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August 2005

Upcoming Events

August 19-21

Re-enactment, Galesburg, IL

September 9-11

Re-enactment, Lockport, IL

September 16-18 Re-enactment, Marengo, IL
September 30-
October 2
National re-enactment, Corinth, MS
October 7-9 Re-enactment, Princeton, IL
October 14-16 Re-enactment, Minooka, IL

Remember that you can always find more event details and directions at the unit website, http://www.64thill.org/events/. We also have info on several Civil War dances/formal balls held throughout the year in the area.

Corinth Update
By Scott Gutzke

It’s hard to believe, but we’re only two months away from our major event in Corinth, MS!

Currently we have approximately 25 soldiers who are planning on attending, between the 64th ILL, 45th ILL and friends. We also have two civilians, so ladies…step on up!

We still have space for many more, and would love to have an even bigger turnout. Remember, the original 64th fought at Corinth.

For those of you planning on going but haven’t registered, please do so soon! Go to the 64th website at www.64thill.org and follow the directions there for registration. Please let me know once you’ve registered so I can keep track of numbers.

For those who are interested in carpooling, either by riding with someone or providing a ride, please contact me at 847-215-2060 or sgutzke@lycos.com.


Don’t forget we’ll be hosting the 26th NC for a fabulous potluck on Saturday evening, Sept. 10. Bring your best dish and an appetite, as always! Afterwards we’ll be holding a unit meeting in the 64th camp.

Volunteers for Dollinger Farm Event

Dianna Bierman is looking for volunteers to help with various activities at the Minooka event in October. She will be needing people to help out with money collection for the trolley and entrance to the battle, as well as other activities throughout the weekend. Please contact Dianna at 815-725-0148 or ladypard64@juno.com.

Choosing the Proper Sack Coat
By Marc Findlay

For the period our unit portrays, a sack coat is one of the first purchases that “fresh fish” should consider. When the unit came off furlough in early 1864 the sack coat would have been one of the first items issued to the new recruits and re-enlisting veterans.

When you go to a sack coat many things must be considered. First, the proper name of the sack coat is the, “Fatigue Blouse” so don’t get confused by the name. Next, think about how much money you want (or able) to spend. Sack coats start at about $50.00 and can cost as much as $400.00. The coats at the lower price are fine to use and will pass muster without a problem. The $400.00 sack coat is very historically accurate in the form of construction and material. But, who of us can afford to spend $400.00 on one coat.

Next, we need to look at construction and materials. Patrick Brown who wrote the book, “For Fatigue Purposes” states that most of the reproduction sack coats made are too well tailored. The seams are straight and the fit is perfect. Original garments were made quickly by overworked, and under paid seamstresses trying to support a family. The seamstresses were only paid on average $.20-$.45 per coat. Even in the 1860s these were very low wages. So, for a person to make a living and support her family she would have to work 12-16 hours per day, and make as many coats as possible. With this in mind, the coats were not made to high quality, tailored standards. The material to be used was an Indigo dyed flannel of 5.5 oz per yard. The material also had a “raised wale.” This is the zig-zag pattern you see in the material. Button holes were hand sewn. The machine to sew button holes was not produced until after the war. The thread to be used was to be Indigo dyed, much of the thread was, but many contractors also used cheap logwood dyed thread. The logwood dye fades when exposed to the elements. This is why you see many original sack coats with brown thread topstitching.

Shades of color varied widely on original coats. The Indigo dye used was very subject to temperature, humidity, water quality, impurities in the dye, ph of the dye, and the age of the dye. With this in mind, the sack coats were very different in shade from light to dark. Many of the reproduction sack coats are a navy blue rather than a dark blue as were the originals. Sack coats have been found, and documentation located that shows some sack coats dyed with cheap logwood dye. At inspection the coats past, but after 3-4 weeks in the field the coats would turn a dirty brown color. Today you don’t have to worry about that, logwood dye is expensive (modern times) and most vendors won’t deal with it unless you pay a great sum of money.

Lining is a question that comes up. Lines vs Unlined???? Which is historically accurate???? BOTH!!!! Quartermaster specifications called for lined sack coats but, over 1 million coats were made during the war without lining. Also, when the weather got warm soldiers would remove the linings to make a lighter coat. Linings were made from cotton flannel, wool flannel, jean cloth, polished cotton, domet flannel, and other fabrics available during the Civil War. You may notice that vendors sell unlined coats for more money than lined coats. The reason for this is that the seams in an unlined coat must be flat felled and not left raw. Flat felled seams take much more labor.

