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
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)
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.
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.
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
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.
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
( 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
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
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.
Notice: Use of the barrel boot has been discontinued
and is no longer approved by the 1st Virginia
Cavalry 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
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 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.
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
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 Wayne Nalls or another senior member of
our 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.
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Revised: January 11, 2010