NOTE: There is a LOT of information on this page. Please read it carefully as MOST questions about this hobby and membership requirements will be answered. If there is anything not fully explained, or if you have more questions, don't hesitate to ask our board members.
NOTE: Several documents on this website are in PDF format, and require Adobe Acrobat Reader to access. CLICK HERE to download We recommend at least Version 7, as that allows for text searching and copying.
Just what is the Regiment ?
We are a group of amateur historians who devote a good deal of our time to historic research on 18th Century America, particularly the period of the American Revolution (1775 - 1783). We portray an actual early war Pennsylvania Line Regiment formed primarily from residents of Chester and Delaware Counties in late 1776. Historically over half of the unit’s roster were Irish. CLICK HERE to see the timeline of the Revolution. We consider our activities a hobby and are therefore willing to devote our time and considerable money to “our hobby.” We reenact camp life, tactics, drill and combat of the late 18th century. We do this on weekends usually from Friday night through Sunday afternoon. We live in the field as was done in the 18th Century. Anyone joining us should share our likes and be able to assimilate to our ways.
The 11th Pennsylvania Regiment is a member of the Continental Line, one of three parent umbrella organizations that oversee the general safety of Revolutionary War reenacting. CLICK HERE to see the organizational structure of the Continental Line. The other two organizations are the Brigade of the American Revolution, and British Brigade.
How does one join ?
All applicants will fill out an Application for Membership. The primary purpose for this is based on insurance reasons, as we engage in the act of deliberately starting fires (in camp) and shooting black powder firearms at one another. The Application can be downloaded HERE, or you can e-mail us and we will mail you one. You can then bring your application form to an event so we may meet with you to answer any questions, expectations, requirements, etc. We encourage all prospective members to join us for an event before making any decisions about membership. This is not only so we may determine if you would be suitable for our unit, but to make sure our unit is what you are looking for. You may wish to just observe what activities are involved, or you may dress out (with appropriate clothing) to get a better feel for the hobby. Once we have met with you, your Application will need to be endorsed by two Full Members. The Applicant will then be approved by the Board. Applicants may not take to the field until the Board has approved their Application. Applicants will retain that status - normally one season - until voted into Full Membership by the Officers of the Board.
For members wishing to carry arms (muskets or rifles) on the battlefield, a Private’s Test must be accomplished before you are allowed to fire black powder in your weapon in battle. The test consists of marching & drill movements, the Manual of Arms for firing the musket and an inspection of clothing (quantity, availability and authenticity). There is no time limit for accomplishing this test, however, no black powder will be carried onto the field until it has been completed, and the musket will be equipped with a wooden flint. Drill in the use of the musket off the battlefield can use black powder and real flints for training purposes when properly supervised and instructed by a member in Full Standing. All muskets and rifles are required to be fitted with flash guards and hammer stalls according to Continental Line, Brigade of the American Revolution, and British Brigade requirements, along with local, state and federal laws.
How much does it cost ?
Unit membership dues are set at the beginning of the year by the Board of Directors. It is routinely between $20 to $40 per person for all ages 16 and over. This covers the cost of insurance for the various events we attend, and provides funds for unit activities. This cost, however, is very insignificant compared to the expense of outfitting yourself (musket, clothing, accoutrements, tentage, camp equipment, etc.). Since we are a § 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, however, all items acquired for the hobby are tax deductible.
What is a typical event like ?
Some events are single day activities, but most cover an entire weekend, with tacticals (battles) scheduled once to twice a day for both Saturday and Sunday. Most sites allow reenactors to set up on Friday evening (allowing you to leisurely set up in 21st Century clothing). The campsites will be maintained in period appearance (no visible 21st Century items) while the site is opened to the public (hours vary, dependent upon the event organizers). After that, certain ‘modern’ conveniences may be brought out (canned liquid refreshments, etc.), although cooking is normally done in period fashion. Some members, from time to time, change back to 21st century clothing after hours when the public has left, but most stay 18th century throughout the weekend and enjoy all the old ways.
