Lack of Uniformity
A recent phone conversation with a gentleman whose opinion on this particular subject I very much respect has had me thinking about a peculiar situation that exists among reenactors and living history types. During our discussion we talked about the various levels of quality and attention to historical detail that is available with the clothing and uniforms produced by the many different makers for our Civil War time period. I was, as usual, complaining about imports (it's not just a living history thing with me, either), particularly those from Pakistan. Needless to say, I was very critical, but the gentleman made a good point that I had not given a whole lot of consideration to. He commented that with all the higher end makers out there offering such a variety patterns and materials based on solid historical evidence, we nonetheless have a problem created by well-intended folks making purchases they're rightfully proud of, but that contribute to a distinct lack of uniformity that would surely have existed during the period we're attempting to portray. Add to that the typical small messes that may have individual uniform guidelines or recommendations are frequently joined with others to form companies at campaigner or more progressive type events and you end up with a less than optimal overall impression. To further the problem, the weapons used are also of a greater variety than a typical company would have experienced in the 1860's. It seems we've broken out of the "cookie-cutter" habit and into the "coats of many colors" habit.
The point that was being made was that the flocks of folks who rush into places like Regimental Quartermaster to uniform and arm themselves at their companys' requests are actually appearing with a more uniform presence than many of us who are plopping down big bucks to have the latest, bestest, kewlest, most accurate coat, trousers or whatever. I'm not, in any way, advocating massed purchases of Pakistani goods by the more historically inclined. What I am asking is if we are not doing ourselves a great disservice, from a historical point of view, by not paying much more attention to uniformity? This is becoming much more apparent with Federal groups, too, but the Confederates are clearly getting pretty far off the mark.
I'd be interested to hear what others think.
Freedom Guards Living History Co.
U.S. Marine Corps Historical Company
Marine Guard, USS Constellation