Authenticity Guidelines for Federal Cavalry Equipments

The 10th NY Cavalry was a typical Eastern Federal volunteer cavalry regiment within the Army of the Potomac. Our efforts are focused on making our appearance, our camp, our drill, and our tactics as close to what the original 10th NY actually did as possible, and to continuously strive to improve our individual as well as our unit impression. All members, including civilians, are expected to maintain, at least, a minimum standard regarding their uniform/clothing, equipment, general appearance, etc.

To that end, the following have been established as guidelines for unit members to consult in putting together a typical enlisted man’s impression. Guidelines have been verified using contemporary accounts and wartime photographs of members of the regiment. Our authenticity standards have been developed using the following guidelines:

1. Was it in existence?
2. Was it in use?
3. Was it common?

Therefore, even though you might be able to document that a few Eastern Theater cavalrymen used breast plates on their saddles, carried pikes, or bought LeMat pistols, these were either rare or nonexistent in the original 10th NY Cavalry, and therefore not allowed under our authenticity standards. To make it into our standards, the answer to all three questions must be “yes.”

Given the amount of gear needed in reenacting, we have supplied a recommended order of purchase as well as sources for patterns and material if you wish to make your own uniform. Consult our Vendors List for a listing of recommended sources for all of these items. Please note: we do not expect new recruits to buy all of their equipment at one time. Many necessary items are available to borrow while you work at building your own set of gear.

These authenticity standards are provided as a goal for which we should strive. As a piece of equipment wears out, replace and upgrade. This is not meant to frighten anyone or be judgmental, but to do the most justice we 21st century reenactors can for those who fought this war. We owe it to them.


General Appearance

Hair should be cut short, at the collar or shorter. Despite the image of General Custer, long hair was a rarity. Consult the regimental history for photographs of hairstyles. Beards may be worn, however many soldiers went clean-shaven or wore just a mustache. Needless to say the soldier should wear no modern jewelry, and no earrings. Hair may be dyed but must be a natural color! Glasses, if worn, should have period correct frames. No modern tinted lenses should be used. You can often find antique frames quite inexpensively and have prescription lenses put in them. Contacts are fine. Leave wrist watches at home. If you smoke, a pipe is best. Cigars were an expensive luxury generally reserved for officers.

Equipment Guidelines



Preferred: Forage Cap – Model 1858, Type I or Type II (these differ in the size of the disk on top.) Finely woven dark blue or royal blue wool (not navy blue, and not coarse blanket wool) with painted leather brim and chin strap. Plain US regulation, small size buttons. Black or brown polished cotton liner. Brown leather sweatband with embossed cross-hatching. Should not be worn with the sides of the brim rolled under as a modern baseball cap. Hat brass designating regimental number is acceptable but not necessary.

Acceptable: Federal Kepi (Enlisted model)

Felt hats--slouch hats or other private-purchase headgear – Period types only! Several types are documented for the 10th NY. Sewn-on edge binding of silk ribbon. Leather or cotton duck sweat band. Made of fine wool felt without a “fuzzy” appearance. Medium to dark gray, medium to dark brown, or black, with black preferred. No Garth Brooks stetsons, limp hillbilly farmer hats. No hat cords of any color. No stampede strings.

Hardee (Dress) Hat: 1/4 inch ribbon at base of crown. 2 rows of stitching on brim. Shellacked with proper label inside. Regulation brass, insignia, plume and cord. Proper leather chin strap (optional).


Preferred: Federal fatigue blouse (Four button sack-coat) – same as used by infantry. The sack coat is currently under-represented among cavalry reenactors. It has the advvanatge of being comfortable and much less expensive than a mounted services jacket.
Of 14 oz. wool flannel with a visible “wale” in the fabric, in a shade between a medium and dark blue color. A “wale” means you can see the diagonal weave. Avoid the blackish “navy” blue material that fades to purple and gets “fuzzy” as it wears; it is the wrong color and it is too heavy. The correct blouse has a short collar and faced lapels and cuffs. Four evenly spaced US eagle buttons should fit into hand-worked buttonholes. Sleeves should have a small, scalloped vent in the rear of the cuff. Unlined versions have all seams flat-felled. Lined versions should have a one-piece body lining of wool or wool/cotton weave and a sleeve lining of muslin. Either the J.T. Martin pattern or the Schuylkill Arsenal pattern is acceptable.

OR: Mounted Services Jacket (“shell jacket”) – Must be of proper material and construction. Most “off the shelf” repros are not. Of dark blue or royal blue wool broad-cloth (very fine weave). Piping of proper yellow dyed worsted wool tape or 3/8” yellow mohair tape tape. Absolutely no neon yellow trim as often found on sutler repros. 2 rows of trim on standing collar with hook & eye closure. Hand sewn buttonholes. Lined with osnaburg. 12 small brass eagle buttons, a stand-up collar with 4 small buttons, and 2 small buttons on each cuff. We are doing a mid-war impression so these jackets were gradually being replaced by fatigue blouses.

