Civil War Soldier's Equipment

Troops prepare for a marchSoldiers from the Civil War had an entire uniform that they wore. They carried equipment to help them survive and to care for their weapons. They had a bag called a haversack on their side in which food was carried. A canteen carried water.

All of these items are necessary to be a part of most re-enacting groups. At the bottom of this page you can download our uniform guidelines. However, we felt it was a good idea to give you a picture and brief description of each item. In addition, we've listed links to vendors whom we approve of. Please note that some vendors are recommended for certain purchases and not for others. We look to help our members get the best piece of gear for the money possible. If you have questions, please feel free to contact any unit leader by using the Contacts page.

When you are deciding on what piece of gear to acquire, please look below. Also, this video is a great primer on what you should look for in any quality piece of reproduced equipment.

The first items are the equipment you'll NEED to attend a re-enactment. Remember, you can borrow some of this stuff as you get going. Our group encourages you to get all of the top of the list in the first three years.

The first three items are seen by members in our hobby as the most important items to purchase the best quality you can afford. These items are your headgear, you fatigue blouse and your blanket. They are the three most seen items. You hat is near your face when someone looks at you. Your blouse, or jacket, covers your torso and your blanket is large when laid out in camp.

Headgear - Members DO NOT need to own both styles of headgear. We recommend all 5th MI members acquire a forage cap first.
Forage Cap
Union Forage Cap The forage cap was the more typical style cap in the Army of the Potomac. For that reason, we recommend this be your first piece of headgear.

Recommended Sources:

W.W. & Company

Price: $90.00 Shipped

US 1858 Dress Hat
Dress Hat Commonly called a "Hardee Hat" by re-enactors, this hat was often worn by soldiers in the field. It could be dressed up with hat brass, but we recommend using it plain unless you add the proper company letter for the specific portrayal.

Recommended Sources:

 

Fatigue Blouse

Fatigue Blouse

Also called a "Sack Coat," this four button garment was the workhorse coat for Union soldiers. Recently, a Michigan based company has made high quality versions of this coat available at reasonable prices.

Here's a great review of what makes quality in a sack coat:

Recommended Sources:

W.W. & Company

Price: $ Shipped

 

Blanket
blanket

We consider the blanket one of the three most important historical purchases because it is so visible when spread out in camp.

There is currently only one source we know of for new reproductions.

Recommended Source:

 

Trousers
Trousers Union foot trousers were made of sky blue wool and overwhelmingly had watch pockets. Please make sure your trousers have a watch pocket. If you buy from either of our recommeded sources, you'll be in great shape.

Recommended Sources:

Stony Brook

W.W. & Company

 


Shirts - As with headgear, 5th MI members DO NOT need to own both to get started. Pick the style that works best for you.
Contract Issue Shirt
Contract shirt The Union army issued shirts to the men made out of one material - WOOL! Reproduction of domet flannel, arsenal made issue shirts are very hard to find right now. The contractor made shirt has a more comfortable 3 button placket and has a breast pocket. Still, as one Civil War soldier wrote home, it is "rather coarse and scratchy." However, the men were issued these and they are an excellent layer on a cool evening. Typical colors are gray, tan and dark blue. All are acceptable.

Recommended Sources:

W.W. & Company

Price: $100.00 shipped

Civillian Shirt
Civillian Shirt Shirts sent from home or purchased from the sutler were also very popular with the men. Though they sometimes were sent in wool, more often then came in cotton. Pick any period appropriate check, stripe or solid pattern you like. This wasn't an issued item, rather one that either came from home or was privately purchased. If you haven't re-enacted before, you might make this your first shirt as your body adjusts to wearing wool outside in the summer.

Recommended Sources:

W.W. & Company

 

or MAKE YOUR OWN WITH HELP FROM A VETERAN IN THE GROUP!

Price: WW $85.00

 

 

Braces
Braces - Civil War word for suspenders During the Civil War, suspenders were more commonly referred to as "braces." They are the best choice to hold your trousers up. While necessary to your kit, talk to vets in the group. These are one of the easiest items to borrow!

Recommended Sources:

W.W. & Company

Brogans
Brogans The Jefferson Brogan was the first army issue shoe to have a specific right and left shoe when issued. Be sure to get a good quality reproduction, your feet will thank you as we are often on our feet for long periods of time!

Recommended Sources:

 

Canteen
Canteen There is not a more important item in a re-enactor's kit! The canteen will keep water near you to keep you hydrated. We recommend the M1858 Smoothside canteen. Get it with a gray or brown jean cloth cover and a cloth sling. The leather sling is appropriate for early war impressions.

Recommended Sources:

Blockade Runner - Best 1858 Tin Canteen Anywhere

$39.95 plus S&H

W.W. & Company

Cincinnati Depot Canteen

$70.00 Shipped

Socks
Socks for soliders Soldiers wore both cotton and wool socks during the war. We HIGHLY recommend acquiring the wool socks first. They will care for your feet better under the army brogans. Many of our vets always wear two pairs of socks during the day - cotton under wool. Old Soldier's Tip -Take the cotton socks off when you sleep. Wool does a better job insulating your feet and will keep you warmer.

Recommended Sources:

Wool:

Machine made:

W.W. & Company - $40.00/pair Shipped

Hand Knit:

Larissa Fleischman - $40.00/pair

Cotton:

W.W & Company - $12.00 for 2 pair Shipped

Cartridge Box
Cartridge Box The cartridge box, it's belt (sometime called a sling), tins and plates are considered Ordnance as they support the weapon. We are fortunate to have an excellent maker in state who uses original boxes in his collection to reproduce these leathers.

Recommended Sources:

 

Cap Pouch
Cap Pouch The cap pouch, also Ordnance, attached to the waist belt and sits on the right of the belt plate. We recommen the standard pouch, though either the standard or shield front are appropriate for most of the war.

Recommended Sources:

 

Wasit Belt
Waist Belts Here we show three varieties of waist belt. The top example is an early war style. You can tell this because it has a leather loop at the end opposite the buckle. The middle example is a late war belt. The brass keepers didn't come in to use until XX. The bottom belt with the rectangular buckle is the NCO belt, usually worn by sergeants.

Recommended Sources:

Early War "Federal Issue Waist Belt"-

 

 

Knapsack
Knapsack The knapsack serves as the major carrying device for all a solider's belongings. This is the "Double Bag Knapsack" a great reproduction and very durable. Knapsacks of this style were the most common in the American Army and are the preferred knapsack of the 5th Michigan

Recommended Sources:

Missouri Boot and Shoe

 

Gum Blanket
Gum Blanket The gum blanket served several purposes. It could be used as tent if one wasn't available. It served as a waterproof layer when sleeping and became the man's rain cape.

Recommended Sources:

 

Haversack
Haversack

This bag hung over the man's right shoulder and rested on his left hip on the march. It carried all the rations that were issued.

Purchasing the machine sewn copy is an excellent place to save a little money on your kit!

Recommended Sources:

Machine Sewn

Missouri Boot & Shoe's "Harrison Wiley's Haversack"

 

 

Shelter Half
Shelter Half

Beginning in April, 1862, Union Infantrymen were issued Shelter Tents for their homes in the field. Each man carried one-half and buttoned it together with a comrade when camp was reached at night.

VET'S TIP - Consider buying two halves from the same vendor so you know you have a complete tent. You can always share with a friend!

Recommended Source:

W. W. & Company

Early to Mid-War Shelter Half

 

 

5th MI Uniform Guidelines