (coming almost to your knees). They were not made of cotton, which lacked durability for field use, nor, obviously, of synthetics. A typical pair of “issue” socks wouldn’t last long at all, so the soldiers were also dependent on what was sent from home. These would range in color; however, the most common color was blue.
Unacceptable: Socks of bright colors, patterns, with elastic tops, of “oatmeal” rag wool, socks with low tops.
Sources: South Union Mills
- Bootees (shoes)
Notes: We wear the Jefferson bootee or “brogan”, which was the basic footgear issued to Federal infantry. The degree of comfort, durability, and satisfaction is very closely related to quality and price. The boots should be of black leather – smooth side out or smooth side in. If you buy smooth (gut) side out, it is worth the effort to rub or brush or polish the rough nap smooth. Brogans had blunt or squared toes; avoid extremes (blocky “Frankenstein” bootees or pointed-toe designs.). Laces are black rawhide; if you have natural finish (brown/yellow laces) apply dye or polish to make them black. You can choose to add hobnails for traction; however, they are not required and not often necessary.
Unacceptable: Brown (natural) leather brogans or any modern footwear of any kind; soles other than leather, pegged (preferable) or stitched (no Vibram soles added). Laces other than rawhide are prohibited.
Sources: Missouri Shoe & Boot Co. and South Union Mills, are excellent; C&D Jarnagin shoes are acceptable.
Maintenance: Shoes are a high use item and will come apart if not properly maintained. Suggest you use Huberd Shoe Grease and research the best way to maintain your brogans. The 2nd USSS has good YouTube videos on shoe maintenance.
Notes: This is a highly recommended item, though admittedly you pay a lot for something you only wear on the book ends of the season. But if you have it on a cold night, you won’t regret the purchase. Authentic greatcoats are available, but at high cost. Enlisted members wore the foot pattern (single-breasted) version. Greatcoats of indifferent mainstream quality can be improved greatly by three modifications: (1) Replacement of the usual muslin liner with wool. (2) Replacement of large buttons in front, which are usually 1” diameter, with correct 5/8” diameter brass buttons. (3) Hand-sewn buttonholes.
Unacceptable: Dark blue prewar coats, double-breasted (mounted service) coats, gray or brown coats, or those made of jean cloth (We know these were in use in Federal service, but we don’t wear them as a unit). Avoid, in most cases, “off the rack” coats from general sutlers – these are usually of poor material and very seldom have the correct wool lining.
Sources: Coats are available from K. Windahl & Co, The Honest Sutler (Facebook), and others. C&D Jarnagin greatcoats are acceptable, but ensure you request no buttonholes. Cut and sew them yourself.
- Vest (Depends):
Notes: A few years ago, everyone had a vest. The importance of the vest was, however, overstated; by no means did everyone own one (they were private-purchase items), and we do not require them. If you want one, the military or civilian styles are acceptable.
Unacceptable: Vests of modern style, color, or fabric.
Source: If you choose to have one, we recommend having a vest made by one of the sutlers noted above.
- Drawers (underwear) (Two sets of drawers is recommended)
Notes: These were issued to all soldiers in a crude form using Canton flannel, stamped tin buttons, and tie-strings at the ankles. Civilian style drawers were made of lighter cloth and came to the knees. Either style is acceptable. Soldiers would often cut the legs off during hot weather months, making what looked like long Board Shorts.
Unacceptable: Any type of modern underwear.
Sources: Wambaugh, White & Co, NJ Sekela, and others. C&D Jarnagin drawers are acceptable. Garment kits are available.
- Rifle Musket
Notes: Our preferred weapons are the Enfield (P53) three-band rifled musket and the Model 1861 Springfield. The regiment was issued the P53 in 1862, however by the time of Gettysburg (July 1863) the Regiment carried both the Enfield and Springfield.
Unacceptable: Any other weapon.
Sources: Rifles are hard to come by. A year-long wait isn’t unheard of. Various vendors include Comers, Taylor, and Fall Creek Sutler. Keep an eye out in Facebook groups and forums for people selling theirs. Important Note: The weapon, as you receive it, will not be correct and needs to be what is called “Defarbed.” Comers is a good source for this service, as is John Zimmerman Gunsmith in Harpers Ferry, WVA. For an 1861 Springfield, the service includes stripping the stock to bare wood, reshaping it to be closer to the look of original weapons, restaining and oiling, and applying proper stock cartouches. Also includes removing modern markings, finishing the barrel out to Armory Bright, changing out sling swivel pins to rivets, and stamping the barrel with proper markings.
