Our Civilians



Civilians of the 71st Penn are a group all on our own. Women, children, and a few men, we provide the viewpoint of the “real” and everyday life behind the military that the public comes to see. While full members of the unit and involved in all group decisions, we also act somewhat independently from the military structure of the unit and the ACWS as a whole. What do we do? At reenactments, we cook, sew, knit, crochet, write letters, hold gatherings, and just portray the past as it would have been during the 1860s. We do what people loved to do then and now- sit and chat, visit with old friends, make new friends, go shopping at the vendors/mercantiles, and teach the public. We also attend several civilian events, to get to know other civilians and to spread the word about this hobby that we love. Please take a look at this page, and feel free to contact the Company Civilian Advisor if you have any questions. She will be happy to help newcomers in answering questions, gathering specific items, and to provide you with information about where to begin!



About your Clothing



Clothing of the 1860s has a very definite look. You are welcome to make your own clothing or purchase your own clothing (there are plenty of shops/mercantiles who will make custom costumes), but we recommend contacting the Civilian Advisor for tips on where to start. (See list of resources at the bottom.)



Attire for Female Civilians in the 71st should consist of the following:

1. Attire should be age appropriate

2. Hat or Bonnet

3. Snood/hair net (for those with short/medium length hair)

4. Camp Dress/Day Dress (no ball gowns, please!)

5. Leather lace-up boots, mid-calf or ankle boot, with small heel (see vendors at the bottom)

6. Cotton socks (up to the knee) or leggings

7. Cotton/linen period correct undergarments (chemise, drawers, petticoats)



Attire for Male Civilians in the the 71st should consist of the following:

  1. Attire should be age appropriate
  2. Period hat
  3. Period shirt
  4. Period pants
  5. Period vest (sleeveless jacket) and/or coat

Please contact the Civilian Coordinator for ideas for age-appropriate children’s clothing.

Tents and sleeping:

At reenactments, we set up a company street, which consists of rows of tents set up next to each other. As a civilian, you are welcome to bring your own period correct tent and camp with the unit (which always includes help with setting up and breaking down the tent, no matter what time of night!), as most of the civilians do. If you do not own a tent or just want to visit, you may also contact the Civilian Coordinator to arrange to sleep in someone else’s tent. Wall tents are not permitted without approval from the Command Group.


During the day, you are welcome to open your tent up for the public to view. If you do not want the public to see, you can simply close the front, and ignore any “farb” items you have laying about. Here is a list of recommended tent supplies and accessories:

  • “A” frame wedge tent (see Resources below)
  • Wool blankets (a blessing on cold nights!)
  • Cotton quilt and pillows
  • Cotton/flannel sheets
  • Canvas/duck cloth sheet to cover the bottom of the tent
  • Plastic tarp (non-period correct- for warmth & comfort)
  • Period lantern (candles or oil)
  • Period Accurate Eating Utensils
  • Period Accurate Plate and Cup
  • Period Accurate Personal Grooming Items (comb, toothbrush, etc.)
  • Period Accurate Eyewear (if applicable)


Optional Items that a civilian in the 71st will find handy include:

  • Cloak or Greatcoat
  • Fan
  • Parasol (no polyester, please!)
  • Cotton gloves (for men and women)
  • Period accurate watch
  • Corset
  • Hoopskirt


Recommended Books:

To get an idea of what civilian clothing of the era looks like, we recommend the following books. These are all available on Amazon.com, as well as a number of online vendors.


Who Wore What 1861-1865, Juanita Leisch ($30)

A fantastic book that describes, in detail, what women wore, shape, accessories, length of dress, etc. based on hundreds of old photos.


Fashions and Costumes from Godey’s Lady’s Book, Stella Blum

Godey’s Lady’s Book was a series of books (like Peterson’s) which gave American women the fashions, music, etc. of the times. The fashions from these books were emulated by all, and were considered the “high” fashion of the times. This book takes pictures from the 1830s to the late 1860s, mostly black and white with eight color plates.


80 Godey’s Full-Color Fashion Plates 1838-1880, JoAnne Olian

A companion book to the one above, all of the plates are in color.


Victorian Costume for Ladies 1860-1900, Linda Setnik

Much like Who Wore What, only covering four decades, with good descriptions of attire, and full-page photos.


The Way They Were: Dressed in 1860-1865, Donna J. Abraham

Less description and more photos than Who Wore What, including photos of children and men.


Recommended Vendors (Sutlers/Mercantiles):

Fall Creek Sutlery


Tents, and a wide variety of items for men, women, military and civilian

Abraham’s Lady


Clothing, patterns, books and accessories for ladies

Blockade Runner


Items for women and men

Robert Land Footwear


Historically accurate shoes and boots for women and men


Recommended Pattern Companies:

If you choose to, or wish to make your own clothing, here are some recommended historically accurate pattern companies:




Available at JoAnns, these patterns are historically accurate, relatively easy to make, with historically accurate instructions. A good place to begin.

Truly Victorian


Only available at specific online vendors, these patterns are fantastic, though better for the more experienced sewer as fitting can be a bit tricky. (Recommended seller: Patterns of Time, http://www.patternsoftime.com/.)

Timeless Stitches


Wide variety of Civil War patterns, and items for ladies, men, and children. They are also attend and sell at various events.

Harriets TCS


Wide variety of patterns of various ages. For the more experienced sewer. Period ImpressionsOnly available online, this is another pattern company with a variety of patterns, but also for the more experienced sewer as their patterns tend to have slight errors.