Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Thank goodness for eBay, clothing closets

Fun doesn’t come cheap for today’s Civil War re-enactors.

Count on spending around $1,200, minimum, for a full uniform. Leather accoutrements can cost hundreds and sidearms go for at least $150.

Want a replica rifle? Plan on dropping $400-$500. Some carbines and rifles, made in Italy, can go for as much as $1,500.

For the serious investor, think $7,000-$15,000 for an artillery piece.

Re-enactors at the Battle of Atlanta told me they have several options on buying what they need: Clothing closets, sutlers and bartering.

And don’t forget eBay, where you can purchase everything from overcoats to buttons.

Scotty Kilbourne of Knoxville, Tenn., (left) says he carries about $10,000 worth of equipment on the road. That includes a truck, trailer and horses.

A member of the Union 1st Tennessee Cavalry, Kilbourne showed off a replica Spencer repeating rifle that sells for between $1,200 and $1,500.

Cavalry re-enactors often carry several sidearms into battle, each valued at $150-$250.

1st Wisconsin Cavalry (Federal) member Jim Standard of Spotsylvania, Va., says powder has become more expensive. That powder is used to make ammunition/charges for rifles and artillery. Fees paid by re-enactors in Atlanta helped pay for the cost of firing two dozen cannon.

Most units let prospective and new members try out gear for free while they determine whether the hobby is something they’ll stick with.

Robert Nichols of the Confederate 19th Alabama says new members can buy gear in installments over 12 to 18 months.

Sutlers at the Battle of Atlanta 145th anniversary offered all kinds of goods to participants. Belt buckets. Authentic buttons. Enough hats to fill a closet.

But some re-enactors want to be especially authentic.

Pat Peterson of Griffin, Ga., says “campaigners” will go to specialty companies for their hand-stitched clothing.

Those hobbyists will research historic records before each event, making sure their uniforms, guns and other camp equipment are authentic to that particular battle or skirmish.

“Campaigners want to do a little better” in being accurate, Peterson said.

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