Wearing Your Gear

Stephen P. Hanson
1st Sgt., Co. C, 2nd U.S. Infantry, National Regiment

Rule #1:
Nothing on your body should interfere with anything else on your body or with any Manual of Arms evolution.
Rule #2:
Nothing on your body should interfere with anyone else in ranks in front, back, or beside you in any company evolutions.

When looking front-on at a fully accoutred soldier standing at attention, the only items of equipment that should be seen, aside from the straps for all his accoutrements crossing his chest, are his weapon, waist belt, cap box, bayonet, and the blanket, either behind his head on his knapsack or across his body if he is wearing a blanket roll. All other items are behind him and out of sight.

Waist belt
Around the waist, the buckle over the navel. It should not ride low on the hips.

Cap Box
On the right side of the waist belt buckle about half way between the hip and the navel. The straps held in place between the belt and the overlap of the belt extending from the buckle to the brass keepers so it will not slide along the belt. The nipple pick, when not being used, should be inside the cap box in the small loop on the left back corner of the box

Cartridge Box
Behind the right hip and above the buttock. The top of the box about one finger-width below the bottom of the waist belt. With a load of blank cartridges, the cartridge box barely weighs more than its unloaded weight and it is never a problem for the reenactor However, loaded with live rounds (2-1/4 pounds of lead), it is very heavy. If it rides too low, the resulting bouncing on the buttock during a full-day’s march causes a great deal of fatigue.

Cartridge Box Sling
Over the left shoulder, the bottom under the waist belt behind the right hip. The belt plate centered on the chest.

Bayonet and Scabbard
Whether using a Springfield or Enfield scabbard, the general rules for position apply.
Hanging from the waist belt in front of the left hip. Far enough forward so the shaft or handle of the bayonet is within easy reach Far enough forward so it doesn’t obstruct the weapon at Support Arms or get tangled in the haversack or canteen straps. Back enough so that the shaft of the Springfield bayonet does not clink on the belt buckle or the tip does not protrude to the left poking the next man in ranks. The Enfield scabbard should be back far enough so that, when the wearer is sitting, the scabbard hangs outside the leg, not resting on top of the thigh or hanging between the legs.

Hanging from the right shoulder, behind the left hip with the “bulk” of the full bag resting on top of the left buttock, but not high enough to obstruct the knapsack when worn. Worn over all leather gear but under the knapsack straps. Far enough to the rear so it does not obstruct the left arm from hanging naturally against the body or get in the way of Support Arms
A Haversack full of food, even dried food, is bulky and heavy. If it hangs too low, the resulting swing and bounce on the left buttock or thigh will cause fatigue on a long march. Also, a bulky haversack hanging too low (protruding from the bulkiest part of the buttock), and with the cup attached to the strap, will get in the way of the soldier next in line to the left when turning, even half-turning to prime the weapon.

Whenever possible, inside the haversack, not hanging from it. A bulky haversack with a cup hanging on the outside gets in the way of the man next to the left when turning, gets in the way of the canteen, and clanks when marching. Put some food item in the cup and it doesn’t take up any more room than the item placed in it, and also protects some delicate food items from being crushed

Over the right shoulder and resting on top of the haversack behind the left hip. It should sit on top of the haversack flap with the canteen center about even with the haversack buckle. If the knapsack is worn, it should be worn over the knapsack straps so it can be used without taking the knapsack off

On the back, packed so that soft items act as a cushion, and high and tight enough so it doesn’t bounce or sag and pull on the shoulders. Straps cinched only tight enough so the entire bundle is compact and nothing inside can move or fall out, but not so tight that it is bulky and inflexible. The chest straps crossed across the chest and hooked onto the opposite shoulder strap The blanket tied to the top should ride high and close to the back of the head, not sag over the back of the pack so it pulls on the shoulders and gets in the way of others in ranks.

Blanket Roll
Preferably on the right shoulder so it doesn’t get in the way of Shoulder or Support Arms, and does not obstruct the cartridge box. If rolled correctly, there should be no bulk on the top of the right shoulder that will get in the way of firing. Tied behind the left hip, loose enough not to be restrictive, but tight enough not to fall loose or swing when moving Of the two halves, the larger or heavier “bag” should be in the back.