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Practical Tips for Improving the Authenticity of Reenacting Rations

By Austin Williams, 5th VA, Co. A

We spend hundreds of dollars on the best available reproductions of Confederate uniforms and equipment. We spend hours pouring over period manuals to ensure our drill is precise down to the smallest detail. And then, when it is time to eat… out comes the modern food from concealed coolers. Even though preparing and eating authentic food is one of the cheapest and easiest ways to improve your impression, even many reenactors in progressive campaigner units fall back on modern food and coolers. Since many of us don’t cook much at home and have even less experience cooking over a fire without refrigeration, tackling period food can be intimidating. It also requires some planning and prep work to carry authentic food, but it produces a much richer and more authentic impression to be munching on corn pone and bacon than to be frying up a hot dog and heading to the vendor area for funnel cake.

 

To give you a sense of what food was available to soldiers in the Civil War, the official Confederate army ration was the following [1]:

    • Either 3/4 lbs of pork or bacon; or 1 1/4 lbs of fresh or salt beef. This was latter modified to be 1/2 lbs pork/bacon or 1 lbs beef.
    • 18 oz of bread or flour; or 12 oz of hard bread [hardtack]; or 1 1/4 lbs of cornmeal. This was later modified so that the ration of flour or meal would not exceed 1 1/2 lbs or either. The regulations also call for this ration to be changed to 1 lbs of hard bread on campaign, marches, or on board transports.

Then, for every hundred men, rations included:

    • 8 quarts of peas or beans; or 10 pounds of rice
    • 6 lbs of coffee
    • 12 lbs of sugar
    • 4 quarts of vinegar
    • 1 1/2 lbs of tallow candles; or 1/4 lbs of adamantine candles; or 1 lbs sperm candles
    • 4 lbs of soap
    • 2 quarts salt
Union commissary tent near Fairfax Court House, 1863

Union army rations were similar, but also included options for desiccated potatoes, desiccated mixed vegetables, and tea [2]. Of course, the actual amounts issued and the availability of these items fluctuated throughout the war. By 1864, rations in the Army of Northern Virginia rarely exceeded 1/4 lbs of beef or bacon and 1 lbs corn meal according to a variety of brigade and divisional inspection reports. By 1865, the Confederate Commissary Department wasn’t able to sustain even this amount, issuing either meat or bread each day, but not both. For reference, 1 lbs of bread or 3/4 lbs of meal a day provides only about 900-1200 calories, while the modern US Army considers 4,000 calories per day necessary to sustain an adult male in a combat environment [3]. Regardless of the amount, the regulations and actual Commissary Department practice suggest that the foundation of authentic rations should be a meat (bacon, fresh pork, fresh beef, or salted beef) and a starch (flour, cornmeal, hardtack, or bread). To this foundation can be added other issue items like rice, peas, beans, coffee, sugar, salt, vinegar, potatoes, or desiccated vegetables. You can then supplement these rations with small amounts of scenario-appropriate “foraged” items such fresh fruit/vegetable or items you might have plausibly purchased from a sutler or received from home, but avoid relying on these too much. Issued foods should form the core of your weekend rations.

The starch portion of the ration is usually easier for even novice cooks to prepare. Particularly if the scenario being portrayed is relatively static, carrying fresh bread is feasible, as Confederate armies utilized field ovens and civilian bakeries as a source of fresh bread. To simulate this in your rations, either bake your own bread or look for smaller, more artisan loafs at the grocery store that look like they could be homemade. Hardtack is relatively simple to make, is extremely easy to carry in a haversack, and, if prepared reasonably close to an event, won’t risk breaking your teeth quite as much as the original. The following recipe makes about ten pieces and is sufficient for a weekend event:

Ingredients:
4 cups flour
4 teaspoons salt
Water (less than 2 cups)

Instructions
Pre-heat oven to 375° F. Mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Add just enough water (less than two cups) so that the mixture will stick together, producing a dough that won’t stick to hands, rolling pin or pan. Mix the dough by hand. Roll the dough out, shaping it roughly into a rectangle. Cut into the dough into squares about 3 x 3 inches and ½ inch thick. After cutting the squares, press a pattern of four rows of four holes into each square, using a nail or other such object. Do not punch through the dough.  The appearance you want is similar to that of a modern saltine cracker.  Turn each square over and do the same thing to the other side. 
Place the squares on an ungreased cookie sheet in the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Turn each piece over and bake for another 30 minutes. The crackers should be slightly brown on both sides.

Confederate camp in Pensacola, Florida, 1861

However, period accounts suggest that the most common form of starch available to a Confederate soldier was cornbread. A Mississippi soldier grown tired of this recurring ration wrote to his sister in 1863 “I want Pa to be certain and buy wheat enough to do us plentifully, for if the war closes and I get to come home I never intend to chew any more cornbread.”[4] While experienced reenacting cooks can prepare corn dodgers over the fire, a good way to build your confidence with more authentic rations is to prepare cornbread before an event. Avoid the cornbread mixes in the grocery store, as they’re much lighter than what soldiers would have had and will crumble easily. The following cornbread recipe is delicious and survives transportation in a haversack mostly intact. Cook it in a cast iron skillet if possible and cut into four quarters prior to an event.

Ingredients
1⁄2 cup shortening
1 cup flour
1⁄4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
3⁄4 teaspoon salt
1 cup cornmeal
3 eggs
1 cup milk

Instructions
Preheat oven to 425. While oven is heating, melt the shortening in a cast iron skillet. Mix dry ingredients. Add eggs and milk and mix well with electric mixer. Pour melted shortening into batter and blend until smooth. Pour batter into hot iron skillet and bake 20 – 25 minutes until golden brown.

Cook house of the 71st New York Volunteers

While preparing an authentic starch is relatively straightforward, many reenactors struggle with incorporating meat into their rations without resorting to a modern cooler. While beef jerky and various sausages were certainly available in the period, they would not have been available in significant quantities and shouldn’t form the foundation of your rations. Instead, focus on the staples outlined in the official rations – bacon, pork, and beef. Double smoked slab bacon, also sometimes called country bacon, is available from some butchers or for purchase online and shouldn’t need refrigeration, particularly for the relatively short period of an event. Unless you have a local butcher that carries it, your best option may be to purchase a large slab, cut it into circa 3/4-1/2 lbs chunks, and freeze them either vacuum sealed or in individual plastic bags. Then, when it’s time for an event, you can simply pull a chunk of bacon out to defrost a few days in advance. Online options include this bacon from Broadbent’s, this from New Baunfels Smokehouse, or this from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse. As soldiers often cooked all of their rations upon issue rather than at individual mealtimes, you can pre-cook a portion of your slab bacon before an event and eat it cold, particularly if your Saturday lunch is hurried or eaten on the move.