OR: New York State Shell Jacket Another yellow-trimmed jacket. Standing collar is shorter than in the Federal mounted services jacket with a single row of trim and bottom edges of the jacket were rounded, not squared off. These appear to have been issued to our regiment early in the war but were less common by mid war.


Preferred: Mounted Pattern Trousers.  – 21 oz. sky-blue wool kersey with proper diagonal weave. Reinforced seat sewn on by hand, without a welt, and extending down to cuff. Instep strap. Waistband should be one button closure and tapering in the rear. Top of the waist band should reach the wearer's navel. Narrow, three to five button fly. Yoke in back.  Raised back. Side pockets that start below the waist-band. Right-side watch pocket.  Facings on vented cuffs. All detail work, especially buttonholes, finished by hand.

Acceptable: Foot pattern trousers. Same as above but without reinforced seat.

Acceptable: Dark blue Mounted pattern trousers. As above but dyed dark blue.


US Issue Shirts made of Domet or gray wool flannel. Domet flannel shirt will have three tin buttons: one at the neck and one at each cuff. Domet flannel is a cotton warp and wool weft, off-white in color. Gray wool flannel shirt will have 4 or 5 buttons, with two or three on a placket front and one on each cuff.

OR Civilian Pattern Shirt. These are acceptable if you find the flannels too hot and scratchy. Made of 100 percent natural materials in period-correct colors and/or patterns. Small metal, bone, painted wood, shell, or mother-of-pearl buttons. Narrow fall down collar or a banded collar, with or without a detachable collar. One, two or no pockets. Avoid calico or other prints since many are not correct for the period. No printed plaids or checks, but woven plaids and checked patterns are acceptable. Wool shirts dyed in plain solid colors. Avoid muslin. White shirts are for dress occasions only. No oversized wooden buttons.

Socks – Wool, of solid-color yarn: off-white, gray, buff, blue, or bluish-gray. No rings or bands of contrasting color. No elastic. Of wool, cotton or a wool/cotton union. No modern hunting, or ribbed socks. Both hand woven and machine woven socks are acceptable as long as they are of correct colors/materials. Modern “ragg” wool socks are not period correct, but close enough to do in a pinch.

Braces (what most people call suspenders. To keep your pants up.) Not an issue item, civilian pattern of proper period materials and attachments.

Drawers: Essential if wool trousers irritate your legs. Canton flannel, cotton flannel, wool knit, and wool flannel all acceptable. Button closure. White or natural (off-white) acceptable.


NOTE: Be prepared to wear trousers unbloused in dress formations and inspections.

Preferred: Model 1851 Jefferson Bootee (brogans) highly encouraged and preferred over boots. Like the sack coat, these are under-represented among cavalry reenactors. Boots were not issued to enlisted men, they had to purchase them. Rough-out waxed leather, dyed black outside only, with pegged or sewn soles. Either one row or two rows of pegs is acceptable. Heel plates optional.

OR Boots – enlisted Artillery boot preferred. Properly constructed below-the-knee style with single piece vamp (front), pegged or sewn soles. Leather flesh side out, waxed, dyed black outside only. No boots w/ 2-piece fronts as are commonly sold by sutlers.  Straight cut top, no "pirate boots" with knee flaps.

OR Civilian boots: Napoleon (back seam) boots were a civilian style in use at the time. Again either pegged or sewn soles are acceptable. Fancy officer type boots with the grain (smooth) side out were expensive and rarely used by the average trooper.


Mounted Pattern Overcoat : Buy only if you’re sure of proper make and construction. 21 oz. sky blue wool kersey with visible wale, double breasted with cape extending to the edge of the cuff. I have found them usually not to be necessary in our mild climate and a wool blanket thrown over the shoulders works just as well. Hard to find, you will probably have to make one yourself or do a special order with one of the top vendors to get a good one.

II. Accoutrements

Note: All leather accoutrements should be sewn with “kit finish” waxed linen thread. NO bright white or synthetic thread. All leather should be dyed on the outer side only. Hand applied “patent” finish is acceptable for cap pouches, holsters and cartridge boxes.

A. U.S. issue M1858 sword belt - Of black buff (rough-side-out) or bridle leather (smooth side out). Early war types were all sewn construction; mid to late war used rivets. 2 piece enlisted brass eagle buckle with applied silver wreath. Shoulder and saber straps.  No snaphooks on sabre straps. With:

a. Cap pouch - Sewn belt loops, no rivets. 

b. Pistol holster - Black leather dyed one side only, butt forward, end plug, worn on right side.

c. Pistol Cartridge Box - For pistol cartridges - No extra cylinders!  Holds 12 cartridges.

d. Carbine Cartridge box - Smith cartridge box, Burnside box, or M1860 "Sharps"  box depending on carbine used.

