17th Virginia Infantry Regiment
The Old Dominion Rifles
This list does not set out to be an exhaustive list of all the gear that you can buy for your impression of a soldier of the mid-1863 period but is, rather, a guide to the sort of thing that you should be looking to obtain should you decide to join us. New members do have a chance to borrow much of the initial equipment to enable them to start off with a reasonable impression. The first thing that should be on everyone's list to buy first is boots (don't want to borrow some of ours, that's for sure!), period framed glasses (if you need them and can't see anything without them) and a canteen (to prevent dehydration during a show).
Please, don't "age" your kit by rolling in the dirt, cutting holes in it or covering it with patches. Your kit will become more "lived in" over time and will look all the better for it happening naturally. Even veterans were issued new clothing occasionally so you do not have to portray a "new fish"!
As with all things, please, check before buying any expensive equipment because, if it is wrong, you won't be permitted to wear or carry it at events! An expensive mistake can sour a good friendship!
There were many types of hats worn by the soldiers of the period so we will give you an idea of the different types available. The hat becomes a trademark of many re-enactors, seeing them through many years in the hobby so, some care should be taken in choosing yours.
The Kepi. Usually plain grey wool or jean cloth but can have a band in the service colour (in this case - sky blue). We don't go in for massive adornments of feathers, badges etc as some units do so, please, don't turn yours into a Christmas tree! This hat was worn by some soldiers in the Army of Northern Virginia but not as common as the Slouch Hat.
The Slouch Hat Slouch Hat is a term given to any number of styles of hat worn by the soldiers. The particular style is left up to the individual with brim and crown sizes varying considerably. The crown can be either round or flat and of differing heights. What they should have in common is the material; wool, straw or felt, and not covered in various parts of dead animals, feathers, cords, plumes or badges. They can be of black (the most common) or brown, beige or grey in colour. Not included in this style, however, are cowboy hats, Trilbies, top hats or bowler hats - none of which are period.
The Forage Cap (or "Bummers Hat") Much the same as the Kepi (see above) but less common than either that or the slouch hat.
The jacket is a must. To date we do not have exact records or examples of what the soldier of the 17th actually wore in mid-1863 so we have to make a few assumptions. Contrary to popular belief that all Confederates wore "jean cloth" our research has turned up a different possibility.
The jackets that we recommend are the "Type II" Richmond pattern shell jacket of medium grey jean wool or cassimere. They have shoulder straps and belt loops. (These may be cut off to reflect the practice of many of the soldiers of the time but must be purchased with them.) Anyone who has a different jacket may continue to wear that until it needs replacing when it must be replaced by a Richmond II.
We will accept a limited number of Columbus Depot or North Carolina Depot jackets but only a small percentage. The best thing we recommend is that you check with the officer/NCO's before purchasing such a jacket unless you already possess the correct Richmond II and wish another jacket.
The Richmond I was a short jacket with a six piece body, a standing collar and two piece sleeves. They had shoulder straps and belt loops and were lined with a coarse common weave unbleached cotton "osnaburg" and had an inside breast pocket. They had piping or trim on the shoulder straps, collar and cuffs. Colours for the trim was standard Branch of Service colours (black, French blue or dark blue for infantry). 9 buttons.
The Richmond II was similar in most respects to the Richmond I as it had shoulder straps, belt loops, a six piece body, standing collar and two piece sleeves. It was also lined with cotton osnaburg and a breast pocket sewn into the lining. 9 buttons. No piping or trim. (PREFERRED)
Richmond III jackets did not make much of an appearance before November 1863 and, though they were often made of imported English woolen cloth, this is too late for our impression so we do not recommend these jackets.
They should be made of the following materials:
1. "Jean cloth" of a greyish or brownish colour and not the washed out, cream coloured or "flour sack" colour worn in the Western theatre. This material is a wool cloth on a cotton warp with a twill weave (for the technically minded among you) Type I and Type II. (PREFERRED)
2. "Jean cloth" of light grey or brown for the Columbus or NC jackets.
3. Varying shades of cadet grey kersey wool sometimes referred to as "blue-grey kersey". (Type II)
4. Satinette; a satin weave wool-cotton cloth which gives the appearance of being made of wool. (type I and II).
4. Cassimere; another cotton/wool mix. Darker greys for the Richmond patterns, lighter or brown for the Columbus or NC jackets.
