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Posted By: Ken Dombroski on: 05/31/2002 16:24:53 CDT
Subject: Signal Corps Reenactor Uniform/Equipment Recommendations

Message Detail:

Please review my humble attempt at developing a uniform and personal equipment list for new signalmen in our signal detachment. We portray a signal party assigned to the Army of the Potomac circa 1863. Our parent unit portrays a Regular Army artillery battery, so we tend to be a little more strict on uniforms.

I have a pretty good feel for the standard reenactor quality uniforms and equipment available from some of the more reputable sources, but I'm particularly interested in your opinions and recommendations regarding the campaign quality uniform and equipment producers.

A couple of qualifiers about my list:

The hat issue is my pet peeve. Again, our artillery battery portrays a regular outfit, so I'm death on kepis. My intention is to get my signalmen kitted out in basic uniforms that recruits would be issued, and then let them work on their impression over time. I wear a slouch hat around camp to keep my Polish-Irish pale skin from turning beet red, but I change to my Greg Starbuck forage cap when I take to the field. I know the signalmen were notorious for creating their own uniforms, but because our detachment is likely to remain part of a unit portraying a regular army outfit, I'm going to be a little more strict on uniforms.

The tent issue is touchy out here. The artillery battery to which we belong prefers A tents, but the brigade is pushing for dog tents. I agree the earlier dog tent is more accurate for our 1863 impression, but the 1864 is more readily available, and it really is more useful as a tent, unless you're under 5 feet tall.

Shell jackets vs. roundabouts. Numerous variations abound, but the standard shell jacket issued to cavalry and artillery units had a 12 small button front with 2 button functioning cuffs and a high collar. My recommendation to those interested in getting a shell jacket is to contact the QM Shop or one of the campaign quality producers and get them to make an untrimmed version, leave off the pillows in the back, and cut the collar down. This would probably look very similar to the jackets issued to the signal troops in the early to mid war years. The roundabout tends to be a little less fitted than the shell, has a 9 medium button front, with plain cuffs similar to the sackcoat, and a low collar. It is less dressier than the shell, and makes for a comfortable field uniform.

Regards and looking forward to any helpful suggestions,

Signal Sergeant
Union Brigade, NCWA


We recommend you purchase the below listed items within the first six months of joining the unit. Before buying from any manufacturer or sutler not on the recommended list, check with the Signal Sergeant. Some suppliers offer some uniform and equipment parts that are just not up to our standards. We highly recommend that you buy a complete basic issue before getting fancy and buying non-essential items such as pistols, sabers, Hardee hats, boots, etc.


PHASE I items needed before you can participate in a reenactment:

US Model 1858 or 1861 Forage Cap (donít buy a kepi), dark blue
US Sackcoat, dark blue
US Mounted or Foot Trousers, sky blue
Linen braces (suspenders) with leather button tabs (no snaps)
Period cotton shirts (recommend two): natural muslin, white, blue, or red check
Gray Wool Socks (two or three pair)
US Model 1851 Jefferson Brogans, black (rough or smooth side out), with heel plates
US Model 1858 Smoothside or Bullseye Canteen, dark or sky blue cover

PHASE II items needed within six months:

US Model 1856 Waistbelt (black leather) with US Oval Belt Plate
US Regulation Haversack (black weather-proofed) with inner bag
US Model 1851 Army Tin Cup
Period Knife, Fork, and Spoon
Tin Plate
Poncho, black
US Model 1851 Blanket (gray)
US Model 1862 or 1864 (recommended) Shelter Tent


US Overcoat, Mounted Pattern, sky blue
US Model 1851 Knapsack (soft, double bag)
Wool gloves
Period leather gloves or gauntlets
Wooden ammunition box to store gear
Period camp stool
Period lantern


US Shell jacket, 12 button, or 9 button roundabout, untrimmed, dark blue
US Model 1854 Saber Belt (enlisted style) with Eagle Buckle
US Model 1860 Light Cavalry Saber
Colt or Remington revolver (.36 or .44 caliber)
Holster, ammunition box, and cap pouch


While sabers, pistols, and carbines usually were issued to signalmen during the Civil War, normally, signalmen will not be using weapons during reenactments. Check with the Signal Sergeant before buying any weapons


COMMENTS: Jarnagin makes a lot of their products and provides good quality for the money, but you may have to wait awhile for your order. Most of the items on the basic and recommended lists are carried by Jarnagin. The Quartermaster Shop makes only uniforms, but they usually have most sizes in stock and provide very good quality uniforms for the money. Fall Creek quality is fairly good and they carry most of the items on the basic and recommended lists including Quartermaster Shop uniforms.

RECOMMENDATION: The best uniforms and gear are handmade by craftsmen, but the cost may be prohibitive for folks new to the hobby. Start with Jarnagin for uniforms, haversacks, knapsacks, brogans, leather items, and tents. Fall Creek for the rest of the items. Forage caps are a problem - the best are made by small shops. Jarnagin and Quartermaster shop make passable caps, but talk with the Signal Sergeant before buying a cap from sutlers at events - many are inferior quality designed for the tourists.

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