Men will usually drill prior to a tactical (battle) demonstration and train new members. All members share camp chores of getting water, wood, cleaning the camp (dishes) etc., when necessary. Men must be present, in proper prescribed uniform, for all formations and drill. Ladies will dress according to period and persona, and children must be dressed out and behave while in camp. They can play or “help out,” if old enough, on various duties. All members should be well versed in history enough to discuss and answer questions from the public, but only state historic facts. Our goal is to educate the public on what this time period was about, not speculate, guess, or assume anything that would have them going away with an improper perception.
We usually help each other in setting up and breaking down the campsite. In the evenings we sit around the campfires enjoying each others company, with good conversation and good times. Alcoholic beverages are permitted (if the site and event organizers permit), but only after hours when the general public has left. Although we are adults (at least most of us), we realize we are not (all) saints, but drunkenness, vulgarity, profanity, inappropriate bragging and causing an annoyance is unacceptable. As children are present in camp, any improper behavior will be dealt with, from censure, up to and including dismissal. The regiment desires fun but trouble is not wanted and will not be tolerated. Children, unless under the prearranged, explicit care of a designated Full Member adult, should be kept under the supervision of their parent(s). We are not an 18th Century babysitting service.
What about authenticity ?
Authenticity is brought up quite often. We try to portray, as close to historically accurate as possible, the camp life, tactics, drill and combat of the late 18th century, given the obvious restrictions and limitations of the 21st Century. If the public can see it, we try to make it look authentic. There are certain things ever present during the Revolutionary War that we DO NOT portray, such as dysentery, disease (smallpox), famine, the letting of real blood (on the battlefield via musket, sword or bayonet, or through bleeding [highly common in that time period] in camp via our medical staff [don't volunteer for medical demonstrations, regardless of Donah's reassurance that the procedure is both painless and simple]).
Another question often brought up is underwear (bra, panties, briefs, jockeys, boxers, etc.). This type of clothing was not conceived until the onset of that other war in the 1860's, however there are certain members who swear by them (especially of the female persuasion). Once again, we refer to the 'out of sight, out of mind' adage (yes, please keep them covered, especially if they are being worn at the time) or, if you prefer, 'don't ask - don't tell.'
Certain modern conveniences we often take for granted need to be addressed, such as watches, eye glasses, rings on fingers, earrings, etc. If they are not period, don't wear them. Obviously, if you need eye glasses to see, safety will override appearance, but remember, your face is the first thing anyone looks at. Jas. Townsend is an excellent source for period goods such as pocket watches (theirs keeps exceptional accuracy) and period spectacles. Shoes are another item. If you are unable to acquire (or afford for the time being) period buckled shoes, there are certain Pay Less varieties (namely Monk Strap) that, when covered by gaiters, can pass inspection. Earrings should NOT be worn, especially by men.
Another issue that needs to be addressed is facial hair. Although you will see several members of our unit sporting various forms of hairstyles, mustaches, beards, goatees, etc., keep in mind that facial hair was NOT the norm in the 18th century. Some of our members choose to shave prior to an event to be "historically accurate" while others invoke their right of modern styling as we do concede that this is primarily a weekend hobby. Occasionally, our members are asked to participate in the filming of various documentaries and even big screen movies (such as THE PATRIOT) at which time a clean-shaven face is required.
What do I need in the way of clothing ?
First and foremost, what we wear is considered clothing – NOT costumes. Clothing, and some of your equipment, can be made by yourself, as long as it is made authentically using authentic materials and methods. Patterns are available. No synthetic materials can be used in clothing, ONLY natural fibers, such as wool, linen or cotton in cross weave. This is a historical, as well as a safety, factor. Synthetics melt instead of burning and, given our propensity for getting close to fire, we would hate to see your clothes melt to your skin. If you desire to make your own clothing, some of our members can guide you to proper sources. Since we are a small unit we do not have a repository of cooking equipment, tentage, weapons, clothing or accoutrements for loan or issue. Please consult us before acquiring or making your own clothing, as we would hate to see you spend all that time and money to fashion a piece of clothing, only to find out it is less than authentic (trust us, it happens all the time).
