So You Want To Be A Re-Enactor PDF Print E-mail

 By This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it - Originally Published in the Long Point Advocate 2001

This is intended as a primer for those individuals who want to enter the hobby of historical reenactment.

Norfolk Militia

Unless you are independently wealthy, unmarried or have an extremely understanding spouse, do not expect to be outfitted, armed, and ready to go all at once. It won’t be long before you are considering the purchase of a larger vehicle or perhaps a trailer for all the things you will eventually accumulate. The first thing you will need is clothing. If you are joining a militia unit, a shirt, fall front trousers and a hunting frock coat or a Canadian Volunteer Tunic will be enough to get you started. There are many mail order companies that can supply you with what you need and there are Sutlers at many reenactment events selling clothing as well. For quality and a fair price, Linda’s Early Fashions out of Richmond Hill, Ontario is a good place to start.

For footwear, black army boots or work boots are fine. I have found that the dress style of military boot resembles footwear of the period. Black desert boots look fine also. Eventually you may find someone selling brogans at an event or they can be ordered through mail order companies.

If you are joining a British or American military unit, they often have sources for uniforms and/or the material and manpower to make them.

Now that you have your clothes and shoes you will need a flintlock musket or rifle. This could be your largest expense. A Brown Bess musket can cost up to or over $1,000. A Kentucky style rifle can be purchased for a little less. Building a firearm from a kit can be somewhat less expensive and is not really hard to do. Flintlocks can currently be purchased without the need for a Firearms license.

Right: now you have clothes and a firearm. You are going to need something to carry your cartridges in so you will need a cartridge box and belt. These can be purchased from many of the Sutlers. Ashley Grange out of Rodney, Ontario make nice black or white leather belts depending on your need

Gee you’re looking good. By now you may have noticed that the fall front trousers have no pockets. Time to go back for a haversack. Now you have a spot for your wallet and keys. No gentleman was seen in public without a vest. So to avoid any disapproving glances from your commanding officer, you had best get a vest .A vest isn’t quite complete without a cravat so you’ll need that too. Hey! you’re looking sharp now.

By now you may have noticed that it can be lonely over in the modern camping area at the reenactments. You’re only sleeping there anyway and you are more than welcome to share a spot with members of your unit during the day but eventually you will want to be camping with your fellow reenactors. You’ll need a period tent. Will it be a wall tent, wedge tent, bell tent, bell back wedge tent? Members of your unit can help you with that decision when you are ready. Tents can be bought second hand or new. Mail order companies such as Panther Primitives offer a good selection. Ashley Grange makes a nice tent also.

So now you have clothing, a firearm, assorted belts, a haversack and a place to sleep. A man’s gotta eat so how are you going to cook dinner? A cast iron frying pan is a good place to start. You can always add to your cookware as you go along. Second hand stores and garage sales can yield some good finds. Sutlers can be a place to find things you need. Tin enamel camp sets are relatively inexpensive and can found at Canadian Tire. So now you have something to cook in and eat off of. You can always share someone’s fire to cook your meals but you will eventually want your own grill and fire irons. You can find these at a sutlery or at an event that has a blacksmith working.

Eating your meals sitting on the ground can be messy and uncomfortable. You will want chairs and a table. If you are reasonably handy with a hammer and saw (without losing a digit or two... ask my wife sometime), a simple camp table can be made using plans from the library or off of the Internet. Folding wood chairs can be found at Ikea or similar furniture stores. Director’s chairs are acceptable in most camps.

The nights are dark without some candles. Dollar stores are a good place to look for candles and tin lanterns. Ikea has nice wood and glass lamps. There again, if you are handy and have access to wood and glass you can make your own lamps. Second hand stores such as Goodwill or the Salvation Army Thrift store and army surplus stores can offer up some excellent items. All you need is imagination.

So there you go, you are now a well-equipped reenactor. Unfortunately you are going to see something in someone else’s camp that you figure you must have as well. You will find yourself spending many hours during the winter in your garage, workshop or basement making things to add to your gear. Come spring, you will probably have 4 or more large plastic tote boxes full of stuff, 8 to 10 6 foot 2x2s, a rifle case, garment bag, an ammo box for cartridges and a host of other things. You might now find yourself standing in your driveway looking at your current vehicle and pondering the cost of a trailer and hitch versus the cost of upgrading to a larger mini-van. Welcome to the wonderful world of historical reenactment.