Beef was among the staples of Confederate rations, but is rarely seen at reenactments. Some of this beef was issued fresh from slaughtered cattle – a single full grown cow provides enough meat for a full daily ration for 200 soldiers.[5] But some was shipped to the front lines with varying degrees of effective preservation, usually through salting. One Confederate soldier commented “The beef is so poor it is Sticky and Blue, if a quarter was thrown against the wall it would stick.”[6] To avoid your food matching this colorful description, you can pre-cook beef at home and it should last for a weekend without a problem (While the author is not a doctor and can’t guarantee the safety of this practice, he has eaten beef in this manner at events for years without a problem). Purchase some inexpensive cuts of beef from the grocery store, cook them at home, and then reheat them over the fire in the field with a little salt and pepper.

Beans, dried peas, and rice are all light and easy to carry in a poke sack, particularly if an event includes marching from one campsite to another. Just keep in mind that dry beans and peas need to be soaked overnight before cooking them. Rice is perhaps the easiest to purchase and quickest to prepare, as a handful of brown “minute rice” in a mucket of water will quickly boil and provide a filling side dish. Dried peas and even desiccated vegetables can be found for purchase online. Finish off your ration issue with a poke sack of coffee beans and you’ll have most of the items listed in the official regulations.

Try to limit food that has been nominally sent from home, pilfered from a local farm, or purchased from a sutler. The bulk of soldiers, the bulk of the time, would have been forced to rely on issued food, particularly as armies picked Northern Virginia clean through several years of war and transportation of packages from home became increasingly difficult. These packages would be most prevalent early in the war while supplies were still plentiful on the home front and could include vegetables, sweets, butter, pickles, ketchup, apple butter, bread, potatoes, sausages, honey, or nuts. Units around Richmond early in the war even reportedly received shipments of fried chicken from home.[7] These packages did not necessarily disappear entirely by the end of the war – Private John Dull of the 5th Virginia Infantry wrote in January 1865 to his wife that, because multiple members of his mess had recently received packages from home, “we hav cabbitch potatoes Beans dried apples green apples flour meel pies cheas Bread cakes Sausage dried Beef chickon dried chearies cheary gam [cherry jam] molasos onions and evrey thing that house ceepers [keepers] generaley have excep wimon an children.” He wrote of having multiple hams hanging in his cabin, baking bread and biscuits, and selling surplus butter in Petersburg as they had more than they could use.[8] If possible try to match your non-standard issue food to the particulars of the unit and scenario you are portraying.

If, even in face of all the above options, you still want to incorporate some modern food in your weekend menu, do what you can to at least remove modern packaging and replace it with poke sacks, fabric, or paper wrapping to make it as unobtrusive as possible. If you want to use some can goods, there are lots of period can labels available online or for purchase through various sutlers to give your food a period appearance.

Pickets cooking rations near Fredericksburg, 1862

The skilled reenacting cook can combine the above ingredients into a dazzling array of dishes, but even novices can easily prepare simple meals using nothing more complicated than a mucket, canteen half, fork, knife, and spoon. Beef and bacon were commonly broiled, by simply skewering the meat with a stick or ramrod and roasting it over the fire (be aware that this technique could damage the weaker materials used in some reproduction ramrods). To avoid losing the valuable bacon grease from this method, try pan frying your bacon or beef in a small skillet or canteen half. The grease can be used to fry sliced potatoes or vegetables, but is also a fundamental ingredient of that uniquely Confederate dish, cush. A soldier in the Army of Tennessee provide the following recipe: “We take some bacon and fry the grease out, then we cut some cold beef in small pieces & put it in the grease, then pour in water and stew it like hash. Then we crumble corn bread or biscuit in it and stew it again till all the water is out then we have… real Confederate cush.”[9] Crumbled pieces of hardtack fried in bacon grease also tastes surprisingly good. You can mix together a variety of stews in a mucket or small pot. Just remember to add the ingredient which will take the longest to cook in first and progressively add the other ingredients as you get closer to completion.

For additional reading and recipies, consider reading the period manual Camp-Fires and Camp Cooking by Captain James Sanderson. Most Civil War soldiers were just as inexperienced in food preparation as the modern reenactor and Sanderson’s manual contains short, clear instructions on how to make a variety of basic dishes in camp (although many are designed for cooking for a mess or company rather than an individual). If you read Sanderson or other period recipes and are struggling to picture how they actually work over a fire, the excellent Civil War Digital Digest on YouTube has several videos demonstrating how to cook various period dishes and is a great resource to turn to if you’re uncertain about how to actually prepare period recipes in the field. For additional secondary sources, the article Cooking on Campaign with the Stonewall Brigade located elsewhere on this website is an excellent read, although some of the suppliers mentioned are no longer in business. The Liberty Rifles also have an excellent article on their website on Civil War and Reconstruction era food, as well as detailed looks at Union and Confederate cookware.

Endnotes

  1. Confederate War Department, Regulations for the Army of the Confederate States, 1863, J. W. Randolph, Richmond, 1863; Article XLII, para 1107-1109.
  2. United States War Department, Revised Regulations for the Army of the United States, 1861, J. G. L. Brown, Philadelphia, 1861; Article XLIII, para 1191-1193.
  3. Glatthaar, Joseph T., General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, Free Press, New York, 2008; p. 446.
  4. Wiley, Bell Irvin, The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1943; p. 98.
  5. General Lee’s Army, p. 212.
  6. Life of Johnny Reb, p. 98.
  7. Life of Johnny Reb, p. 99-100.
  8. Augusta County: John P. Dull to Giney Dull, January 11, 1865, Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War, University of Virginia Library (https://valley.lib.virginia.edu/papers/A6131).
  9. Life of Johnny Reb, p. 104-105.

All photos are public domain from the Library of Congress’s Civil War Glass Negatives and Related Prints Collection.