As an early war unit, we have more of an appearance of a militia regiment and the dirtier the better. Documentation shows the Pennsylvania Line preferred Regimental coats in the winter and Hunting frocks in the summer(1). Artillery units were often very well equipped with full uniforms, including regimentals. Older members would present a historically accurate impression if equipped with French & Indian War clothing and accoutrements.
For a table showing a laundry list of apparel, accoutrements and accessories, click on your gender:
What about camping ?
Camping is done with period tentage, normally wedge tents. Modern tents are not allowed. Period tents are made of canvas, and most manufacturers chemically treat them with fire and mold/mildew retardants. Please take note that, because we are a small unit, we do not have the resources to provide tents for our new members, so it is the individual's responsibility to acquire the proper tentage. Panthers and Tentsmiths are two excellent sources for tentage, but others are available. Prices will normally run between $200 - 250 (that includes the tent, and not the tent stakes or wooden support poles). Dimensions for supports are usually provided by the tent manufacturer and made by the owner of wooden poles, either 2x2, 2x3 or 2x4 of appropriate lengths. If you do not have or plan to acquire a tent, local lodgings are usually available close to most events. Tent stakes can be acquired through Townsends, or any reputable iron working sutler.
Straw, firewood and water are usually provided by the site host. Straw is used as a rough bedding and thermal insulator from the ground. You may sleep ‘period’ (blankets on top of straw), or opt for a more modern and comfortable approach (cot, air mattress, sleeping bag, etc.). The important thing to remember is to keep all modern items out of public view during event hours. If you plan to open your tent where the public can see inside, all modern gear must be stored out of sight and/or covered with period blankets. Also remember that many of the public see our tents as 'props', and don't think we actually sleep in them, so don't be surprised to see them peering, or even walking, into your tent. Be forewarned and keep everything covered that is not period, even if you close and tie the tent. Also consider this when changing clothes, as there is nothing that will get everyone's attention quicker than the shriek of a startled lady who has been walked in on while she is less than fully clothed.
What about cooking ?
As stated before, most site hosts provide firewood for reenactors. Most firewood is large log cut, and an axe is useful to cut it into more usable sizes. Depending on the arrangement, many sites allowing campfires to be set up in the camping area, or have a designated fire pit area. Pits will be dug large and deep enough to contain the cooking fire without setting adjacent grass/vegetation on fire. At most sites one fire pit will suffice for the entire unit, although sometimes multiple fire pits are set up. All cooking is done with period cast iron cookware (Lodge makes some of the best), and period plates, utensils, cups, mugs, etc., will be used.
There are many recipe books available providing period recipes. Stews and soups are the easiest to make, but remember that tomatoes were considered poisonous by many (and some of us still think so). Coolers are excellent for the storage of food for a long weekend, but they must be kept out of public view. Some have even constructed boxes and chests to put the coolers into to blend in with the period look. Many people prepare certain portions of their meals ahead of time, so all they need to do is toss all the ingredients into the pot for cooking.
Do you have to march and Drill ?
As military and militia regiments of the Continental forces, drilling and marching was a way of life, and the only way to maneuver troops on the battlefield. From the early days of Lexington and Concord, the Massachusetts Minutemen Men had been trained in Pickering, a drill developed by Colonel Timothy Pickering of the Massachusetts militia. In an attempt to standardize the early troops to one type of drill, many units adopted the Manual Exercise of 1764 used by the British Crown forces, more commonly known as the '64 drill (Since we are an early war unit, THIS IS THE DRILL WE USE THE MOST). It was not until the harsh winter in Valley Forge did the American troops, under the guidance of the Prussian General Friedrich Von Steuben, learn a standardized and simplified manual of drill that allowed them to move easily and uniformly across the field of battle.
How is the regiment organized ?
