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7th Illinois Cavalry

getting started in cavalry reenacting
membership requirements

        The seventh is actively recruiting, and is looking for able-bodied men to fill our ranks.  The cavalry is a demanding branch to serve in, and is perhaps one of the more expensive arms of service to get equipped and started in.  That said, the cavalry can also be one of the more thrilling and prestigious services to be a part of.  A good cavalry unit requires riders that not only combine the skills of horsemanship, safe firearms handling, and a sense of authenticity, but choose to act as part of the larger unit, and not as an individual.  A well-drilled, authenticity-minded, and cohesive unit demands respect and captivates the interest of the crowd, and helps ensure a safe and fun event.  We exist to accurately portray the mounted soldier, and honor those who have served in this capacity, who have given their lives for our freedom.  If you feel the cavalry is for you, and would like to be a part of our unit, read on. . . .

We welcome men into the unit who are 14 years or older.  Those under 16 years of age must ride with an older "adult sponsor," and may not carry or use weapons, or engage the enemy.  When the recruit has demonstrated responsibility and/or experience on the field, firearms priveleges will be granted, and the trooper will be able to engage in combat.

The 7th takes pride in the fact that we can incorporate new recruits into our ranks who do not (as of enlistment) own their own equipment.  We do, however, require that unit members acquire equipment in a timely manner (e.g., you should not be showing up at your third event without at least the beginnings of a uniform--such as coat, boots, pants, and misc. equipment).  We have a limited stock of horse furniture, weapons, and uniforms (some are rather well-used) that we can furnish the first-timer.

Equipment to buy to become an authentic cavalryman:


1.  Black, solid (not lace up), round or square-toed leather boots (cowboy boots, motorcycle boots, engineering boots, and rubber-soled boots are typically not allowed without prior approval).  Most troopers find the knee-high  or calf-high authentic cavalry style boots (available at most sutlers--see  sutlers  section) to be more practical for field use.  These can be costly, but are generally well-made and well worth the money to improve your impression, and are encouraged. Brass, strap spurs are recommended.
2.  Wool, sky-blue trousers (various patterns exist).  Most troopers use the "mounted" variety with the reinforced inseams and seat, however, these are a little more expensive.  Some recruits stick with the "infantry" style trousers.  Although either style is acceptable and authentic, the infantry trousers tend to wear out quicker with heavy use.  Canvas suspenders with leather tabs are to be used to hold up trousers.  Suspenders (and other parts of the uniform) should have no plastic parts.
3.  Muslin shirt--White, "issue-pattern" is more correct if you are going for the "strict military image."  Print shirts are also acceptable.
4.  Kepi-style or forage-style caps, dark Union blue, with leather bill, chin strap (with brass stamped buckle) are to be worn while on the field (unless, of coarse, they fall off during a charge!!).  The 7th, as a general rule, does not use "slouch hats" while doing Union cavalry impressions.  Our unit insignia, which goes on the top of the hat, consists of the brass crossed-sabers, with the brass number "7" centered above the emblem, and the letter "C" centered below (see  Cavalry Regulations ).
5.  Yellow-piped, wool, dark-blue, cavalry pattern shell jacket with brass "eagle" or "eagle-C" buttons.  These shell jackets are available with most sutlers.
6.  Cavalry troopers are encouraged to buy a sky-blue, mounted pattern great-coat that has a stand-fall collar, usable sleeves, and double-breasted buttons.  These coats are not optional, however.  They are great for cold-weather events.
7.  The trooper should eventually think about purchasing a pair of white or buff soft leather (usually doe-skin) riding gauntlets.
Weapons and personal equipment

1.  Saber belt, black leather, with solid brass rectangular "eagle" buckle.  In addition, the belt should have a black leather cap-pouch to the right of the buckle, followed next by a left-hand draw black leather flap-style revolver holster.  In addition there needs to be a carbine cartridge box in the back, a shoulder strap, and a saber-hanger on the left (brass snaps are optional, and not typically used).  Additional hosters were not regulation and were considered "private purchase" items.  It has been found, however, that many Civil War Cavalrymen, both Union and Confederate, carried multiple revolvers on their person and horse.
2.  Revolvers should be authentic firing reproductions, and should be black-powder only cap-and ball-type.  Many troopers use the 1858 Remington style, or the 1860, and 1851 Colt-type revolvers.  Sabers should be of the 1840 or 1860 cavalry type.  It is not necessary to acquire a saber with "all correct period makers marks."
3.  Troopers are encouraged to eventually purchase a cavalry carbine of some type.  Many guys at smaller events use single-shot, muzzle loading carbines.  However, to "spruce up" that impression, you should consider investing in a Sharps, Smith, or Henry pattern carbine.  Contact us if there is any question about purchasing a weapon.  If you own a carbine, a thick, black leather carbine-style sling and snap will be needed.
4.  Canteens, if desired, should be round, sky blue or dark blue wool covered tin, with chained wood corks, and should be fitted with leather straps and brass snaps to fit to a saddle.
5.  Each trooper should invest in a two-part "dog" tent.  End closures are nice, especially in inclement weather.
6.  Each trooper must purchase a wool blanket for personal sleeping use.  The blanket should be solid grey, or grey issue-type with  black end stripes.  Embroidered "U.S." blankets are optional, but nice for the impression.
7.  Troopers should own their own haversack and mess equipment.  Black "tarred" U.S. type haversacks are recommended, and tin mess equipment is necessary.  (otherwise, you won't have anything to eat with--food is nice).

Saddles and Horse Equipment

1.  The unit only uses 1859 style raw-hide covered McClellan saddles for their impression.  This does not mean, however, that you MUST have an 1859 tree.  In fact, modern horses are "fatter" than the gaunty animals back then, and a 1875, 1904, or 1927 tree is actually better for the horse's back (unless you use a thick pad).  If you choose to use a post-Civil War tree, the tree must be rigged exactly as an 1859, and must be raw-hide covered.  Wood stirrups are preferable.  Fenders are optional.  Breast straps are optional.  Surcingles are typically used for safety and horse comfort.  Saddles should also be equipped with cruppers.  The saddle should have a leather carbine socket attached to the right "D" ring.  Rifle "scabbards" are not allowed.
2.  Bridles should be of black leather with chin strap and head stall with brass U.S. disks.  Bits should be of the McClellan curb type with brass "U.S." plates, and MUST have servicable brakes.
3.  Halters should be black leather with black steel hardware or brass hardware, and should have black leather leads.  Black leather link-straps should be attached on the left.
4.  The dark blue with orange stripe wool, issue saddle blanket is most correct for use under the saddle.  The unit will also accept wool solid dark blue or dark grey blankets.

1.  The unit maintains a small herd of seasoned, trained Cavalry mounts (these horses can literally do the drill without the rider).  The number of animals changes year to year.  We can put you on a mount if you do not have a horse, but we encourage you to bring your horse if you own one.
2.  The unit uses only solid-body horses.  As a general rule, we do not allow paints, appaloosas, palaminos, etc.  Bald-faced horses are acceptable.  Grey's are acceptable.  Within reason, all breeds (as long as the animal is healthy) are welcome (no draft horses, mules, donkeys, shetland ponies, mongolians, etc).  Look at our  Photo Gallery for ideas.

Now, this all seems like a lot of stuff. Don't get overwhelmed.  You do not need to rush out and buy EVERYTHING on this list.  The most important stuff to acquire initially is your uniform and revolvers....Email me for further info. If you feel the 7th Illinois is for you, then click below to enlist. . .