Welcome to The Perryville Civil War Battlefield Website


Union Cavalry 2017

Military Reenactor Information and Guidelines
The following information will guide you through the impression and guidelines for Perryville Battlefield’s Living History Programs.  Please read the following information thoroughly as it will answer most of the questions you may have about participating as a military participant.  If you have further questions, email joan.house@ky.gov or call 859-332-8631 to speak to the staff preservation coordinator.

Primary Impression
The primary impression will be that of a cavalry trooper in the Union Army of the Ohio during the Kentucky Campaign of 1862.

Military Living History Participant Guidelines
The following guidelines were designed to insure the appropriate and typical impression of a trooper in the Army of the Ohio in late 1862.  The men who engaged at Perryville were typically young men from rural communities and in general they represented the typical western cavalry trooper of the American Civil War.  It is in their honor that we request that your impression be based upon those typical soldiers instead of some unusual or non-typical individual.

Union Cavalry Impression
In general, a Union cavalry impression will represent a trooper in Army of the Ohio during the Kentucky Campaign.  Unless there is a specific interpretative purpose that is preplanned, impressions from earlier or later in the war, from some other theater of the war, or some sort of other soldier impression are inappropriate and will not be allowed. These guidelines are minimum standards; nothing less is acceptable.

The use of any modern or inappropriate material (including cigarettes, modern eyeglasses and watches, modern food containers, plastic, soda cans, sleeping bags, coolers, etc. absolutely no Cell Phones are to be visible at any time) by Living History personnel in view of the visitors will not be acceptable at any time (including "after hours"). Impressions are subject to inspection by park staff and their representatives at all times. All Kentucky state park rules and regulations must be followed.

These guidelines are organized in such a way as to suggest the most appropriate types of equipment and material for Living History use. As Living Historians, we must always be striving to improve our impression so as to better educate our visitors and honor the soldiers and civilians we strive to portray. These guidelines are based on continuing extensive research and documentation.

The Cavalry at Perryville

These cavalry regiments were present at Perryville; among them are veteran and newly recruited regiments.  Escort: The Anderson Troop, Pennsylvania Cavalry, 4th U.S. Cavalry Co. B, C, D, G, I, K. 1st Corps: unattached 2nd KY Cavalry (6 companies). 2nd Corps: 2nd KY Cavalry (4 companies) 1st Cavalry Brigade, Col. Edward D. McCook: 2nd IN Cavalry, 1st KY Cavalry, 3rd KY Cavalry, 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, unattached: 1st Ohio Cavalry (4 companies) 3rd Ohio Cavalry (4 companies). 3rd Corps: 36th Ill Cavalry Co. B, 3rd Cavalry Brigade: Captain Ebenezer Gay, 9th KY Cavalry (Co. A, B, D, F, H, I, K, M), 2nd MI Cavalry, 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry.

The following guidelines are a minimum set of standards to participate in the Battle of Perryville.  The items that are listed under each heading are acceptable.  If it is not listed, then it is not acceptable.

Individual Reenactment organizations are encouraged to tailor their impressions to fit the particular regiment they wish to portray.  Abundant research is available upon the various units and we encourage participants to work with park staff to achieve their impression goals.

Material and Construction: Union Cavalry uniforms were basically constructed of wool broad-cloth or kersey wool.   Mounted services jackets were made of dark blue, fine woolen material.  They were generally lined with coarse wool lining of brown, grey or green.  They were piped with yellow worsted wool tape.  Fatigue blouses (sacks) were constructed of rougher kersey that had an apparent weave in the material.  These coats could either be lined or unlined. Many of these were produced by machines with a single chain stitch.  All detail work and button holes were hand constructed.  Trousers were constructed of kersey wool with hand worked details and hand worked button holes.

FRederic Howe

This image of Private Frederick House Co. D, 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry was made sometime before December 1862. 

Individual Reenactment organizations are encouraged to tailor their impressions to fit the particular regiment they wish to portray.  Abundant research is available upon the various units and we encourage participants to work with park staff to achieve their impression goals.

* Mounted services jacket with correct trim of worsted wool
* 4-button fatigue coat
* State issue jacket

* Federal issue eagle
* State buttons

Suspenders: Suspenders of civilian pattern, cotton webbing, canvas, or ticking with either button holes or leather tips with tin or brass buckles (no nickel plated metal).

* Sky blue mounted services pattern
* Sky blue footmans pattern
* Dark blue mounted pattern

Military issue or civilian style in cotton or wool flannel if worn

* Federal Issue – domet –flannel shirt
* Civilian woven checks or strips, period prints –EXTREMELY LIMITED

Brogan pattern shoes or military issue boots, below the knee
Wool or cotton knit socks in white, a basic color, or natural color; hand knit are best

* Forage cap
* Period slouch hat (sewn on silk edge binding, fine wool or felt
* Hardee hat
NO cowboy hat conversions or shapeless hillbilly hat blanks and no animal parts. No stampede strings or hat cords for enlisted men.  Hat brass should be kept at a minimum.