To learn the history of the original 11th Pennsylvania Regiment, CLICK HERE. The current regiment was started in 1996 and formed as a nonprofit historic organization. Its Officers, board members and field officers are voted in annually by the membership. The regiment normally has six elected Board positions: President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, Member(s)-at-Large and Regimental Commander. The Member-at-Large position is utilized based upon unit size. At the current time we have two filling this position. Our Commanding Officer (Regiment Commander) is a lieutenant, with a sergeant and a corporal to command the remainder of the forces. All members in good standing (dues paid) have a voting right. A periodic newsletter - “The Coates Chronicles” provides members information not provided through the unit website. No salaries are paid to any of our officers, board members or other regiment officials.
How do you govern yourselves ?
To meet the requirements for membership to the Continental Line, and to qualify for and maintain our §501(c)(3) tax exempt status, we are required to have a Constitution, and Policies & Procedures. These are our governing documents that dictate how the unit is organized, functions, and operates. Any unique situations that are not covered by these two documents will be discussed and voted by the Board. On July 1st, 2007 the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment became Incorporated, and our Constitution (By-Laws) have been changed to reflect Incorporated status.
How many people are in the regiment right now ?
We are a growing unit, now with roughly three times the number of the original company, comprised of approximately 55 people at the present time. Coates Company, in February of 1777 had available for duty, only 17, and the regiment as a whole numbered only 224.
Is this only a family activity ?
No, we encourage family membership if all the family shares the interest and will participate in the unit activities. We have several single men and women who are very active in the unit. Families, where only one or part of the family wish to join and participate, are welcome, however members not “dressed out” 18th century can stay in the camp but cannot participate in any camp activities during public time.
What about kids ?
As we stated previously, children are more than welcome in the unit. Minor children may join the unit only as members of a family, and must be accompanied to events, and under the direct supervision of a participating adult family unit member or other appointed adult unit member who is authorized to act as guardian for the minor. Parents may not join and stay in camp without being in period dress for the sole reason to satisfy the supervision requirements. Unless joining as a family, Applicant Members must be 18 years of age or older. We love kids and enjoy having them in our unit, but children under the age of 18 present unique insurance liability issues and require a parental consent form to allow for medical treatment in the event of an emergency. We will not have a child dropped off at an event for us to watch for the duration of the weekend.
What if I have medical Issues ?
As a reenacting unit, we have no medical staff to handle medical issues if they arise. Other than a basic first aid kit for minor emergencies such as a cut or scratch, we have no ability to handle any pre-existing or long-term medical condition that a member might have, such as a heart condition, food allergy or other sensitivity to something that may be expected to be found in a period camp. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the individual to be prepared to handle any long-term or pre-existing condition to include having any required medication on-site with them for the event. Parents are responsible for the same for their minor children.
How active do I have to be to keep my membership ?
There are no minimum requirements necessary to maintain membership in the unit unless you seek a field or board position (see the next question/answer). We have members that, because of other obligations and their distance to various events, are only able to attend one or two events a year. We realize there are many obstacles in our modern-day lives that prevent us from dedicating entire weekends to reenacting events, and we do not penalize members who cannot attend.
How can I become a field officer or board member ?
Full Members in good standing from the previous year that have attended a minimum of five events in that year are eligible for board positions. To be considered for Commanding Officer, members in good standing must have attended 75% of the previous year's events, and commit themselves to at least 75% of the upcoming year's events. They must also be well versed in the Manual Exercise of 1764, Von Steuben, line, rifle, light infantry tactics, camp activities, and safety procedures as determined by the board. The Commander appoints his NCO cadre to lead the troops. (Information available from the unit Constitution, Sections 6-12).
What about shooting black powder ?
