What We Expect

"The Mess" ©1996 by Mike Thorson
A. Personal Requirements

  1. Physical Fitness: All members should be in relatively good shape. Since we participate in several marches throughout the year, this is for the benefit of all members.
  2. Hair Length: All members must keep their hair short in keeping with fashion of this era.
  3. Non-Period Items: All modern food, beverages, jewelry, clothing, camp furniture, packaging materials, equipage, etc., will be strictly forbidden. Please leave all modern needs in your vehicle. We will make exceptions for medications and other reasonable requests, but we strive for a perfect impression at all times.

B. Membership

  1. All members must be 18 years old, be an U.S. Citizen, and without a criminal record.
  2. We will not actively recruit new members. Prospective recruits will need to be formally invited in to the mess.
  3. Membership at any time can be revoked by a ¾ majority vote of the Hard Head Mess participatory status membership for infractions of safety, authenticity, or criminal activity.
  4. Probationary status members (those members who have not attained participatory status) do not carry voting rights within the Hard Head Mess.
  5. An additional six month probationary status period (after the initial 18 month maximum term) may be granted for extenuating circumstances with a ¾ majority vote of the Hard Head Mess participatory status membership.
  6. If after expiration of the probationary status period, a prospective member does not meet all requirements of membership including uniform and equipage, membership will be revoked. If such a member wishes to reapply, they may do so only with a reinvitation from participatory status members. All uniform and equipage would need to be purchased and approved prior to granting participatory status and attending an event. Uniform and equipage can be inspected any time a quorum is present in order to make an event, but the group could take exception if questions arise.

C. Uniform & Equipage Standards

All uniform, equipage, personal items, and civilian clothing must be accurate in terms of pattern, construction, and materials compared with original articles at all times.

Note: For visual reference only, we have listed the page numbers in Time-Life Books, Echoes of Glory: Volume 2 – Arms & Equipment of the Union, that correspond with most items covered in our Uniform & Equipage Standards. The Echoes of Glory book set can be had at most popular bookstores and libraries. At the end of each description, we will list the picture reference in the following manner: (EOG/US/page #).

1. Fatigue Blouse (or Sack coat): The fatigue blouse's basic features include a indigo dyed (a rich dark blue with a greenish tinge) wool flannel with a diagonal weave, a kidney shaped or square corner interior pocket, four 3/4 inch general service eagle buttons, small cuff vents, and a falling collar.

Our fatigue blouses are either lined or unlined, but lined fatigue blouses (which were in the majority) are preferred. Wool flannel lining can be tan, gray, brown, or blue with corresponding cotton muslin sleeve lining and hand-sewn sleeves between body of the coat and sleeve lining.

Unlined coats should have hand flat felled seams.

All buttonholes shall be entirely hand sewn using blue, black, or logwood faded (brown) linen or cotton thread.

Approved styles include Schuylkill Arsenal Pattern (entirely hand sewn), J.T. Martin contract pattern & other documented arsenal and contract patterns.

If possible, we try to stick with the four standard sizes of the Federal Army during the war. These were: Size 1 = 36 inch chest, Size 2 = 38 inch chest, Size 3 = 40 inch chest, and size 4 = 42 inch chest. For more information on fatigue blouses, please consult Patrick Brown's monograph For Fatigue Purposes — The Army Sack Coat of 1857-1872. (EOG/US/125)

2. Trowsers (Foot Pattern): Some basic features include a greenish cast sky blue kersey wool with a diagonal weave, correct rise of trowsers in the seat (back yoke), right side watch pocket, narrow tapered waistband, four or six stamped paper backed tin suspender buttons, five small paper back tin fly buttons, side seam pockets, correct overlapping cuff vents with internal cuff facings, correct fly panels and facings, etc.

Buttonholes and tieback grommet holes should be hand sewn with dark blue or logwood-dyed cotton or linen thread.

Approved styles include Schuylkill Arsenal pattern (entirely hand sewn), J.T. Martin contract pattern, William Deering contract pattern & other documented arsenal and contract patterns.

If possible, we once again recommend sticking to the four standard sizes of the Federal Army during the war. These were: Size 1 = 32 inch waist x 31 inch inseam, Size 2 = 34 inch waist x 32 inch inseam, Size 3 = 36 inch waist x 33 inch inseam, and size 4 = 38 inch waist x 34 inch inseam. (EOG/US/121, 123, 127)

3. Undecorated U.S. Pattern 1858 Dress Hat: Made of black rabbit or wool felt, with a 2.5 inch black leather sweatband, the hat has a 3 inch brim, 5.5 inch crown height, has double row brim stitching at 4 stitches per inch, a black silk grosgrain ribbon surrounding the base of the crown, and a black oilcloth or paper crown label. (EOG/US/120)

4. Forage Cap: So- called Type 1 (typically a smaller curved brim) which is preferred or so- called Type 2 (typically a larger rectangular brim) patterns acceptable. Made of finely woven indigo dyed wool flannel, with a polished cotton lining of black or dark brown, hand sewn sweatband, thin painted leather black brim, chin strap, and two 5/8 inch general service eagle buttons attached on each side of the chin strap. Please do not wear like a baseball cap. Seek out period field photographs for the correct way to push up your brim. Arsenal or contract patterns based off of originals are acceptable.

