Selection of authentic clothing and equipment is one of the most important steps you will take as a member. Enthusiasm is important, but channel your enthusiasm into understanding what the uniforms and equipment of the Civil War looked like, were manufactured from, and the usefulness of each and every thing the soldier had. Be cautious in your choice of suppliers and manufacturers and never buy on impulse. This hobby is expensive enough without having to buy something twice because you bought the wrong thing the first time. Always consult with the veterans of this unit about what to buy and refer to the “Uniform and Equipment Guidelines”, available when you join. It is important that you read and follow the unit’s guidelines to ensure that you are getting authentically correct reproductions. Investing money in quality material will mean that your items will last longer and save you money over time.
Some points to consider:
- You will not need a sword or pistol so cross these off your list right now.
- Do not purchase original Civil War equipment to use. It detracts from your impression, Civil War soldiers were not issued equipment that was 150 years old, the original stuff costs a lot, and you may accidentally damage a family heirloom. Leave the original equipment safely at home.
- Do not cut corners when assembling your impression. Yard sales and modified clothing will not work with the 53rd. We are proud of our authenticity and wish to maintain our fine reputation.
When portraying a Civil War soldier, think about your overall appearance. If you wear glasses, you will need to get proper Civil War-era style frames with prescription lenses (many of us have done this) or get contact lenses. When in the field, do not wear a wristwatch or other jewelry. Most of us wear Civil War-type underwear (drawers) at events. If you wear modern underwear, it must not be visible during the event. This includes T-shirts. Civil War period stockings (socks) were wool or cotton of natural colors. No thermal or hunting socks with stripes or logo’d stripes are allowed.
The following groups of uniform parts and equipment (with approximate prices) are listed in recommended order of purchase.
GROUP 1 – Your basic uniform
- Civil War period shoes (“bootees”), $90 to $210
- Federal Issue (sky-blue kersey) foot trousers and suspenders (“braces”), $95 to $180
- Fatigue coat (“4 button sack coat”), $95 to $180
- Model 1858 Forage (“bummer’s”) cap, $65 to $110
- Federal Issue shirt (made of domet flannel), $140 to $165 AND/OR a Civilian Shirt, $55 to $90
- Wool socks, natural or gray in color, $15 to $40
GROUP 2- Your basic equipment
- Model 1855/61 Cartridge Box with sling & plates, $175
- Cap Box, $65
- Bayonet Scabbard (early war two-rivet model), $35-$45
- Belt and US Plate (recommend early war “puppy paw” plate), $30 to $55
- Haversack (painted canvas food bag), $75
- Model 1858 Canteen (tin with jean cover & leather or cotton sling), $55 to $75
- Cup, knife, fork, spoon, plate, & boiler, $45
- Model 1861 Springfield (Armisport) rifled musket, $650-$900
- US Model 1855/61 Bayonet, $80
- Gum blanket (rubberized ground cloth), $45-$75
- Wool blanket (U.S. Issue), $80 to $140
- Shelter tent (early war drill w/bone buttons), half, $60- $125
GROUP 3- Optional items you should eventually get.
- Federal Issue overcoat, $275 to $400
- Dress (frock) Coat, $260 to $450
- Vest, $45 to $80
- Underdrawers, $35 to $60
- Model 1855 knapsack, $150 to $250
GROUP 4- 95th Pennsylvania Uniform
At certain events and reenactments where the 53rd PA did not participate, we sometimes portray the 95th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry (“Gosline’s Zouaves”) of the Sixth Corps, usually at late-war events (1864-1865). By this time, the 95th had assimilated to the look of the typical soldier except they retained the zouave jacket and would possibly have had the 95th’s distinctive forage cap. (NOTE: These items are optional. Only if you want to portray the distinctive look of the 95th PVI should you purchase these items. You can still participate as the 95th even if you do not have them!)
- 95th pattern zouave jacket, $130 to $150
- 95th pattern zouave cap, $85 to $145
As you can see this hobby is not inexpensive, but no more expensive than golf or other sports or hobbies where a financial investment is necessary. Again, check with the veterans of the 53rd PVI first before you buy. You can possibly borrow equipment from others and save money until you are ready to buy everything you need. There are many knapsack stuffers that you can also purchase to fill out your kit, which are very useful at reenactments as well as living history events- items such as tobacco plugs, writing paper and pens, odd food items, and tote bags add to the reality of your impression. Keeping up a good Civil War impression is an ongoing activity for all of us!
Where to buy?
Below is a list of vendors that we trust. The vendors listed below have all proven to be good suppliers but may only have one or a few items suitable for the 53rd so, before purchasing any items for your kit, please talk to the veteran 53rd members for suggestions.