B. Carbine Sling - Of black buff or bridle leather with iron roller snap hook.

C. Carbine Thimble (optional).

D. Haversack - US issue tarred, may be worn on saddle or person. Should have buckle closure and the buckle should be blank, not stainless. For carrying your food and eating utensils. Most personal effects should get rolled up in your blanket.

E. Canteen - M1858 smoothside or “bulls eye” variants acceptable. Wool covered with brownish or grayish jeancloth, or satinette. Blue covers are over-represented, but dark blue is preferred over light blue. Cotton strap or undyed leather strap with iron roller buckle and leather safe. Cork tied to canteen with waxed twine (chain acceptable but less common.) Should be worn on person. NO snaphooks.

F. Blanket - Gray/brown US Issue with gray with black or dark brown stripe at each end, chain-stitched “US” in center.
OR: Plain gray or dark blue wool blankets are acceptable and are sometimes available in Army surplus stores quite inexpensively.

G. Shelter half - Light canvas with hand sewn grommets and bone buttons. Kits that you can finish yourself are available at about half the price of a finished product. Two shelter halves get buttoned together to make a small “dog” tent for two.

H. Gum blanket and/or poncho - with small grommets. Nice for rainy weather but with the wool clothes, I find I generally don’t need one. They can however be used as a ground cloth, or with a wool blanket and surcingle to blanket horses in very rainy or cold weather. The  kind with the hole in the middle that can be used as a poncho is most versatile.

I. Tin cup or boiler with bail. Boilers are for making soup, stew and beans as well as coffee. A brown bread can with a baling-wire bail, or a reproduction tin can, also make great coffee boilers. (Note: Modern tin cans are not of period correct design so we recommend you get a reproduction can.)


Sabres were the first weapons issued to the 10th NY and for a time these were the only weapons available to most of the enlisted men. One trooper wrote home about buying a pistol in 1862 to protect himself during guard duty, so apparently these were in short supply initially. The 10th NY received 10 Smith carbines per company in 1862. In 1863 the regiment received Sharp's and Burnside carbines while retaining the Smiths. (It is not known whether the Smiths where gathered into one company or remained spread throughout the unit.) By June of 1864 accounts indicate that “three carbines were still in use in the Regiment,” making distributions of ammunition difficult at times. Spencer carbines were issued in late 1864, replacing the single-shot carbines.


1. Model 1859 .54 Sharps Carbine, with patch box, is preferred. No patch box was an 1863 conversion. About $1000. A M1863 .52 Sharps carbine is acceptable.

OR 2. Smith carbine. About $700. Artillery model is preferred since it was in production earlier than the cavalry model. Best carbine for your money, reliable, easy to clean and repair. You will also need to get metal cartridge casings for your Smith. Get at least 20 cartridges. “Metallic” cartridges for the Smith were in production in 1863—these actually were covered in a very heavy metal foil. Before that hard rubber or linen cartridges were used. Reloadable aluminum cartridge casings are acceptable. Black plastic cartridges are also available, but since they balloon out after the gun is fired, they generally can only be used once.

OR 3. 5th Model Burnside (only originals are available). Used brass cartridge ammunition.

OR 4. Spencer repeating carbine (ONLY appropriate at events depicting 1864 or later)


NOTE: Enlisted men should carry one sidearm or no sidearm . No "spare" cylinders. Pistols are loaded using cartridges.

1. Colt model 1860 "Army" Revolver, .44 caliber , steel frame, preferred.

OR 2. Remington model 1858 .44 caliber "Army"

OR 3. Model 1851 .36 Colt “Navy”


NOTE: Reproduction sabers are generally junk. Must be properly constructed with proper wire wrapped, leather bound grip and peened (hammered down) tang. (Sabres with the nut on the end will not be accepted.) Repro sabres are often available on Ebay very inexpensively. Again, look for the ones without the nut on top of the tang.

Preferred: Heavy Cavalry Sabre ("Wristbreaker") Should have correct maker’s mark and no 'India' stamped on the blade.

Acceptable: Light Cavalry sabre: acceptable due to difficulty in finding repro Model 1840s. Sabre must be properly constructed with proper wire wrapped, leather bound grip and must have a hammered tang.

Cleaning and loading eqpt: Pistol cleaning rod and .44 bore brush; .52 cal brush for carbine, cotton patches, nipple wrench, nipple picks, screwdrivers, dental pick, set of welding tip cleaners (good for cleaning the Smith), black powder cleaning fluid or homemade recipe, sweet oil or modern gun oil.
FFFg black powder (NO SMOKELESS OR PYRODEX POWDER), #11 percussion caps for pistols, musket caps for carbines, Colt powder flask with a 15 grain spout, extra flask with Cream of Wheat (not the instant kind) for packing down the powder.