Our firing is for demonstration & tactical purposes using no more than 100 gr FFg or FFFg black powder for muskets, and 80 gr FFg or FFFg black powder for rifles (maximum limits as listed on page 7 of the Safety Guide to Black Powder as established by the Continental Line). Although you can use either 2F (FFg) or 3F (FFFg) powder, the 3F ignites easier with less fowling of the lock and barrel. Please note that the use of Fg is for cannon only, and FFFFg (4F) powder will NEVER be used for a main charge (designed for priming pan only). Black powder is a very dirty burning powder that is classified as an explosive, and is extremely flammable. We use flintlock weapons only, as the percussion ignition was not invented until well into the 19th Century. The Brown Bess was probably the most common, used by both sides of the war. We do occasionally have live shoots (real bullets ... at paper targets, not people [although loyalists are sometimes considered fair game]) but this is not the norm. Members will provide their own powder and cartridges for events. Each pound of powder will make approximately 70 cartridges (at 100 gr each) or 87 cartridges (at 80 gr each). Each person should plan to use one full cartridge box (24 shots) per tactical. If a weekend event is scheduled to have two tacticals a day for both days, as many as 100 cartridges would be needed for the event (1 1/2 pounds of powder). It is the responsibility of the individual to make their own cartridges, and they will conform to the specification listed on page 5 of the Safety Guide to Black Powder. As stated previously, Applicants and Members may not fire black powder on the battlefield until they have passed their Private's Test.
One important issue needs to be brought up here. We reenact 18th Century America, and we have no place for any modern weapons whatsoever. You need not bring anything modern for "personal protection". Not only are these a violation of unit policy but, due to the various locations where we reenact (state and national parks), it would also be a violation of state and federal law as well. Given the fact that we deliberately fire antique weapons at each other, the mere presence of a modern weapon, loaded or not, would be a grievous safety hazard and will not be tolerated. Anyone bringing any modern weapon to any unit function would be grounds for immediate dismissal from the unit. Besides, anyone would be exceptionally stupid to try and steal or assault a bunch of half-drunk reenactors on a Saturday evening.
One question often asked (although not usually to those in OUR unit) ... how did they get those muskets so shiny? Did they carry around brick dust, or what? Here is an entry in the 4th South Carolina Orderly book (again, many thanks to Pat O'Kelley):
"To polish the barrel of the fusee and keep it bright after being cleaned, every soldier must carry in his pouch a thick piece of buck skin, with which he is to rub the barrel will, as soon as he is relieved from his post as sentry or comes off guard; by the frequent repetition of this the polish becomes so long lasting as at length not to be spotted even by rain. Each man must also have in his pouch a worm and a wire pricker and 2 spare flints. It is recommended tat the stock of the gun be rubbed over with oil and wax, which will give it a gloss and prevent the wet from damaging it. The quartermaster will furnish the wax and oil and worm."
What questions should I NOT ask ?
Here is a short list of questions asked by the public at various events (usually met with blank stares) ...
- Is that real food?
- Are you really cooking?
- Are you going to eat that?
- Do you kill your own food?
- Is the fire real?
- Why did they put the fort so close to the airport?
- I thought you guys really shot each other during the battles ...
(and is disappointed because we don't)
- How come no one's bleeding?
- I didn't know they had Indians back then.
- Do you guys fight at Gettysburg? (this one is way too common)
- Why didn't Washington just phone his generals when he needed them?
- Where is Abraham Lincoln?
- Are you a Redcoat? (looking at your navy blue regimental)
- Do you fight for the North or South?
- What's in here? (poking head into your tent while you are changing or trying to nap)
- Do you really sleep in those tents?
- You don't get paid for this?
- Is that a real knife (gun, bayonet, sword ... pick an item)?
- Can I shoot your gun?
- That's a neat COSTUME!
- Are those real clothes?
- Why are you dressed like a pirate?
- Aren't those clothes hot?
- Hey ... did you see THE PATRIOT ?
Don't forget the parents who know everything, and correct the reenactors ... especially for their kids ...
- Johnny, come say hi to George Washington
- Of course you can play with the soldiers, they're not real people
- Only the British died in the war ... the Americans all lived
- The hats have three corners so it doesn't get blown off in the wind (what?)
