As a newbie to the hobby, the selection of authentic clothing and equipment is one of the most important steps you will take as a member. Enthusiasm is important, but channel your enthusiasm into understanding what the uniforms and equipment of the Civil War looked like, were manufactured from, and the usefulness of each and every thing the soldier had. Be cautious in your choice of suppliers and manufacturers and never buy on impulse. This hobby is expensive enough without having to buy something twice because you bought the wrong thing the first time. Always consult with the veterans of your unit about what and where to buy and refer to their “Uniform and Equipment Guidelines” available when you join your unit. It is important that you read and follow the guidelines to ensure that you are getting authentically correct reproductions. Investing money in quality materials from trusted vendors will mean that your items will last longer and save you money over time.
Some points to consider:
- You will not need a sword or pistol so cross these off your list right now.
- Do not purchase original Civil War equipment to use. It detracts from your impression, Civil War soldiers were not issued equipment that was 150 years old, the original stuff costs a lot, and you may accidentally damage a family heirloom. Leave the original equipment safely at home.
- Do not cut corners when assembling your impression. Yard sales and modified clothing will not work with the NR. We are proud of our authenticity and wish to maintain our fine reputation.
When portraying a Civil War soldier, think about your overall appearance. If you wear glasses, you will need to get proper Civil War-era style frames with prescription lenses (many of us have done this) or get contact lenses. When in the field, do not wear a wristwatch or other jewelry although wedding rings are acceptable. Most of us wear Civil War-type underwear (drawers) at events. If you wear modern underwear, it must not be visible during the event. This includes T-shirts. Civil War period stockings (socks) were wool or cotton of natural colors. No thermal or hunting socks with stripes or logo’d stripes are permitted.
The following groups of uniform parts and equipment (with approximate prices) are listed in recommended order of purchase:
GROUP 1 – Your basic uniform
- Civil War period shoes (“bootees”), $90 to $210
- Federal Issue (sky-blue kersey) foot trousers and suspenders (“braces”), $100 to $250
- Fatigue coat (“4 button sack coat”), $100 to $250
- Model 1858 Forage (“bummer’s”) cap, $85 to $150
- Federal Issue shirt (made of domet flannel), $140 to $165 AND/OR a Civilian Shirt, $75 to $150
- Wool socks, natural or gray in color, $20 to $50
GROUP 2 – Your basic equipment
- Model 1855/61 Cartridge Box with sling & plates, $175
- Cap Box, $65~$100
- Bayonet Scabbard (early war 2-rivet model), $35-$45 (7 rivet models are late war)
- Belt and US Plate (recommend early war “puppy paw” plate), $40 to $75
- Haversack (painted canvas food bag), $75
- Model 1858 Canteen (tin with jean cover & leather or cotton sling), $55 to $100
- Cup, knife, fork, spoon, plate, & boiler, $45
- Model 1861 Springfield (Armisport) rifled musket, $750 to $1,100
- US Model 1855/61 Bayonet, $80
- Gum blanket (rubberized ground cloth), $45-$75
- Wool blanket (U.S. Issue), $80 to $140
- Shelter tent (early war drill w/bone buttons), half, $60- $125
Group 3 – Optional items you should eventually get
- Federal Issue overcoat, $375 to $500
- Dress (frock) Coat, $260 to $450
- Vest, $50 to $100
- Underdrawers, $35 to $60
- Model 1855 knapsack, $150 to $250
Where to buy?
Below is a list of vendors that many of us trust and have used over the years. The vendors listed below have all proven to be good suppliers of authentic quality-made gear. Especially for the newer members, please check with a veteran member of your unit before buying anything for your kit, including forage caps, sack coats, trousers, bootees, tentage, etc.
Trusted Suppliers and Sutlers (click on the vendor’s name..websites are provided when knowN]
S&S Sutler (Tim Sheads) – period correct equipment including clothing, tentage, canteens, etc.
Regimental Quartermaster (Campaigner Gear Only) – some of their suppliers have changed, so check with an NR member before purchasing.
Missouri Boot and Shoe – a widely-recognized good source for good period bootees (custom produced for a comfortable fit), leathers, knapsacks, etc.
Dirty Billy Hats – caps, hats, and period civilian shirts
Wambaugh and White – uniform clothing
C&C Sutlery – uniform clothing
N.J. Sekela – uniform clothing
Dell Leather Works – some of their items are appropriate for our impression. Check with an NR member before purchasing.
C.J. Daley – uniform clothing
L.D. Haning – leather goods
Corner Clothiers – period clothing
Otter Creek Tinware – cooking and other similar tinware
Sutler of Fort Scott – cloth, rubber blankets, paper goods, period correct tooth brushes, pocket knives, ink wells, rubber blankets
The Button Baron – tinware, plates, eating utensils, officers embroidered items, corp badges
B&B Tart – clothing
Charlie Childs – clothing
Wm. Booth & Draper – cloth and frabric
C&D Jarnagin – leather goods
Stony Brook Company – trousers
South Union Mills – handkerchiefs, rain gear (coats and capes), 19th century sweaters, tinwear, overalls
Cresent City Sutlers – corps badges only
Sullivan Press – period paper goods such as stationary
Blazing Star Press – paper goods including identification stencils
Greg Starbuck – forage caps
Axel Ulrich – canteens, tinwear, etc. (available at S&S Sutler or direct) [located in Hellam, PA – 717-755-4229]
S&S Firearms – muskets, pistols, and gun parts
LePierre Sutler – leather goods and other items