Tips For New Troopers and Civilian Reenactors
Outfitting the New Trooper
IMPORTANT: these recommendations are for the 13th Texas only and may not apply to other units. Always check with your own unit for specific recommendations on what their uniform guidelines are.
We are required to maintain two different impressions (Federal and Confederate) so we can participate in reenactments. The uniform requirements are different for each.
For the Confederate uniform, the 13th Texas portrays a Trans-Mississippi Cavalry unit.
The 13th Texas was issued uniforms in Arkansas, they were Jean wool in the early war depot style. By the time they got home, there wasn't much left of these uniforms, though. So, to maintain an appropriate Confederate impression you would dress in early war Jean wool or the typical civilian clothing for what they wore in the 1860s.
The actual 13th Texas alo picked up uniform pieces from other soldiers who were wounded or killed. For this reason it is not inappropriate for us to wear a mix of civilian and military uniform clothing (Confederate or Federal).
You can see, almost any period-appropriate attire may be appropriate for use in our Confederate impression.
For the Federal impression the 13th Texas portrays the 2nd Texas Cavalry Regiment. For this impression we typically wear a higher percentage of Federal uniform pieces as the original 2nd Texas was uniformed by the government.
Here is a basic checklist of uniform parts for either impression:
_____ Hat (Kepi, Slouch Hat or Forage Cap)
Uniforms are sized differently than regular, modern clothing. For example, the pants should be far larger around your waist, requiring suspenders to keep them up. Not only are the trousers big around the waist, they are worn at and above the navel, or the "natural waist", much higher than today's pants.
Be sure to review the sutlers' websites for more detail on this. Click
here for Mercury Sutler's size chart- talk to the sutler before
placing your order to ensure you get a properly sized uniform.
Finding Your Uniform
So where do you find appropriate clothing for both of these impressions?
A simple way to get started is to get a starter's package, or fish kit, from a sutler. Fish kits typically offer a bit of a discount over buying each piece separately. To save money, you can pick pieces from both sides of the fight for your fish kit. A good sutler will allow you to mix and match . . . for example, you could get
This would give you most of your starting uniform for the Federal impression and all you'd need is a few items (hat and coat or bib front shirt) to complete a beginning Confederate uniform. The light blue pants is probably the biggest part of this mix and match strategy; pants are one of the more expensive parts of the uniform and you can wear the blue pants with either impression.
For the confederate jacket, we recommend a Jean wool coat when affordable..... The gray wool jackets wind up getting lost in the closet once the Jean wool are bought, so you might as well go with the better coat right off the bat to save money.
The idea is to choose as many items as possible that you can use with either impression. That minimizes what you have to buy to get started. You can then add to your clothing collection piece by piece over time.
We can't say it enough though - talk with a unit member before purchasing a fish kit to make sure you're getting items that are appropriate for our impressions!
Whether or not you start with a fish kit, there are many other things you'll need. As you'll see by our recommendations, you can save a great deal of money by choosing items that can be used with either impression.
How to Get the Most From Your Reenactment Money
Sutlers show up at most all the events and have most of the supplies you will need, but you can save money by keeping your eye out for some things and choosing items that can be used for both federal and Confederate impressions. A few of the things you will want to look for are:
More Uniform Tips:
Weapons and Weapons' Supplies
The regular schedule for a reenactment is:
(Reveille 7 am, Officers Call 8 am, Drill 9 am-12 pm, Battle 1-2 pm)
When you arrive at the event and are looking for us call:
REMEMBER: You are expected to bring a case of water to each event.
Outfitting the new Trooper's lady
Ladies wore layers of clothing. The town Ladies were invited to Teas, for a stroll and to Balls. This required fancy dresses and much to do in getting dressed. The Lady would start with a chemise ( which resembled a long slip). She then added her drawers (not to be confused with todays panties) which had a draw string waist and reached to between her knees and ankles and where crotchless. You can find patterns for both the chemise and drawers in Simplicity Pattern Books under Costumes. Or you can find them through the Suttlers ( a seller of goods who set up at reenactments).
