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Thread: Some equipment questions from a new Illinois recruit!

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Nov 2011
    Posts
    21

    Default Some equipment questions from a new Illinois recruit!

    Hello all!

    I previously had my first season part of the 10th Illinois Volunteer Infantry and it was a blast! Thankfully many people in the reenacting world are good people and those in my company let me borrow stuff. I am looking at purchasing some new equipment and have some questions. They are listed below:

    What is the difference between Shell and Sack jackets?

    What is the difference between the Russet belt and the black belt?

    What is muslin lining?

    and... what are some basic needs vs. wants to have. This will be my 2nd year out with the company/battalion and want to have the right stuff. I will also be attending Gettysburg so I want to be prepared.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Location
    New York
    Posts
    358

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    Dear Matfor:

    Welcome to the wonderful world of reenacting! Your enthusiasm is infectious, it's great to have you here!

    1. Since you're thinking about a military impression, one of the important things is what is acceptable (good, better, best) in the guidelines of your unit? Military units are supposed pick out an impression that all members should first achieve. This is because when you all turn out for an event, you need to all look pretty much the same. So you should have the same type of coat, gun, shoes, etc.

    2. Some of the things you'll need for these events you can borrow from either your unit's loaner box or other members of the unit. Depending on the events you're going to, and whether your unit has brother units that are part of a larger battalion, you may be able to also borrow loaner items for a particular event from the brother units in your battalion.

    3. If your unit does not have any written guidelines for what you should be purchasing, and there is no one who will help you clarify what kit to get in what order, consider falling in with some other units at the next event you attend. Any unit worth their salt will warmly welcome you, help you to channel your enthusiasm and give you clear guidance about what to purchase first, where to get it, loan you equipment, clothing and kit, and assign you one or more experienced members who live close enough to you to be in touch and be a resource for you.

    For heaven's sake (and the sake of your wallet) don't wander over to sutler row, or worse yet, start cruising sutler sites for "what I think I need." Most of us have made some expensive mistakes when we first started out and purchased what we thought "looked right" only to find out after one wearing (or less) that we had just purchased something we'd be embarrassed to wear.

    Your impulse to seek guidance is good -- it's important to also weigh who is answering your questions, and what motivation they have. Learn how to use the search engine on this site and the Authentic Campaigner (www.authentic-campaigner.com), both of which have extensive archives. Read a lot of posts. You'll start to see the same names popping up giving good advice. It's even better if you've seen someone's impression firsthand.

    I'm sure you'll get additional advice from many who have decades more experience than I.

    Above all, I hope that reenacting brings you many more years of enjoyment,

    Karin Timour
    Period Knitting -- Socks, Sleeping Hats, Balaclavas
    Atlantic Guard Soldiers' Aid Society
    Email: Ktimour@aol.com

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Location
    California People's Republic
    Posts
    228

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    Don't be like me and buy a revolver (which I never use) before a greatcoat (which I use every event). They were about the same price and I went with want over need, and regretted it. When I started reenacting I was on a pretty tight budget and it took a couple years to accumulate everything I regularly needed.

    Karin's post is very good. You should definitely ask your company for some guidelines. As Federal infantry you will probably be in a frock or a sack coat, and probably not a shell jacket. Shell jackets are waist-length and very generally speaking, more common with cavalry and artillery, or Confederate impressions. Sack coats are a little longer but very simply made, and throughout the war, were the most common jacket for Federal infantry. Your accouterments will almost certainly be black leather, not russet, which is a natural tanned brown leather.

    Others may have better advice for you, but personally, I don't see muskets getting any cheaper. Watch the classifieds on this forum for the occasional bargain; they do exist from time to time. For an infantry impression, the musket will be the single largest expense you'll have, and it is also an obvious requirement. With my unit, we find it easier to scrape together extra uniform buts to loan to a new recruit than to come up with an extra musket when the loaners the company owns are already being used.