IV.  Horse Equipments

Note: Horse equipments may be purchased in standard reenactor grade (machine sewn, made with vat dyed harness leather—dyed black on both sides and heavier than what was used on originals). However, most makers will custom make horse equipments with oak tanned, hand dyed leather (dyed black on one side only) and hand stitching on request. All leather horse equipments should be sewn with linen “kit finish” thread. Kit finish is made from a mixture of resin, powdered charcoal and other ingredients. The thread should NOT be unfinished—bright white—or made of synthetic materials.

A. Saddle: Model 1859 McClellan – Enlisted model with rawhide-covered tree. (3 sizes of trees are made: 11 inch, 11-1/2 inch and 12 inch. 11-1/2 works for most folks. Off the rack saddles fit most “average” horses well, but some horses require custom-made saddle trees.) All iron hardware, including jappaned or blued iron bar buckles. Coatstraps should be of proper weight with correct buckles, leather stops recommended. Proper wool web girth and surcingle with iron roller buckles. Hooded wooden stirrups, no toe straps. Note: You may be able to borrow a McClellan saddle until you get your own. Modern saddles are acceptable for training events.

B. Crupper was an issued item – its use is encouraged, however you must train your horse to wear it! Good for downhills on low-withered, round-barrelled horses.

C. Breast straps, martingales and tiedowns: NO “brass heart” breast straps or martingales, not an issued item.  Use the surcingle instead. Private purchase breast straps and martingales of period correct design are acceptable. Running martingales may only be used by officers; no tie-downs are allowed.

D. Saddle Bags - Blackened leather, smooth or pebble grain. Smaller bags with iron buckle closure. Should contain a properly reproduced or original curry comb, brush, hoofpick, cotton or linen huck rag, and horseshoes.

E. Halter - U.S. issue of black bridle leather and japanned iron hardware.

F. Lead Strap - U.S. issue of blackened bridle leather, japanned or blued buckle.

G. Bridle - Blackened bridle leather, one side only.  3 buckle with reins sewn to bit rings and in center preferred. 6 buckle accepted. All buckles should be jappaned or blued iron bar buckles. NO rosettes on browband.

H. Bit: U.S. issue blued iron curb. No stainless steel bits. If your horse is not ready for a curb, use a period correct civilian bit. Allowed “private purchase” (civilian) bits which you can easily find at modern tack shops are: sweet iron loose ring snaffle (preferred, see frontispiece of The Photographic History of the Civil War, the Cavalry, by Rodenbaugh); full cheek (fulmer) snaffle; pelham; double bridle (bit and bridoon). See Hints to Horse-Keepers, 1859. The latter two bits were common with officers but not enlisted men.

I. Link Strap - with iron wire snap hook.

J. Nosebag (Optional) Flat bottom or rounded bottom accepted. Black or undyed leather with iron roller buckle on strap. Great for carrying rations of grain, preventing waste of grain, and preventing horse fights on the picketline. Body of feed sack preferably of lightweight canvas, not heavy. Difficult to find properly made ones.

K. Picket Pin and Lariat (Optional) Lariat should be of proper 4-strand, left-laid hemp (NOT “manila” or sisal which can severely rope-burn a horse) whipped at one end. Eye spliced to hand forged iron picket pin. We aren’t allowed to even use these at most events, so buy at your discretion. Proper hemp lariat rope is extremely difficult to find.

L. Saddle Blanket - U.S. issued blue wool with orange stripe properly woven. "U.S." hand stitched in center. Orange stripe should be lighter shade as per originals if possible. NO visible saddlepads - use your issue grey wool blanket or shelter half if your horse needs extra padding.

OR 2. A plain dark blue or gray wool blanket is acceptable and less expensive. (The U.S. Issue saddle blanket was in short supply during the war so plain blankets were also used.)

M. Saddle cloths and/or shabraques (saddle housings that cover the saddle) of correct materials, design and construction are permitted for commissioned officers only.

N. Cotton or Linen ration bags encouraged for transporting grain for horses. One can also make a canvas “wallet” from old linen grain bags or pieces of shelter tent.

O. Curry comb and brush. Lederarsenal (Jan Henrik Berger, Germany) makes the best reproductions.

VI. Other/Personal/Optional Items

Recommended Order of Purchase

Making Your Own Uniform: Recommended Sources for Patterns and Materials

Vendors List

You may also download the PDF file "Hints to Campaigners", a set of tips originally published in the United States Army and Navy Journal and edited in 2004 by Mark D. Jaeger.

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