The following are ten easy steps that you can take to improve your First Tennessee impression. There are a couple of steps which cost money, but the majority of the steps are COST FREE!!! You may have already taken these steps in progressing with your impression, but if you haven’t, then why not give them a try?!
1. REMOVE HAT BRASS AND CORDS
These are early war paraphernalia. The soldiers of 1863 would have dispensed with such items extremely early on (equally so, havelocks are a no-no, unless of course you use it to strain coffee!!!). Photographs of the period show that slouches are not adorned with any ‘ornaments’, and likewise very few mid war kepis sport any brass at all. Soldiers of the time would have realised that there was no point in trying to stand out in the firing line, so why should we? Removing hat brass and blue infantry cords is an improvement that is cost free – make an effort to do it!
2. DON’T BLOUSE YOUR SOCKS
The only time that soldiers would have bloused their socks would have been when passing through very thick briers and undergrowth. If your trousers are too long then turn them up – again, there is a lot of photographic and documentary evidence of this. Un-blousing your socks will improve your impression by miles, and it is cost free!
3. REMOVE THE C.S.A. AND TENNESSEE STATE BUTTONS
Both types of buttons were extremely rare! Furthermore, the Tennessee State buttons available today do not even show the correct seal, they have a post-war state seal on them! Much more accurate for the 1st Tenn would be either Federal Eagle enlisted man’s buttons (most common), block ‘I’ buttons or wooden/civilian buttons. Again this is a very cheap improvement that you can make!
4. WEAR YOUR TRAPPINGS HIGH
One of the most obvious indicators that would show troops to be ‘green’ would be the fact that they wore their traps (canteen, haversack) too low. Veteran soldiers’ diaries as well as period photos and sketches all show soldiers wearing their traps high. This helps keeps things from constantly moving around as you march and fight, and also from swinging around in rather ‘dangerous areas’! Simply tie a knot in the straps, or even make a ‘field repair’ by cutting the strap and re-sewing it (it is best to do this after having worked out how high you want it). Your haversack should literally hang at the height of the elbow on your left side, and your canteen should rest slightly higher but on top of the haversack, so it is tucked just behind and almost under your arm. You should not be able to put them under your belt – you should always be able to remove them without disturbing your cartridge box and belt, especially useful for those long marches. Again, wearing traps high is a free improvement – why not do it?
5. WEAR A BLANKET ROLL AND/OR KNAPSACK
Over the last season or two this is an improvement that the company has been making. When we march of for the battle/campaign wear a blanket roll or knapsack because we should give the appearance of a company on campaign (even if you portray winter camp in the authentic camp). We may or may not be given the order to remove packs before the action begins depending on the situation. If you wear a blanket roll, try and make it look real - nothing looks worse than something resembling a deflated inner-tube! Use two blankets to pad it out, or wrap a woollen blanket in a rubberised one, or even stuff it with your personal effects as the soldiers would have done. Another cost free improvement!
6. AVOID WEARING BANDANNAS
These are a ‘cowboy-ism’ and can ruin an impression. I use mine as a handkerchief, as a coffee strainer and for lifting things off the fire. Not wearing them around your neck is free!
7. HAND SEWN BUTTON HOLES
This can make an immense improvement to your impression! If your button holes are already machine sewn you can either rip them out and start again, or more easily you can simply sew over the top. Generally if you look at photos, the thread/cotton that was used was a slightly different shade to the jacket and so it stands out. Give it a try, or get a loved one to do it for you, it doesn’t take long and is cost free!
8. PERIOD EYE WEAR
The first thing a member of the public sees is your face, and modern eye wear can completely ruin an impression no matter how good it is. Cheap period frames are not hard to get hold of – at an antiques shop or through a sutler. Ok, the lenses can be expensive, but in the long run it is a very good investment.
9. THREE BAND MUSKET AND FIXING BAYONET
This has been a long term aim of the 1st Tenn for a couple of years now. Infantry regiments including the 1st would have been armed with three banders. Two banders are a problem in terms of firing in ranks and particularly in stacking arms. We are aiming to be able to stack arms as a company in line of battle – this is very impressive and makes ‘forming-up’ a lot easier. Bayonets are a necessity for this, so make sure that you have one that fixes properly. No other battalion in ACWS does this properly, so lets make an effort and show them how its done! Trade in those two banders and look to get a three bander as soon as is possible. (Mike suggested particular models in the last newsletter).
Just as modern eye wear can ruin an impression, the same is true of modern footwear. Although this can be an expensive outlay, it is one that will improve your impression 100%. If you look after them, they can last for years – I have had mine for over two seasons now and they are as good as new – and comfortable!!! Some event sponsors dictate that modern shoes should not be worn, so how much longer are people going to be able to get away with it? Ask for advice from anyone in the regiment who has brogans if you are unsure what to go for, you don’t want to waste your money. Some people spend fifty odd quid on modern trainers or walking boots – why not spend that money on some brogans that will last for years?!!
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As stated at the beginning of the article, these are suggestions for progressing with your impression, and the majority of them are free. Literally go down the list and tick off things that you have done and see what you can still improve upon – if you haven’t done something, then give it a try! None of us can ever stop progressing. See y’all at the International!