5. Civilian Hat: Documented pattern, construction, and materials only. Should wear a popular style of hat available to troops such as the plug, porkpie, or slouch. Correct brim edging, lining, and sweatband per original specimens. (EOG/US/186)

6. U.S. Pattern Jefferson Bootees: Black dyed, semi rough out leather, squared front, one inch heels, four sets of shoelace holes with one in the vamp, accompanied with leather shoelaces. Leather soles can be either pegged or sewn. Heel rims, inlet heel rims, and hobnails are all acceptable. For further information on U.S. pattern Jefferson Bootees, please consult Michael R. Cunningham's article, "Federal Issue Jefferson Bootees-Part 1," contained in Volume 7, No. 2 issue of The Watchdog. (EOG/US/191)

7. Civilian Shirt: Must be of period fabric and construction. The body of the shirt may be either hand or machine stitched, but entirely hand sewn civilian shirts (which were more common) are preferred. All buttons & buttonholes shall be entirely sewn by hand. Hand felled seams helped to prevent fraying, and was another very common sewing detail found in civilian shirts. Look for two to three colored woven shirt patterns such as small plaids, checks, & stripes. The woven shirt patterns should be the same on the reverse side of the shirting fabric. Civilian shirt fabrics should be of 100% cotton. Look for small folding or banded collars, and three or four button plackets. Civilian shirts can have square gussets as popular in the 1850's, or the rounded sleeves, which became stylish during the 1860's.

Correct buttons were comprised of bone, shell, china, milk glass, hard rubber, or wood in two or four hole styles. Small size buttons ranging from 3/8 of an inch to 1/2 of an inch in diameter are preferred. According to Robert A. Braun, four hole style buttons should be sewn on "….such that the thread forms an "X" between the button holes" ("Low-Cost Improvements for your Uniform and Equipage"). (EOG/US/126)

8. Federal Issue Shirt: Made of domet wool flannel, completely hand sewn, incorporating a rectangular body with square gussets, produced in one size, and delivered in bales. In Stephen Osman's article, "The Federal Issue Shirt," he describes the basic features of an existing issue shirt located at the Danish Army Museum in Copenhagen. "It is off white or cream-colored flannel (wool on a cotton warp) with a reinforced slit front opening, a squared collar closed by a single stamped sheet iron button, tapered sleeves with internally faced cuffs formed as part of the sleeve and closed by single buttons, a reinforcing strap across the top of the shoulder, and very full cut in the body" (4-5).

Also acceptable are the gray wool flannel contract variant issue shirts. Paraphrasing our pard William Brewster in his article, "The Case for the Contract Variant Issue Shirt,"the basic features of this shirt include: a three-button placket, no sleeve gussets, machine-sewn body, and the use of stamped tin buttons (6-7). (EOG/US/126)

9. Drawers: Either Federal Issue pattern or civilian patterns acceptable. Federal issue drawers should be made of cotton canton flannel, with cotton tape ties in the rear and the ankles. Hand sewn paperback tin buttons, buttonholes, and tieback grommet holes. These should wear high on the waist. (EOG/US/127)

Civilian drawers should be made of fabrics such as cotton catton flannel, cotton osnaburg, or linen. Other features include hand-sewn buttonholes, buttons, and tieback grommet holes. Buttons may be bone, china, or other documented compositions. Civilian drawers should also ride rather high on the waist.

We highly recommend all members have at least one pair of drawers.

10. Socks: Either wool or cotton, hand knitted or period machine construction, with period tops and side seams, available in varying lengths. Stick to dull colors such as gray, brown, cream, blue, dark green, tan , or dark red.

11. Suspenders: Must be of documented style and construction. Since the Federal Army did not issue these, soldiers had to either purchase a pair from a merchant, have them sent from home, or simply went without them. They were made out of cotton drill or linen, with differing degrees of sophistication. Common styles ranged from simple straps with hand-sewn buttonholes (poorboys), to sewn straps with two or three tined brass adjustments & leather ends on each side.

Do not go out and purchase a cheap sutler pair of suspenders! They are not correct at all. Stick to the merchants in the Approved Merchant List and you will do fine.