How to Adapt a Confederate ANV Impression by Time Period

By Austin Williams, 5th VA Co. A

One of the most challenging aspects of accuratly protraying Confederate infantry is the wide variation in uniforms and equipment based on location and period in the war. A member of the Army of Northern Virginia in 1862 looked vastly different from the same individual in 1865. To improve the authenticy of your impression, you should strive to match your kit to the period being protrayed. Understanding that many reenactors cannot afford to own multiple sets of different gear or want to prioritize the order in which they upgrade to campaigner quality items, the following guide will help you build a versatile impression by swapping out a few key items for a particular event. These are guidelines only and do not take the place of solid research.

 

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Top Five Tips for Getting Started in Civil War Reenacting

By Austin Williams, 5th VA Co. A

People come to Civil War reenacting in a myriad of ways. Perhaps you have a friend in the hobby who has encouraged you to give it a try. Perhaps you attended a reenactment as a spectator and found yourself wishing you were in the midst of the smoke and confusion rather than watching it from afar. Perhaps you have a deep interest in the Civil War and want to experience it and understand it in a way that books can never truly capture. But, for whatever reason, something about recreating the life of a Civil War soldier resonates with you and you’re interested in joining the hobby. Before you purchase a musket and show up to your first event, you may find the following tips useful. They are designed to save you money, help you avoid some of the most common mistakes first time reenactors make, and give you the best chance at enjoying the hobby over the long-term.

1) Put the Credit Card Away: The absolute best advice anyone can give you is to delay purchasing any gear. Almost every reenactor can tell you stories about uniforms or equipment they rushed to purchase when they first started out and later regretted after they learned it was of poor quality or didn’t fit the impression they ultimately pursued. Any unit you’re interested in joining should be eager to loan you a uniform and equipment for your first few events (if they are not or if you’re pressured to purchase equipment right away, you’re probably considering the wrong unit). Before you start investing cash in reenacting, attend enough events to ensure that it’s a hobby that you truly enjoy and want to purse. Do not make the mistake of spending a lot of money on gear that ends up gathering dust in your basement or up for sale on eBay.

2) Consider What You Want Out of Reenacting: Spend some time thinking about what aspects of reenacting interest you. Are you really excited about being a part of large battle reenactments? Are you looking for a highly immersive experience that puts you right in the shoes of a Civil War soldier? Are you looking for something you can do with your family? Are you interested in conducting research into tiny details of soldiers’ lives? Like any hobby, there is a broad spectrum within reenacting with different informal clusters of individuals and groups focusing more or less attention on authenticity. There is nothing inherently better or worse about any of these clusters – they are each different ways of experiencing the hobby and it is important that you pick the one that most closely matches what interests you. As you look at different reenacting units, you may see three terms in particular, which are commonly used to describe different segments of the reenacting spectrum. Many groups may bridge these labels and there is a great degree of variation within the clusters, but generally reenacting organizations fall into one of the following categories:

    • Mainstream: These units are the most relaxed about their impression and may enforce few, if any, authenticity guidelines. However, they are often larger in size and are more likely to prioritize attending large battle reenactments, referred to in the hobby as “powder burners” due to the amount of shooting you’ll likely do on the battlefield. The focus of many of these units is more on the social aspects of reenacting and the excitement of battle reenactments than in necessarily getting all the details of military drill, uniforms, and equipment exactly right. These groups often have little to no primary source research behind their impression, relying instead more on common reenactor practices than consulting period materials. You’ll usually be able to recognize the camp of a mainstream unit by an abundance of large tents, cast iron cookware, and wooden furniture. All this gear can get expensive, is time-consuming to set-up and take down, and requires space at home for storage. Many of these units are family-friendly and men might be accompanied by their wives and children. If you attend an average reenactment as a spectator, these are the units you are most likely to see, as they’re often camped in an open field close to the spectators.
    • Progressive: These units occupy the middle of the authenticity spectrum. They may attend a combination of mainstream events, as well as more authentic, immersive events. They will likely incorporate some smaller “living history” events in their calendar which do not include a battle reenactment, but instead focus on portraying Civil War camp life for the public. They will make a concerted effort to ensure the authenticity of their uniforms, equipment, and drill, but are willing to accept some compromises as needed. They will also usually adapt their impression in some way to fit the unit and time period being portrayed, which often means you will ultimately need to purchase a wider array of uniforms and equipment. While there may be a few members of the group who conduct research using period primary sources, most members will rely more on reading contemporary secondary sources and the knowledge of their fellow reenactors to improve their impression. Most progressive units are also campaigner units, meaning that their camps will have minimal canvas and men are more likely to be sharing small tents or tent flies without any of the heavy cookware or furniture found in a mainstream camp. A campaigner should be able to pack more or less all their equipment on their back, whether just to carry his gear from camp to his vehicle or even for an extended march as part of the event. If you attend a reenactment as a spectator, you may have to work harder to find these units, as their camps are often placed farther from the public in wooded areas to limit the number of modern intrusions. The Stonewall Brigade is a progressive campaigner unit – click here to to learn more about us.
    • Authentic/Hardcore: These units are the most dedicated to ensuring authenticity down to the smallest details. They are often smaller in size, but can offer a more fully immersive experience that will get you closer to the life of a Civil War soldier than any of the other groups discussed. Their impressions will always be adapted for the unit and period being portrayed, so you will need to acquire an array of different uniforms and equipment to meet their exacting authenticity guidelines. Authentic units are highly research driven and a significant number of unit members will regularly conduct primary source research into every possible aspect of soldier life. A single weekend event may be preceded by hours upon hours of extensive research and the purchase of particular uniform items, etc… unique to the event. These units may only rarely participate in battle reenactments and often instead focus on conducting smaller events where they can ensure high standards of authenticity for all participants. Some of these events will be conducted without spectators to remove all possible traces of the modern world, so you may not find them at all if you attend a reenactment.

3) Do Your Research on Units: The current reality of the reenacting hobby is that every unit is eager, if not borderline desperate, to add new recruits to their ranks. Any unit you contact should be extremely welcoming and do everything they can to have you join their ranks. However, it is important that you find a unit that is a good match for you if you want to continue to enjoy reenacting over the long-haul. The unit you ultimately join should be in a position to provide the elements that you want to get out of reenacting. If you’re interested in an immersive, authentic experience, joining a mainstream unit will be a poor fit. Each unit also has a slightly different personality and quirks – they might be laid back or intense, their members may all have similar backgrounds and have known each other all their lives or they may be more diverse, they may be highly social at events and the life of the party or they may be more reserved. These characteristics can be challenging to identify by examining a unit’s website or Facebook page or by chatting with the members at an event. You may need to attend a handful of events with them before you get a good feel for the unit’s personality and whether it is a good fit for you. If it’s not, consider trying another group. If there were other units at the events you attended who seemed like a better fit for what you’re looking for, consider contacting them about falling in at their next event. You may want to speak candidly with your current unit’s commander about what you’re looking for in another unit, as they may have contacts or suggestions for other units that you can consider (if a unit commander isn’t willing to do this, its probably a sign you should leave that unit anyways, as they’re not looking out for your best interests). It is ultimately more important that you be happy and fulfilled in reenacting to ensure the hobby remains vibrant than for any particular unit to add an additional musket to the ranks.

