FIRST TENNESSEE RE-ENACTMENT GUIDELINES
For new members of the 1st Tennessee Infantry
This article was originally submitted by member Graham Beattie, as a Guideline for new members. It is re-printed here with only slight amendments and thanks to Graham.
Company E, First Tennessee Regiment is part of the First Company of the Confederate battalion of the American Civil War Society. Members portray a typical Infantry company of the Army of Tennessee together with their families during the American Civil War. Events take place during weekends and bank holidays from around Easter to the end of September where we take part in reenactments of battles and living history encampments.
The ACWS is currently the largest American Civil War re-enactment group in the UK and stages reenactments north of the UK "Mason Dixie" line that runs through Northampton. We have members from many parts of the UK, but particularly from West Yorkshire and Cambridgeshire.
If attending an event or for further information contact:
- 1st Tennessee Regiment, ACWS, PO Box 270, WASHINGTON, Tyne & Wear, NE37 9BX
- 1st Sgt Mike Bussey - West Yorkshire - e-mail
- Cpl Shane Keenan - Oxfordshire
When attending events most members stay on site over the weekend, and sometimes for several days either side. The ACWS is a family oriented society and as such has provision for both modern camping and authentic camping. On the modern camp site you can use modern tents, caravans, barbecues etc. - basically any modern convenience that you can get into a field! This is the main advantage of the family camp.
The "Authentic Camp" is a re-creation of a winter / semi-permanent camp with white canvas tents. The most common type of tent represented on this site is the wedge or "A" tent. Tent flies, wall tents and large mess tents are also used. The focus of the event is on the authentic camp and most of our members stay on this camp. The larger "A" tents allow for a degree of comfort compared to the smaller dog tents and make it easier to hide away any modern items from the public (and other re-enactors') gaze.
There is a growing trend within American Civil War re-enacting to portray a "campaign impression" and as such shelter tents or dog tents are increasing in number on the camp sites. The advantage of doing a "campaign impression" is that one can travel light. and some see the "campaign impression" more typical of the average civil war soldier.
1st Tennessee welcome both the larger "A" tents and dog tents. The unit owns several spare "A" tents and anyone requiring the use of one at an event should contact Andy Shaw or Mike Bussey several days in advance of an event to arrange it.
Members need to join ACWS, the cost of which for a year is currently £20 for individual members up to £40 for family memberships. The 1st Tennessee also charges an annual subscription, currently £5 every two years. Past subscriptions have purchased spare tents and spare kit meaning that as a unit we are able to supply new recruits with "loaner kit" until new recruits are able to supply their own. A company newsletter is also paid for by this registration fee.
The unit has a supply of loaner kit available for new recruits and recommends that "fresh fish" take advice from "old hands" before making any major purchase.
An excellent article by two former members of 1st Tennessee is available on our web site.(Click here). Following this document the current uniform guidelines have been drawn up for new recruits and for members updating kit. The 1st Tennessee (and ACWS) base their impression on late 1863, a time when the 1st Tennessee were being re-equipped and issued with depot jackets, but not all the men would have been re-supplied at once. Also parcels from home were still being received and home made/civilian clothing was much in evidence, such as sack coats, frock coats as well as earlier uniform jackets. The guidelines take these factors into account and all military members of the unit should find something to their taste. Variety within these guidelines is encouraged.
- Shell jacket - Columbus, Alabama, Atlanta, or North Carolina depot shell jacket in light butternut, medium butternut or grey jeans cloth. Can have from 5 to 9 buttons, most commonly "I" or captured Federal Eagle buttons, less common wooden buttons. Common options: facings on collar, possibly on cuffs in blue or black and one outside breast pocket. Less common would be two outside pockets.
- Sack coat of civilian or military cut in jeans cloth or wool to represent "coats from home". Frock coat in jeans cloth. Button holes and top stitching should be hand stitched . Cost £35 to £80
- Trousers - Military or civilian trousers in jeans cloth or wool with a button fly and high waisted in jeans cloth or wool. Common colours black, brown, grey or civilian subdued colours and patterns. They were made of similar material to the jackets. However, men were not always issued with the trousers to match jackets. As the army of Tennessee was relatively poorly supplied compared with the Army of Northern Virginia, a mixed approach looks best for our unit. Most of us require braces to keep them up which should be of cloth rather than modern elastic. US trousers are also acceptable as they were sometimes taken from "those people" on the field of battle, as well as captured by raids on Federal depots. Cost £30 to £60.
- Footwear - Period style brogans, or civilian shoes. Metal heel plates and hob nails will make the soles last longer. Modern work boots are not acceptable. Preferable, cheaper and closer to 1860s shoes are desert boots with flat soles. (They require several coats of dubbing to make them waterproof). Please replace modern laces with leather laces and remove metal eyes. Cost £65 to £90 for brogans or £15 for desert boots. Correct footwear is difficult to borrow so this should near the top of your list of purchases.
- Socks - Heavy wool or cotton socks. Period socks can be obtained from sutlers or J. D.’s source from £5 to £7.50. Modern hiking or boot socks acceptable, but check for natural fibres rather than modern synthetics.