12. Spectacles: For those who need vision correction, you must either purchase a set of period eyeglasses filled with your prescription, wear contact lenses, or go with out any. This is not negotiable.

Period spectacles of the mid 19th century had features such as oval or rectangular frames, arch or crank bridges, and straight or sliding temple pieces with a small teardrop final. Frames were commonly made out of brass, silver, or gold. Lenses were obviously made out of glass. For more information on spectacles, please consult Nicky Hughes' article, " Closer Look," Volume 3, No. 4 issue of The Watchdog.

13. Cartridge Box: U.S. Pattern of 1855, 1857, & 1861 .58 caliber cartridge boxes are all acceptable. Cartridge boxes should be sewn by hand using waxed linen thread, comprised of tanned leather, dyed black, with tins, and cartridge box plate attached with a small piece of leather. (EOG/US/199, 202)

14. Cartridge Box Belt: Made of bridle leather, dyed black, 2.25 inches wide, and 55.5 inches long clear of billets. Billets (two narrow four hole adjustment strips) should be 4.25 inches in length at each end of the belt. The total length of the cartridge box belt is 64 inches. The cartridge box belt should be shortened so the top of the cartridge box is no lower than the bottom of the waistbelt. The round eagle cartridge box belt plate (breastplate) should be attached using a small piece of leather.

15. U.S. Pattern 1856 Waistbelt: Made of bridle leather, dyed black, 1.9 inches wide, 38.5 inches long with standing leather loop keeper for early –mid war impressions and the brass belt keeper for impressions after 1863. Can also go without any belt keeper as noted by several documented specimens in which their owner cut-off the keeper due to the awkwardness of this device. Lead backed belt plate with either early-mid war stud backed plate or later war arrow back plate to be used according to the desired scenario portrayed. (EOG/US/198-199, 202)

16. U.S. Pattern 1850 Cap Box: Made of bridle leather, dyed black, has a outer flap with latching tab, wool strip hand sewn to the back of the inner flap, cone pick loop, riveted brass finial, and two waistbelt loops which were hand sewn to the back of the cap box. May also have small copper rivets to hold waistbelt loops onto the cap box as seen in some contractor pieces. Once again, the cap box should be entirely hand sewn. Arsenal or contract pieces acceptable. Shield front cap boxes are also acceptable. (EOG/US/202)

17. U.S. Pattern Bayonet Scabbard: Must be of U.S. Pattern, no British Enfield Scabbards allowed. We prefer either the early war, “Gaylord,” pattern two rivet sewn style, or the pattern 1863 seven rivet bayonet scabbard for late war impressions. These bayonet scabbards were made of black dyed bridle leather and featured attached frogs of either bridle or buff leather. All bayonet scabbards must have a secure brass tip. Once again, this item should be hand sewn. (EOG/US/202)

18. U.S. Pattern 1851 Haversack: Some basic features include machine sewn construction, black tarred exterior coating that seeps into the interior, cotton or linen inner bag attached by three hand sewn 5/8 inch tin buttons, hand sewn inner bag button holes, black 5/8 inch roller buckle, and a one piece shoulder strap of 40 to 45 inches in length.

Haversacks must ride at the small of the back, with the top of the haversack no lower than the waistbelt. To make adjustments, either cut and re-sew the strap or fold over the excess portion and re-sew using 100% cotton or linen black thread.

Remember, haversacks should only hold those items of your mess gear (tin cup, utensils, & plate) and your rations. They should not be the resting-place for your personal items or so called “haversack stuffers.” (EOG/US/210-211)

19. U.S. Pattern 1858 Smoothside Canteen: Must be a U.S. Pattern 1858 Smoothside Canteen, with correct brownish/gray jean wool cover, pewter spout, leather or cloth strap (see below), jack chain (New York Depot only!) or string stopper attachment. If string is used, then the tin strap brackets should not have a punched in hole.
The canteen must ride at the small of the back. Proper means of strap adjustment include cutting the strap and re-sewing it using 100% cotton or linen thread, or tying a knot in the strap. We have seen several original canteens at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum which feature cloth canteen straps knotted once & in some cases twice. However, this style of adjustment is rather uncomfortable to wear with a knapsack. We prefer the cut & sew adjustment over the knotted adjustment, but both are acceptable.
Canteen straps shall be determined per event scenario. New York Depot or Schuylkill Arsenal canteens were produced with leather canteen straps through Fall, 1862. After Fall, 1862, New York Depot and Schuylkill Arsenal canteens featured the leather canteen strap (preferred) or the cotton canteen strap (which is acceptable.) After the Fall, 1863, New York Depot and Schuylkill Arsenal canteens used the sewn cotton canteen strap as standard issue. Cincinnati and St. Louis depots seemed to have used the cotton strap throughout wartime production. (EOG/US/206-207)

20. U.S. Pattern 1855 Doublebag Knapsack: Hand or machine sewn linen body tarred black with a glossy appearance, black dyed shoulder straps, blackened buckles, hand sewn buckles & keepers, reinforcements of split leather, and overcoat straps. Wartime documented contract versions are also acceptable. (EOG/US/212-213)

21. U.S. Issue Rubber Blanket or Poncho: Rubber or Gum Blankets were the primary ground cloth of the infantry during the war. Made of rubber with a white linen backing, small brass grommets, with dimensions of 46” x 71”.

Ponchos were mainly used by the cavalry, but there are accounts of infantrymen using them. Ponchos have a reinforced slit in the middle of the spread, with a tin button closure. Same small brass 9/16 inch diameter grommets are also used. We will accept both, but the Rubber (or Gum) Blanket is the preferred choice. (EOG/US/215)

22. U.S. Issue Blanket: Must be of a documented pattern. Can be either the gray issue wool blanket with black woven end stripes & 4 to 4.5 inch US letters stitched in the middle of the blanket, or the brown issue blanket with woven brown end stripes & 4 to 4.5 inch US letters stitched in the middle of the blanket. Blankets should not have bound edges, if they do, they must be removed. All blankets should have a noticeable diagonal weave, especially visible in the end stripes. Dimensions should be close to 7 feet x 5 feet, six inches, weighting about five pounds.

Don’t try to go cheap when purchasing an issue blanket. You want something that will keep you warm, using only one blanket as allotted by the government. (EOG/US/214)

23. U.S. Issue Shelter Half: Shelter halves were generally made of 8 ounce cotton duck, with varying dimensions in the area of 66 inches long x 65 inches wide (original shelter halves did shrink quite a bit, so their is dimension differences between original shelter halves), had twenty three hand sewn bone or tin buttons & buttonholes of waxed cotton thread, and 8 hand sewn grommets holes (includes the guy rope and pole grommets). Shelter halves were not issued with brass grommets and machine-stitched buttons & buttonholes.
Shelter halves should have a guy rope of six-thread manila line that extends six feet, ten inches in length. The same manila line is also used for the tent stake loops. The shelter half can be of early war three panel section construction coined as Type II shelter halves by Fred Gaede or Type III shelter halves (October of 1863 issue according to Fred Gaede) which would be appropriate for later war impressions. Type III shelter hales featured two panel sections of cotton duck and in some documented specimens tabby weave and blue line canvas material. It takes two shelter halves to make a shelter tent. All shelter halves shall be correct in pattern, materials, and construction compared to the original specimens. For further information on shelter halves, please consult Frederick C. Gaede’s monograph The Federal Civil War Shelter Tent, Tim Shaw's article, "The Lowly Shelter Tent," in Vol. 3, No. 2 issue of The Watchdog, and Patrick McDermott's article, "A Survey of Civil War Shelter Halves," in The Company Wag, a publication of The Mudsills, Inc., Vol. 1, No.2, (September, 1988). (EOG/US/214)

24. U.S. Issue Tent Pegs: Tent pegs for the shelter half were issued by the Federal Army during the war. They were generally made of wood, with a curved top, which slimed down to a narrow point. Obviously these were lost during campaigning, but seemed to be a lightweight item that could be easily carried in a knapsack.

We typically recommend using hard wood sticks as tent pegs. During an active campaign, soldiers would not have carried metal or iron tent stakes in their knapsacks. They are just too heavy to cart around.

25. Rifle-Musket: We prefer the M1861 Springfield rifle-musket or the Pattern 1853 Enfield rifle-musket. All muskets must have three-barrel bands. If the Enfield rifle-musket is purchased, the bluing should be removed. We also suggest that modern makers’ marks should be removed, and any necessary modifications be made to ensure the accuracy of your rifle-musket. Original rifle muskets can be used as well. (EOG/US/28-29, 36-37, 38-39, 40-41, 42-43)

26. Bayonet: You also need to purchase a corresponding pattern bayonet for your rifle-musket. Make sure it fits on your rifle-musket properly before purchasing. File off any modern markings. Original bayonets are even better.

27. Mess Furniture: A soldiers mess items should consist of a tin cup or fruit can boiler, knife, fork, & spoon (or combination set), and a plate/canteen half. Must be of documented patterns, construction, and materials based on original artifacts. No Stainless Steel items allowed.

  1. Tin Cup: Made of tin, with proper lipped bottom, wire reinforced cup handle, cup size approximately 4×4 inches. No crimped bottom cups.
  2. Fruit Can Boiler: An alternative to the tin cup, made of tin, with a lipped bottom, and a wire bail. No crimped bottoms or sides.
  3. Knife: Plain wood or bone handles with straight steel blades.
  4. Fork: Plain wood or bone handles with 2-4 steel tines.
  5. Spoon: Made of stamped steel or iron, with a fiddle or oar shaped handle.
  6. Combination Set: Must be of a documented pattern, with steel knife, fork, & spoon attachments.
  7. Plate: Made of stamped or hot dipped tin, approximately 8.5 to 9.5 inches in diameter. No pie plates.
  8. Canteen Half: An alternative to a plate, which can additionally function as a skillet. Must be of tin, no stainless steel. (EOG/US/224-225)

Highly Suggested Items

28. Uniform Coat: The dress coat's basic features include an indigo dyed woolen cloth (broadcloth or uniform cloth as documented in original specimens), a standing collar, skirt with two rear pockets, 1/4 inch padded black or brown polished cotton chest lining, cotton muslin sleeve lining, hand sewn sleeves between body of the coat and sleeve lining, saxony blue/sky blue (not baby blue) welting on collar, cuffs, and a vertical welt along the cuff split.

Eyes and hooks should be attached at the collar and corners of the skirt. There is no internal pocket in this coat, and there is no lining in the back of the coat body or the skirt.

Buttonholes shall be all hand sewn using blue, black, or logwood faded (brown) linen or cotton thread. Uniform coats must have nine 3/4 inch general service eagle buttons on body front, two 3/4 inch general service eagle buttons in back (above the skirt tails), and two 5/8 inch general service eagle buttons on each functional cuff.

All documented arsenal and contract patterns of correct construction are acceptable.

If possible, we try to stick with the four standard sizes of the Federal Army during the war. These were: Size 1 = 36 inch chest, Size 2 = 38 inch chest, Size 3 = 40 inch chest, and size 4 = 42 inch chest. (EOG/US/121-123)

29. Overcoat: Foot Pattern only. Some features include a greenish cast sky blue kersey wool with a diagonal weave, standing three inch collar, two sets of hooks and eyes, hand sewn button holes and buttons using dark blue or logwood faded (brown) cotton or linen thread, body lining of dark blue kersey wool or a light brown wool & cotton/linen mixed lining, sleeve lining of cotton muslin, cape with six 5/8 inch general service eagle buttons, front with five 3/4-inch general service eagle buttons, back half belt with two 3/4-inch general service eagle buttons attached, two piece cuffs, and a unhemmed skirt bottom. (EOG/US/128-129)

30. Rifle-Musket Sling: Leather rifle-musket slings of documented patterns only. Here is a section from Geoff Walden's article, "Sling, Arms!," in Vol. 3, No. 3 issue of The Watchdog. It is a great description of what to look for in reproduction musket slings.

The US regulation sling was a leather strap, 46 inches long and 1 1/4 inch wide, with a captive loop at one end, and a brass hook at the other, and a sliding keeper between (US Ordnance Manual, 1861, p.228). The leather specified was "russet bag-leather," which was a brown color, lighter weight leather. It was not the bright orange-red of most reproductions, but was a medium brown that darkened after it was oiled. Besides the color here are other things to look for (and avoid) on reproductions.

There should be no rivets, except those holding the hook on. The captive loop and the sliding keeper were sewn, not riveted. The hook should be a flat brass hook with a point, about 3/4-inch long. It should not be made of brass or iron wire. The end of the sling should be folded over & sewn, and the back of the hook should pass between these leather pieces, and be riveted with two small brass rivets. (6)

31. Civilian Coat: Documented pattern, construction, and materials only. You can choose from a civilian sack coat, frock coat, or paletot. Please remember your class when donning a coat. If you're trying to pull off a farmer in a frock coat, pleated shirt, and top hat, you may be a touch off of reality. Materials such as wool and linen were common for coats in a variety of colors. Can be machine constructed with hand details (such as arm gussets sewn by hand in lined coats) and hand sewn buttons and buttonholes a must. Coats can be lined or unlined as seen in original specimens. Lining can be made from wool, cotton, linen, or silk.

32. Civilian Trowsers: Documented pattern, construction, and materials only. These should ride high on the waist, be made of wool, jean, linen, or corded cloth. Can be completely hand sewn or a combination of machine and hand work as seen in ready made garments of this era. Checks, solids, and stripes all acceptable. Correct buttons of bone, shell, china, milk glass, hard rubber, or wood in two or four hole styles shall be attached by hand. Other features include hand-sewn buttonholes, buttons, and tieback grommet holes. Some trowsers would implement a back belt instead of a tie.

If workman's overalls are desired, should be made from cotton jean, corded cloth, or cotton demin, with correct button compositions as mentioned above, handsewn or machine sewn seams, hand sewn buttons & buttonholes, and hand sewing details near the cuff and fly.

33. Civilian Vest: Can be made of silk, wool, cotton, or linen, and should be well fitted. Can match trowsers and coat or can be a variation in color and pattern. Hand sewn buttons of correct composition and hand-sewn buttonholes. A back belt adjustment with tines is also appropriate. Vest can be single or double-breasted.

34. Housewife: The sewing kit of the common soldier used during the Civil War. Generally homemade of cotton (shirting material), linen, wool, or silk, entirely hand sewn using cotton or linen thread; with compartments for thread, buttons, needles, and patching material. They should neatly roll up or fold, and be secured by two cloth ties or a hand sewn button.
Leather housewives or those of a black tarred exterior coating are also acceptable, but must be patterned after a documented wartime article. May be either hand or machine sewn, with compartments for thread, buttons, needles, and patching material. (EOG/US/222-223)

35. Personal Items: These items should generally be carried in a soldier's pockets or knapsack. Some items are only appropriate for a camp impression. These should be rather limited in your kit.

  • Matches: Generally made out of pine, with red tips, and contained in period cardboard matchbox. Make sure label is of a documented manufacturer, and not a modern maker. Matches were issued to soldiers as well in attached strings or single sticks. (EOG/US/222)
  • Match Box: A private purchase item that some soldiers used to protect their matches from getting damp and wet. Francis A. Lord, in his Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia, states,' "One of the author's collection is of heavy tin, oval in shape, 3-¼ inches long, 2-¼ inches wide" (162). Look at antique stores for some plain tin matchboxes. Avoid most sutler row matchboxes, which contain modern markings and designs. (EOG/US/222)
  • Cotton Napkin: Another item from home or purchased privately. Made out of cotton (the same fabric as your civilian shirt), with two to three colored woven patterns such as small plaids, checks, & stripes. The woven patterns should be the same on the reverse side of the fabric. A simple ¼ inch overlapped hand sewn (whip stitched) border is an additional touch that will prevent fraying of the material. Approximate size should be around 24 x 24 inches. Period cotton towels of correct pattern and weave are also appropriate such as huck toweling. Francis A. Lord, in his Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia, states, "In the Ferris collection is a hand blocked cotton handkerchief (As we learned from William Brewster at the Wisconsin Veterans Museum, this is correctly called a napkin, not a handkerchief), carried in the war by Daniel Heyden, Co. E 149th New York Infantry. The dominant color is red, with white circular designs spread throughout. The size is 25 by 22 inches" (119). (EOG/US/223)
  • Pocket Watch: Key wind watches with relatively plain silver, silver alloy, or highly expensive gold watch covers and backings. Look for roman numerals. You can expect to pay quite a bit for an accurate Civil War timepiece. These will be closely inspected for accuracy. Watch chains seem to be rather rare, but most soldiers just used a piece of leather (shoelace), tied to their suspenders.
  • Pipes: Stick with simple pipes that an enlisted man of limited means would carry. These were commonly made of briar, clay, or wood with corresponding reed or wood stems. Period tobacco use only. Plain rolled cigars are also allowed, but absolutely no cigarettes. This is not negotiable. (EOG/US/222)
  • Toothbrush: Comprised of wood or bone handles with either horsehair or boars' hair bristles commonly called "natural bristles." Please remove any modern markings. Tooth powder or baking soda shall only be used with your toothbrush. (EOG/US/223)
  • Wallet: A private purchase item that some soldiers used to organize any small bills that they had. All wallets shall be correct in pattern, materials, and construction per original specimens. Materials such as leather and rubber were common per original wallets along with handsewn or machine sewn compartments. Francis A. Lord, in his Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia, states, "Most wallets were of brown leather, 4 to 4-½ inches long and 2-½ to 3 inches wide. Many have a wrap-around strap. In the author's collection is a wallet of finely-tooled leather 7 -½ inches long and 3-5/8 inches wide. It belonged to Corporal H.V. Polley, 14th New Jersey Volunteers. The excellent quality of Polley's wallet is unusual. Moreover, its large size rendered it cumbersome to carry in the field" (332). (EOG/US/223)
  • Playing Cards: Playing card decks should be rather plain without numbers and plastic coatings. Can be either patriotic Union decks or standard decks with a flat finish (EOG/US/222)
  • Mirror: A small tin or wooden cased looking glass of approximately three inches in diameter. No modern markings allowed. (EOG/US/222)
  • Razor: Straight steel blades with bone or hard rubber handles. These can be found at antique stores. Once again, no modern markings allowed. (EOG/US/222)
  • Comb: Composed of wood, bone, or hard rubber. Hard rubber folding combs are easier to carry than straight wooden or bone combs. Once again, no modern markings allowed. (EOG/US/222-223)
  • Writing Tablet & Stationary: Plain white or yellowish paper bounded in a period covering such as leather or marble paperboard. Avoid modern bindings and markings. Stationary must be of documented design and construction. No modern stationary allowed. (EOG/US/222-223)
  • Pens, Ink, & Pencils: Pens should be rather plain with steel or wooden points. According to Vol. 1, No. 4 issue of The Watchdog, "Pens actually used during the war have straight, unpainted wooden shafts with metal fixtures on the business ends to accept nibs" (7). Ink should be black in color, and carried in a tin, glass, or wooden inkwell. Pencils should be plain, without modern markings and erasers. (EOG/US/222-223)