* Mounted pattern sky blue kersey, double breasted
* Foot pattern blue wool kersey, single breasted

* Union issue blanket
* Blanket made from period pattern wool
The amount of civilian blankets should be extremely minimal. The Federal Army as it marched toward Perryville discarded blankets all the way.  The 24th Wisconsin Infantry left Louisville with red wool blankets, but tossed them into the ditch along the march.  These blankets were quickly picked up by veteran infantrymen who then discarded their old Federal issue “ratty” blankets.

Eyewear and Glasses:
Spectacles (what we call glasses today) were not a common item amongst Civil War soldiers or even civilians of that era. Hence, try to get by without glasses if you can while doing Living History or wear contact lenses. If you must wear glasses, visit antique stores and purchase a 19th century pair and have the lenses replaced with one of your prescription, preferably with safety lenses. No modern glasses may be worn at anytime as part of a Living History program.

Civilian attire:
Individual items of civilian attire are acceptable as identified above. The presence, though, of a recent recruit in the ranks entirely in civilian attire would certainly be possible in recently recruited cavalry.  Most new men were uniformed in about a month after joining the unit, but in a period of active campaigning, some time could pass before the usual military clothing could be issued.

Personal effects:
Not every soldier has to have every possible personal effect. However, having at least a few of these little items helps complete and enrich the impression. In choosing personal effects, remember that you will have to carry them.
Common items were combs, toothbrush, pocketknife, housewife, handkerchief (bandannas/railroad scarves are not acceptable; they should particularly not be worn as attire or adornment) vests, civilian or military pattern wallet, writing paper pen and ink, pencil, mirror, playing cards, various game pieces’, books or newspapers.

In addition to having the appropriate Living History equipment and material, it must be used and worn correctly. Pants and waist belts were worn at the real waist (i.e. the naval) and not at the hips; clothes were not form fitting.  Hats and coats were worn whenever in public; pants were rarely tucked in the socks. By adopting the appropriate 19th century use and appearance, the Living History impression is remarkably improved.

Long arms: Carbine (Sharps, Burnside, Spencer, Smith) or Rifle (Henry and Colt Revolving Rifle)
Archeological evidence of Henry and Colt Revolving Rifles has been discovered at Perryville.

        The 9th Pennsylvania took the point and advanced to Perryville, where the 9th was under intense enemy fire until it was relived by McCooks corps. The 2nd Michigan was well armed with 5 shot Colt [revolving] carbines an early repeating rifle. Meanwhile Reuben Rhoades and most of the Pennsylvanians were armed only with Sabers and Revolvers. There is some indication that they borrowed [Wessing] carbines from the 9th Kentucky! At Perryville the 9th formed on the right of the line and repelled every attempt by the Rebel Cavalry to turn its flank. The 9th had 10 killed, and 27 wounded in this battle. General Buell stated: “The 9th Pennsylvania Cavalry behaved most bravely, being at one time compelled to stand for almost three quarters of an hour under concentrated fire from three batteries of enemy artillery, and only retiring when ordered to do so.”
        Yankee Cavalrymen, by John W. Rowell

Pistols: period correct cap and ball pistol in holster.  Limit pistols – one per trooper.
Carrying more than one pistol or cylinder is the biggest anachronism in a cavalry impression.  Troopers were so excited about getting pistols and pistol parts they often put it in their letters.  They simply did not have easy access to small arms. This was common in the border wars and is typical of the “border ruffian” imagery that currently exists in the historical record, but that impression is not appropriate for the Kentucky Campaign.

        We were so near the artillery that we could have shot their gunners with our Navy revolvers.

                              Private Cornelius Baker, Co. C
                              9th Pennsylvania Cavalry

Saber Belt:

M1858 Issue belt of black leather, two pieces with appropriate belt plate, shoulder and saber straps

Cap pouch – US Issue black leather

Pistol Cartridge Box – US Issue black leather

Holster – US Issue black leather
Holstered pistols should be worn butt forward on the right side.

Carbine Cartridge Box
M1860 or appropriate model for long arm with tins

Carbine Sling:
Black leather with iron roller buckle and snap

M1840 or M1860 cavalry saber

* Federal pattern--smooth side
* Other common period pattern
“Bullseye canteens are post Perryville and not appropriate for the impression.
Straps should be cotton, cotton webbing, or leather sewn together or with a buckle or button. As few as two-thirds or one-half of the men need to carry canteens

Gum blankets/ground cloth:
Any appropriate Federal issue gum blanket

No appaloosas, paints, or pintos, unless they can visually pass for a breed commonly in use by the armies during that time period. No stallions or ponies. Do not tie horses to loose or unsecured items!
Health Requirements
A current EIA Test (Coggins) is required for each animal within 1 year of the date of the event. Out of state horses will need a health certificate within 30 days of the date of the event. In state horses will need a health certificate within 1 year of the event.
Health papers are required for transport within state lines. Current flu, rhino, tetanus vaccinations are highly recommended for each horse. If said paperwork is not in order, or if the veterinarian deems the animal to be unhealthy, the participant’s animal will not be allowed access to the site(s).  A veterinarian will be on-site or on call for the entire event weekend.