    Don't skimp on your brogans (shoes). Avoid the cheap Pakistani water buffalo hide brogans if you can. Someone in your unit can probably guide you to quality sources for brogans. A good quality pair will last your entire reenacting career with a little care.

    You can probably outfit yourself with excellent quality, authentic gear simply by watching for offers in the classified forum here. We have some resident tailors with great prices on new gear, and there's lots of used gear with plenty of reenacting life left in them that you can pick up for less than what sutlers are asking for.

    And you're also doing the right thing by asking questions. Read, read, read, and ask questions. I agree with you that reenactors are, as a whole, really good people who will go out of their way to help a fellow reenactor out, and help you avoid making the common mistakes many of us made.

    Revolvers don't keep you warm at night on those chilly March reenactments.
    Brett Gibbons
    3rd Regt. C.S. Engineers, Co. E
    www.hartsengineers.com

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Apr 2011
    Location
    Bedford, Virginia
    Posts
    490

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    Quote Originally Posted by matfor13 View Post
    Hello all!

    I ,,,,,have some questions. They are listed below:

    What is the difference between Shell and Sack jackets?

    What is the difference between the Russet belt and the black belt?

    What is muslin lining?

    and... what are some basic needs vs. wants to have. This will be my 2nd year out with the company/battalion and want to have the right stuff. I will also be attending Gettysburg so I want to be prepared.
    1. The shell is shorter, more fitted, has more buttons, is more expensive. The sack has 4 buttons, fits like a sack, generally more comfortable and works for pretty much anywhere, get a decent one and you can use it for years.
    2. Russet is brown or natural coloured leather, black has been dyed black either by aniline dyes or by period correct iron dyes.
    3. Muslin is very thin normally white or off white cotton that adds little to the warmth but does make the item look more finished, it also adds a layer of comfort if you find wool to be itchy.
    4. This you have to discover on your own. If the group you are with can't provide it then look at the requirements for some of the better events, they usually have a list.
    Boyd Miles

    I dream of a world where a chicken can cross a road without having its motives called into question.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Aug 2012
    Posts
    76

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    Hi, I'm with the 36th Ill, you'll see us out at events. Check out our site http://b36thillinois.org/. The uniform guidelines for our unit are on there. The best advise I can give you is to buy high quality items ONCE. Don't buy the cheap imported crap just to buy something. There are some GREAT deals on the classifieds here and over at authentic-campaigner.com . Drop me an email, I assume your in chicagoland somewhere. I'm in Joliet. If I can help at all let me know.

    Scott
    smsrods@gmail.com

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Columbus, OH
    Posts
    3,402

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    Quote Originally Posted by matfor13 View Post
    and... what are some basic needs vs. wants to have. This will be my 2nd year out with the company/battalion and want to have the right stuff. I will also be attending Gettysburg so I want to be prepared.
    Yeah, I could make you look it up. But I'm feeling generous today.

    Basics for Federal Infantry:
    Weapon, cartridge box with tins and strap/sling, brass plates & belt buckle, cap box, bayonet scabbard, belt, bayonet, GOOD shoes!, socks, trowsers, shirts, sack coat, forage cap, canteen, haversack, plate, cup, spoon, pocket knife, poke sacks, matchsafe/matches, wool blanket, gum blanket, twine, candles, housewife with needles/thread/buttons, cleaning rags/towels, percussion caps, black powder, powder measure, cartridge tubes, cone/nipple picks, cleaning patches, worm/cleaning jag, musket tool, spare cone/nipple, cleaning oil.

    Knapsack is optional if you're going with a bedroll. Greatcoat is nice, even if you don't use it all the time. So are drawers. Food is a good idea. Pre-made tent stakes are nice, too.
    Everything else I can think of is pretty much a personal choice item. Just be prepared to carry it. Please note that I include things like a fork in this category.
    And just so you were paying attention......GOOD shoes!
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

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