I started getting interested in reenacting when I was in High School doing a family history assignment, and discovered that my father’s family actually became divided because of the war. (And they’re still divided today about it), my dad’s family split over the right to self governs and not be told how to live by the central government. I had one relative that died at Gettysburg, and one that was captured in the battle of Nashville, taken prisoner and died of dysentery in Camp Chase. While doing all the research and talking with living relatives about all of the family fighting over states rights, the right to own slaves, and heavy tariffs on imported products, my mother mentioned that she had a relative that also fought in the Civil War, and she had a bunch of his stuff!
My mom was a Shaw, so guess whom was her relative? Robert Gould Shaw, of the 54th. Mass. I have his 31. Colt that his parents bought him, it is beautifully engraved and addressed to him from “Mom and Dad”, I have a set of his Colonel shoulder boards, his collapsible silver drinking cup, also engraved, his match safe from his wife to him, and a fife from the 54th. With the lead mouthpiece so African Americans could play it easier.
In the beginning I joined a US unit in 1991 and then after a couple of years noticed that the confederate units were actually having more fun at camp, so I decided to try CS and have never gone back.
I would suggest that you visit several units in your area and barrow equipment if you can to try it out. A good unit is hard to find, many want new recruits for the numbers, and will make you feel welcome, but later you find out it just is not the one for you and your stuck with so and so unit style “Kit” and it is expensive to change. You need to figure out what kind of reenacting you want to do, and how “Farby” a unit you want to belong to. How accurate do you want to do an impression, do you want to ruff it so to speak or have a cot, stove and tent. Do you mind drinking out of a semi-rusty tin cup or a farby stainless steel one. Talk and ask lots of questions of someone that you like their impression when you visit reenactments. Buy the best equipment you can afford, there is a lot of junk out there and a lot of not so accurate uniforms and clothing. Remember that you need good shoes, buy a very good pair of brogans, don’t go for the off the rack Mexican junk. If your thinking of doing both sides, then buy a US musket not a Richmond so no one gives you any greif when your in a Union camp. Read true accounts from the war written by veterans, visit museums, and talk to your local round table folks. Learn as much as you can so that you can make informed decisions on what you want to do and get out of this hobby.