Notes: As with everything else, anything on the cheap side will likely not hold up over multiple events. When buying a bayonet, it is best to buy at the same time as your rifle from the same manufacturer/dealer. Not all Springfield or Enfield bayonets will fit the weapons they are supposed to if from a different manufacture. Bayonets may be harder to come by than rifles. Plan accordingly.
Sources: See Rifle Musket vendors
- Musket Cleaning Kit & Maintenance
Notes: For those who are familiar with firearms, we know taking care of your weapon is vitally important, not just for function but for the longevity of your equipment. This hobby is no different. Those coming from the smokeless powder world will soon learn black powder dirties weapons like nothing else. While those who shoot may have existing cleaning supplies, you will likely need a few rifled musket-specific accessories. This includes a cleaning rod, cleaning patches, bore scrappers, oil, rottenstone, ball puller, musket wrench, a rag, oiled-cloth gun cover, and various other add-ons. If you are traveling with your weapon, a sportsman fishing rod hard case will work to protect your investment.
Sources: You can buy weapon cleaning supplies anywhere firearms are sold. For accessories specific for these types of weapons, Blockade Runner and other sutlers have a good selection of .58 cal specific cleaning kits you can purchase all at once.
- Caps, Powder, and cartridges:
Notes: You will learn all about how to load and fire your weapon. If you’ve never done this before, don’t worry, we will show you in a safe and controlled environment. As the purpose of this page is supplies and equipment, we will leave the details of “loading in nine times” for the field. That said, you will need caps, powder, and cartridges. During your first event, you can borrow from members of the unit. Caps are small metal pieces that the hammer will strike to create the spark that ignites the gunpowder that fires the weapon. The cartridge (with gun powder) is the blank round.
Sources: You can buy caps a number of places (4 wing caps only), on-line and at events. On-line vendors like Blockade Runner will ship to your house. It is recommended you use “reenactor grade” black powder, which is cheaper per shot than recreational or competitive shooting powder. 1 lbs of powder will give you around 50-60 cartridges. You can buy black power at most gun stops, or websites such as Graf. While you can buy pre-made cartridges (PaperCartridges.com) making your own is very easy, cheaper, and will help connect you more to the hobby. You just need basic craft supplies (paper, linen thread, etc). YouTube has a ton of videos on different ways to roll your own. Or, just ask one of your very helpful comrades on the firing line. For those so inclined to bundle your cartridges, that’s the next level. We are happy to help you with this endeavor as well!
- Musket sling:
Notes: Research indicates that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts often issued English made slings with Enfields. As these wore out on campaign, they were likely replaced with American-made slings. The slings provided with Enfield reproductions are similar, though not identical, to the Springfield sling (It is russet with a metal hook); the original Enfields as produced in England had a very different style sling (black leather with no metal hooks). There is debate over the question of which sling was used by Massachusetts regiments. This creates a problem. It appears likely that as the English issue sling wore out on campaign it would have been replaced with a US issue sling (or no sling at all). Until definitive research is available, either style is acceptable. Note: Enfield slings are different from Springfield slings, based on what England and the United States expected their soldiers to do. Enfield slings could be loosened to allow the soldier to wear it across their back, enabling climbing over walls, etc. United States soldiers were not expected to operate in this manner, and Springfield slings were designed to just go over one shoulder.
Sources: Like anything else, you want something quality. Dell’s Leatherworks, L.D. Haning, and C.A. Davisson are all quality vendors for accurate period slings.
Notes: We carry the Springfield-style scabbard with diagonal frog. The two-rivet early war version is strongly preferred, since it is correct for any impression. The Seven-rivet frog is an acceptable alternative only for late-war impressions. We’re gradually trying to get rid of the later-war versions.
Unacceptable: Enfield (straight) scabbard and frog; these were not used by Federal regiments.
Sources: Dell’s Leatherworks, L.D. Haning, and C.A. Davisson are all quality vendors for accurate period slings. C&D Jarnagin is acceptable as well.