4) Read As Much As You Can: The best way to start your career in reenacting out right is to read extensively. You’re obviously interested in the Civil War, otherwise you won’t be considering reenacting. Odds are that you’ve already read a decent amount about the war, but most Civil War books focus on the movements of vast armies and the leaders who directed them. While this material is of interest to reenactors, our hobby requires a detailed knowledge of the daily experience of individual soldiers. While some of the research is now a bit dated, there is no better place to start than Bell Wiley’s classics The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy and The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union. They are great foundational introductions to the topic. As you build your knowledge, there is a wealth of information available in online archives and books drawn from soldiers’ letters, diaries, and post-war memoirs. If you can find material written by men from the unit you portray, even better. For further reading suggestions and links to many of these online resources, please see the Stonewall Brigade’s Recommended Reading list.

5) Purchase Slowly and Strategically: When you are ready to start purchasing gear, take your time and make your purchases strategic. Most units will be eager to help you select gear that fits with their authenticity standards and will offer up the unit commander, a non-commissioned officer, or another senior member to mentor you through your initial purchases. They should also have a list of recommended vendors that sell uniforms and equipment that meet their unit’s standards. For instance, the Stonewall Brigade’s list is located here. Work with your unit point of contact to ensure that the items you select even from these vendors are appropriate, since not every jacket a particular vendor offers will fit your unit’s desired impression. Your mentor can also assist you in finding used gear either from unit members or outside resources like eBay or Facebook. This can be a great way to save money, but make sure you run all major purchases by your mentor to ensure you’re buying quality gear and not getting swindled. The best first purchase you can make is a pair of well-built shoes, usually called brogans or bootees. Most units will have a decent collection of clothes, gear, and even muskets that you can borrow, but it is often difficult to find loaner shoes since many reenactors only own a single pair. They are also made from a relatively standardized style, so they can be used across a wide variety of impressions should you ultimately decide to join another unit or develop a different impression. If you wear eyeglasses, consider purchasing period frames high on your shopping list as well.

Top Tips for Transitioning From Mainstream to Authentic Reenacting

By Austin Williams, 5th VA Co A

Civil War reenacting is a broad hobby with a wide spectrum of participants who all want different things out of the hobby. Just because you joined a particular unit doesn’t mean that it is necessarily the best fit for you. Maybe you’ve started to notice that the other members of your unit aren’t as serious as you are about the authenticity of your impression. Maybe you’ve watched with envy other units conducting interesting first person scenarios and want to join the fun. Maybe you’ve started reading period letters and diaries and are noticing how far the experience is from what you’ve encountered at most reenactments. All of these are signs you may find reenacting with a progressive or authentic group more fulfilling and a better match for your interests than the mainstream units that represent a large percentage of the hobby. However, it can be intimidating to join a new unit, particularly given the reputation of progressive/authentic reenactors being “stitch-counters” who look down on all those who fail to meet their lofty standards. The reality is that many members of progressive or authentic units started their reenacting career in more mainstream units and made the transition when they realized they wanted something out of the hobby that they weren’t getting with their original organizations. Most progressive/authentic reenactors are eager to help you join their ranks if you’re willing to put the same care and attention into the authenticity of your impression as they have. No one expects you to have a perfect impression right away. The following tips, drawn from the author’s own experience joining the progressive campaigner Stonewall Brigade after years as a mainstream reenactor, can help you make that transition smoothly.

Research Over Reenactorisms

Common knowledge runs rampant in the reenactor community – things that your first sergeant confidently told you, that you heard from someone on sutler row, or that you can’t even remember where you heard it from. Unfortunately, the vast majority of this common knowledge is either flat out wrong or has no basis in historical documentation from the period we seek to portray. When you transition from a mainstream to a progressive/authentic unit, be prepared to question what you thought you knew about reenacting and the experience of Civil War soldiers. If you have picked a quality unit, your new comrades will be able to cite specific research using period primary sources to justify as many details of their impression as possible. If not, you probably should consider another unit, because research is the fundamental foundation of authentic reenacting. As you become more comfortable as a progressive/authentic reenactor, you will likely start conducting some research of your own, reading the letters and diaries of soldiers, examining period photographs, or delving into archival holdings. The same principle holds true regarding drill – many reenacting officers and NCOs unfortunately learned their drill from other reenactors or through modern drill digests/summaries rather than by cracking open the period drill manual. Your new progressive/authentic unit should be drilling straight out of original manuals and, when there are inevitably questions of interpretation or how vague written instructions should be put into practice, they will turn to other period sources to answer the debate. For instance, the Stonewall Brigade drills using Gilham’s Manual for Volunteers and Militia rather than the more common Hardee’s Light Infantry Tactics based on research in primary sources that the original Stonewall Brigade used this manual. All of the common period drill manuals are available online for you to study, along with a wealth of lesser-discussed manuals detailing every aspect of period military practice.

Assess Your Gear and Upgrade Slowly

Unfortunately, much of your mainstream gear will likely need to be replaced with new, campaigner quality gear. The good news, however, is that you should be able to do so slowly, as some of your gear might be “close enough” to get by for a limited time while you work to steadily upgrade. Other gear may just require modification to bring it closer to progressive/authentic standards. In particular, brogans and leather accouterments might be close enough to period patterns that only a truly educated eye will be able to spot that your cap pouch isn’t a standard model 1850 cap box or that your brogans aren’t exactly right. If they are black leather in a relatively generic pattern, you may be able to delay upgrading them until after you’ve addressed higher priority items. Your musket can continue to provide good service, but you will want to look into having it “defarbed” by having the modern markings removed and the stock refinished. Depending on your skill level, you might be able to do some of this work yourself with the help of online guides, such as striping off your stock’s factory polyurethane finish and replacing it with something more period appropriate. Your mainstream canteen may still be serviceable after removing the metal chain (other than the New York Depot, most Federal canteens and all Confederate canteens were issued with cord attaching the cork rather than chain) and replacing the wool cover with one of the jean wool canteen cover kits available from various quality sutlers. Your belt may still work, but you may need to purchase a new buckle (particularly if you fell prey to the common Confederate reenactorism of wearing an upside down US plate buckle…). Work with your new unit to examine your existing kit, see what needs to be replaced first, what can be altered, what you get by with for a time, and what you might be able to borrow from your new comrades.

