Joining the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry
Information, Standards & Philosophy
(The Philosophy and Standards expressed here also pertain to our 1st Minnesota Infantry. Only the historical background is different.)
Please Note: Any and all persons with an interest in participating with the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry - either as soldiers or civilians - must first read this page and send a statement by email expressing understanding of and agreement with our standards and philosophy. We also require that you read our 1st Virginia History page.
Thank you for your interest in becoming involved with the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry. We are a family-friendly, family-focused Civil War reenacting group active in Arizona and Virginia with members of all ages, both genders and spanning from coast to coast.
Joining does not involve dues, monthly meetings or forced commitments.
Joining does involve a commitment to
...a gradual process of gaining the ability to dress, portray and experience the times...
...a willingness to plan for and join in 1st Virginia events and activities as your particular schedule allows...
...make new friends and be part of a growing family within the greater family of We Make History.
...a willingness to learn and then to use what you have learned to bless, serve, educate and inspire others.
The 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry is a fast growing group with a sterling reputation as encouraging, supportive, positive and family friendly with a focus on education. We have become known nationally and though originating in Arizona have received unprecedented honour while involved in East Coast reenacting in Virginia.
We do have our own stock of uniforms, equipment and accoutrements which allows us to train and involve a number of "new recruits" at any given time.
And did I mention that we enjoy ourselves? Oh yes! We certainly do.
We welcome both ladies and gentlemen of all ages in conducting living history, learning, serving, educating the public and enjoying good times of fellowship together.
Our particular portrayal is that of Virginians and their experiences as they are caught up in the events of the War Between the States. In this pursuit we take part in a number of living history related activities throughout the year including battle reenactments, historic balls, picnics, social functions and dramatic appearances.
As with all facets of We Make History there are many levels involved. While learning about history and educating others we create and discover opportunities for service, character development and inspiration which carry over and serve us well in the modern world.
An aspect of great interest to the gentlemen involved is reenacting as soldiers on the battlefield. It is a team effort. A team effort as we both learn and serve others is something of great value to us as men but something that for the most part we have no real opportunity for in the fast-paced, individualistic modern world. Learning the old military drill and being shoulder to shoulder with others in a "line of battle" is not only a real eye opener in understanding our history but is a sublime experience from which much is gained.
The 1st Virginia was known as a "gentlemen's regiment" and as such we do aspire to high standards in our portrayals, conduct and character. Our members come from all over Arizona as well as Colorado, Maryland and Virginia. We are a clean unit, very family-friendly. We have a Christian-based philosophy that places great emphasis on respect, integrity, education and service. As previously mentioned, the 1st Virginia was known as a gentlemen's regiment. The term meant something in those days and we enjoy aiming for that standard. Service, generosity, responsibility, courtesy and respect are expected. Irresponsibility, disrespect, bad attitudes, foul language and other poor behaviour have never been part of this group nor shall they be.
Over the course of a year we organize a number of events and activities both in Arizona and on the East Coast. Our annual American Heritage Festival is the largest living history event in the Southwest. First-person events we have organized such as The Battle of Winchester, Action at Cook Plantation and The Battle of Payson are highly creative and interactive - and a lot of fun! Our "Valley Campaign" of living history days and community service events are part of our pursuit of our mission of education and service to families. We participate in the annual Independence Day Parade in Flagstaff and hold historic Balls such as the Civil War Ball, Victorian Christmas Ball, Old Virginia Ball, Virginia Harvest Ball and Grand Magnolia Ball as well as parties, social gatherings and more. In 2006 we traveled to Virginia to participate in the 145th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of 1st Manassas and in 2008 over fifty of us returned for an invitational, the 145th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville. Since then Fort Huger, Cedar Creek, Crown Rose Plantation, New Market and more have been added to our itinerary as we rapidly expand our East Coast involvement and prepare for special roles in events related to the 150th Anniversary (Sesquicentennial) of the Civil War such as the Battle of Manassas and the Battles of Wilderness & Spotsylvania. Together, our families have toured many historic locations (Mt. Vernon, Manassas Battlefield, Jamestown, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg to name a few) and have in place an educational program The Knights of the Golden Horseshoe to encourage all ages to develop their knowledge of Virginia history. Our Old Virginia Ball was our first Ball to be held in the Old Dominion and others have followed as We Make History Virginia has dramatically grown.
