Basic Authenticity Standards:
There is a lot of inaccurate gear on the market and we encourage new and prospective members to see advice from colleagues in the unit before purchasing anything as it very easy to make an expensive mistake. We are glad to recommend appropriate vendors.
Saddle and Tack:
Most of us ride with the 1859 Enlisted Men's McClellan Saddle. They are comfortable, durable and good reproductions are being made for reasonable prices. Other saddles appropriate for an Army of Northern Virginia cavalry impression include the Jenifer and Texas-type saddles such as the Hope. While the optimum in authenticity is hand-stitched saddlery and tack, the waiting time for new hand stitched items can be considerable and delay your being able to get involved in the hobby, whereas machine-stitched items of the correct shape and form can be purchased new from a reputable Civil War saddle maker quite quickly. One phone call, a credit card, and your horse can be outfitted in about three weeks.
Ours is a Confederate unit which gives us some license in our choice of clothing as long as the historical interpretation is accurate. We ask that members purchase a blue-gray (not gray) shell jacket , either a Richmond Depot Type II, or Type III or Peter Tait type. We prefer riding with a period slouch hat from a quality reproduction hat maker. No gaudy braid, no yellow cuffs and collars. Sometimes we're asked to appear as Federals to provide proper force ratios. Sky blue trousers, a dark blue 4- button infantry sack coat and blue kepi work just fine, it is not necessary to own a Federal Mounted Service Jacket. There are innumerable "sutlers" that manufacture and sell uniform items at varying levels of accuracy and varying price ranges. We do not require that all your items be hand stitched or be museum quality, provided that they look accurate externally. Seek advice from a colleague and consult our vendors list for recommendations.
There are four - saber, pistol, carbine, and horse. You will learn how to use the first three when each is most appropriate (we don't run down people with our mounts!). The saber, pistol and your choice of a cavalry carbine can be purchased over the Internet or at gun shows. (Black powder weapons are not subject to the same gun laws as modern firearms.) According to the inventory of weapons in the 4th Regiment of Cavalry from November 1863, your most likely choices would be an 1859 Sharps Cavalry Carbine, an 1851 or 1860 steel framed Colt revolver, and a light cavalry saber. Other choices in long arms that are currently being reproduced would be Short Enfields or Richmond Carbines.
The unit meets for an event or drill on the average of two times per month March through November and all of us balance some combination of family, work, hobbies, and even vacation. We do not expect you to make every unit event, but the more events you attend, the better cavalryman you will be.
Equipment for the unit overall includes the unit outfit of cooking gear (mostly castiron), picket lines, a unit wall tent, two large canvas flies (awnings), coolers for water and gatoraide, a couple of lanterns and a guidon. Most members have their own tents; some do not and sleep under the flys or under the stars.