- Waist belt:
Notes: Belt should be of leather, smooth side dyed black, natural leather (undyed) underside, with oval “US” waist plate. Belt can have either a brass keeper, a leather loop (preferred), or none at all (soldiers were known to remove the keepers for easier wear and removal).
Unacceptable: Brown or buff leather, any belt buckle other than regulation oval US, belt without keeper or loop.
Sources: Dell’s Leatherworks, L.D. Haning, and C.A. Davisson are all quality vendors for accurate period belts. C&D Jarnagin is acceptable as well.
- Cartridge box and sling:
Notes: Black, smooth leather. The sling should have a circular eagle plate attached so that it is over the sternum when worn, the box should have an oval “US” plate. Original examples show that the plates were held in place with various triangle shaped wedges (trimmed leather or wood), but you may want to secure yours with leather string, or a metal wire. The 1857 model box for cal. .58 is preferred, since the July 1864 model is not authentic for any but late war impressions.
Unacceptable: Brown or buff slings, missing brass; we do not use the box with embossed US in the leather flap.
Sources: Dell’s Leatherworks, L.D. Haning, and C.A. Davisson are all quality vendors for accurate period cartridge boxes. C&D Jarnagin is acceptable as well.
- Canteen, strap, and cover:
Notes: The preferred model is the US regulation model 1858 smoothside canteen. The “bullseye” canteen with concentric corrugation is appropriate for mid- to late- war impressions only, but not preferred. We are making an effort to move towards uniformity using gray, brown jean cloth, federal issue blanket wool, and a cork secured with string (Philadelphia Depot). Mid- or Late-war New York Depot style canteens (light blue wool and metal cork chain) are acceptable in limited quantities, but not for early war impressions. We recommend proper leather canteen straps for the Philadelphia (1858 Smooth side), although folded cotton drill is also acceptable for early- and mid-war impressions. Cotton straps for mid- to late war scenarios and any New York or Cincinnati Depot style canteens. Basically, leather or cotton is acceptable for smooth side canteens, but no leather is unacceptable for bullseye canteens.
Unacceptable: Wooden, Confederate or Mexican War canteens.
Sources: Dell’s Leatherworks, Wambaugh, White & Co, and C&D Jarnagin are good sources. Note there will be some technicality on the size and style of the cork, and the proper cork should go with the proper canteen.
Notes: As always, the early war style is most practical. A correct haversack is approximately 11.5 inches by 12 inches, with black waterproof coating. The simple roller buckle should be black of japanned – most especially, not shiny brass or chrome modern hardware. The muslin pouch should be attached by bone or stamped tin buttons.
Acceptable alternatives: Though not preferred, the late war version, about two inches wider than the standard, can be used.
Unacceptable: White or blue-white tick, leather, or any other item than the standard haversacks described above.
Sources: L.D. Haning makes excellent haversacks, and other vendors are out there. Ask around.
Notes: We carry the model of 1855 Federal issue two-bag knapsack of black-tarred canvas.
Unacceptable: Anything else, including militia hardpacks, 1864 models, etc.
Sources: L.D. Haning and Dell’s Leatherworks are good sources. C&D Jarnagin is acceptable.
- Blanket & Gum blanket:
Notes: These two go hand-in-hard. One to keep you warm, the other to keep you dry. The blanket should be scratchy, made of 100% wool, have a hand sewn “US”, and likely have an unfinished edge. During the war soldiers just let it unravel and would get issued a new one. As they didn’t pay $200 for a blanket, we recommend doing a blanket stich on the unfinished sides to protect your investment. The gum blanket is preferred over the mounted service poncho for general authenticity. It should be painted black on one side, and natural linen on the other.
Unacceptable: Any modern poncho or ground cover.
Sources: Wool is very expensive right now (2023) and a number of sutlers no longer offer period accurate blankets. B&B Tart’s is one of the few remaining and one of the best. C&D Jarnagin’s gum blankets are among the best available and reasonably priced. South Union Mills is another excellent vendor. Want to go above and beyond? Make period poncho closers to turn your ground cloth into poncho.
