17th Virginia Infantry Regiment
The Old Dominion Rifles
Here are some questions that we are asked all the time.
The short answer to this is; No, not originally. It came about after a series of arguments over an interpretation of the US Constitution and over different lifestyles and economic considerations. The North fought to preserve ‘The Union’ and to extend Federal powers whilst the South fought to drive off the ‘Invaders’ from their soil, reserve the power for individual States and to win recognition as an independent nation.
The slavery issue only became a factor when the US President Lincoln, (a clever politician) realised that England and France could not recognise a Confederacy if the Union wished to abolish slavery. The Declaration of Emancipation freed all the slaves in the territory still in ‘rebellion’ on January 1st 1863, not those in the ‘loyal’ States! It was a political and economic ploy to weaken the Confederacy and many US Senators and Congressmen were against the idea. It also caused riots in New York and Union troops were sent in to quell them.
We portray the Confederates as we believe that they were brave men fighting for what they saw as their rights and to protect their homeland. Most of us identify with the lifestyle of those long dead warriors and attempt to recreate the Virginian gentlemen and ladies of the period. Virginia was also known as The Old Dominion State as it was named after Queen Elizabeth (the Virgin Queen) and we are not the bunch of ragged, red-necked rebels as so often portrayed in the movies and books.
It was the first ‘modern’ war. Both sides employed new technology that had never been used in combat before. Iron warships, mines, guerrilla warfare, rifled weapons and, even, submarines were employed for the first time. Rifled muskets and artillery coupled with Napoleonic tactics caused horrendous casualties. (At Gettysburg, alone, there were 53,000 casualties.) It was a war that saw thousands of British people fight, and die, for both sides. Famous names like ‘Lee’, ‘Jackson’, ‘Stuart’ and even ‘Lincoln’ demonstrate the British ancestry of many of the American combatants.
There is more than one answer to this question, it all depends on who you ask. For some it is the idea of escaping into a simpler age away from the hurly-burly of modern life; for others it is the chance to experience history and to taste life as it was back then; others enjoy recreating, as accurately as possible, the dress and lifestyle of those early soldiers and civilians; others enjoy the sing-songs around the camp fire in the summer evenings and all of us relish the opportunity to honour the brave men of both sides who died in defence of their separate causes. Above all, this hobby can be a lot of fun and an opportunity to make new friends.
Many of our past and present members have met their partners through this hobby!
Yes, they are real weapons but, we use blank ammunition for obvious reasons! They are reproductions of rifled muskets used in the war but, they are smooth-bored to enable us to use them on a shotgun licence. Each member must possess both a shotgun licence and a black-powder licence to allow them to carry the weapon and the ammunition for a show.
The uniforms are either bought from specialist ‘Sutlers’ or made by themselves or another member using the correct pattern and materials. The equipment can be obtained the same way. (See Links for some contact addresses.)
Part of the hobby involves ‘Living History’ events or shows. If you have walked around a white encampment you have seen a part of this. We also take part in parades and drill sessions using the correct ‘Hardee’s Tactics’, the drill manual used by the Confederate Army at the time.
Another aspect of the whole involves what we call ‘Campaigns’. These are unscripted events involving no public audience. The two armies attempt to out-manoeuvre each other using the tactics of the period and win a victory over the enemy. It is also an excuse to totally immerse ourselves in the time and have a great deal of fun in the process.
We belong to Soskan because we believe it to be the best American Civil War Society in the UK. Membership enables us to pursue our hobby safe in the knowledge that we are insured against personal injury, should it occur, and provides us with the public liability we need for the public audience.
Maybe, if we are honest with ourselves, there could be an element of this but, the main reason for most of us is the combination of honouring the memories of the soldiers of the War Between The States with the pleasure we all get out of spending time with like-minded people and the long term friendships that develop.
Many of us have had a fascination with the American Civil War since childhood and this is our chance to experience the sights and sounds at first hand.
Yes, they are. Families are involved in all aspects of this hobby from fighting in the ranks to accompanying their men (or women) to the shows. Women can fight in the ranks providing they make themselves look less feminine. (IE no make-up etc). Women and those men not wishing to take part in battles can portray civilians - for more information on either wait for the forthcoming Civilian page on this site or contact us via e-mail, Feedback or the Guest-book. We have a cadet force for the younger members as well as many of the members children have grown up with the unit and have made life-long friends by doing so.
Ask any member of the unit and he or she will direct you to someone who can enlist you! As above, alternatively, contact us via e-mail, feed-back or the guest-book or log-on to Soskan's website and ask to join the 17th Virginia.
As a member of the best American Civil War Society in the UK and, arguably, the best Regiment in that Society you will experience the sights and sounds of a bygone age. You will be taught everything that you need to know from the uniform and equipment to buy or make to how to, safely, load and fire a muzzle-loading musket. You will become involved with a fascinating and absorbing hobby, make new friends and have the time of your life. The only problem will come when there is no event and you have the taste for action!
Any comments, corrections or suggestions, feel
free to contact us via Feedback,
The Forum or via e-mail
Last updated - 28th November, 2003