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Posted By: on: 10/02/2000 00:48:14 EDT
Subject: RE: Authenticity improvements...

Message Detail:
Hey JR!

Good stuff and all very good points to bring up. Thanks for posting all this.

I had to laugh at the dirty part, as I have a vague idea... I know how my other half and I look after a week in the back country, packing mules, no change of clothes, every meal over a campfire... Can you say "peeeee-yewwwww!" Two weeks, and the front of your trowser legs are so dingy as to border on shiny... Now of course, the Army wanted guys to be KIND of clean, and probably packing mules is more intensly dirty than simple soldiering, marching, camp, etc., simply because a mule packer is required to virtually wallow all over dusty packs, tarps, ropes and etc. But that image DOES come to mind, when thinking of how CW soldiers must have looked, after a week of heavy fighting and counter-marching! ICK!

The point about not cleaning clothes is very good one. I am still borrowing parts of my kit, and last weekend at an event I took a header in some frozen mud, really goobered up one pants leg. Afterwards, I apologized to the owner of the pants, (since they aren't mine to dirty,) but he said, "No problem, I'm going to dry-clean everything after the season, anyhow." I clamped my teeth on a shriek of WHYYYYYYYY!!!! Well, when I get all my own stuff, sorry, the dry cleaner will NEVER know me! ;-)

Also valid point about watching the brass and fooferaw, unless one can document that their unit/impression calls for it. I am becoming convinced that the more common, plain and ordinary a soldier impression is, the better it looks. All the old photos are pretty much alike, varying only in some styles of accoutrements or hats. Especially photos of prisoners, men at their most worn and common.

I also liked the mention of ettiquete with ladies in camp. Absolutely, behave as a gentleman! Last weekend I had occasion to offer a camp chair to a lady, and her reaction was delighted gratitude. And it really does look kinda tacky, if a lady in a lovely hoopskirt or nice homespun dress walks up, and the boys all just sit there like bumps on a log.

Here is one for you folks who know better: I recently read somewhere that good manners in one thing actually differed, back then. This was in the matter of "ladies first." It was a quote from some book or article of the CW period, but it expressly told men they should walk AHEAD of the woman in many instance, such as up or down stairs, getting off trains or coaches, navigating hallways, etc., to avoid stepping on the trailing hem of her skirt! This might seem to fly in the face of our modern perceptions, but when you finally DO find yourself walking behind a voluminous skirt, it starts to make sense.

Now, anyone else have thoughts, info, etc. on this practice?

Anyhow, I'm only hitting on a few, but all are excellent points! Thanks for posting this, and thanks also to those others adding their own thoughts. Good stuff! :-)

With best regards,


In the growing quest to make things more authentic at reenactments, I pass on a few suggestions that cost very little if anything and only require minimal work.


1). No hat brass! Esp. for Confederates, unless you are representing a certain unit in a certain time period that is know to have worn hat brass. This includes infantry horns, cav. sabres, company letters, etc.

2). No dead animal parts on your hat. ie: feathers, plumes, squirrel tails, etc. Mountain men and Indians wore feathers in their hats. We are not mountain men or Indians. Two exceptions to this rule are A: If you portray a member of one of the PA bucktail regiments who are actually known to have worn 'tails'. B: If you do first-person of a member of JEB Stuart's staff, as that was 'the thing' in JEB's camp to wear a hat plume.

3). Handsew your buttonholes. This is something that can be done in the evenings, or especially during the off-season, requires only minimal effort, and adds a great deal to the overall impression. I'm not saying to count stitches, etc., but handsewn buttonholes get attention from those who know and add the 'finishing touch', showing that you do care enough to try to go all the way.

4). Learn your drill! 'Nuff said, but if you are in the infantry, know infantry drill, if you are in the cav., know cav. drill. Nothing looks more sharp than a company, battalion, etc. that knows what they are doing and maneuvers in unison. On the other hand, nothing looks worse than a confusing jumble of men who have no idea where to go or how to get there. This includes officers!

5). Lighten the load! I'm not saying everyone has to be a true campaigner, but what I am saying is, look at the gear you have, and decide beforehand if things you plan to take REALLY are necessary. One of the worst things to do is to waist your time and effort to haul around a lot of excess gear that you never really use. Also, it saves you money, as there is less you need to buy.

6). No blue enamel ware in camp. This is not period! Though it looks old, you'd be surprised how many spectators do know the difference. One blue coffee pot on a company street can make the whole unit look bad, and it is a detriment to those who really try.

7).Read and try to learn the thoughts and mindset of the times. This is something that can be done over a period of time, and can actually be quite interesting. It helps to make a more convincing personna if you have an idea of what would have truly been on the minds of the people of the time. ie:Who did you vote for in the election, and why?(women not included in this one...Sorry!); What are your thoughts on the war? It's the small details that make the story believable!

8). If you have a Federal-issue canteen, unless it is from New York, replace the chain with braided hemp (readily available in hobby/craft stores). This is the true material used. Only those made in New York came with chains.

9).Don't be afraid to get dirty and to stay that way! These are people who were living in the elements in all kinds of weather and who rarely had the time or opportunity to wash their clothes, let alone themselves. I'm not advocating that we all get lice, but don't clean your uniform after every event. Let it get the 'lived-in' look! One thing I think we truly have no real idea of is just how dirty the actual soldiers really were while on campaign.

10). Recognize rank and acknowledge it whenever possible. Even in the Confederate army, these men were soldiers and were trained in rank recognition and had to salute accordingly. If you are doing a military impression, act like a soldier!

11). Gentlemen, have manners and treat women with respect! Etiquette was a big thing in the Victorian era. A tip of a hat to a lady was common. Also, when a woman enters camp, all men in attendance should arise, acknowledge her presence and offer her a seat immediately and without being told. Try it! You'd be surprised at the responses you will get.

We tend to look at the war through contemporary eyes and with our modern-day values (or lack thereof!). These truly were different people, and one of the biggest traps we can fall into is to look at 19th Century people with 20th/21st Century eyes, which is unfair to both us and them, and totally improper.

Just my thoughts as I see them. I welcome all opinions and challenges!

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