We encourage as much participation as a person's schedule allows but understand that everyone's schedule is different. Our people are professionals, business owners, students, parents and full time workers. Everyone is leading a busy and productive life so we respect one another's time. Each member participates (or not) in our various events depending on their own schedule and availability. We do not pressure anyone to participate though we do ask that all plan ahead if possible for particularly important events such as the American Heritage Festival and that for any event in which the unit is to participate that we get a simple but timely "yea" or "nay" regarding participating from each person. Because everyone's time is valuable we are careful to choose what events we "invest in" by participating. Most of our events are "in house" and thus we have control over standards and keep them high. But on the East Coast we often participate in "outside" events of high quality. Some of the criteria we look for in "outside events" are safety, high safety, moral and behavioural standards, good planning and organization, good publicity, a family friendly atmosphere, respect and appreciation, the opportunity to educate and serve others and opportunity for furthering our own education as well.
We are very serious about our standards and our commitment to the families involved and will not become "unequally yoked" with the unsafe, the irresponsible or groups or events demonstrating low standards or low character. That is a promise.
We do not allow for membership in multiple Civil War reenacting groups. Someone who would like to be part of the 1st Virginia / 1st Minnesota needs to be committed to the 1st Virginia / 1st Minnesota.
One of the unusual facets of the 1st Virginia Infantry is that many of us have an enjoyment of first-person reenacting, that is staying "in character" through a given scenario or an entire event. This is not a requirement but many of us do have a great interest and find great enjoyment in this aspect.
We are able to offer guidance to new and novice historical reenactors in many areas including
1) The required uniform and accoutrements for participation as a soldier in the 1st Virginia Infantry or 1st Minnesota Infantry. (We do have our own stock of uniforms, equipment and accoutrements and can outfit a certain number of gentlemen as they are getting started. Once a soldier is ready to acquire his own then we can guide you to the right items and sources.)
2) Proper civilian attire
3) Research materials
4) Help developing an appropriate persona for the times
5) Encouragement, friendship and history related social opportunities
6) Opportunities to serve families and the general public through positive historical education
But before we proceed any further we ask that those interested in being part of the 1st Virginia please look over our website thoroughly and particularly read the information below which expresses some of our guidelines as well as standards and philosophy and the types of portrayals we are aiming for. (Also see our 1st Virginia History page.)
Our philosophy and standards are not incidental. They are foundational to what the 1st Virginia is all about. If you find yourself to be comfortable and in agreement with them then we are glad to move forward with you and discuss involvement with the 1st Virginia.
We recognize that not everyone is a match for the 1st Virginia. If our philosophy, standards and/or type of portrayal are not to your liking then perhaps we can help you find another group that would be more appropriate to you and the type of portrayal you are comfortable with.
1st Va. Vol. Inf.
Reenacting as the 1st Virginia
Information, Standards & Philosophy
The recreated 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry was formed in the Spring of 2004 as a voluntary association of gentlemen for the purpose of historical reenacting, our first meeting being held at Scottsdale, Arizona. It was determined to strive for a reasonable and growing degree of authenticity in regard not only to appearance but also to demeanor, outlook, social skills, tastes, values, etiquette and other areas necessary in order to portray Virginia gentlemen of circa 1861. In 2008 we expanded to create our sister unit The 1st Minnesota Infantry. The soldiers and civilians of the 1st Virginia Infantry / 1st Minnesota Infantry are a unified team pursuing a mission of service through family-friendly historical education. We currently have members in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland and Virginia and welcome those of any state who share our philosophy. In addition to those portraying soldiers we have a large number of persons associated with the 1st Virginia portraying civilian ladies, children and medical personnel. Diverse civilian participation is welcome with period correct attire. For instance, ladies need to wear corsets (as did all respectable women of the time) and other clothing consonant with the persona which they are developing whether nurse, soldier's wife, southern belle, merchant, local farmer, seamstress, etc. We are family-inclusive, family-based, family-focused and family-friendly!
(No, we do not allow for membership in multiple Civil War reenacting groups. Someone who would like to be part of the 1st Virginia needs to be committed to the 1st Virginia.)
Men, women and children who are responsible, exhibit a positive attitude, are able to learn and take directions, have a willingness to serve others and understand and embrace our requirements, standards and philosophy of reenacting are welcome to join in. Our current age standards are as follows:
PLEASE NOTE: (1) If the age rules of an event that we participate in are different than our own then we must adapt to the event. (2) We have uniforms and accoutrements with which to help new soldiers and standard bearers get trained and started but NOT musicians or cadets. Boys portraying musicians or cadets need to acquire their own uniforms or musical instruments for which we will gladly offer guidance so as to fit in with the regiment.