Next you would have a corset, also held together with draw strings and these were pulled very tight to give the ladies a small waist. Then you would add a hoop petticoat. You can find these online on Ebay and they cost about $20. Be careful of shipping and handling charges because they can run as much or more than the petticoat and when you receive the package it will be about a 24x24 package about ½ thick and will weight next to nothing.
Next you would add an over petticoat and a short chemise. The purpose of the two chemise is to keep your corset clean. Ladies did not bathe daily or in some cases not even weekly and in the winter time they might only bathe once a month so it was much easier to wash a chemise than to soil your corset. Next you would need socks that come up to you knees. You will need a pair of high top leather shoes in black or brown.
Now you are finally ready to don your dress for the day. These dresses were made very fancy. The skirt for a dress will take about 5 yards of fabric so it will lay over your hoop properly. These are fun dress to have to stroll the grounds and wear to the balls but you are not required to come with one to enjoy reenactments. You will need help getting dressed because of all the draw strings. So ask for help. The Ladies of the time had servants who helped them dress and it took a long time for a Lady to get ready for the day.
Generally at each reenactment there will be a Saturday Evening 1860s
Ball. The waltz is one of the dances you will see and do. Many women
reenactors will get ball gowns to wear at these events.
This is what most start out with. It is a simple cotton print dress with a long full skirt, usually with long sleeves and high neck line. It can be a dress or a skirt and blouse. You will still need to wear a petticoat, high socks and some like to wear the drawers. High top leather shoes. You can dress these up with a matching bonnet. If you are going to camp out you will need a long apron to cover the front of your dress from cooking splatters and dishwater spills.
You can find patterns in McCalls and Simplicity Pattern Books in the Costume section. They carry patterns for Camp dresses Ball gowns as well as under garments, bonnets and hats. If you sew this is a fun way to get the outfits you want at a reasonably cost. You can catch fabric on sale at JoAnns and Hancocks that will also save on the cost.
If you do not sew you can go online and find things there or visit the Suttlers at the next reenactment. Also check at your local thrift stores for used blouses, skirts, and shoes. I am still wearing the first pair of shoes I bought at a thrift store for $3 and they are comfortable so I have not looked for others. This is a fun hobby but can get expensive so take your time. If you show up and only have one camp outfit no one will look down on you because that is how we all started and some choose never to have but one dress and that is ok also. We Love you and welcome you just the same.
If you plan to camp Im sure your mate is thinking about a tent for you to sleep and dress in so you will need to start thinking about cooking. You will need to gather up some cast iron cookware. You can use tin pie pans for plate, tin cups to drink from, tin eating tinsels to eat with. You will need a pan to wash dishes in.
Because the public is invited to tour our camp sites we try to make them appear as period as possible so we have to use a little modern day hiding. A toe sack (pick some up at the feed store) or a painters drop cloth ( found cheap at Harbor Freight ) can be used to cover ice chest or plastic totes that you use to transport you things in. Wooden boxes are good to store plastic bottles of cooking oil, zip lock bags, paper towels etc. You can also store things inside your tent with the door closed. I have crocheted some coozies to cover coke cans and plastic water bottles or you can simply pour it into you cup.
Some reenactors choose to stay in near by motels and join the group in the morning for the day. In that case you could choose to bring an ice chest with drinks and sandwich fixings and a cover for the ice chest and a chair or stool to sit on. Chairs need to be wood not bag chairs or plastic chairs. If you want some shade you can put up a fly and the guys can show you how to make one. Or some choose to bring their RVs and park them close by or in the parking lot of the grounds (no hookup in parking lots so you need to come self contained).
This sounds like at lot to remember but we are all your friends here and we will be glad to help you get settled in. If you have questions feel free to ask because we all were once first timers and will glad to come up with the answers to help you get started.
About the 13th Texas Cavalry: