The Hard Head Mess Philosophy

"Western Federal Veteran" ©1998 Mike Thorson

What is the Hard Head Mess?

The Hard Head Mess is a collection of good friends who desire a little more than what typical Civil War living histories or reenactments have to offer. Started in 1999 by Tom Klas, Matt Smith, & Andy Voss, we are a campaign unit based on three key ideals:


  1. Possessing a proper attitude towards a top-notch portrayal.
  2. The desire to constantly help each other improve our impressions.
  3. To study and freely share our information with others.

The Hard Head Mess does not collect dues, does not actively recruit, and membership is only granted through an invitation. We want people not only who have a desire to do it right, but will fit in with us.

With honor and pride, we strive to depict the common private of the Civil War. All members of the Hard Head Mess fall in as privates. If an occasion presents, we will elect a non-commissioned officer at an event, who will simply wear a NCO waistbelt and buckle to signify his rank.

All impressions of the Hard Head Mess are based on exhaustive research by ourselves or gleaned from historians and museum curators. We strive, in all aspects of our impression, to earn the respect of the historical/academic and living history community.

  1. Currently we have valid impressions representing:
  2. Western Federal 1861-1865 (primary)
  3. Iron Brigade of the West 1862-1865
  4. Eastern federal 1861-1865
  5. Civilian 1860's
  6. Militia with a specific focus on the 1st Wisconsin.

Our name, the Hard Head Mess can be solely traced to Charles Waldo of Company D, 12th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment, the Union Guards. Charles Waldo writes about the boys of Company D in his Editorial Correspondence from Camp Randall. On November 9th, 1861, Charles Waldo wrote the following passage in the West Bend Post stating:

Our company is the largest in numbers of any in the camp, and second to none in size or drill. We have already won ourselves a name, of which we feel proud, and shall ever endure to be worthy of it, or one equal as good. It is the "West Bend Hard Heads" and was given us by members of the 11th Regiment, for this reason: The 11th had to stand guard, as we have not received arms. The campus is surrounded by high fence. And guards stationed at a distance of 10 or 12 rods apart, to keep the rest of them in inside the enclosure. There are one or two holes through the fence between each guard, and these guards are not allowed to let anyone passed through them, while on duty, and it is the delight of every many of the boys in both regiments to pester these guards, by going in and out while their backs are turned from the hole's; and in these tricks our company takes a leading part, when at rest, and the officers of the guard, are continuously taking someone to the guard house, but as yet, not one of our boys have been trapped, therefore, our title "Hard Heads".

Hard Head Mess Philosophy written by Tom Klas. All Rights Reserved.