Buttons should be "Block I" (PREFERRED) or Virginia State.
Trousers should, preferably, be the Richmond depot style, foot pattern though some limited captured Federal sky blue kersey trousers may be worn. Typically the Richmond pattern had mule-ear pockets and a belted back. Buttons should be stamped tin, japanned tin, bone or horn.
They should be made of the following materials:
1. Wool/cotton jean cloth... (PREFERRED)
2. All wool or kersey...
3. Heavy 100% cotton drill (almost the same thickness as tent canvas)
4. All cotton jean cloth (similar to denim) but NOT modern jeans...
5. Linen/wool or linen/cotton mix.
Colours should be dull. Wool can be of cadet grey, grey (preferred), blue, brown or black. White cotton trousers should be dyed blue to reproduce the colour of indigo.
Trousers should not have belt loops or trouser creases. The only people permitted to have trouser stripes are NCO's or officers. The pockets may be the side slit variety or the mule ear style and all should have button flies. They may have tie backs but belt backs are preferred.
No zips, back pockets and no converted "modern" trousers are permitted. Fly buttons should be metal covered in cloth or pewter.
Please do not tuck your trouser legs into your socks. Not only does this look silly but, it was only done during the period to "prevent the upward progress of critters". It wasn't considered "proper" and was only done when on fatigue duty or active campaign.
To keep your trousers up we recommend buying canvas braces (or suspenders). Elastic ones are not period though we will allow you to use them, for a limited time, if they are the only ones you have.
Shirts can be varying styles and colours and patterns. Materials can be of wool flannel (great for winter but not much fun in the summer) cotton flannel, cotton and muslin. Plain white shirts are great for formal occasions but not required. Gingham and paisley patterns were not worn in our theatre so should be avoided. Check patterns are acceptable as are many other patterns - check with us before buying.
Buttons can be made of virtually any period material such as; glass, bone, shell, wood or mother-of-pearl. They should not be larger than 1/4" or 3/8" in diameter (convert it to metric yourself!) and usually fairly plain. They can have a pocket, usually on the left breast and many soldiers got their families to make and send them shirts with these additions.
Period drawers are useful to prevent your trousers rubbing those sensitive spots. They should be made from cotton or muslin and with glass buttons. Long drawers often had ties at the ankles. Short drawers ended just below the knee and had no ties.
Don't let the bottoms of your drawers show out from the bottom of your trouser legs as they tend to get grubby and, anyway, this practise would have been frowned upon by others.
Boots should be of the correct period. They can be black or Confederate undyed leather. They should be of the "Brogan" or "Jefferson bootie" type readily available from most Sutlers. Beware the price and quality does vary quite considerably so, always, check before buying.
For growing young men or ladies (12-16) we recommend the type of "desert boot" with the crepe-type sole (No huge rubber ridges!) which have been dyed black and had their eyelets removed. Add a set of leather laces and they will pass for a time until they have stopped growing. These are also acceptable for a limited time for new recruits without the correct footwear. Please remember, no modern boots of any other style are permitted so don't turn up with your favourite "steelies" or Doctor Martin boots - you won't get on the field with them!
Socks should be knitted wool or cotton. They can be almost any colour though no outrageous patterns please. Suggestions for colours are; white, dull blue, grey, brown-red or brown. NO athletic or hiking socks are permitted.
Leatherwork needed is:
Cartridge box - to hold your ammunition.
Cap pouch - to hold your percussion caps.
Cross strap - to hold your cartridge box (optional)
All of the above may be of tan (undyed) leather for a Confederate impression or black if you wish to portray a veteran wearing captured Federal equipment. The Cartridge box can be worn on the belt or with a cross strap either, or both, of which can have plates on them.
The haversack is where you hold all your bits and pieces needed throughout the day. It can be of the plain canvas, Confederate variety or of the tarred, water-proofed, Federal version. Either are acceptable. Items carried in here are down to you but should include your licences, pipe and tobacco (if you smoke), rations - if you are issued some and anything else you require during the day (money, cheque book etc).
