SO, YOU WANT TO BE A CIVIL WAR REENACTOR…
by Skip Korte
All right, you have made the decision to join an American Civil War re-enactment unit. You’re excited, anticipating donning your uniform, accoutrements, and firing your new weapon for the first time! But wait, you ask, “What do I need to buy, and more importantly, where do I buy?” Well, “Recruit”, I have some information you may find helpful as you investigate the world of Civil War reenacting. What follows is a list of Sutlers/Vendors that offer various levels, and price ranges, to fill your uniform and equipment needs. You can start out with the very basic and economical parts of the uniform and work on what “fits” your comfort zone or expectations of your impression. To illustrate; you want to portray an accurate example of a Civil War soldier, with a discrete application of comforts hidden from the public. For instance: uniforms, accoutrements, and equipment are as accurate as possible; with upgrades purchased when available. However, you will carry personal hygiene products, chairs, mosquito repellant and a few other items to make camp life more enjoyable. The following are recommendations of sutlers and web sites to help mold your reenactor persona with brief explanations of what to expect based on my experience.
Authentic Campaigner: http://www.authentic-campaigner.com/forum/index.php
Web site for learning how to be an “authentic” reenactor. Good stuff, but read, watch and learn before posting: there is often a low tolerance for new members not checking previous posts before starting a new thread. The section called “Camp of Instruction” is useful, and you may find some good bargains in the Buy and Sell section.
Civil War Reenactors Forum: http://www.cwreenactors.com/index.php
Good source of information. Many of the individuals found on the A/C are also members here. Less authentic or “hard-core” focused. Check the Buy and Sell section for used gear. Also linked on the home page is Sykes Regulars: 2nd & 4th US Infantry page. They have a “school of instruction” page that has some great information.
Provisional Supply: http://www.provisionalsupply.com/
I bought my leathers, brass, canteen and frock coat from them; reenactors who want to provide accurate, quality products at “Sutler Row” prices. Their cartridge box is so accurate in construction that the outer flap curl which is so often seen in period photographs, occurs naturally with normal use. The canteen they offer is also a great product. The body is stainless steel, for safe water storage and free from rust, but the strap guides are tin and the spout is pewter with a jean cloth cover. This makes it appear to be an “authentic” tin canteen, as no one can see any stainless steel when in use and the materials used in construction are period correct.
Wambaugh, White, and Company: http://www.wwandcompany.com/
Listed on the A/C as an approved vendor. Historically accurate garments. I ordered my sack coat from them, along with a drawers kit. Dan Wambaugh is available to discuss anything that pertains to his products, history or particular needs that you may have in obtaining a part of your kit: i.e., I’m 6’5” and not typical of a Civil War Soldier, so Dan helped me get what I needed. Dan actually has his wool custom made to match the weight and weave of relics from various collections. He also uses logwood dyed thread and hand stitching where applicable. The guy who makes their forage caps used to supply them to Joe Hofman when he ran The Jersey Skillet Licker. I purchased my cap from Joe. One of the best caps available. (Joe closed up shop a few years back.)
C J Daley: http://www.cjdaley.com/
Another excellent sutler. Historically accurate garments. I bought my first pair of Federal drawers from him. (Chris now is limited to what is made, so availability may be an issue.)
N. J. Sekela: http://www.njsekela.com/
The legend in the industry. His name cannot be mentioned on the A/C, due to “political” fallout; however, he was among the first to offer the most accurate Civil War goods to the public. He actually took relics apart for patterns! Pricey, but high quality and historically accurate.
The Regimental Quartermaster: http://www.regtqm.com/
Another good source for equipment. I bought my suspenders and bed tick from them: look under “Campaigner” category for the suspenders (braces).
James County Mercantile: http://www.jamescountry.com/
Del attends many events. He is an excellent gunsmith and provides good value for his goods offered. The nice thing about buying from Del is you can see the item and try it on for size at the events he attends. And if you ever have any questions or issues with your weapon, Del is your man!
Stony Brook Company: http://www.stonybrookcompany.com/
Chris Sullivan has great trousers and offers a consignment service where you can pick up some great buys.
Blockade Runner: http://www.blockaderunner.com/
I bought most of my stuff from them when I started… in doing so I won their de-farbed Enfield Rifle by Todd Watts. Sweet! Not a bad way to go, but the afore-mentioned sutlers provide more accurate uniforms and leathers.
Fall Creek: http://www.fcsutler.com/
Many guys outfit themselves at Fall Creek because of convenience. You can drive to Indiana to their store, or see them a many events. More of a “Mainstream vendor. Not bad, just not as accurate in the cloth and construction used in their products. Good to “fill in” items at events. I have some items from them in my kit. Andy and his family are friendly and very helpful.
Missouri Boot & Shoe: http://www.missouribootandshoe.com/index.asp
The best for brogans, haversacks and knapsacks. I bought a custom sized knapsack from Robert along with a haversack and brogans. (Note: the brogans are made to your foot measurements!) Really first rate stuff.
C & C Sutlery: http://www.ccsutlery.com/
I have not ordered anything from this sutler; however, due to their pricing, they have been used by fellow reenactors to get started at a lower out of pocket expense. (I don’t know about the quality or accuracy of their products.)
Dixie Gun Works: http://www.dixiegunworks.com/
I bought my ’63 Springfield from Dixie. Many opinions on muskets; however, I shoot mine with blanks and live fire. My Euroarms has been great. I recommend an Enfield or ’63 Springfield, as the ’61 model Springfield tends to misfire due to the design of the bolster.
Well, I think this should suffice for now. Plenty more topics or sites available to discuss and explore, but you can investigate those as time permits. However, you will find many opinions that may conflict with what I have reported; such is the nature of personal preference. Please feel free to contact me at your convenience with questions or comments.
In closing, I look forward to getting to know you and hope you find the hobby as fun and rewarding as I have during my membership in the Turner Brigade!
This article was originally published in the May-June 2010 issue of The Shrapnel, the newsletter of the Turner Brigade. For information about The Shrapnel, contact Capt. Randy Baehr, Editor.