Horses must be supervised and maintained at all times.
Horse Equipment for the Mounted Service
U.S. Military Regulations “Article 151.
A complete set of horse equipments for mounted troops consists of 1 bridle, 1 watering bridle, 1 halter, 1 saddle, 1 pair saddle bags, 1 saddle blanket, 1 surcingle, 1 pair spurs, 1 currycomb, 1 horse brush, 1 picket pin, and 1 lariat; 1 link and 1 nose bag when specially required.”

Saddle – M1859 McClellan with appropriate quarter straps, iron hardware with hooded wooden stirrups. Officers’ saddles must be honest reproductions.
Breast Strap and Martingale – These are not issued items and should appear to be private purchases
Saddlebags – Black leather with iron buckles
Cruppers – US Issue black leather
Bridle - Black leather, 3 or 6 buckle, US issue iron bit and enlisted sewn reins. NO MODERN BRIDLES or chrome hardware of any type.
Halter - U.S. M1859 issue of black leather and iron hardware.
Saddle Blanket - U.S. issued blue wool with orange stripe
Carbine Socket - U.S. issue of black leather with iron hardware
Picket Pin – Eye spliced iron with hemp rope
Absolutely no nylon rope or halters are allowed in living history area.
Horse Grooming Items – proper period type and construction

Tentage and Camps
The living history program was developed to allow the visiting public to understand the workings of a fixed military encampment.  Tents are encouraged and allowed.  However, only A-Frames are acceptable for troopers.

Winslow Homer - Rainy Day in Camp

If you are going to construct a she-bang– Federal “rubber blankets” or “gum blankets”
Shelter halves do not appear in the Western Theater until the end of December 1862.
Federal Cavalry Camp
“Rainy Day in Camp”
by Oliver Winslow Homer

All participants will remain in period attire with no modern items in view of the public (including “after hours.”)

Camp Equipage
Each soldier should carry a period tin cup, knife, fork, spoon, and tin plate. More extensive cooking items such as period individual frying pans (even improvised ones from old canteens) are not necessary and should be very limited. Cooking during the Kentucky Campaign was done in messes (four or five to fifteen men) sharing the cooking duties and using large cooking utensils such as kettles, camp kettles, frying pans, coffee pots, Dutch ovens, large spoons and forks, butcher knives, mess pans, wooden water buckets, axes, etc. These large items were carried in the regimental baggage wagons which accompanied the troops except in the presence of the enemy. They were often packed in wooden boxes serving as mess chests. When the soldiers were issued rations (normally in three to five day increments), the baggage wagons with the cooking utensils were present except on rare occasions. Tables, chairs, and stools were not provided for soldiers or even company officers.  Due to the impression they will be allowed in the fixed encampment scenarios, but they must be period correct.

Military Structure -
The rank you wear must be commensurate with the number of troops you put in the field. To serve as a distinct company you must be able to field at least 20 mounted troopers.  Commanders are responsible for safety inspections as well as insuring that the event standards are adhered to. No one may serve above the rank of captain without a specific appointment from the overall command staff.

Miscellaneous – Feed hay will be provided for all horses.  Water troughs will be situated near all encampments.  All horse trailers will have designated parking areas.  Said parking areas will be patrolled by the Kentucky Department of Parks.  Camping out of trailers will not be allowed.

Dismounted Cavalry

Cavalry impression requires participants to be mounted.  Basically if you don’t have a horse you will be treated as infantry and you should refer to infantry participant guidelines.

Individuals are welcome and invited to participate.  We will work with you to find you an appropriate organization to fall in with.

Minimum Age to Participate – To carry a weapon at the Battle of Perryville you must be at least 16 years old.  No exceptions!

If these standards for participation are acceptable then you are welcome to register for the Battle of Perryville.


Haver, Thomas T., Forty Eight Days, The 105th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Camp Cleveland, Ohio to Perryville, Kentucky.

OR, Vol. 52, Pt. 1, p. 51 – 53

OR. Vol. 16, Pt. 2, p. 746-747

Primary Resources provided by Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site, Manuscript Collection.

Tobey, John E., The Columbia Rifles Compendium, 2nd Edition.

Time-Life Books Echoes of Glory: Arms and Equipment of The Union, Arms and Equipment of the Confederacy, 2 volumes (1991).

Special thanks to the staff at Chickamauga National Battlefield for their assistance in developing these impression guidelines.


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