D. Purchasing Tips

1. Do not purchase any item on your own! Each new Hard Head Mess member will be paired with a member from the Authenticity Committee. The Authenticity Committee member will guide each new member through the ordering process to insure your getting the correct uniform & equipage. They will use the Approved Merchant List as the approved shopping list for the Hard Head Mess.

2. Never, never, buy anything unless it is on the Approved Merchant List or by gaining approval of the Authenticity Committee! Sutlers will try to sell you anything as being authentic. Be on guard, and resist the temptation to rush out and purchase your uniform. We have made numerous mistakes in the past, and do not want to see our new and established members fall down the same road we did. Remember, unacceptable uniform & equipage will be removed regardless of the expense. If you purchase an item from a non-approved merchant, you will have to replace it with an item that is from an approved merchant. Work with your assigned Authenticity Committee member to avoid such circumstances.

3. Do not assume since a merchant is listed as an approved source for one item, that they are approved in other areas. The Approved Merchant List details whom is approved for each uniform and equipage category. Stick to the list and you will do fine!

4. Since most of our merchants strive for the exact replication of their products to the original articles, waiting time for these items may be quite substantial. Be patient and plan your purchases way ahead of time. Your assigned Authenticity Committee member will aid in this area as well.

5. Above all, have fun and enjoy the experience of putting together your kit! We take pride in our impression and we hope you will too.

E. Purchasing Timeline

Minimum Uniform & Equipage: You will have 18 months to procure these items. After you have purchased these initial items, the Hard Head Mess membership will ask you to lay out all your purchases for an inspection. Upon passing this inspection, you will be granted participatory status in the Hard Head Mess.

Jefferson Bootees, Pattern 1858 Dress Hat, Fatigue Blouse (Lined Preferred), Sky Blue Kersey Trowsers, Spectacles (if necessary), Civilian Shirt, Suspenders, Drawers, Wool Socks, Canteen with cloth strap, Haversack, Mess Furniture, Waistbelt with Leather Loop Keeper (Preferred), Cartridge Box, Cartridge Box Belt, Cap Box, Bayonet Scabbard (Two Rivet Sewn Pattern Preferred), Rifle-Musket, Bayonet, Rubber Blanket, & Wool Blanket.

Uniform & Equipage Necessary to Complete Your Kit: These items must be purchased within six months of attaining participatory status.

Knapsack or Blanket Roll, Forage Cap, Issue Shirt, & Shelter Half.

Highly Suggested Uniform and Equipage:

Uniform Coat, Overcoat, Leather Canteen Sling, Waistbelt with Brass Belt Keeper, Arrow Backed Belt Plate, Seven Rivet Bayonet Scabbard, Pattern of 1864 Cartridge Box, Contract Variant White Haversack,
Contract Variant Issue Shirt, Rifle-Musket Sling, Housewife, Sleeping Cap or Balaclava, Private Purchase Forage Cap, Personal Items, Civilian Hat, Civilian Trowsers, Civilian Coat, & Civilian Vest.

F. Rations

Thanks to the 33d Wisconsin Volunteers, Company E, we have a table of their research on Three Day’s Marching Rations handed out to all units participating in the 1994 Wade House Civil War Weekend.

Ration Day One Day Two Day Three
Hard Bread 1 lb. 2 lbs. 3 lbs.
Pork (incl. bacon, sides shoulders) 12 ozs. 1 lb, 8 ozs. 2 lbs. 4 ozs.
Coffee (roasted) 1.28 ozs. 2.56 ozs. 3.84 ozs.
Sugar (brown) 2.4 ozs. 4.8 ozs. 7.2 ozs.

  • Three day's rations = 24-30 hard crackers, 2-¼ lb. pork or bacon, one cup roasted coffee (whole or ground), and 1- ¾ cup brown sugar.
  • In Georgia, 1864, add: 1.5 ozs. Dried apples and 0.32 gills (about 1-½ oz.) apple cider vinegar to the marching ration, per day.
  • In Camp, add: 2.4 ozs. beans or peas, 0.6 ozs. salt, 0.64 ozs. soap, and 0.2 ozs. candles to the marching ration, per day.

Since we portray the Army on active campaign, we try to limit our rations to those items issued on the march. This includes hardtack, coffee, brown sugar, salt pork or salt beef, fresh pork, bacon, ham, or fresh beef. When portraying a camp impression, we add apples, dried fruit, desiccated vegetables, onions, corn meal, rice, red potatoes, soft bread, tea, salt, sweet potatoes, soap, & candles. Also appropriate are foraging items and gifts from home. Stay away from non-period foods and modern canned food.

Rations must be packaged in a period way. This includes muslin or cotton ration bags, wrapping items in a period cloth (such as muslin) or plain brown paper, small glass bottles with cork stoppers, & in period cans. Avoid plastic at all costs!

During several times each year, we will institute a ration issue. Contents of this ration issue will be based upon our impression, and the wishes & means of the membership.

Hardtack was the basic staple of the Federal infantryman during the war. We recommend that all members purchase hardtack from G.H. Bent & Company, which is listed on the Approved Merchant List. Commercially made hardtack resembles the original item much better than homemade products.

Soap and candles were another important ration issue for the boys while in camp.

Soap: Should be composed of lye, unscented, and in a rectangular shape.
Candles: Since most candles issued to the Federal Army were composed of sperm oil (from whales), our search for an accurate candle is somewhat hampered. However, here are a few paraphrased tips to look for in reproduction candles from Nicky Hughes' fine article, "If everyone lit just one little candle: Lighting for Civil War Reenactors," located in Vol. 3, No. 2 issue of The Watchdog.

  1. Look for dull white candles. Yellowish beeswax candles can pass as a gift from home or an item purchased from a sutler, but were not a Army issue item. Tallow candles were also used, but were not very common as a ration issue.
  2. Look for candles that were made from molds, not by repeated dipping in hot liquid wax. This way your candles will have formed tips and relatively straight sides. (4-5)

G. First Person Impressions

Upon joining the Hard Head Mess, all members are required to select a first person impression they would like to portray. You will be addressed by your first person persona at all living histories & reenactments.

Concepts to remember when portraying a first person impression include: the soldier's enlistment date, hometown, ethnicity, occupation, height, weight, hair & eye color, any wounds received during the war, and family background.

It is also important is remember that these men for the most part were all civilians before the war. Find out what public interests would be talked about during the 1860's. Politics, local businesses, farming, hometown acquaintances, religion, social events, a letter from a family member, and care packages or gifts from home are just some topics to discuss with your mess mates.

We will help everyone in picking out and developing their first person impression. It is a great way to educate the public, and also helps to keep everyone in an 1860’s mindset throughout a living history or reenactment.

H. Drill

All members are expected to know and perform drill at designated times called for during a living history or reenactment. New members will have the opportunity to work on the "School of the Soldier," and Guard Mount.

We will help all new and existing members to become proficient in drill. This includes the School of the Soldier, School of the Company, School of the Battalion, Guard Mount, and Bayonet Exercise.

The Hard Head Mess takes pride in our ability to drill, and strives continually to become more proficient at this required duty.

We primarily consult the following manuals for drill:

  1. Casey's Tactics
  2. George B. McClellan's Manual of Bayonet Exercise
  3. Dominic J. Dal Bello's Parade, Inspection and Basic Evolutions of the Infantry Battalion, 4th Edition.
  4. Dominic J. Dal Bello's Instructions for Guards & Pickets, 2nd Edition.
  5. United States Infantry Tactics
  6. August V. Kautz's Customs of Service

Works Cited

Braun, Robert A. "Low-Cost Improvements for your Uniform and Equipage." 33rd Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Website. (2000): Online. Internet. 17 February 2000. Available: http://www.antma.com/33articles/improve.html.

Brewster, William. "The Case for the Contract Variant Issue Shirt." The Company Wag.
Nov. 1994. 6-7.

Hughes, Nicky." If everyone lit just one little candle: Lighting for Civil War Reenactors."
The Watchdog. 3.2 (1995): 4-5

– – -. "The Pick of the Litter." The Watchdog. 1.4 (1993): 7.

Lord, Francis A. Civil War Collector's Encyclopedia. New York: Castle Books, 1965.

Osman, Stephen. "The Federal Issue Shirt." The Watchdog. 1.2 (1993): 4-5.

Walden, Geoff. "Sling, Arms!," The Watchdog. 3.3 (1995) 6-7.

Written by the Hard Head Mess
All Rights Reserved.

Updated 1/20/07