About ten years ago I was asked by Bill Rambo to write some western CS cavalry guidelines for the Alabama Division. Recently, there was some new discussion to place these in use for another project and so I was asked if they could be again employed and, if I could also construct a similar Federal version. Of course, I agreed under the provision that I would be allowed to update the CS version. As for the Federal guidelines, I utilized that which we constructed for the 11th Illinois at Shiloh, “borrowed” from the effort that Zack Ziarnek had put together last fall as well as liberally incorporated some excellent information and generalities (both CS and US) from many other sources including a nice piece written by Bob McClendon, recent CS research by Will McDonald and, the always stellar information routinely floating around here on the Authentic Campaigner (I must also warmly tip my hat to so many others here and elsewhere that have done incredible research over the years who cannot be individually named.) Nevertheless, “no man is an island” so it still needs some tuning. Therefore, I am posting these guidelines (Federal and Confederate separate) here on the AC Cavalry “Camp of Instruction” Forum for open discussion and suggestions in the effort to make these as accurate as reasonably possible.
After consulting with Mark Choate we agreed these might also serve well in another capacity here on this forum. Once we have them well "seasoned" it is our intention to post them here in two permanent (with obvious updates) “stickies” as a place for veteran cavalry reenactors to refresh “context” and for newbies as a place to “start” for general information.
So, we humbly and respectfully seek guidance from the learned members of the entire AC forum for “tweaks” and, for pointing out the obvious sins of omission and commission.
NOTE: Please understand that “informed”, constructive comments and suggestions are invited and encouraged but please note ...this is meant to be “general” or P.E.C. (Period Everyday Common) in nature and,..... “brief”. Individual construction nuances/details and uncommon or obscure items will be noticeably absent for these above reasons. Please consider this when making recommendations. Also, lets please avoid rabbit hunts and stay on topic!
*A future effort here will attempt the same general framework for eastern ANV and Trans-Miss. Cavalry.
Ken R Knopp
The following authenticity guidelines are "recommended" for use by Civil War cavalry reenactors who strive to achieve the best in authentic portrayals. These guidelines are general in nature or “Period Everyday Common” (P.E.C.) for western Federal and Confederate Cavalry (Note: NOT the Trans-Mississippi or eastern cavalry) and designed as a place for veteran cavalry reenactors to refresh “context” and for newbies to “start”.
It is universally acknowledged that variations or uncommon items are certainly authentic and acceptable when portraying particular units or individuals and at different places or times. Therefore, it is the recommendation of this writer that individuals be given some latitude to construct their own detailed criteria particular to the unit, geographic area and time period in which they portray. In these cases, it should go without saying that a thoroughly researched and documented study of relevant authenticity and subsequent manufacturing details is absolutely necessary. Nevertheless, since the intended goal with this effort is to raise the general authenticity standards to achieve that of the “norm” or typical western cavalryman, certain basic guidelines should be understood.
Remember: These recommended guidelines should be considered P.E.C. within the general framework of cavalry in the Western Armies and as a "standard" but, NOT ABSOLUTE IN DEFINITION. As this is inherently a “work in progress”, as new information or understanding comes to light they will of course, be updated.
Ken R. Knopp
Updated, Spring 2012
FOR AUTHENTIC CS & US
CIVIL WAR CAVALRY REENACTORS
By Ken R Knopp
Representing the arms, clothing and equipment in use by the "typical" or "common" Federal “enlisted” cavalryman serving in the Western Armies during ALL periods of the war. Staff officer’s, surgeons, rear echelon officers and officer’s of the grade of Colonel and above usually had the access and financial means to purchase equipment and clothing of the highest quality. Officer (line-Officer) impressions would generally be different than the enlisted mans and so should therefore be considered separately.
1. All buckles used on M1859 Horse Equipments will be the iron (Japanned or blued) flat, bar-buckles unless otherwise noted.
2. Leather used in the manufacture of Federal horse equipments was skirting, bridle or harness leather where appropriate. All was black dyed leather (one side only).
3. Details for leather and buckle sizes, lengths and dimensions can be found in the 1861 Ordnance Manual.
Reference Periods: Throughout the war the enlisted Federal Cavalryman essentially used the same type and style of equipments. Those being the equipment approved and adopted by the Cavalry Board in 1859 (the M1859 McClellan saddlery) and found detailed in the 1861 Ordnance Manual. However, as private contractors made the majority of issue Federal horse equipments quality and appearance varied widely even among the same type equipment pieces. Some subtle changes were adopted in 1863 and employed in 1864 manufacture. Nonetheless, for the most part they remained true to the general patterns.
BRIDLE & REINS: Early Bridle Pattern: The 1850's Dragoon six buckle pattern. Crown piece, split, with throat latch, brow band and using six, cast iron, japanned bar-buckles, four on the cheek pieces and two on the throat strap.
M1859 Headstall Pattern: Three buckle. Crown piece, split, with throat latch, brow band and using three buckles, two on the cheek pieces and one at the throat strap.
REINS: Two piece leather sewn at middle. Both ends sewn to the rings of the bit.