- Shelter tent:
Notes: From mid-1862 until the end of the war, infantry soldiers were issued one shelter half, which they attached to their pard’s to make a complete “dog tent.” The hobby has been experiencing a revolution in shelter tents, moving from heavy, inauthentic versions of waterproofed canvas to authentic versions made of cotton drill. We cannot emphasize strongly enough the need to have a correct shelter half – it is much easier to carry, and shows consideration for unit impression. Today, we need more “personal space” than 160 years ago, so many unit members buy two shelter halves so they can sleep alone. You will need three wooden tent stakes per-side. Sure, you can buy them but why not do as the soldiers did and make your own. Perhaps one of the simplest items you can make that only requires a knife, Boy Scout-level whittling skills, and a sturdy (not rotted) stick about 1-2” in diameter. You will also need two 50” sticks with a V for the uprights and a 6’ cross member or period twine (100% hemp twine is recommended).When deciding which specific shelter half contract to buy, the Joseph Lee contract was one of the more ubiquitous contracts and was in production in the early war being a Type IIa, the other one being Hensel. McComb, as the Type IIIa, is more of a mid-war impression, but the variations aren’t that stark, although there are some, especially with the Cincinnati contract with its three horizontally stitched canvas pieces, of the three vertical pieces in the Lee and the two in the McComb.
Acceptable alternatives: A-frame tents – in limited quantities. While these were technically used in the war, due to their weight and size they were soon relegated to training commands, permanent garrisons, and officers lucky enough to have space in a wagon. They would not have been seen used by enlisted men on campaign later than 1862 in the unit we seek to portray. If you have one, remember that they would sleep 5-6 soldiers.
Unacceptable: Tents with brass grommets. Modern (e.g. Home Depot bought) 1”x1” boards. If you have Sibley tent, good on you! Please don’t bring it unless the event specifically states that type of tent.
Acceptable: Correct shelter halves are made with either bone or stamped tin buttons; both are correct. Hand-stitched grommets are preferred, machine-stitched are acceptable.
Sources: S&S Sutler of Gettysburg and The Honest Sutler (Facebook) both provide good quality shelter halves. You are looking for early-war tents such as Type II or Type IIa tents. Also – the forests for the wood.
- Mess equipment:
Notes: This is an important purchase – there are a lot of cheap and incorrect items on sale at general sutlers, and the right stuff is not much more expensive. You will need a tin cup, a tin plate, and knife, fork, and spoon. As we will not be marching 25 miles in July along unkept roads, we can skew a little towards “Heavy Marching Order” or Winter Camp. That means some members will bring their own period accurate coffee pots, skillets, etc. but these should be limited. There is also debate on how prevalent the canteen-half was in the 1860’s (half a canteen, used as a plate, with a wire that hooked over the canteen spout). Some argue it is overrepresented in the hobby, but its fine for our purposes.
Unacceptable: Do not buy tinware of stainless steel or copper.
Sources: South Union Mills is a high-quality provider for cutlery and other cooking items. C&D Jarnagin is acceptable for a tin plate and tin cup. Dixie Tin Works is great for a cup, coffee pot, mucket, hardtack cutter, or any other tin item.
- Personal articles (Yes, people will ask to see inside your haversack!)
Here the rule is very simple – no non-period items except your personal medication. Here are some recommended items. And remember – on campaign soldiers would only carry what was absolutely necessary and would discard everything else.
• Handkerchief: Not the popular Levi-Strauss patterned kerchiefs, which were postwar. Handkerchiefs should be of subdued cotton shirting or similar material. Sources: You can buy fabric from B&B Tart and make your own or buy from a place like Carter and Jasper.
• Housewife (aka sewing kit): Sources: YOU! Yes, you could buy one pre-made, but what’s the fun of that? Wait, no one told you sewing is a major part of this hobby? Oops! They are easy to make and a great entry-level sewing project. You can find sources/patterns on-line and YouTube on how to make them yourself. Make sure you only use period fabrics and materials. Again, B&B Tart. You’ll want period needles and thread from Sutler of Fort Scott as well.
• Toothbrush. Good period examples are hard to come by. Originals were made of bone and hog bristle. As they are difficult to procure, something that looks like bone and hog bristle is acceptable.