- Shirts - Granddad style shirts with buttons in natural material such as mother of pearl, bone, horn or glass. Wood was used but was more common on slaves clothing. Plain subdued natural colours were most common and checks were particular popular but typically had no more than 3 colours. Cost £15 to £30 and more for some fancy "battle shirts".
- Hat - Slouch hat or civilian hat encouraged. There were more common in the Army of Tennessee than Kepis. Kepi can be of butternut or grey jeans cloth or wool. Company letters and regimental numbers in brass were less common in 1863 than at the beginning of the war and should only really appear on kepis or officer’s hats. (They make a good target glinting in the sunlight!) Cost £15 to £100
- Accoutrements - Black or russet leather cartridge box and sling, cap pouch, belt and buckle. Cartridge boxes and cap pouches were issued by the arsenals with weapons so they should match your musket. E.g. get a 0.58 calibre cartridge box to go with a 0.58 calibre Enfield or Springfield musket, get a 0.69 calibre cartridge box to go with a 0.69 calibre 1842 Springfield, or "Pumpkin Slinger". Can be black or russet leather. Belt and buckle- most common the "Georgia frame" buckle. Also acceptable oval or square CS plate. Check out War Horse or Sutlers Stores for special deals on leather work. British supplied Enfield gear is also appropriate, as are painted canvas accoutrements.
- Weapons - The army of Tennessee had a wide variety of weapons. 1st Tennessee were issued with Enfield Rifled Muskets. We strongly recommend 3 banded weapons, such as 1853 or 1858 pattern Enfield, 1861 pattern Springfield or 1842 pattern Springfield (Pumpkin slinger). This is partly for safety and partly for certain aspects of drill such as stacking of arms. The unit has several deactivated weapons available for use by members who do not have the necessary shotgun and black powder license. Try to buy a bayonet at the same time as your musket as they may require some work with a file to get a good fit, and not always interchangeable. Expect to pay around £200 for an Indian pattern reproduction Enfield, and £300 or more for a better Italian reproduction.
- Mess Kit - Period knife, fork and spoon, or "combo" together with tin cup, plate and/or bowl. Canteen half can also be used. No enamel-wear as this did not come into use until after the civil war.
- Canteen - Smooth sided or bulls eye canteen in tin. If made of stainless steel should be covered with wool or jeans cloth. Wooden "Gardner" pattern canteen is also acceptable. Cost £18 to £30. It is important to have a canteen if going on the battlefield as you will get thirsty (in the hot sun and dressed in wool) and also water is "first aid" in the rare event of a powder burn.
- Haversack - Used to carry your rations. Can be made of ticking, white or tarred canvas, CS pattern or captured US pattern. A tarred bag has the advantage of being comparatively more waterproof than a plain cloth one. Cost £5 - £25.
- Blanket - Civilian blanket or quilt, or captured US blanket. Cost- sutler sold reproduction blanket with correct stripe c £40. Or try Oxfam etc. - £1 upwards.
The above are the main items that you will require for your re-enacting career. Many re-enactors will acquire much more that this, which will include the following:
- Poncho - rubberised canvas sheet with a slit in the middle for you to put over your head - wet weather gear and for use as a ground cloth - recommended. Alternatively, Gum blanket which is of a similar size but without the hole in the middle - used as a rain cover or ground cloth. Cost £35 approx..
- Greatcoat - CS, civilian or US pattern- useful in cold weather or as an extra blanket. £80 - £100.
- Waistcoat - civilian or military pattern. US military waistcoats acceptable. £15 to £30.
- Period drawers are available from some sutlers. Best to get winter weight in a flannel - a material similar to the old "flannelette sheets" These are like long johns and have a button fly, and tape ties at the waist and ankles. Matching undershirts are also available with a single button closure. Cost c.£34.
- Knapsacks - Union double pack or Confederate pattern. Cost £30 upwards.
- Night-cap - to keep your head warm when asleep!
- A note on Eye wear. If you need glasses try to get some Victorian style period frames as modern eye wear stands out and can detract from an otherwise good impression. Typical glasses of the period were oval, round, or rectangular and should not have plastic nose pads.
SECTION IN NEED OF UPDATING
This is the subject of much debate in ACWS and the re-enacting world. Most re-enactors take a pride in being authentic. No one can be completely authentic in that we are not firing real bullets at each other, we do not have lice, we have enough to eat and can only imagine some of the privations that soldiers of the time experienced.
For us authenticity means being proficient at drill, doing a proficient impression of an American Civil War soldier in an accurate reproduction uniform typical of the army we are representing with reproduction equipment that would have been available to soldiers of the time. It means not having modern items on show in the authentic camp.
Authenticity is for the benefit of the viewing and paying public, for your fellow re-enactors and last but by no means least for yourself. So take a pride in it!
Co Aytch - Sam Watkins. Personal account of the Civil war by a soldier from Co.H. 1st Tennessee.
Hardtack and Coffee - John D Billings. A union artilleryman’s account of everyday life in the Civil War
Echoes of Glory - Time Life Books. Superb three volume series with pictures of surviving Civil War Uniforms and equipment
Si Clegg and his Pard Very good fictional first person account of a soldier’s life
All available from Amazon on the web