"Authenticity isn’t a Destination; it’s a Journey."
Authenticity is a topic in Living History/Reenacting that receives a great deal of discussion. The 2nd Colorado has a very real commitment to developing the most authentic and researched impression of the Western Union solider as we can. That being said 100% authenticity is just not realistic as there is so much about the period (and period day to day life) that still hasn’t been uncovered. At best we achieve a 70 – 80% authenticity environment working with the tools and resources available. While some would call that impressive and we are proud of the work our men put into their impression a constant process of self evaluation and research is always encouraged within our unit. We like to say that an authentic impression isn’t a destination; it’s a journey.
Our officers and members will regularly recommend books, magazine articles, and websites with new authenticity information. Our preferred method of verification for equipment and clothing is period photographs. If photographs are not available we search to find period journals, letters, and memoirs that discuss the period item or activity. Inspection of museum equipment collections are encouraged as well as photographs of these collections.
This man is beginning his impression. He has purchased his first uniform and a sensible period hat. His accoutrements, rifle, and other gear are loaned by the company but he is on his way.
This man has been improving his impression. He has purchased his rifle, accoutrements, and camp gear. He needs no loaner gear and is ready to refine the extra details of his impression such as correct canteen covers, period time pieces, etc.
This man has developed a dedicated authentic impression. His uniform shows the appropriate amount of wear and tear and he has no modern implements on his person. Even at this point however he will continue to work and refine his impression
Some prospective members may find the idea of authenticity evaluation a turn off or fear that authentic impressions could mean more expensive gear. While much of the more authentic gear on the market is more pricey it’s durability tends to be better and in truth authentic campaigning comes out to be cheaper in the long run as a dedicated foot solider carries as little weight as possible making more expensive purchases such as heavy tents and cooking equipment unnecessary. Plus there is a great feeling of pride and excitement when your research uncovers some period item that you have discovered and worked into your impression. Usually the most interesting period items are the small ones.
The important thing to remember in getting into the Living History/Reenactment hobby is to ask a lot of questions of your officers, veterans, and pards. Working with recommended Vendors will ensure a better impression and you’ll be surprised how many field items can be made or modified at home with little or no skill. Remember you don’t have to be on the cover of “Authentic Campaigner” at your next event. Work on your impression in stages, being careful to give each purchase appropriate attention as you work towards your overall appearance. Sometimes new Reenactors can hurry in their enthusiasm to try and completely equip themselves and can end up buying equipment that is of poor quality, unauthentic, or just unnecessary.