• Tooth powder: A small tin can be used to carry your preferred dry dentifrice. This may seem overly picky, since a tube of toothpaste can be hidden without too much trouble. This argument makes sense up to the moment you discover your tube of paste burst in your knapsack during the night. Sources: Sutler of Fort Scott
• Writing Material: Soldiers wrote home a lot, in fact that (plus diaries) is one reason we know so much about Civil War life! Officers would be better supplied than enlisted soldiers, but a period pen (with ink), pencil, correct paper, period-stamps and envelopes, etc would all have been commonly seen, especially in winter quarters. Sources: The Sullivan Press is your one stop shop for quality writing materials and accessories.
• Wallet: Yes, soldiers did carry wallets. You will find cheap, poorly made ones in most sutler tents and should avoid these. Sources: South Union Mills and Dell’s Leatherworks have good quality wallets. Combine that with period money and some personal papers from The Sullivan Press and you’ll be all set!
• Matches and a Candle: Matches and match cases can be found at the Sutler of Fort Scott or Wyatt Enterprises. Candles were made of stearin and can be purchased from Sutler of Fort Scott, or a few folks in the unit make their own. Do you need a candle holder or lantern? Wouldn’t hurt, but as one soldier wrote: “As to candlesticks, the government provided the troops with these by the thousands. They were of steel, and very durable, but were supplied only to the infantry, who had simply to unfix bayonets, stick the points of the same in the ground, and their candlesticks were ready for service. As a fact, the bayonet was THE candlestick of the rank and file who used that implement. It was always available and just “filled the bill” in other respects.“
• Poke Sacks: Poke sacks were little sacks you put your food and other items in. You can purchase from a number of the vendors listed above or make your own (they are super easy to make with limited sewing skills). A Sanitary Commission Ration bag from Wyatt Enterprises also makes a nice impression and a good place to keep salt pork, etc.
• Eye Glasses: It is a terrible idea to stick dirty fingers in your eyes fumbling with contacts. Infection is a real possibility. Modern eyeglasses and transition lens are strictly prohibited. Yes, sunglasses were around back then, but we don’t wear them (even historical correct ones) Historic Eyewear Company has you covered for all your eyewear needs, offering a number of different period correct frames. Take the frames (and current prescription!) to any local eyewear store to have frames set. Good news is a lot of insurance companies will cover – at least part – of the cost.
• Winter Items: It will be cold in the beginning and end of the season. Thus its recommended you have a wool hat, scarf, and gloves/mittens/wristers. South Union Mills is your place to go!
• Personal Identification Tag: Civil War soldiers often personally procured identification tags analogous to modern dog tags. Joseph Valincenti handmakes authentic reproductions at a reasonable cost that are personalized to the individual soldier. (The Badge Maker)
• Miscellaneous: You are an individual, just as the soldiers were. So, you can carry – within limits – what you want as long as its period accurate and there is research showing soldiers carried it with them. Other items you may want is a cloth corps badge (source 100% wool/flannel cloth with no modern materials), twine (source 100% hemp), etc. When in doubt about the finer points, ask a member of the unit.
• Hair Standards: All sorts of facial hair was sported during this period. Research Civil War pictures. Want to see how long your beard can get or bring muttonchops back? Now is your chance! (If you can beat Aaron Harvey’s epic beard, we’ll buy you a drink.)
• Unacceptable: We do not wear wristwatches. We do not smoke cigarettes – if you have the habit, a pipe or cigar are fine.
• Modern items: This can be a touchy subject. At the beginning and end of the season it can be very cold, so cold weather items (blankets, sleeping bag, hats, etc.) are acceptable. They are to be kept out of sight during the day when facing the public and only brought out one the public leaves. Some members bring their families to events – this is a family hobby after all! – and will bring items for their children to stay warm as well. Things like coolers, water coolers, food, etc. are either to be disguised (as the unit water cans are) or kept out of sight. All modern items, especially cell phones, should be out of sight during the day in the public eye. No exceptions, except in the case of emergencies (e.g. calling 911, etc).
- Here are two other units’ recommended sutler lists: Stonewall Brigade’s Recommended Sutler List and our fellow (New England based) 28th Massachusetts Recommended Sutler List
- Also, please note that the Company has patterns for a number of clothing items. Contact leadership for more info.
- In conclusion, we could spend a week talking about the nuances of each item above. But we hope this will help you start you path on what really is a rewarding, educational, and inspiring journey – accurately representing those served this country during its most bloody war. And making some really good friends along the way. FAUGH A BALLAGH!!!