BIT: M1859 Pattern: Adopted with the McClellan equipment. See Ordnance Manual
M1863 Pattern: Slight difference in shape and weight from the M1859 pattern.
** Some civilian variations and imported bits were issued during the early war period.
WATERING BIT: 1844 Ringgold Pattern, iron snaffle with three link chain and toggles at each ring. Composed of two reins with one end sewn together, and the two other ends sewn to the rings of the bit. The watering bit was an issue item but not universally utilized.
LINK STRAP: Leather with 3/4 inch flat, iron bar buckle (or cast iron horse shoe buckle) and short or long double-wire spring snap-hook. Any other hardware would be incorrect.
HALTER & LEAD: Heavy bridle or light harness leather.
M1859 pattern halter with flat, iron bar-buckle, five rings & halter bolt.
LEAD: Heavy harness leather with one and 1/4 inch flat, iron bar-buckle for buckling to halter.
Note: All halter squares, rings, bolt and buckles are blued or japanned iron. Brass (or painted brass) is incorrect!
SADDLE: Some Grimsley and horned “Ranger” and other pattern saddles were issued to cavalry troops during the early war period. By 1862, production of the McClellan was standard.
The Federal McClellan saddle MUST be configured to M1859 pattern specs (see Ordnance Manual): Including the proper 1859 model tree appearance of peaked-pommel and deep-seat cantle, white-lead painted then “correctly”rawhide covered **; skirts; fenders; ALL hardware, except pommel and coat strap plates, must be iron, blued or Japanned black; coat strap plates should be proper M1859 size (NOT M1904 shape and size); hooded three inch tread stirrups; crupper; indigo blue wool webbing cinch and surcingle. **M1904 trees cannot be converted to “correct” M1859 appearances!
It should be noted that some changes were ordered to the McClellan saddle in 1864. The major differences between it and the M1859 saddle being found in the institution of a "spade" D-ring to prevent its turning, addition of maker's I.D.’s and in some cases the removal of the saddle fenders, stirrup hoods and crupper.
STIRRUPS: Bent oak wood with transom, three inch treads and leather hood cover. No embossing on hoods.
CINCH: Comprising the McClellan girthing method. Made of blue woolen webbing with leather safes at each end. Hardware are two buckles (on-side:1 ½ inch and off-side: 2 inch) and one D-ring.
SURCINGLE: Blue woolen webbing three and 1/4 inches wide with iron roller buckle one and one-half inches wide. Use of a surcingle as a safety measure is strongly encouraged
SADDLE BLANKET: 1859 Issue: Blue woolen blanket (75 inches by 67 inches wide.) with woven-in orange colored border 3 inches wide and 3 inches from edge on two sides. This is the standard blanket issued extensively as the saddle blanket. However, a military grey wool blanket with black woven stripes was also issued in the army as a sleeping blanket and would be authentic, although sometimes in-appropriate, to substitute.
SADDLE BAGS: M1859 Issue: Comprised two pouches, approx. nine inches wide by ten inches high, of black leather each with two pouches inside and an outside flap held by a billet strap and frame buckle all sewn to a seat. Short straps on the seat fit through foot-staples behind the cantle and straps on the bottom of pouches buckle to the skirts. Occasionally, valises were issued in the early war period. No other saddlebags are correct for the common Federal enlisted men.
CRUPPER: M1859 Issue: Typical leather crupper with tail dock. Hardware are 2-3/4 inch, flat iron bar-buckles and one iron, one and 1/4 inch, ring.
BREAST STRAP: NOT an issue item in the Federal army! However, if one was desired it was common for soldiers to simply rig their issue surcingle as a breast collar. Sometimes, troopers would make their own, and occasionally, breast straps could be purchased from Northern merchants who sold them to soldiers, albeit on a very limited basis.
NOSE BAG: M1859 Pattern. Leather over-head strap with roller buckle. Squared leather bucket and canvas bag. NO AIR HOLES OR STENCILING.
PICKET PIN & LARIAT: M1859 Federal pattern Pin w/ rope. Iron painted black. One, 8- shaped, lariat ring around the neck.
LARIAT: Best hemp rope, thirty foot long, one and 1/4 inch in diameter spliced to the ring in the picket pin.
GROOMING IMPLEMENTS: (Brush, currycomb, hoof pick):
Brush: Two styles: #1. Wood body, Russia bristles with leather hand strap. Most common. #2. Civilian and imported brush backs made of leather, Russia bristles and leather hand strap.
Currycomb: Iron bodies, some were Japanned or painted black with six or eight rows of tin or iron teeth. Painted black wood handle. English civilian pattern curry combs were imported in some number. Three most common U.S. Federal issue curry combs:
#1. M1859 Pattern (The Allegheny Arsenal pattern not common in the west.)
#2. M1862 “Y” Pattern (a.k.a. Gov’t Comb)
#3. Civilian and English imported patterns
HOOF PIC: Not issued but many variants of excavated, hand forged patterns are found.
ARMS: All reproduction arms should be “de-farbed”to replace incorrect parts, remove modern makers marks, add correct period markings, bluing and refinish wood stocks or grips.