The Tangibles: Uniform, Weapon, Accoutrements & Physical Appearance
Based on photographic evidence and period descriptions of the 1st Virginia Infantry, coupled with known facts regarding Virginia and early Confederate standards, our uniform is as follows. We use a medium grey wool shell jacket, lined with cotton, with sky blue wool trim at the cuffs and collar and a nine button front. The buttons may be brass "Block I" (preferred) though brass CSA and Virginia state buttons are also acceptable. The trousers are also of grey wool to match the shell jacket as is the kepi but with the addition of a sky blue band. A cotton shirt of period cut is worn. A grey wool vest is optional. Officers provided their own uniforms unless promoted from the ranks. The captain has chosen a fine cadet grey wool with the same pattern of sky blue trim as used by the men. A black cravate of cotton or silk should be worn by all ranks for social occasions. The 1st Virginia was no rag tag bunch. It was well uniformed and well equipped, a fine looking unit! They understood their social and patriotic responsibilities and had an exceptional esprit de corps.
It is known that at least part of the 1st Virginia was outfitted with 1861 Springfield Rifle Muskets with bayonets at the outset of hostilities. This is our favored choice though the 1862 and '63 Richmond and the 1853 Enfield are also allowed as they were all used in the course of the war. Each of these mentioned is a "three-band rifle-musket". Only officers carried pistols.
Accoutrements include a white or off-white cotton haversack, round canteen with grey wool cover, black leather belt with brass Confederate or Virginia state buckle, black leather cartridge box and black leather cap pouch. Period style brogans or bootees in black leather should be acquired though certain styles of black dress shoe can be made to work temporarily. Those choosing to wear eyeglasses should acquire period style frames.
New members of the 1st Virginia will be instructed as to where to obtain their uniforms and accoutrements.
(The 1st Virginia is a large unit with a Captain who looks after his people's best interests, including their financial interests. Our "buying power" helps us in negotiating favourable prices on quality items. If desiring to portray a soldier, you will soon want to acquire your own uniform and weapon. A cleaning kit for your weapon, paper cartridges, caps and FF black powder are lesser expenses necessary for military portrayals. For civilians we are able to guide you to sources for patterns and for ready made goods. These items are an investment as you seek to learn and experience for yourself as well as educate and inspire others.)
Like most Confederate units of 1861 the 1st Virginia Infantry had a wide range of ages in its ranks but was heavily tilted toward youth. We are fortunate to have a large number of young men ranging in age from sixteen to twenty five which reflect the historical fact that the majority of soldiers were indeed young. (To portray soldiers of the Civil War (of either side) with a group that is mostly age 35+ is misleading and simply inauthentic. The only exception would be a portrayal of last-ditch southern defenses such as "home guard" or ad hoc militia in which case nearly all involved should be men over 50 and boys under 16 - and in roughly even numbers!)
Though we utilize a uniform as per historic evidence pertaining to the 1st Virginia, there is some historically acceptable room for personal preferences in terms of individual look. For instance, men's hair styles of 1861 ranged from short to very long. Side parts, center parts and off-center parts were all used. Men could be clean shaven or have facial hair ranging from goatee to short beard to full beard. Moustaches and sideburns were worn by some as well, either with or without accompanying beard. Many options are available as long as distinctly and obviously modern styles are avoided. Personal items such as pocket watches and period reading material, personal choices in the matter of persona (name, history, experiences, etc.) and talents expressed through 1860s modes also add to individual color.
The Intangibles: Religious Convictions, Cultural Values
While many reenacting units do a fine job in their quest for physical authenticity through research into the tangibles such as uniforms and weaponry, yet it seems to be rare and nearly unknown for units to explore, develop and portray what was far more important in making the people of the era who they were, namely the intangibles. Social expectations, religious beliefs, values, political awareness, etc. are what made our ancestors who they were and thus dictated what they did and why. A reenactor who is appropriately attired and yet portrays 21st century worldviews, morality, demeanor, politics, etc. is missing the bigger part of the picture and misleading the public.
