17th Virginia Infantry Regiment

            Company H           

The Old Dominion Rifles

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A brief history of the 17th Virginia re-enactment Regiment based in the UK

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Captain Dave Gibson

The present unit was raised at Plymouth, where all the original members lived, in July 1988 as The Old Dominion Rifles (Company H, 17th Virginia Infantry Regiment) with the expressed intent to become the best Confederate re-enactment unit in the UK. Now, with a membership spread throughout the South and East Anglia, Co. H and the Regimental HQ are now based in Colchester, Essex.

In August, 1998, the 17th were joined by the, former, 23rd Virginia who were another long established unit who started life as the 33rd Virginia with the independent Stonewall Brigade in the 1980’s. They represented the Mount Vernon Guards, Co. E, 17th Virginia, another Alexandrian militia company who, with the Alexandrian Riflemen and the Old Dominion Rifles, formed the nucleus of the original Civil War Regiment.

An early picture of the 17th in action

The unit began, and continues, as a ‘family orientated unit’ where wives, partners and children are welcome to attend and encouraged to take an active role in all our activities. As in the Confederacy, the ladies are the backbone of the Regiment, providing the encouragement and support that enables the combat members (male and female) to pursue their hobby.

While learning its trade, the Regiment willingly went anywhere and everywhere in search of action, meeting many varied groups and units along the way. They discovered those from whom they could learn and those who had nothing to teach. During this period, the unit quickly established a reputation for reliability and for its professionalism and accuracy in its portrayal of Confederate Infantrymen which it has retained and enhanced over its time with SoSkAn

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SoSkAn - the best American Civil War Re-enactment Society in the UK (in my opinion!)

The 17th first met Soskan at Bath in September, 1991 when, because of the size of the company and its ability to match their hosts in competence, they were welcomed as an independent company. Over the next three years, the unit participated in many Society events as invited guests while continuing a crowded schedule on the ‘independent scene’ as a member unit of the ‘Confederation of Independent American Civil War Re-enactors’ - of which they had been a founder member in 1988 - until finally joining Soskan in April, 1995.

In August, 1993, the 17th Virginia joined with the 4th, 23rd and 55th Virginia Regiments in SoSkAn's new, Second Confederate Battalion, commanded by Major Tony Sowden - whose expert guidance welded the various companies into a proficient, well disciplined organisation. In May, 1996, Sowden’s Battalion became the First Battalion. In September, 1997, on the retirement of its architect and mentor, command passed to Major Dave Gibson - formerly Captain of the 17th Virginia. As a reminder of its proud history, the Battalion retained the name; ‘Sowden’s (1st) Battalion’ and consisted of the 1st and 15th Arkansas and 17th and 55th Virginia Regiments.

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The 17th Virginia in action at Detling, 2003

Commanded on the field by 1st Lieutenant Steve Gibson with 1st Sgt "Widey" Pring as 2-I-C, the 17th Virginia were the Confederate Brown’s Brigade Company of the Year in 1995 and SoSkAn's Company of the year in 1998. 

In 2002 the Confederate Army re-organised into one Battalion. Major Derek Turner-Potter commands the Battalion with Captain Dave Gibson as 2-I-C. The Battalion consists of 1st Arkansas, 17th and 55th Virginia, 16th Tennessee and the Palmetto Sharpshooters and the Campaign Company known as "The Volunteer Company".

At the start of 2003 Lt Steve Gibson joined the Confederate Staff as Battalion Sergeant Major and, as he set about making life difficult for the rest of the Army, command of the 17th passed to Simon Morse. "Widey" Pring still holds the position of 2-i-C and, under the auspices of new blood the 17th Virginia looks to be heading for bigger and better things! 

Like all re-enactment units, the 17th has evolved over its existence but, retains a fierce pride in its achievements, a dedication and esprit-de-corps second to none and a determination to maintain the highest standards, with the doctrine of ‘if you are going to do it, do it right.

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Simon Morse, now Corporal i/c with (now) Pte. Steve Gibson.

Over recent months, due mainly to the sterling efforts of Simon Morse, recruiting has picked up and we look forward to an exciting year! Steve Gibson has now returned to the fold as a private and we have re-adopted the green pom-pom from our original militia uniform of The Old Dominion Rifles as a mark of our pride. New members become entitled to wear the pom-pom once them have "seen the elephant" in our ranks. Our numbers have increased again and we look forward to welcoming our new members into our ranks during the winter months.

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Last updated - 28th November, 2003