Civil War Reenactor Glossary
Civil War reenactors have a language all their own. Here is a glossary of commonly used terms:
Artillery - The unit that operated the cannon, mortar and heavy weapons.
Brogans - low quarter shoes that are period-appropriate for the Civil War, particularly common with enlisted soldiers.
Bummer - A forage hat.
Cavalry - A unit that traveled and fought on horseback. The hallmarks of a cavalry unit were speed and mobility.
Civilian - A person who reenacts a non-military impression during reenactments. Many people create extensive civilian impressions to participate in reenactments.
Colors - The flag. This refers to the unit flag, the state flag, the national flag - any flag on the battlefield. A unit's colors were not only a form of communication but a banner of great pride during the Civil War, one to be defended to the death.
C.S. or C.S.A. - Confederate States or Confederate States Army
Dismounted Cavalry - A hybrid of infantry and cavalry. Dismounted Cavalry traveled by horseback but normally fought on foot.
Drill - The unit practicing maneuvers or marching. Typically a unit will drill prior to a reenactment to learn particular moves that will be used in the battle. (See the photo above.)
Facing the Elephant - The Civil War soldier's term for going into battle.
Farby - A reenactor's term for anything not period-appropriate. Reenactors try to avoid "being farby" - some go to great extremes (see the definition of "threadcounter"). As you develop your impression over time you can replace items that are not period-appropriate in your uniform and camping setup. This may include anything from getting period gear for your tent to picking up authentic wire-frame glasses.
Federal - the Northern Army. Also called Union.
Forage Hat - similar to a kepi but taller on the top so that it falls forward to the bill of the cap. See right.
Impression - A fictional persona of someone living during the Civil War that has been created by a reenactor. The reenactor then takes the role of the impression. Impressions can be military or civilian.
Infantry - The foot soldiers who marched into battle.
Kepi - The standard hat you think of as a Civil War hat. See right.
Living History - Another name for reenacting. A living history event might include a static display or presentation at a school or community occasion. Living history events are designed to educate the public on a soldier's life during the Civil War.
Maximum Effort - An event where all members are strongly urged to attend.
Muster - A gathering, especially of troops, for service, inspection, review or roll call.
National Event - A large event, commemorating an actual battle, normally attended by units nation wide
Period-Appropriate - If something (clothing, weapons, camping gear, etc.) is in the same form, style and manufacture as it was during the war, it is said to be period-appropriate.
Reenactor - A person who recreates the War Between the States or Civil War as a soldier.
Threadcounter - A reenactor who insists on a historically accurate impression, right down to having a uniform made of the correct fabric, with buttonholes having the same threadcount as those uniforms worn in the 1860s. The opposite of a threadcounter would be "farby" (definition above).
Sack Coat - the standard coat for Civil War soldiers. A simple style of coat that was easy to produce in large quantities.
Shell Jacket - Cut shorter than a sack coat, the shell jacket extends down to the waist. It can be worn buttoned up, completely open or buttoned only at the top.
Slouch Hat - Similar to what many refer to as a cowboy hat, the slouch hat was worn by officers and enlisted alike. Particularly for Union soldiers, the slouch hat would have a colored braid to indicate the type of unit that soldier was with - yellow braid meant cavalry, blue braid meant infantry and red braid meant artillery. This helped commanders identify their troops from long distances.
Sutlers - Merchants who followed troops during the Civil War. Today, modern Sutlers set up tents at reenactments to sell a wide variety of uniform items, clothing, tools, equipment, souvenirs and other Civil War-related items.
Union - the Northern army. Also called Federal.
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