Upgrade Your Jacket(s) and Headwear First

The two items that are least likely to be “close enough” for temporary service are your jacket(s) and headwear. These are the two most prominent parts of a Civil War uniform and thus mainstream vs. progressive/authentic quality can be apparent from a distance. Mainstream sutlers are rife with jackets bearing little resemblance to the cut, fabric, or color of period uniforms. Unless you were a particularly luckier or better informed purchaser than most, odds are high that the jacket you purchased isn’t close enough to your new unit’s authenticity guidelines to pass muster. If you are building a progessive/authentic Confederate impression, you will likely eventually need to purchase multiple jackets, as the uniforms worn by Confederate soldiers changed multiple times throughout the war. Lower quality headwear also stands out from a distance if it was made with an inauthentic profile/shape or from materials which don’t match period construction. Cheap wool felt hats that can’t hold their shape or kepis with plastic-like brims stand out like a sore thumb. Thankfully, quality headgear is a relatively inexpensive upgrade and is a good first step for improving your impression. Work with your new unit to identify the headwear and jacket(s) that will be most versatile for the impressions your unit regularly adopts.

Aim for Generic Nondescript

As you are working to assess your gear needs, aim to acquire versatile, foundational gear for a generic, nondescript impression. Many mainstream reenactors pursue various speciality impressions with distinctive, non-standard uniforms or incorporate flashy uniform items that, while they existed in the period, were not widely used. For instance, in most cases you will want to remove all brass insignia, feathers, or other decorative adornment from your hat (unless it is documented for a specific impression). Similarly, items such as gaiters or havelocks rarely appear in period documentation beyond the early months of the war. Yes, there are period photographs of some incredibly distinctive uniforms (Confederate cavalryman Captain Samuel Richardson’s leopard skin trousers being perhaps the most outlandish), but just because it existed, doesn’t mean it is appropriate for the impression you are portraying. As an overall rule, base your impression on specific research whenever possible and, if unit-specific research isn’t available, fall back on what would have been most common at that time and location.

Get Used to Carrying Your Gear

While progressive/authentic reenactors may pay more for individual pieces of gear, they generally own less equipment overall than their mainstream comrades and definitely bring less to an event. At most events, we are called upon to portray troops on campaign. While the large tents, wooden furniture, and heavy cast iron cookware that grace most mainstream camps certainly all existed in the period, as with uniforms you need to consider whether they are appropriate to the unit, time, and place being portrayed. Soldiers on campaign were almost exclusively reliant on their own backs to carry their gear and, thus, traveled light. As a general rule, if an event involves portraying troops on campaign, you shouldn’t be bringing more gear than you can carry, whether on the walk from the car to camp or on an extended march from campsite to campsite. Practice packing your knapsack or blanket roll, be ruthless about considering what you pack, and make sure you can move comfortably while wearing your equipment. Odds are good that you need to adjust the length of your canteen and haversack straps to keep them from hanging too low or riding too high – analysis of period images shows most soldiers wore them between the level of their beltline and their elbow. Accounts of soldiers dropping packs prior to going into battle become conspicuously less frequent as veteran troops learned the hard way that they risked never returning to their equipment. You should likewise become comfortable marching, drilling, and fighting with your gear, including your blanket roll or knapsack (again, unless there is period documentation indicating that the unit you are portraying discarded their packs).

It’s Not All About Gear

Progressive/authentic reenacting is about more than just purchasing the best uniform and equipment money can buy. How the authentic reenactor acts is just as important as what he wears and the best part is that this part of the transition is completely free. Study period rations and learn how to cook authentic food. If you smoke, forgo modern cigarettes for the weekend in favor of period tobacco. Learn how to conduct guard duty based on the period manuals.  Learn period slang and pepper a few choice phrases into your first person conversations. Learn to render a period salute and understand how to practice proper military etiquette. Above all, read and study constantly. Progressive/authentic reenacting isn’t about what clothes you wear, what drill manual you use, or what unit you are a member of. It is about consistent learning and study, always understanding that there is more you could be doing to improve, and striving constantly to be as close to the period as possible. We will never fully replicate the experience of the Civil War soldier, but by constantly trying and falling short, we ensure we are doing all we can to honor their memory by portraying their lives as accurately as possible.

What They Carried: A Look Inside a Solider’s Pockets

As living historians, no tidbit of historical minutia is too insignificant to escape our attention. We work hard to present an impression of the past with as many details backed up by research as possible. From the construction of buttons and the inspection markings on our weapons, to the tiny details of drill and the dye of the fabrics of our uniforms, all the little details matter. For some aspects of the life of a Civil War soldier, we have piles of historical records and information upon which to base our impressions. But there is a whole world of information so insignificant and common place at the time that no one ever thought to record it or mark it down for posterity. This forces us sometimes to make interpretations based off limited evidence or guess entirely to fill in gaps in the historical record.

And sometimes we can find little tidbits of information that can help fill in some of those gaps. Think of something as common place as what a soldier carried in his pockets everyday. The keys, wallet, and cell phone that many of us carry everyday all serve a purpose and so, by working back from the purposes a Civil War soldier may have needed each day, we can guess at what he might have stuffed in his pockets. But at the end of the day, this is just a guess unless we can test it with some data.

That’s why the following except from the diary of Captain Michael Shuler is so fascinating for a Civil War reenactor. Captain Shuler commanded Company H of the 33rd Virginia Infantry from March 1862 until his death in May 1864 leading the company during the Battle of the Wilderness. He was only 18 when he took command of the unit. His diary covers June-December 1862 and is a fascinating day-by-day account of life in the Stonewall Brigade that is well worth a read in full.

In the middle of the entries for November 22nd, Shuler left a blank page and then used a page in his diary to record the examination of the personal effects of one Private John Decker, a member of Shuler’s company found murdered near the Stonewall Brigade’s camp on November 18th. While the entry has no details regarding the murder, Captain Shuler was evidently involved in the investigation and recorded the items Decker had on him when his body was discovered. The following is this examination (slightly edited for legibility), which provides a rare glimpse into the pockets of a Civil War soldier. While irrelevant for most historians, for the dedicated reenactor, this sort of information can help improve our impression of soldiers like Decker.

“Examination of Body of John Decker
Nov. 19, 1862
Examined his pants pockets and found nothing but penknife, pocket comb, screw driver, pencil, small piece of tobacco, and leather string. When his shirt pockets, found the left pocket torn, which it seems had been buttoned up, and the right pocket was still buttons [sic] and contained a teaspoon, small piece of soap, and little paper with two buckles in it. The right side of his head seemed to be [the entry abruptly ends]”

The diary of Captain Shuler was transcribed by Robert H. Moore, II and is available via Archive.org.

The Humble Housewife

By Brad Ireland, 4th Virginia, Co. A

The personal sewing kit, affectionately called a “Housewife”, was an indispensable tool carried by Civil War soldiers both North and South. Soldiers were issued clothing in limited quantities. They couldn’t pop out to their local Wal-Mart to buy a new pair of pants every time they wore hole in them. The soldiers had to learn how to mend their own clothing. The Housewife is also an important part of the reenactor’s kit as rips occur in the field, and buttons always seem to pop off just as we are gearing up to go into battle or on a march.

A typical housewife contained needles, pins, thread, scissors, extra buttons, and sometimes patches of extra fabric for mending holes in cloths. Housewives were made in all sorts of materials from wool to cotton to velvet, and even metal. They came in many different shapes and varieties, though the most common seems to be the rolled up rectangle. Some were extremely fancy and others were very plain. On the following pages of this essay, you will see documented original housewives. Use these as an example of what to look for when you decide to purchase one or make your own.

Read the full article here.

Confederate Fighting Knives

By Brad Ireland, 4th Virginia, Co. A

When one thinks of a fighting knife, the first image that comes to mind is the Bowie Knife. The Bowie knife first became famous after Jim Bowie used a large knife at a duel know as the “Sandbar Fight” in 1827. This historic knife has seen many different designs. The most common design has a six inch blade but some are as long as twelve inches. In 1861, as the south was arming for war, many southern soldiers considered a large fighting knife an essential piece of equipment. Soon however the soldier realized the implacability of carrying such a large and heavy knife on long marches and they soon disappeared. Below are some examples of fighting knives of the period.

Read the full article here.

Blanket Displays

By Brad Ireland, 4th Virginia, Co.A

I have been to many living histories in my time as a re-enactor. Most of these living histories involve a manual of arms demonstration, firing demonstration, and a drill demonstration. After the Demo, the visitors are often invited back to see the camp and to ask questions. Quite often the camp scene is filled with disheveled blankets spread out around a camp fire or rows of dog tents. What of the personal items of the soldiers?

Blanket Displays can be a valuable tool at living histories and reenactments that can give the visitors a memorable hands-on experience. You can read about how the soldiers marched and camped day in and day out and yet never quite draw the picture in your minds eye of what little the soldiers actually had to work with and what they had to do without in their daily lives. Blanket displays are a window into the daily life of the Civil War soldier that no battle reenactment or drill demonstration can open.

Read the full article here.

Military Etiquette and Deportment

Reenacting has gone from a pastime where participants were only expected to “act” like soldiers for a few hours over the course of a weekend to one where living history opportunities are encouraged and fostered throughout the course of the event. In this atmosphere it is essential that each “soldier” is aware of and practicing the basic military courtesies of the period and how commissioned officers and enlisted men were expected to conduct themselves. Military manuals and personal accounts provide great insight into this topic.

How was extending courtesies to officers viewed by the military and why was it important?
“One of the first things a soldier has to learn on entering the army, is a proper military deportment towards his superiors in rank: this is nothing more than the military way of performing the courtesies required from a well-bred man in civil life, and a punctual performance of them is as much to his credit as the observances of the ordinary rules of common politeness.”

“Courtesy among military men is indispensable to discipline. Respect to superiors will not be confined to obedience on duty, but will be extended to all occasions. It is always the duty of the inferior to accost or to offer first the customary salutation, and of the superior to return such complimentary notice.”

What were some of the parameters for extending courtesy to officers? How was this done? When was saluting required or not required?
“When a soldier without arms, or with side-arms only, meets an officer, he is to raise his hand to the right side of the visor of his cap, palm to the front, elbow raised as high as the shoulder, looking at the same time in a respectful and soldier-like manner at the officer, who will return the compliment thus offered.”

“A non-commissioned officer or soldier being seated, and without particular occupation, wil rise on the approach of an officer, and make the customary salutation. If standing, he will turn toward the officer for the same purpose. If the parties remain in the same place or on the same ground, such compliments need not be repeated.”

“The following customs are equally binding, though not provided for in Regulations:- When soldiers are marching in the ranks, they do not salute, unless ordered at the time. If employed at any work, they are not expected to discontinue their employment to salute.”

“A soldier or non-commissioned officer, when he addresses an officer, or is spoken to by one, salutes; on receiving the answer or communication from the officer, he again salutes before turning to go away.”

“When a soldier enters an officer’s quarters without arms, or with side-arms only, he takes off his cap and stands in the position of a soldier, and delivers his message or communicates what he came for in as few words as possible and to the point.”

“When a soldier enters an officer’s quarters, he remains standing in the position of a soldier until invited to sit down. When soldiers are in a room and an officer enters, they should rise and remain standing until invited to sit down.”

What about non-commissioned officers? What qualities were they expected to possess? Were non-commissioned officers entitled to explicit obedience from the men under their supervision? How were they expected to handle themselves?
“Non-commissioned officers are entitled to implicit obedience from the soldieries, and they should be obeyed and respected by the men; and when a non-commissioned officer fails in obtaining this regard and obedience from the men, he fails in his most essential qualification.”

“The confidence of the soldiers in the integrity of a non-commissioned officer can only be obtained by his being rigidly just and impartial to those under him, and by keeping his temper on all occasions, and discharging his duty without passion or feeling. A non-commissioned officer who cannot control himself will find difficulty in controlling those over whom he is placed.”