Now, on to sizes. The army during the civil war had 4 sizes. Labeled with dots and block numerals on the sleeve lining, 1, 2, 3, and 4. The largest size 4 had a chest of 42 inches. Most soldiers of the period described the army sizing system as only 2 sizes, “TOO BIG OR TOO SMALL!!!” Sack coats were bundled together with 150 being in a bundle. In this bundle there would be more size 2 and 3 than 1 and 4. Modern research has shown that sizes for boys also existed as well as larger than size 4. Most of us will not fit into issue sizes.

Sleeves were made with a triangular vent at the base of the cuff. If a sleeve is too long it is perfectly acceptable to roll them up.

Contractor vs. Arsenal coats. The arsenal system could not keep up with demand during the war, thus contracts were sent out. Numerous contractors made sack coats during the war. Schyulkill Arsenal was the only arsenal at the beginning of the war that manufactured sack coats. Many of the highest quality vendors make sack coats based on contractor sack coats. The reason for this is that the contractors were clothing manufacturers with sweat shops and sewing machines for the seamstresses. Thus, coats were made mostly machine sewn. Hand sewing was more prominent with the surviving arsenal made coats. It is believed that machine sewn arsenal sack coats were made during the war but no examples exist today. Machine sewn reproductions can be made cheaper, and faster, but historically accurate. A reproduction Schyulkill Arsenal sack coat, 100% hand sewn will coat as much as $400.00. Arsenal coats as well as contractor coats were seen in all theaters of the war after mid 1862.

Vendors that are acceptable for muster:

  1. Blockade Runner

  2. Fall Creek

  3. John Allen

  4. Coon River

  5. C.D. Jarnigan

The above vendors sell their coats for $50-$90.00.

Vendors that make the highest quality, most historically accurate coats:

  1. W. W. and Company

  2. C.J. Daley

  3. Nick Sekela (Through New Jersey Skillet Liker)

  4. John Wedeward (Though New Jersey Skillet Liker)

  5. Trans-Mississippi Depot (Issue Sizes 1-4 only)

  6. Charlie Childs

  7. Richmond Depot (Special Order only, but excellent quality!!!!)

These coats are between $150-$400.00. In order to get the “most bang for the buck” you might want to purchase your sack coat from one of the acceptable vendors rather than the highest quality vendors. All vendors listed have websites that can be found using search engines. Also, you can contact me though e-mail for specific sites.

Logan House Display a Hit
By Ken Gough

To all who helped out with the Logan House display, kudos to you! We’ve had the cabin out to four events and it’s gotten better each time. I suppose the best complement we were paid was as we were taking it down at Naperville. A number of people remarked that they thought it was a new building put up by the park. Guess you could also count threats as complements, “If my wife sees that thing, and wants one, you’re toast!”

There seems to have been some misunderstanding about the request we made some time back about contributing to the display. We didn’t mean for members to drop off an item then leave for the weekend. We want YOU! Bring something to display and stay to work it. Best case would be something you could use and explain its use.

If your display requires a great deal of time or space then we need to know about it in advance. I’m in the cabin most of the day sewing but that only takes up a corner. We’ve had good luck stringing a clothes line up for displaying quilts and other items. The only drawback here is reenactors setting up in front of the exterior displays and not letting spectators get to the lines. Please remember that our visitors need access to the whole display.

Transportation of the cabin and its furnishings has been solved with the purchase of a trailer. Unfortunately this has put the project over budget (around $2,400.00) and maxed out my gross weight capabilities. What we have on display now is the most I can physically transport to an event. So we really need anything that can add to the display itself. Keep in mind that it is a cabin and home with a cottage industry of sewing. Items added should reflect this.

Scenarios being considered for this years events are;

So gals. Come on out. We’re having a ball!

Milwaukee Event Recap
By Scott Gutzke

For the first time, members of the 64th attended the timeline living history event at the Old Soldier’s Home (current VA hospital and Wood National Cemetery) in Milwaukee on June 3-5. The setting for the event was beautiful, full of actual buildings once occupied by Civil War veterans. The event was held to raise funds to preserve and restore the old buildings.

Being a timeline event, there were reenactors ranging from the Jamestown era up to Vietnam, with the largest contingent being Civil War reenactors. There was excellent spectator turnout. Reenactors were provided with 3 meals in the dining hall.

Those who attended had a great time (and benefited from eating Diane Gough’s great cookies (see photo in Ken’s article; although for some reason everyone took a pass on Mary’s rubber bread…) and we would highly recommend the event for next year’s schedule!

What a Ladies’ Man!

Carl Stahl surprised us all by getting some leave from the U.S. Army (he is currently stationed in Germany) and popping in for a visit at the Union event in June! He received a great reception from the ladies in camp, as you can see below…


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