The 2d and 4th U.S. Infantry, “Sykes' Regulars”, were part of “the Old Army,” the original 10 regiments that formed the standing army of the U.S. prior to the Civil War. As such, our uniform and equipment reflected the pre-war issuances in effect when the war started. As the war drew on, pieces of clothing and equipment were replaced as items were lost or wore out.
The primary focus for new members of “Sykes' Regulars” should be in developing an early war impression (1862), and as such our uniform and equipment guidelines are heavily influenced by the pre- and early war periods. In addition to our basic impression, the unit often participates in events in which we are required to portray specific volunteer units related to the event. In such cases we will follow the uniform guidelines of the event organizers. Members are therefore permitted and encouraged to add other items to their impression if they choose, which may be specific to late war impressions or that of a volunteer unit.
At the outbreak of the war, a dismounted soldier was permitted to draw $30 per year in clothing allowance. Should a man’s clothing allowance be insufficient to get him through that period he drew what he required, but the extras were charged against his clothing account and deducted from his pay at the end of the year. If a soldier did not overdraw his allowance he received the difference in cash. Clothing lost due to no fault of the soldier, such as in combat, was usually written off.
Regulations stated that old stores of clothing would be used up before new items were issued. Nevertheless, with this constant issue of clothing (and equipment), some newer items could have shown up as early as they were made available. In other words, even in 1861 - when the new uniform regulations were issued - some men would have older style equipment and clothing and some would have newer styles. As long as we don’t have any items later than the period we are portraying, a variety of earlier items would be acceptable.
Clothing allowance for a 5-year enlistment (Regulations of 1857)
Clothing allowance for a 5-year enlistment (revised Regulations of 1861 and GO 95). (Prices are from “The Company Clerk” 1863):
The full text of the Army regulations (1861/62) regarding uniform and equipage can be found here. The full text of General Order 6 (March 1861) on Uniform and Dress can be found here.
A Note on Suppliers
Providing uniforms and equipage for Civil War reenactors has become a major cottage industry in the past fifteen or twenty years. There are literally hundreds of manufacturers, large and small, supplying reproduction items. Known as "sutlers," the name given to entrepreneurs who sold basic items and luxuries to the soldiers, these modern companies often sell their merchandise through catalogs, internet, and at large reenactments. Like any other business or industry, there is often a wide range of quality and in this case, authenticity. But let the buyer beware. Just because a sutler sells it and claims that it was copied from an original doesn't mean it really is authentic.
The suppliers listed here are accepted by discerning reenactors as those producing the highest quality reproduction items available today. This is not a list of every sutler that makes reproduction items, nor is it intended to be. It is intended to let the new recruit get it right the first time and save money in the long run by avoiding costly mistakes. If you have questions about a sutler not listed, please contact members of the unit before making a purchase. While it may be a reputable company, we may know something you don't and visa versa.
A Note on Cost
The complete uniform, equipage, and musket is not inexpensive. However, this is not an investment you will need to make right away as the unit owns extra equipment for the purpose of loaning to new recruits. New recruits have two years to assemble their kits. When you start buying your gear we recommend that you start in the following order: shoes, hat, shirt, trousers, sack coat, and then your accouterments. The sequence for obtain your kit is describe in more detail at the end of this article. It should be noted that some of the quality sources can take weeks or even months to fulfill, however, their quality is often worth the wait for discerning reenactors.
A Note on Fit
Uniforms produced during the Civil War came in four standard sizes, marked 1 through 4. While these garments seldom fit when first used, each Company was required to have a tailor in the ranks to ensure that the soldier’s uniforms fit properly. Therefore, the clothing you wear should not be too long or too short, but should look like the Company tailor has properly altered it for you. Today's sutlers and makers of repro uniforms mostly use modern sizes, though the fit can vary from maker to maker. Click here for additional discussion on fit.
Recommended Sequence for Obtaining Your Kit
A recruit has one year to get all of the Stage I items and most of his Stage II items together, and a second year to complete his Stage II items and get of his Stage III items.
Stage I. Basic Field Dress
Equipage (War gear)
Musket with sling
Springfield musket tool
Bayonet and scabbard
Cartridge box and strap
Stage II: Camping Gear
Rain cover (for the forage cap)
Cleaning kit (shoe and clothing brushes, metal and boot polish, button stick, gun oil, cleaning rags)
Housewife (needles, thread, extra buttons, clothing swatches)
Toiletries (razor, shaving brush, soap, comb, toothbrush, tooth powder, towel)
Stage III: Dress Uniform
Dark blue trousers (get this first because you can still wear it with the sack coat)
Leather neck stock