Article Of Do’s and Don’t� American Civil War Reenacting

Moderator: the_power

Article Of Do’s and Don’t� American Civil War Reenacting

Postby Irish-American on Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:35 pm

The American Civil War is perhaps the one thing that greatly shaped the American identity as it is today. There is something about that draws people in like no other war in the states. It has perplexed people for years afterward as there are so many misconceptions about it. Our Civil War is also one the most sloppily reenacted wars out there. My aim is to show the few American Civil War reenactors what to do and what not to do. Granted, the few I’ve met on here are wonderful people and seem to lean to the hardcore why of doing things. But improvements can always be made. I hope to use this little article as an open dialogue to help each other out. Take this as you but, I hope you gain something.

The typical Union uniform consisted of frock coat or shell jacket, white cotton button down shirt, a kepi, blue pants and the ever-painful Brogan shoes. (I stress if you by a new set please soften them up in tub of water or get shoe grease. As I’m�re we’ve � experienced it’s har�o get damn things on without doing that and leather rubs against your feet and hurt. Also, it is important to remember that in both armies as long as you had the top most button of your jacket buttoned you were consisted dressed. But, officers in both armies were required to stay buttoned up at ALL TIMES, in ANY BRACH OF EITHER ARMY.

This is where many misconceptions began. And I shall open with quote:
“In book�ritten since the war, it seems to be the thing to represent the Confederate soldier as being in a
chronic state of starvation and nakedness. During the last year of the war this was partially true, but
previous to that time it was not any more than falls to the lot of all soldiers in an active campaign. Thriftless
men would get barefooted and ragged and waste their rations to some extent anywhere, and thriftlessness is
found in armies as well as at home. When the men came to houses, the tale of starvation, often told, was the
surest way to succeed in foraging..".
W.W. Blackford

In contrast the Confederate army was professionally outfitted pretty much throughout the entire war. Men dawned cotton shirts of many different colors, and gray jackets most commonly the Richmond Deport Type II and gray pants and gray kepi. But it is important to remember each state raised units to be sent off into battle, so they were not fully standard. A number of different types of buttons appear each stamped with a state’s aberrat�. CSA, buttons were NEVER worn in the Eastern theater, and frankly those I have seen look farby. (They were more commonplace in places like Texas.)

I’ve often be�asked if it is alright to wear Union pants as a Confederate. The short answer: It depends. My unit does not, as we had a benefactor of bought everything we needed for us. But they were worn. It came from a need. So, a mix of regular issue and Union issue might be good. Also butternut jackets are good, but they did not appear on the battlefield until late 1863 in mass. If you want me to post it I have recipe to make butternut dye.
I realize all the above info is basic, but need to know you have the basics down before I can get into detail. It’s amazing how�ttle some reenactors know about the uniforms they put on. One did not know the red cord on my hat meant artillery. And he was a reenactor. (I later learned it was his third event, but I was still a tad shaken.)

(Not going to spend much time on this as we all should know this but here..)

The standard infantry rifle of the time for Union forces was the Springfield rifled-musket. But many units such as the infamous New York 69th carried smoothbore muskets until mid war. There was one cavalry unit that was given no weapons at all until 1863! They carried bloody ax handles!

The confederate army again was not up to standard. The chief weapons were British Enfield rifled-muskets. Many turned to the British Witworth as well. Many also carried shotguns from home.

Suggested was to improve units:

Many people drink while camp is closed, this fine, but I often see beer bottles littering the ground. One way we have stemmed the flow of having a hung over unit is say the last guy who opens a beer has to clean all the bottles up. It works! No one wants to be the last guy and have pick up 26 bottles so they have one or two.

Camp Presentation:
There are some simple tips I’ve picked up to�lp the public flock into your camp.
The first is drilling. Drilling for a long time has two benefits. 1. Nothing makes the publics’ heads’ turn like�loud “�D SHELL, FIVE SECO�FUSE!” Secondly, the more a u� drills the more confident and makes the unit look like they have earned a place at a event. Its also nice to have a man near the gun or infantry unit to describe the drill from time to time.
Having a decent display never hurts either. If have some old, worn, gear don’t sell it just yet. Mount� on a camp table and have a reenactor sit by it and explain what each item is. I have done this and can be loads of fun! I learned this: anyone can picture a volley rip into a line of soldiers, but few know what they day to day life was lie. Few know simple touches like they had toothbrushes in the war.

