Welcome to the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves. You are about to embark on a journey back in time that will be both challenging and rewarding. At first, you may feel overwhelmed but soon you will find yourself enjoying a wide variety of historical and social experiences.
This packet is intended to guide the new recruit through the sometimes confusing process of getting started in Civil War reenacting. While a great deal of what you will need to know will come through experience and time, the information here is designed to direct you to the best sources for the uniforms and equipage you will need. Please be patient and don't feel as though you are expected to purchase everything at one time. The list of items is categorized in order of necessity, the items listed first being those you should concentrate on acquiring first.
Providing uniforms and equipage for Civil War reenactors has become a major cottage industry in the past fifteen or twenty years. There are literally hundreds of manufacturers, large and small, supplying reproduction items. Known as "sutlers," the name given to entrepreneurs who sold basic items and luxuries to the soldiers, these modern companies often sell their merchandise through catalogs and at large reenactments. Like any other business or industry, there is often a wide range of quality and in this case, authenticity. But, let the buyer beware. Just because a sutler sells it doesn't mean it is authentic. Recent studies have shown just the opposite to be true. Authenticity can be a confusing term. For our purposes, let it mean an accurately made reproduction, correct in every detail, made from appropriate materials and from patterns taken from original items from the period of the Civil War.
As stated above, many suppliers sell reproduction items that are not authentic in any way. With the wealth of original items which survive in museums and private collections, as well as photographic evidence, it is amazing how many poor quality reproductions are sold and, unfortunately, in use by thousands of reenactors. Sutlers who sell these questionable goods will explain this away by telling you that there were many government contractors supplying the government during the war and that they have "seen originals" which look like their shabby reproductions. In truth, this is simply an attempt to sell their wares.
The suppliers listed in your recruiting packet are accepted by discerning reenactors as those producing the highest quality reproduction items available today. They have been selected by the Advisory Panel as those that offer the highest quality and most authentically produced items sold. This is not a list of every sutler who makes reproduction items and is not intended to be. It is intended to help you cut through the bad to find the good. If you have questions about a sutler not listed, please contact members of the unit before making a purchase. While it may be a reputable company, we may know something you don't and visa versa. Don't be afraid to ask.
The complete uniform, equipage, and musket may cost as much as $1,000-$1,500. While we realize that most recruits can't afford to buy everything at once, please try to purchase the clothing first. It should be noted that some of the preferred sources are more expensive than others. We urge you to consider these makers as they will provide a top quality, authentic reproduction that will help make your impression top notch, almost an intangible feeling you will realize only when you attend your first reenactment or when you compare your purchase to originals. Also consider this. It is cheaper in the long run to invest in quality first rather than replace or upgrade later.
The Newsletter of the Ninth Pennsylvania Reserves: One of our best resources is our own membership. Articles here range from book reviews to news updates and the latest word on upcoming events. Read it and see.
The Watchdog: This is a newsletter published four times each year by veteran Civil War reenactors aimed at telling those of us in the hobby which reproduction items are good and which are not. Articles are well researched and cite original artifacts. This is really a great publication for anyone serious about learning how to improve their impression. The price is also quite modest.
The Civil War News: This newspaper, published monthly, has something for every reenactor or Civil War enthusiast. Articles range from preservation news to book reviews and reenactment updates and information on live firing and a large classified section.
Camp Chase Gazette: This monthly magazine prides itself on telling Civil War reenactors "where to go." After reading a few articles, you may want to tell the publisher where to go! Why get it then? While the magazine has printed some controversial articles of late, editors print letters from readers that make you think. Articles are written by reenactors and are usually well-documented. True, some of what they print is hobby "politics," but it is current on trends.
The following is just a short bibliography on the subject of Civil War clothing and equipage. You might notice that many are photographic histories of the war. This is one of our most valuable tools. Not only do we need to know what to wear, we need to know HOW to wear it! Look at the photographs. Note the way they buttoned their coats, cocked their hats, sat in chairs, and held their rifles and posed for photographs. It tells you a lot.
Davis, William C., ed. The Commanders of the Civil War. London: Salamander Books, 1989.
Davis, William C., ed. The Fighting Men of the Civil War. London: Salamander Books, 1989.
Davis, William C., ed. The Image of War: 1861-1865. 5 vols. New York: Doubleday, 1981-1984.
Gibbs, Patricia. U.S. Pattern Book; Patterns for the U.S. Fatigue Uniform, 1861-1865. Fredericksburg, VA: Historians Unlimited, 1980.
Howell, Edgar M. and Donald E. Kloster. United States Army Headgear to 1854. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1969.
Lord, Francis A. Uniforms of the Civil War. New York: Thomas Yoseloff, 1967.
Lord, Francis A. Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia. New York: Castle Books, 1963.
Editors of Time-Life Books. Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of the Union. Alexandria, VA, 1991.
Todd, Frederick P. American Military Equipage, 1851-1872. New York: Scribner's, 1984.