“Confidence and energy are the progressive traits of the non-commissioned officer who would be successful. Let him first feel he is right, and acting in obedience to orders and instructions, and then do his duty with decision and firmness; and success will be more certain, and failure much less discreditable.”

What were some of the day to day duties of Corporals? What was expected of them?
“The duties of a corporal are simple, and depend for their successful performance mainly upon his capacity to control and direct soldiers in the performance of their duty. They take charge of the smaller details for fatigue and police duty in camp and garrison duty: their most important duty if that of corporal of the Guard. They frequently succeed to the responsibilities of Sergeant in his absence, and should therefore be familiar with his duties.”

“Corporals should be living examples for their soldiers in the neatness and cleanliness of their clothing, arms, and accoutrements. They should be the first to fall into ranks at roll-calls, and should have their tents or bunks, wherever their quarters, always systematically in order.”

“Corporals should bear in mind that they are entitled to implicit obedience from the men placed under them; and, whilst they are not usually authorized to confine soldiers on their own judgment, they should always be sustained by their superiors in the performance of their duties, and in the execution of their office.”

“When a soldier neglects his duty towards a corporal, the corporal should at once report the fact to the first sergeant, whose duty it is either to decide in the matter, or to report it to his company commander.”

What about recently promoted Corporals, what advice do the manuals impart to them?
“The corporal should insist upon obedience, without being arbitrary, and should maintain his position as a non-commissioned officer firmly, but without arrogance. When he first receives his appointment, his calibre meets with the severest tests. Soldiers, for a time, will be apt to try the material he is made of, which they do in many ways, and by progressive steps, and, if not checked, will increase to a complete disregard, and terminate in an entire inefficiency of the corporal.”

What were some of the duties of Sergeants? What were the differences/similarities between the duties of Corporals and Sergeants?
“Sergeants generally have a more general supervision of the men, whilst corporals have more of the detail to attend to. The company should be divided into a number of squads proportionate to the number of duty-sergeants in the company, with a proportionate number of corporals, who should have charge when the sergeants are absent.”

“It is difficult to draw the line between the duties of the corporal and those of the sergeant. There is really no great difference in their duties. Sergeants generally have larger details under their charge, and have corporals under their direction to assist them. They are usually intrusted with more responsible duties, and they are supposed to have greater experience, and to approach nearer the commissioned officer in a knowledge of all military matters.”

Did the armies really expect NCOs to handle themselves in the manner previously described? Was it that important that they did so?
“Corpls. Ball & Coleman will be reduced to the ranks to morrow for long continued neglect & ignorance of duty. They have done no one very serious thing but have been deficient in a number of small ones. They could not desist from talking & laughing in the ranks had to spoken to every day or two about standing at attention at roll call. These things are not allowed in a private, & in a non-commissioned officer, who is expected to be perfection itself in all the minutiae of military affairs, it cannot be endured. Again they had no control over their squads. They were rolled & tumbled about at the will of the men. Disobedience to Corpls. Is the germ and fountainhead of insubordination in the whole army.”

As this article illustrates military deportment and courtesy were considered absolutely vital to the health, discipline and daily routine of army life. A close adherence to these guidelines will prove beneficial to today’s living historians wishing to accurately portray life in the army.


Sources
Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers & Soldiers by August V. Kautz
The Military Handbook & Soldiers Manual by Louis LeGrand
For country, Cause & Leader: The Civil War Journal of Charles B. Hayden

Guard Duty: A Primer for Civil War Reenactors

By Austin Williams, 5th Virginia

What follows are the most salient points of guard duty, tailored to the circumstances we most often encounter during reenacting events. When improperly executed, guard duty is tedious and boring, but when following the period requirements, it can be a memorable part of your impression of a soldier of the 1860s. For anyone really interested in the intricacies of guard duty, I recommend Instructions for Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers on Outpost and Patrol Duty and Troops in Campaign (1863).

Types of Guards
The guard system used during the Civil War was designed to serve a variety of purposes, ranging from maintaining internal camp discipline to preventing a surprise attack from the enemy. As such, the system as structured around layers of guards. Just outside of the sight of the enemy, a line of outposts of a few men would be posted. These outposts send forward guards to directly observe the enemy, called sentinels if composed of infantry or vedettes if composed of cavalry. Behind this line of outposts and sentinels, a line of grand guards provides support to slow the enemy if he should attack. These grand guards are in turn supported by a line of pickets, which consist of 40 men commanded by a lieutenant. Their purpose is to hold the enemy until the main body of troops has time to form up. The camp of the main body lies behind the pickets and a group of police guards surround the camp of each regiment and are posted at important points within the camp.

It is very rare to see a reenactment which attempts to maintain a line of pickets, grand guards, etc… due to the manpower required. In most cases, when we conduct guard duty during an event, we are portraying police guards. The remainder of this primer will discuss police guards.

Composition and Duties of the Police Guard

Per regulations, the Police Guard consists of the following personnel:

  • One Captain, serving as Officer of the Day (OOD)
  • One Lieutenant, serving as Officer of the Guard (OOG)
  • Two Sergeants, one serving as Sergeant of the Guard (SOG) and the other commanding the Advanced Post
  • Three Corporals, serving three shifts as Corporal of the Guard
  • Two musicians, one located at the Guard Tent with the Officer of the Guard and the other located at the advanced postAt least thirty nine privates, serving three shifts of 13 sentinels. If the regiment is on either flank of the brigade, the guard contains at least 42 privates, as an extra sentinel is posted on the flank of the brigade.

Thirteen sentinels are on duty at a time and are arranged as above. Off duty sentinels remain either at the Guard Tent, which functions as the headquarters for the guard, or at the Advanced Post. The Advanced Post contains the battalion’s prisoners and is commanded by a Sergeant. He will have under his command a musician and nine men. Men assigned to the Advanced Post should be the best of the guard and do not leave the Advanced Post; they do not drill or march with the Battalion and their food is brought to them at the Advanced Post. The Advanced Post positions two advanced guards and a third guard who watches the prisoners and the arms of the Advanced Post off-duty sentinels. All other sentinel posts are relieved by sentinels who remain at the Guard Tent when not on duty.

In reenacting, a guard will more commonly consist of the OOD, a Corporal of the Guard, and sentinels. If less than thirteen men at a time are available to serve as sentinels, priority should be placed on posting guards at the Guard Tent, the colors/arms, and at least one sentinel on each flank and to the rear and advance of the Battalion.