Make a fictional character
If you are decent actor why not try a first-person impression? These draw the public in and fun, because you can fell yourself slip back into time as well. To pull this off, you must study your unit (or if source material is hard come by like my unit, look at other units in the same regiment, brigade or had a similar role.)
And keep points as such as these in mind:

-Only a minority of Southerners held slaves

- The common southerner felt it was an outright invasion of the South to take away their rights. As one farmer put it, “I’m fightin’ cuz you’re dow�e�
- Those� north w�ed to bring � Union back together at the outset; Slavery became an issue later (even in America people believe the only reason for war was slavery.)
- If you portray an Irish unit, remember anti-Irish bigotry was still big in the states. Books of false “secrets of nunneries” such as priests�ping nuns were still�mmon bestsellers. To most Americans we were “Micks” and “Paddys” so might be good to e�se th�igotr�f army�fe.
- Just think about what a man in your unit would have done day to day.
- Create a Journal. If you like to write this can be fun! Pick some important events, learn all can about them, and then describe them.
- Music can set the tone, so if you have a fiddle, harmonica or something bring it along.

Sweating the small stuff:
I am one for minor detail and can get bugged really easily. Here are some things I’ve noticed:

If you’re like me, and can’�tand coffee and drink soda i�ead, do one thing. �r it in a tin cup and ninja the can to a wastebasket.

I know one guy who smokes cigarettes at reenactments. If you can’t stand pipe some, unroll your cigarettes and tip them �o a pipe.

Females as soldiers:
I have no problem with this, so this is not a sexist rant. In fact, one of my best friends does this. And it did happen, females wanted to look after brothers, husbands, lovers, or just do more for their side. I find these people very noble. My problem is how it is sometimes done. I was at a reenactment where the battery next to us had a few female-soldiers. I looked over and saw a 40-year-old woman with thick blond hair spilling out from under her hair and you could see the form of her chest. (Ok, pointing that out came off wrong but..) I had to walk away in disgust.
Since that day, and after talking with my friends Annie and Katie, I have discovered some ways that my help you look better. Remember, real female soldiers had to conceal their femininity otherwise they were out of the army, so, so should you. I would suggest maybe cutting your hair shorter during reenactment season to make you more like a guy. Buy a jacket a few sizes bigger so nothing can give you away. My friend Annie has “Girl Eyes” so see wears sunglasses, but I find this harde�I would s�est getting a hat with wide-brim so you can tip it down.

One thing I see kill a damn good impression is reenactors discussing modern events while the public roam the camps. I once heard a Confederate say, “I hate Democrats, they’re just gonna **** up Washington!” I o�n what message it sent� the troop of boy scouts behind h�

Cell phones: (you call them mobiles in Ireland right?)
I often see reenactors huddled behind a toilet taking off their buddy’s ear off. I understand the need if you are in a family crisis but �erwise not. You are there to educate the public, if can’t make time for them, don’t come!

Author’s Note:
This took me near �e hours from conception t�his final paragr�. It this my hope this becomes a open dialogue of reenactors to improve our kits and help avoid things that make our skin crawl. If this article at peek your interest please post a comment and point out things that are important to you instead of letting my sweat and muse go to waste.

On a personal note:
If you’re a reenactor of any period with a physical disability, such as myself, an�ou struggle with balance of period and necessity, please contact me. I have been working out ways to make the necessity part less noticeable.

Take care. And see you on the field,
Irish-American/ Adam
Active Newbie
Full Name: I'd rather not say
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:52 am
Karma: 5

Re: Article Of Do’s and Don’t� Am�can Civil War Reenacting

Postby Irish-American on Sun Apr 05, 2009 8:47 pm

Sorry bout the glitch! Anybody know why it happens?
Active Newbie
Full Name: I'd rather not say
Posts: 132
Joined: Fri Feb 13, 2009 3:52 am
Karma: 5

Re: Article Of Do’s and Don’t� Am�can Civil War Reenacting

Postby claimhteoir on Tue Apr 28, 2009 12:13 pm

This is how it should be done...
User avatar
Active Newbie
Full Name: None Set
Posts: 85
Joined: Wed Jun 11, 2008 8:27 pm
Karma: 6

Re: Article Of Do’s and Don’t� Am�can Civil War Reenacting

Postby Fuhrmann on Sun Jun 14, 2009 5:12 pm

Know any good places to get Civil War Unifroms by any chance?
User avatar
Full Name: Ciarán Burke
Posts: 46
Joined: Sat Jun 06, 2009 7:01 pm
Location: County Cork.
Karma: 0

Return to General Chat

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests