Civil War Top 100

Uniform & Equipment

he recreated 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry is continuously seeking to improve its portrayal of the original regiment and encourages its members to purchase items with authenticity in mind. We understand that the costs of outfitting oneself can mount up quickly, particularly for new recruits.

To accommodate a range of approaches to reenacting - from raw recruit on a budget to veteran for whom money is no object - we have developed a list of recommended sutlers on both ends of the spectrum: from painstaking craftsmen who are known throughout the hobby for their highly authentic uniforms, accoutrements and weapons, to full-line sutlers who meet minimum standards of historical accuracy.

Many new members start with lower cost items that meet minimum standards of authenticity, then decide to "move up" in the future. If you can, however, we encourage you to buy more authentic goods from the very beginning. This will be more cost-effective in the long run, since it will spare you from buyer's remorse and the inevitable decision to upgrade your kit later.

What You'll Need

The basic required "kit" for portraying a soldier in the 28th Massachusetts includes the following items:

  • Federal issue forage cap (dark or indigo blue)
  • State issue forage cap with McDowell visor
    (dark or indigo blue)
  • Federal fatigue blouse ("sack coat," dark or indigo blue)
    with four brass buttons
  • Federal trousers, foot pattern (sky blue)
  • Issue muslin shirt (or other period pattern)
  • Issue socks (gray or rag wool)
  • Issue M1851 Jefferson brogans (shoes)
  • USM1855 cartridge box, .58 caliber, mid-war model
    (black leather)
  • Cartridge box sling (black leather)
  • US oval cartridge box plate (brass)
  • US round eagle box sling plate (brass)
  • USM1856 waist belt (black leather)
  • US Oval waist belt plate (brass)
  • USM1855 bayonet scabbard
    (black leather, one-piece Springfield style)
  • USM1850 Cap pouch (black leather)
  • M1853 three-band .577 caliber Enfield rifle musket and bayonet
  • Musket sling for M1853 Enfield (untreated leather)
  • Haversack, U.S. regulation wartime issue
    (black tarred canvas)
  • USM1858 smooth side canteen (jean cloth or dark blue wool cover) with strap (leather preferred over cotton drill or linen)

More of the Basics

Here are a few things you should know and bear in mind as you prepare to "kit up" and field with the 28th Massachusetts:

  • Musket. This is the most expensive item you will purchase - generally $600 or more - so shop around carefully. Armisport makes the best currently available reproduction. Order a bayonet at the same time you buy your rifle to ensure a proper fit, but be sure to specify that you want a one-piece Springfield-style scabbard. The 28th was issued the .577 caliber Enfield three-band rifle musket in late 1861. Most of our members carry Enfields, although some have chosen the more costly .58 caliber Springfield. No other weapons may be carried by members who portray enlisted men. Officers carry swords but, for safety reasons, do not use pistols.
  • Ammunition. You will need to purchase gunpowder and .58 caliber musket percussion caps, which is not as easy as it used to be. Since 9/11, fewer sporting goods stores, gun dealers and mail order suppliers carry black powder supplies. You will need to roll an adequate supply of blank cartridges before fielding. Expect to fire as few as 20 to 30 rounds at a living history event to as many as 100 or more over the course of a major battle weekend. A blank cartridge is simply a paper tube filled with 50 to 60 grains of powder, twisted off at one end and folded at the other. You may download a template and instructions in Microsoft Word or PDF format. Many sutlers offer pre-rolled tubes and some sell blank cartridges in period-authentic wrappers, but making your own is more economical.

  • Suspenders. You may purchase an authentic pair of linen suspenders with leather ends from most sutlers. Get used to the idea that linen suspenders do not give when you sit, so it's easy to pop their buttons if you don't have them adjusted to the proper length.

  • Forage Caps. You will need two: a standard federal issue cap for "generic" Union infantry impressions at larger battle events and a state-issue "McDowell" cap for when we portray our own unit. The only significant difference is that the McDowell's visor is rounded rather than squared. Cap decorations such as 2nd Corps badges (red trefoils)and brass regimental and company designations are left to individual taste.The prevalence of hat ornaments during the war is debatable, but a sketch by Winslow Homer clearly shows that soldiers in the 28th Massachusetts used them. Most of our current members have stopped adorning their caps with the popular Irish harps since there is little evidence of their actual use during the war.
  • Eyewear. If you wear eyeglasses to correct your vision, you will need period-appropriate spectacle frames. Reproductions are acceptable, since antique eyeglass frames can be expensive and fragile. Many sutlers carry reproductions of varying quality. Another option is contact lenses, which are acceptable in our unit and may create the most authentic look from a few paces away, since most soldiers did not wear spectacles in the field.

  • Knapsack. Although not required, most members eventually pick one up, anyway, because it can provide a convenient and authentic way to pack gear for trips. A knapsack can also serve as a nice pillow in camp, and occasionally we do go on marches that require carrying full packs or blanket rolls. If you do purchase a knapsack, it needs to be the U.S. 1851 double bag model, wartime issue.

  • Great Coat. We do not require an overcoat as basic equipment, but strongly suggest that you eventually purchase one for those cold days in spring or fall. Period style rag wool gloves and scarves also come in handy when temperatures drop.

  • Blankets and Ponchos. Most of us use gray wool issue blankets, although tan blankets were also common, as were various blankets and quilts sent from home. Infantrymen were also issued black rubber "gum" blankets to use as ground cloths. Some of our men opt for cavalry issue ponchos (gum blankets with neck openings), since these are ideal for wearing over uniforms in rainy weather.

  • Tents. Since most battle reenactments portray the unit on campaign, shelter halves or "dog tents" are preferred at most events. "A" or wedge tents are considerably larger and more comfortable, particularly in the rain, but are less useful for living history purposes since they were issued primarily when a regiment was training at home or in winter quarters. While tents are sometimes available for recruits to borrow, we encourage our members to purchase shelter halves as soon as they can afford to do so. When an "A" tent has to be used, at least two men should share it. Up to five men could be assigned to a single wedge tent during the war.
  • Mess Gear. Soldiers bring and prepare their own food when they go to events. You will need at least some of the following to cook over a campfire: tin cup and plate, mucket (tin cup with lid and bale), small skillet, and squirrel cooker (a wrought iron fork and holder). Some members own grates and are generally willing to share them. Plan on carrying at least a tin cup, tin plate, and utensils (fork, knife and spoon).

Recommended Sutlers >

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