The placement and size of the guard will be determined by the Regimental Staff and the OOG, although no sentinel should be out of earshot of the Guard Tent, either directly or by having closer sentinels relay alarms from distant sentinels. When placing sentinels, each sentinel should be giving a number, beginning with Post No. 1 for the sentinel at the Guard Tent. When calling for the Corporal of the Guard, the sentinel can then relay his position, i.e. “Post No. 3! Corporal of the Guard!”

Rules Governing the Conduct of Sentinels and Their Duties
Sentinels take orders only from the OOG, OOD, Sergeant of the Guard, or the Battalion commander. Unless ordered to march over a particular stretch of ground (“walking a beat”), sentinels may not leave their appointed position for any reason. Likewise, a sentinel must never ground or allow anyone to touch his weapon and should carry it on either shoulder.

When posted, sentinels should be provided with the orders and regulations they are tasked to enforce. All sentinels have the following general orders:

“I am required to take charge of this post and all public property in view; to salute all officers passing, according to rank; to give the alarm in case of fire, or the approach of the enemy, or any disturbance whatsoever; to report all violations of the Articles of War, Regulations of the Army, or camp or garrison orders; at night, to challenge all persons approaching my post, and to allow no one to pass without the countersign until they are examined by an officer or noncommissioned officer of the Guard.”

Additional responsibilities may be assigned based on the sentinel’s assigned post:

  • Sentinel at the Battalion Commander’s Tent: This sentinel has orders to inform the Colonel, day or night, of “unusual movements” in or around the camp.
  • Sentinel at the Battalion Colors: This sentinel has orders that no one may touch the colors except the color bearer or the Sergeant of the Guard if accompanied by two armed men. The colors may not be moved without an escort.
  • Sentinel over the Arms Stacks: These sentinels ensure no one removes a weapon from the stacks without permission from an officer or the Sergeant of the Guard.
  • Sentinels at the Battalion’s Flanks, Rear and Advance: These sentinels ensure no one leaves camp with a weapon unless conducted by an officer or NCO and prevents all NCOs and privates from leaving the camp at night except to visit the sinks. They are also charged with arresting any suspicious people in the vicinity of the camp.

When required by his orders, a sentinel should sound the alarm by calling for the Corporal of the Guard as described above, making sure to state his post number. A sentinel may also sound the alarm by firing his weapon or yelling “Fire!” as the situation dictates.

Sentinels are to be respected by everyone, officers and enlisted. They are not allowed to converse except as part of their official duties. For additional details on the conduct of a sentinel, please see pages 28-39 of Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers.

Honors
The guard, as the only group of men in the Battalion camp who are armed at all times, is responsible for rendering honors for general officers and other dignitaries. Since, as reeneactors, we rarely have a guard other than sentinels on duty, this primer will not cover many of these honors, as they involve the off duty sentinels be formed up. As we rarely maintain a guard of off duty sentinels, those interested in learning the procedures for these honors should consult pages 584-586 of Gilham’s Manual.

Sentinels halt and give the following honors at anytime between reveille and retreat:

Shoulder Arms Any officer above the rank of Captain; the OOD; the Battalion’s commanding officer; friendly groups of armed men led by an officer; the Colors of any battalion
Present Arms Any Captains or Lieutenants; friendly groups of armed men led by an NCO

At night, no honors are paid, except to the OOD, who may inspect the sentinels as part of Grand Rounds and upon whose approach, sentinels come to shouldered arms (see Challenging and Grand Rounds).

Guard Mount and Relieving Sentinels
Guard Mount is a daily review and parade between the guard of the previous day and the guard of the new day. As reenactors, we almost never conduct guard duty on 24 hour shifts and generally only provide men for the guard just prior to their guard duties rather than having the entire guard reviewed during a morning Guard Mount. The purpose of Guard Mount is to transfer authority from one OOD and one OOG to a new command team, as well as to inspect the new guard’s weapons. The full description can be found on pages 610-614 of Gilham’s Manual.

Sentinels are to be relieved by the Corporal of the Guard. The relief will march by the flank in two ranks at support arms. The Corporal of the Guard will designate the man in the first rank of the first file as No. 1, the man in the second rank of the first file No. 2, and so on. If the relief passes any officer, the corporal will order the men to come to shoulder arms until the officer is past. When a sentinel sees the relief approaching, he will halt and face the relief at shoulder arms. Approximately six paces from the sentinel, the Corporal will order:

1. Relief. 2. HALT.

The corporal will then designate the man to replace this sentinel and will order than man to come to arms port.

1. Number One. 2. Arms – PORT.

The sentinel will also come to arms port and he and his relief will approach each other and the sentinel relay his orders to his relief. The sentinel and relief will then come to shoulder arms and the old sentinel will go to the rear of the relief column. The corporal will then order:

1. Support – ARMS. 2. Forward. 3. MARCH.

The column then proceeds to the next sentinel until all posts are relieved.

Challenging and Grand Rounds
Challenges are only given at night and are done by calling out “Who comes there?” and coming to arms port. After a challenge, the approaching party provides the countersign, a word given to officers and NCOs of the guard or other individuals authorized to leave the camp at night. Unlike the modern usage, there is no sign/countersign exchange, such as the famous “Thunder. Flash” sign/countersign used during the Normandy invasion in World War Two. Instead the countersign is a single word set by the OOD, and was historically the name of a battle. The following is the exchange as laid out in the manual:

Sentinel: Who comes there?
Approaching Party: Friends.
Sentinel: Halt, friends. Advance one with the countersign.

The countersign should never been spoken above a whisper. If the incorrect countersign is given, the sentinel should call for the Corporal of the Guard.

At night, the OOD will conduct Grand Rounds to inspect the sentinels and ensure they remain alert. He will travel with an NCO and two men. Upon being challenged by a sentinel, the NCO will answer “Grand Rounds!” The Sentinel will reply “Halt, Grand Rounds! Advance, Sergeant, with the Countersign!” The NCO then advances and provides the countersign. The sentinel will then state “Advance, rounds!” and stand at shoulder arms until they have passed.


Sources:
Instructions for Officers and Non-Commissioned Officers on Outpost and Patrol Duty and Troops in Campaign (1863)
Manual of Instruction for the Volunteers and Militia of the United States; by William Gilham (1861)
The 1862 Army Officer’s Pocket Companion; by William Craighill (1862)
Customs of Service for Non-Commissioned Officers and Soldiers; by August Kautz (1865)