- The tents are just for show, Sally, they stay in hotels
- See, it's not real fire ... (Grabbing the blacksmith's red hot piece of iron he's pounding on )
- Son, the Revolution was the Civil War (okay, partial credit)
- Let's go watch Benjamin Franklin cross the Delaware
- Of course they fight for the North ... if they were from the South they would be wearing gray
- How come this isn't like THE PATRIOT ... like the real war was?
When will I be considered a REAL reenactor ?
There are many ways to tell when your involvement as a reenactor has progressed from a hobby to a lifestyle. The following list was submitted by various contributors to RevList.
You know you are a reenactor when ...
- You can identify a regiment by the curses you heard in their camp
- You can spot 100% wool or linen at 30 yards
- You have spent over $500 on clothes that went out of style 200 years ago
- You have spent almost a thousand dollars for a gun that requires a sharp rock to work
- You have replayed the Discovery Channel's Rev War series (or the Patriot) 25 times in a row just to get a glimpse of your foot in the left hand corner of the screen
- You've uttered the phrase, "only 68 more days until (pick an event)"
- You consider life's essentials to be black powder and beer
- Your employer says, "Oh, are you going out to play that war crap again?"
- Your guests see your uniform and ask if you are in a theater production
- When the power goes out you click into 18th century mode, and the tin lanterns come out
- You have a wooden barrel or canteens soaking in the bathtub
- You travel over 1,000 miles to sleep in a tent in either freezing rain or stifling humidity
- You've driven by some open land and thought, "What a great place for a battle!"
- You've worn wool when the temperature tops 100 degrees, repeatedly
- You look at a beautiful girl in a bikini and wonder what she looks like in stays
- You've received cuts, burns, ticks, chiggers, poison ivy, and still look forward to doing again next time
- Your house needs a coat of paint
- You have three muskets stacked in the corner of the room
- You think a match is a glowing cord
- You have named your firelock, have slept with it and fondle it lovingly
- You have bought or made lead dice
- You've made a career decision based upon its impact on your weekends
- You've made a vehicle purchase decision based on how well it accommodates your gear and how easily it can get into and out of muddy fields
- On Monday your business associates comment on the funny sunburn that ends at the hat line
- No one will attend a war movie with you
- Your $30,000 car sits out in the rain so your $200 tent can dry out in the garage
- You own real books ... and READ them
- You are on PETA's hit list ... we love animals: we eat them and wear their skins
- Enroute to/from an event, you are asked at a gas station/restaurant/hospital (it's happened) if you are Amish
- You won't hesitate to spend $150 on a good pair of reenacting shoes, but $29.95 "dress" shoes are outrageously priced
- Your neighbors are no longer curious when they see you carry around a 5 foot musket, large knives, swords and 20 pounds of canvas
- You earn a good salary, but you're always broke
- Your mailman stays confused (what the heck rank are you in the Reserves, anyway?)
- You appreciate Monty Python and can recite all their famous skits ... the Rocky Horror Picture Show isn't a cult classic ... it's a lifestyle
- Your Christmas/birthday wish list reads like a quartermaster's supply request
- You eat five meals out of a bowl but only wash it twice
- You look into the bottom of your mug to make sure it's not too nasty, then shake out the ants before filling it for another round, yet you ask for a clean knife at a restaurant because it has water spots
- You fly strange flags
- Your kids can correct their history teacher
What about that OTHER war (Civil War) ?
There are many that enjoy doing Civil War versus Revolutionary War. However, of the two, we think our hobby is the best (especially in the greater Philadelphia area). If you would like to see more comparisons between the two, CLICK HERE to read the views of someone who has experienced both.
What books can I read to learn more ?
We have an ever growing list of books that will provide a wealth of information about the Revolutionary War, and life in the 18th century. CLICK HERE to go to our Recommended Reading section.
Who to contact for other questions ?
Any questions about membership can be directed to any of our board members. CLICK HERE to ask them a question. A listing of those holding the current board positions are shown, along with e-mail addresses.
1. Uniforms of the Continental Army, Philip Katcher, page 11