The fact of Christian spirituality; deeply held and regarded religious beliefs and moral values, is probably the determining factor above all others in defining who southerners were and what they valued. The South was the Bible Belt. Though the term was not yet in use it was more true then than it is today. The Baptists and Methodists were the leading denominations with the largest memberships and greatest number of churches and had experienced rapid growth for many decades. The Episcopal denomination was much smaller but had influence far beyond its numbers. The Presbyterians were still active as well but had been far outpaced by the Baptists and Methodists since the days of the Revolution. Preachers from all of these denominations had often cooperated together in the sweeping revivals which had tremendously impacted the South through the first half of the 19th century - and would cooperate again during the great revival in the Army of Northern Virginia. All of these denominations held spiritual and social positions that would today be quickly labeled as "evangelical", "fundamental" or "the religious right." Even many members of the Episcopal church could be regarded in this light. Some of Episcopalian Robert E. Lee's statements regarding Christianity and evangelism are what we might today expect of a Billy Graham and Presbyterian Stonewall Jackson's devotion is well known. Diaries and other first person accounts of southern soldiers (including from the 1st Virginia) are filled with positive and serious mentions of God, prayer, preaching, hymn singing, etc. The massive revivals in the Army of Northern Virginia during the course of the war are proven and well attested historical fact even if currently largely ignored. Many of those soldiers who were previously "careless regarding their souls" were swept up and changed during these times of revival. Jefferson Davis called upon soldiers and civilians alike for days of prayer and fasting, modern ideas of "separation of church and state" being completely unknown. Of course there were also unbelievers and nominal believers but the South very clearly saw itself as a "Christian civilization" and was without a doubt saturated and imbued with faith in God, belief in the Scriptures and all the responsibilities both internal and external entailed therein. We find it interesting that so few modern reenacting units bring these spiritual elements into what they do. In the South of 1861-1865 you would have seen the opposite, with Christian spirituality being the rule rather than the exception.
As particularly regarding portraying the 1st Virginia we have determined to portray a unit of gentlemen. The idea of the "southern gentleman" is by no means mere modern romanticizing. The concept was well known throughout the South and beyond with "finer families" pursuing scrupulously this ideal of both internal character and outward behavior. Yet southerners of all social ranks admired and to varying degrees emulated this ideal. Even those in the north who believed in and practiced gentlemanly behavior commented on the particular attentiveness, degree of zeal and polished success exhibited by their southern neighbors. While it was acknowledged that some were indeed more polish than substance, yet the essence of a true gentleman was good character and it was believed without question that the good character of gentlemen would indeed triumph over the baseness of the contemptible. Honor, courage, reliability, trustworthiness, duty and polished manners were all the hallmarks of a gentleman but it was in his philosophy toward ladies that these various qualities found perhaps their highest expression. Coarseness toward ladies, whether present or not, was unthinkable. Duty toward the ladies was when all was said and done perhaps the very raison d'Ítre of patriotic responsibility. Southern men understood all this without anyone having to explain it to them and it created compelling reason to volunteer to fight against a "northern aggressor" whose armies quickly showed themselves capable of theft, arson and pillage at the expense of defenseless ladies.
Standards regarding the treatment of the public, other reenacting groups and one another.
The reenactors of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry and associated civilians hold to a high set of standards and a certain philosophical viewpoint which we deem necessary for good reenacting and healthy relationships with the public, with other reenacting groups and with one another.
...unapologetically embrace the Christian values and higher level of culture which actuated so many who went before us.
...are family-friendly, never offensive to ladies or children.
...understand that we are servants to the spectators rather than reenacting only for ourselves.
...do not attempt to rob other units of members.
...are clean and of good report (no drunkenness, filthy language, etc.).
...are trustworthy, keeping what commitments we make.
...are supportive of and loyal toward one another.
...understand and embrace higher responsibilities.
...comprehend that historical reenacting is an educational journey in which all have much to learn.
We further endeavor to develop our aspirations toward authenticity in first-person portrayals through increasing our knowledge and understanding of the values, motivations, experiences, speech, dialect, vocabulary and body language of the type of people we portray as well as through developing our own spoken and dramatic abilities to better communicate what we have learned.
By combining historicity of both tangible and intangible factors and bringing these out through good dramatic and communications skills we aspire both for ourselves and for the public to enter into a new multi-dimensional experience that will create a deeper level of authenticity in our quest to experience and share the historic experience. There are so many interesting hues and shades which are rarely seen.
1st Va. Vol. Inf.
Pages of the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry
Email us for details as to how you too may portray history along with the 1st Virginia Volunteer Infantry.
Christ in the Camp
The War the Women Lived
We also have in our possession pdf format copies of The Memoir of Howard Malcolm Walthall of the 1st Virginia, War History of the Old First Virginia Infantry Regiment by Charles Loehr of the 1st Virginia and The Old First Virginia at Gettysburg also by Charles Loehr - a Sergeant of the 1st Virginia and eyewitness participant. These are available to our members upon request.