LONG ARMS: Depending on the unit or period of the war, any of several breech-loading carbines - Sharp's, Smith, Maynard, Merrill, Burnside or Spencer or, occasional infantry long arms.
.44 caliber Colt Army
.44 caliber Remington (mid- to late war only)
Imported European patterns
SABERS: American manufacture however, the Federal government imported British army patterns and, “knock-offs” of the M1860 cavalry and artillery sabers in some quantity.
M1840 “Wrist-Breaker” saber
Model 1860 light cavalry saber
All leathers black (buff, waxed or bridle leather) Correct period issue hardware.
SABER BELT: M1851 with shoulder strap. The brass US rectangular buckle with applied wreath is the only accepted buckle. The early-war swordbelt plate had a three-piece wreath (with two little bits above the eagle's wings). The one-piece wreath dates ca. 1863. Blackened buff would be appropriate for early war. Mid- to late-war belts incorporated rivets. U.S. waist belts quite acceptable!
CAP BOX: Must be Federal pattern black leather.
CARTRIDGE BOX: Federal cavalry patterns or if you don’t have one, early infantry patterns acceptable. Early war patterns are preferred for both boxes, late war accepted. Pistol boxes acceptable but not necessary.
CARBINE SLING: Federal pattern of black leather with brass hardware and regulation snap swivel.
HAVERSACK Federal pattern Black, tarred/painted of period construction. No Confederate, white canvas or civilian haversacks accepted. None!
CANTEEN: Smooth side wool covered Federal canteen strongly preferred. Federal wool covered bulls eye accepted. Uncovered canteens strongly discouraged. Wool cover colors are tan and grey preferred, blue discouraged but accepted. No Confederate or civilian canteens accepted. None!
SLEEPING BLANKET: Tan variant, wool Federal strongly preferred. Grey regulation, wool Federal accepted. No Confederate, white British, quilts, or civilian blankets accepted. Plain tan or grey blankets accepted if you do not have a Federal blanket.
GUM BLANKET: Federal contract type black rubberized canvas or linen gum blanket with small brass grommets. Black rubberized poncho accepted.
GREAT COAT: Regulation Federal mounted (or infantry) sky blue pattern. Officers may wear regulation dark blue if they desire.
TENTS: Common shelter halves.
CLOTHING: Proper period cloth and construction with hand sewn buttonholes. Don’t settle for Sutler Row cut outs. Research and buy quality correct patterns the “first time”!
Fatigue Blouse/Sack Coat: Very common in the west and strongly preferred. Frocks and Mounted Services jackets (short waisted AOP type shell jackets) are acceptable.
TROUSERS: For enlisted men, SKY blue trousers only accepted- mounted pattern or infantry pattern. No dark blue (except officer as desired) or other color trousers (NO civilian trousers).
SUSPENDERS/BRACES: Federal issue or civilian braces provided period construction and materials are used.
DRAWERS: Military issue preferred, civilian or none is accepted. No modern underwear. Drawers of cotton flannel, osnaburg, cotton muslin. Proper military or civilian pattern.
HAT: Slouch hats or, undressed Hardee hats are preferred for enlisted men. Period patterns only. Kepis accepted but not popular among western privates. Officers may wear an officer’s Kepi, slouch or Hardee Hat as time periods and preferences dictate.
SHIRT: Issue shirts were made of domet flannel, while contract issue shirts were wool flannel. Civilian cotton accepted.
SOCKS: Wool (knit) preferred, cotton accepted. Period patterns. No elastic.
FOOTWEAR: Military pattern boots (Federal artillery pattern) strongly preferred or, brogans. Bootees or civilian boots accepted. All of proper period two piece construction. Pegged or sewn. NO Old West/Cowboy Shooter boots!
SPURS: Federal M1859 enlisted men patterns!! No civilian or cowboy patterns. Officers can employ their choice of Federal officer’s private purchase or civilian patterns if they desire.
OTHER EQUIPMENT (CS & US):
CUP: Cs & Federal issue variants.
EATING UTENSILS: TIN PLATE (or canteen half),
FORK, POCKET KNIFE.
TOOTH BRUSH (bone or wood).
BOTTLES: Glass or ceramic. Period patterns only.
EYE WEAR: Period glasses with straight or curved arms and no nose pads. NO modern glasses WHATSOEVER!
HOUSEWIFE: For extra needles, thread, buttons. Numerous period designs.
PERIOD EXTRAS: Huck Towel; period soap; handkerchiefs (NOT bandanas); tin containers; knit wool gloves; sleeping cap; pocket watch, tobacco, etc.
TOBACCO USE: Tobacco should only be allowed in period form (pipe or cigar). If you regularly smoke modern cigarettes and must have that modern form of treated tobacco, bring loose cigarette tobacco to smoke in a pipe. No modern cigarettes accepted.
OTHER REQUIREMENTS & COURTESIES: Keep modern items, i.e. car key, medicines, contact lens wash, etc., hidden in a poke sack and only take it out discreetly AWAY from the sight of others. NO earrings or visible tattoos (Need we say any of this?)