As we said before, this is one item that you should attempt to obtain ASAP. All soldiers should carry a full canteen on the field for two reasons; If you are thirsty you don't want to have a swig out of someone else's and for the Health and Safety reason. As we use black powder firing muzzle loaders, on rare occasions, people can get a burn and the immediate application of cold water can prevent serious injury.
Canteens can be of the wooden Confederate variety or of any of the metal drum, bulls eye or round styles around. They can be covered in grey, brown or blue wool or left bare.
An essay could be written on belt buckles alone so we will cover just a few examples for your to be getting on with.
The most common belt buckle style was the "Georgia frame" type. It was a plain brass open frame buckle and is seen in many period photographs.
Virginia State belt plates can be worn as can oval CS and US varieties. Square or oblong versions of the CS or US type are not period so should be avoided.
Snake buckles were also used, being imported from England so these are also acceptable
Belts can be of black or undyed leather and wide enough to fit the buckle on. Tarred or painted canvas belts are also acceptable but don't tend to last as long as leather.
Knapsacks were worn by some soldiers (others having discarded them early on) so you may purchase one if you like. Most Sutlers can now provide good ones but, for comfort, the softer varieties are preferred. The knapsack contained all the kit that the soldier wanted or needed to make his life bearable such as spare clothing, bibles etc.
An alternative to the knapsack is the well known Confederate "blanket roll". These were used by many soldiers as they were easier to get the weight distributed on the body. Blankets should be thick and strongly woven and can be various colours.
Gum blankets or tarred canvas cloths would have covered these rolls, been used as raincoats and covered the men at night if they had no tents.
The preferred weapon of the 17th Virginia is the three band Enfield. Springfield muskets are also acceptable as they can be used for a Federal impression if wished. As with all things, please check before buying.
Shotgun licences are required to use one of these weapons at a re-enactment as are black powder certificates. For more information on this please contact us.
Bayonets were of the triangular socket type and should fit your musket. Always, always take your musket along with you as they come in all different sizes and this should prevent lots of filing. Make sure that you have the correct type for your weapon (IE an Enfield bayonet for an Enfield musket.. etc)
At the same time as you buy your bayonet obtain the correct style of bayonet frog. This is the thing that your bayonet scabbard fits into to allow you to attach it to your belt. Again Enfield and Springfield frogs are different so make sure that you get the correct one.
Knives are a tricky subject. Contrary to popular myth, the average Confederate soldier did not go off to war bedecked in a massive armoury of cutlery. A small Bowie-type knife is acceptable but no Rambo knives please!
All of your mess ware should be of tin -not enamel or stainless steel. Tin cups, plates, bowls, coffee pots and other cooking vessels are readily available. Eating irons (or cutlery) should be of period pattern and not modern stainless steel types.
Camping is down to personal choice with both modern/family camping as well as more authentic white tented camps available.
The Modern (or Family camp as it is sometimes called) version caters for all of those that don't want to rough it. Modern tents, caravans and camper vans (RV's) use this camp.
Most of us prefer to get a bit closer to the real thing and either camp in period tents (A-frames) or under "shelter tents" or "shelter-halves". The choice is yours.
If you decide to camp in the white camp then there are a few guidelines to follow;
1. During the day when the public are around no modern items should be on view - includes drink cans, bags of crisps, burgers etc.
2. If your tent contains modern items they should be covered during the day or your tent closed.
3.Period clothing should be worn and manners should be appropriate whilst visitors are around.
4. Cars should be off the site before the public appears.
5. Modern watches and jewelry should be left off during this time.
6. No "Director's" type, plastic or modern camping chairs should be seen.
7. No barbeque style cooking fires or gas appliances must be used (especially in tents).
8. Lanterns should be tin or wooden candle types only. No Gas or paraffin types.
The list of these is almost endless but this covers items to make your life more comfortable or more enjoyable to enable you to give a more accurate impression.
Items in this list could include;
Musical instruments, cards (no numbers were period), cut throat razors (no Bics in those days), sewing its, games (such as checkers) wooden barrels (to add atmosphere), wooden or glass wash boards (not metal ones)...etc
Before buying anything, it is always a good idea to check with someone first to prevent wasted pennies.
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Last updated - 28th November, 2003