Getting into reenacting should be a gradual process. At first glance, it seems like there is a lot of equipment to buy - and, to complete a full impression, there is. But you don't have to go right out and drop $1500-$2000 to buy everything you might ever need. Half the fun is learning as you go along and incrementally improving your impression with the addition of new gear. When you are just starting out there are a number of corners you can cut and borrowing equipment is usually an option.
A tremendous range of pricing exists for every item in the reenactor's kit. You can spend very little and get something a little on the "farbie" side or you can spend a lot and get something that is museum quality. Usually, beginners try to buy something in the middle ground. If they stay in the hobby, they can replace things one by one with more authentic items. For example, there is no shame in starting out with a basic machine stitched shell jacket in wool. Details such as jean wool satinette and hand sewn seams contribute substantially to the cost of a garment and are something to aspire to later. Generally, the recommendations we give here are in the middle. You can't go too far wrong ordering the items suggested and the vendors we mention are first rate. However, when you are ready for that hand-made, "super hardcore" shell jacket, we'll provide you with some information about that as well.
Your first purchase should be the basic uniform: trousers, shirt, suspenders, waist belt, hat, and jacket. It's pretty difficult to find anyone with extra uniform elements to lend which will just happen to fit you (but you can ask!) so you'd better plan on purchasing at least these items to get yourself off the ground. Some sutlers offer "package deals" for these essentials. However, these generally include minimal quality items and you will almost certainly want to replace these "entry level" uniforms before too long. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you can be more particular about style, color and quality. Click on the picture of the soldier above for more specific information. Another option to consider is purchasing used gear. Reenacting is one of the few hobbies where the older and more worn out something looks, the better!
Initially, see if you can arrange to borrow a musket from someone in the company. With it you will probably also get a bayonet and scabbard. You may even be able to borrow a cartridge box, cap pouch, and waist belt. You'll definitely need a canteen - either borrowed or purchased. Reenacting is nearly always dehydrating! And, although you can probably get along without a haversack for your first battle, you'll find it really comes in handy and isn't particularly expensive. For your first event, you can avoid the high cost of brogans if you have some plain black or brown boots or shoes that can be covered with gaiters. But plan on upgrading in this area fairly soon. Finally, if you wear eyeglasses for distance, think about purchasing a period pair or converting to contact lenses. There is nothing that spoils a period impression more completely than aviator frames (although everyone is willing to overlook them on a "fresh fish" new recruit.)
If you're interested in doing a Federal impression as well as a Confederate one at some point ("galvanizing") you can avoid having to buy a whole separate kit for that if you plan ahead and are careful with what you buy initially. Most of the elements of the Federal impression cross over very well to the Confederate side (although the converse isn't as often true.) After all, Confederates frequently reequipped themselves from the Federal dead after a battle. It isn't even uncommon to see a Confederate with a US box plate or belt buckle - "battlefield finds." If you are really careful, the only item that you should buy separately is the Federal sack coat (and possibly a forage cap.)
In order to become a full fledged member of the company, over the course of your first year you will need to acquire the following items (click for more information on each):
Shell Jacket, Frock Coat, or Sack Coat Trousers and Braces (suspenders) Shirt Hat, Kepi or Forage Cap Brogans (period shoes) and Socks Three Band Musket Cartridge Box Cap Pouch Waistbelt Canteen Bayonet for Musket with Scabbard Haversack Blanket Roll
Gum Blanket or Poncho and
Period Wool Blanket or Quilt
Period Eyewear or Contact Lenses (if needed)
Although not required, there are a number of additional items you may wish to consider, especially if you plan to camp overnight at events. Most of these items may be had from C & D Jarnagin & Co., Trans-Mississippi Depot Co., C. J. Daley or local sutlers.
Great Coat Vest Pocket Watch and Chain Mess Gear: Knife, Fork, Spoon, Plate Tent Gloves Lantern with Oil or Candle Tin Cup (Dipper) Coffee Pot or Mucket Frying Pans Cook Pot (Dutch Oven) Knapsack Bowie Knife and Sheath Wooden Camp Chairs, Stools, etc. Camp Table
NOTE: Suggested sutlers are provided as a reference only. The 3rd Georgia receives no compensation or payment for advertising. We are not responsible for changes in price or quality. Your relationship with a sutler is yours alone.