First Virginia Cavalry

Other Equipment


The single most important personal item in the field will be your canteen.  Dehydration is an ever-present threat during the hot summer reenactment season, and keeping well- hydrated during drill or battle is of high importance.  Always make sure your canteen is full when mustering for drill or battle.

Civil War canteens were typically tin, with two halves soldered together and a tin or pewter spout with a cork stopper.  Wooden versions were also quite common, particularly in the south.  Today, many reenactors prefer a stainless steel canteen, which, while technically "farby" will tend to outlast a tin canteen many times over and if covered with a wool cover, will scarcely be noticed as stainless.  A wool cover, soaked with water, will keep your canteen much cooler due to evaporation. Coating the inside of a tin canteen with beeswax will greatly extend it's life.  Never put anything but clear water in your canteen, and store it empty with the stopper out between events so little critters don't start growing in it.

As a mounted cavalryman, you have your choice between a "mounted" canteen strap (which attaches to the saddle) or a shoulder strap style which is worn across the body from right shoulder to left hip.  Most infantry canteens have a rather long one-piece strap of either cotton or linen which is then adjusted by tying a knot to raise it to the proper height.  Straps wear out long before the canteens and covers, and some prefer to make a leather strap which was also period correct.

Take your time selecting your first canteen, for it's going to be your close companion for a long time.  In surfing through online sutlers, you'll find many styles such as flatside drum,  "bull's-eye", etc.  Remember as a Confederate you can carry captured Yankee gear, so in reality any CW period canteen can be "correct" for your impression.  A disassembled canteen half was often used as a mess plate.

However, it's best to avoid the earlier, "kidney shaped" revolutionary war style or the later, "Indian War" period styles, shown below. 

"Rev War" Canteen

"Indian Wars" canteen

"mounted style strap" on a wooden canteen.

common Confederate style tin drum canteen

Stainless Steel drum canteen with gray wool cover
(not a bad first choice for a new recruit)

Saber Belt

The saber, or sword belt is a pretty complex rig.  For starters, it's a sturdy belt which must support your pistols, cartridge box, cap box, and saber if you wear one.

The shoulder strap provides extra support for the left side, where the saber is worn.  Two longer leather straps of different lengths hold the saber down low to the side and at a proper angle when mounted, and a small brass hook holds the saber up snugly to the side when dismounted.  

The belt plate is usually not included, and exercise caution when choosing your belt plate.  Do not use the common "CS" plate, as these were largely western campaign and were not issued to the Army of Northern Virginia.  A pre-war militia plate, or a Virginia Seal plate are good choices.  You might like to see what "everyone else is wearing" in the 1st Virginia before choosing yours.

Pistol Holster

One of the more important pieces of leather gear will be your pistol holster(s).  They will be subject to considerable use and wear, and a cheap one won't last long.  A flap holster with securing "Sam Browne" button ( not a modern snap ) is required for safety reasons.  Make sure you get a period correct model, avoid any with stampings on the flap cover.

The thickness of the leather is one clue to quality.  A good one of 8-9 oz. leather is far preferred to a cheap, usually foreign-made one of thinner stuff.

Holsters are worn with butt facing forward, so a "right-hand" holster actually goes on the left, and vice-versa.

Cap Pouch

Here's another piece of leather gear that's going to get a lot of use.   This holds your caps for your carbine, and secures with a Sam Browne button ( again, never a snap ).  Make sure it has a small piece of fur sewn into the top along the top edge - which was standard, and prevents caps from spilling out.  The model shown was a very common Confederate cap pouch, but many other variations are widely available.

Carbine Cartridge Box
( Cavalry )

This holds your cartridges, and usually is worn on the right-side rear of the sword belt.  Some mounted troops prefer to wear it on the carbine sling up front.

Be careful you don't get the larger infantry cartridge box - this is incorrect for mounted cavalry.


Carbine Sling

The carbine sling is a wide leather belt which goes over the shoulder and across the body.  A large spring-loaded snap link is attached to a roller which slides smoothly along the sling, allowing the trooper to fire his weapon with sling attached.  When not in use, the carbine can hang at the side.  When mounted, the carbine barrel was normally secured into a small "barrel boot" attached to the side of the saddle which kept it from swinging around.  Use of the barrel boot has been discontinued.. see below.

When dismounting, the carbine can be slung over the shoulder to clear the saddle.

Carbine Barrel Boot ( optional for display only )
(mounted cavalry only)

This is the small barrel boot mentioned above, which straps on to your saddle near the stirrup.  It's original purpose was to keep the carbine from swinging around and beating against the rider's leg or the mount.

Important Notice:  Use of the barrel boot has been discontinued and is no longer approved by most 1st Virginia Cavalry units for safety reasons.  A rider thrown from his mount with the carbine sling around his body and the carbine firmly in the boot can be dragged and potentially injured or even killed.  You may still want a boot for authenticity, but do not use it while mounted with the carbine attached to the carbine sling around your body.


Confederate spurs were generally plain brass, with small rowels.  If you've never worn spurs before, be prepared to trip a lot, and rake the toes of your nice new $200 cavalry boots to shreds.

Some troopers cover the rowel with small leather covers to prevent boot damage.

Others don't care to wear them at all.  They are optional, at any rate.

Cavalry Gauntlets

Cavalry gloves, or gauntlets, provide a good grip on the reins or saber, and also are useful for hauling wood in camp.  Tucked in the front of the saber belt when not in use.

General note on your "leathers" and other gear

There was a huge variety of equipment produced during the Civil War by both sides.  Rebs are lucky because they can wear captured Yankee stuff and still be "authentic".  Supplies were short in the earliest stages of the conflict, and became even shorter when nearing the end game.

We don't want to look like a bunch of "cookie cutter" replicas of each other (that's what the Yanks look like ) but we do want to present the proper image of an elite cavalry unit that came into the fight well prepared.

Careful selection of your initial purchase will result in gear that will last many seasons if well cared for.  We'll say it again:  If you are a "newbie", don't buy anything without consulting a senior member of your units.  Doing so will help you get the best gear at the most reasonable prices and avoid wasting both your time and money on incorrect stuff.

There are many producers of replica Civil War equipment.  Some are very, very nice, and very, very authentic - often copied from original examples in private collections or museums.  And this level of impression comes with a heavy price tag.  And others are simply shabby, and often "farby" ( from the expression "Far be it for me to criticize your impression, but.....) - a common term you will hear often which denotes something that just isn't correct for the Civil War era.

Somewhere in between the Cadillac and the Mule is a happy medium - solid gear that will last, but doesn't cost an arm and a leg.  Ask first.  We're here to help.

Introduction History of the 1st
Virginia Cavalry
 Camp Life  Uniforms  Weapons Other
Personal Items Jine the Cavalry  


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