You don't have to be a war reenactor to love collecting Civil War gear. While reenactors actually use the equipment, many Antiques collectors simply enjoy owning items reminiscent of the Civil War era. No matter your reason, you can find a variety of authentic and reproduction items from this time period, from buttons to swords and more.
Finding Civil War Gear
reenactors are probably the largest group of Civil War collectors in the United States. They enjoy collecting equipment and firearms that will help them create an air of authenticity when participating in mock battles or living at their encampments. reenactors might buy rifles, camping gear, and even saddles and stirrups. Depending on which side of the war they are fighting on, collectors will seek out items that help complete their particular military uniforms.
Places where you can find reenactor gear include:
- James Country Mercantile - Sew a uniform or a ball gown with patterns from this shop, which prides itself on Civil War accuracy. Many of their customers actually appeared in the Civil War film, Ride with the Devil. You can also purchase ready-made items, books and DVDs.
- Civil War reenactors Corner - This online retailer carries field gear for the Civil War soldier, including pistols, bugles and swords. There are easy-to-see photographs so you can easily choose the correct equipment for your needs.
- The Winchester Sutler, Inc. - You'll find saddles, bullet molds, and Civil War uniform hats for the field from this resource. You can also get hard-to-find equestrian tack and equipment here.
Other resources may be discovered at CivilWarDealers.com, where you can find contact information for a number of other suppliers of Civil War antiques and gear.
What Kind of Gear to Buy
A Civil War reenactor needs a lot of gear, but the starting point for men is a soldier's uniform. Do your research and determine which unit you want to represent from the North or the South. Next, look for clothing and gear, including rucksacks, firearms and camp equipment. Women can purchase hoops and gowns, parasols, and other items necessary for a 19th century look.
The important thing is that everything you wear looks original to the period, even if you purchase reproduction items.
- Buy cotton and wool clothing, not polyester.
- Look for brass, silver and iron buckles, not aluminum.
Beware of old rifles and pistols because they can be dangerous to fire. Antique firearms can also be expensive and very delicate, so you may not want to use them on the battlefield. It's best to purchase new reproduction weapons if you plan to go into battle.
When you search for antiques from the Civil War era, it's important to exercise caution. Unfortunately, there are a lot of fakes and reproductions offered for sale to unwary collectors as if they were antiques, which can lead to an expensive mistake. Fortunately, there are a number of resources you can use to learn how to identify fakes.
- Arms Collectors.com has a list of frequently asked questions and answers related to guns and pistols of the Civil War.
- Relic Man has a detailed database cataloging a number of items the site owner believes to be fake, along with information on protecting yourself against fakes.
A collector's guide is a great resource when looking for Civil War antiques and memorabilia. The guides often use color photos or line drawings that accurately depict information for collectors.
Things that are important to look for include maker's marks, patina, and the condition of the item. Even if you collect reproductions for reenacting, the more authentic-looking the piece is, the better. A collector's guide will help you locate the correct items for your interests.
Books that are popular among Civil War collectors include the following titles.
- Civil War Collector's Price Guide by North-South Trader introduces the most popular collecting areas for Civil War buffs, including weapons, uniform pieces, bullets, and other clothing.
- The Collector's Guide to Civil War Period Bottles and Jars by Mike Russell is an excellent resource for sutlers (shopkeepers) and reenactors. It is out of print, but used copies can be ordered through your library or purchased online.
- Uniforms of the Civil War: An Illustrated Guide for Historians, Collectors, and reenactors by Robin Smith and Ron Field is not a price guide, but an excellent resource for information about uniforms of the North and South.
- Civil War Collector's Guide for Paper Memorabilia by Alan Charles Phillips helps you to identify letters, envelopes and diaries from the Civil War. This is another difficult-to-find book, but you may be able to find a copy at a nearby library.
- Warman's Civil War Collectibles Identification and Price Guide by Russell E. Lewis is a basic, easy-to-use guide to Civil War antiques. The prices give you an idea of where to begin when purchasing authentic items.
Use Caution When Buying Civil War Gear
Collecting Civil War gear is a fun and educational hobby. If you love history, this is the perfect starter hobby for both the young and old. There are wonderful historical sites and museums to visit all over the United States where you can see original clothing and other Civil War items. There are also many places near these historical sites that sell antiques, reproduction items and reenactor clothing.
If you are looking for antiques, be careful because there are many reproductions and fakes on the market. Research items carefully before you consider buying anything. If the dealer does not want to give you a written description or guarantee that your item is authentic, you may be better off buying somewhere else.