Use of tobacco by reenactors.

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
During the Civil War people chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, or smoked cigars. So do reenactors take up pipe smoking so they can look period correct? I take it smoking cigarettes at reenactments is not period correct.

So what percentage of Civil War soldiers chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, or smoked cigars? To be period correct, a reasonable number of reenactors should be smoking pipes and chewing tobacco.

During the Civil War was there a class division of who chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, and smoked cigars? Would enlisted men smoke cigars at the same percentage as officers?
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
A lot of reenactors prefer cigars, officers and enlisted men, which is probably incorrect as cigars are fragile. Chewing is probably not represented enough. Not very many typical reenactors smoke pipes, although I've taken up putting my cigarettes away and using a pipe at events. I got one roughly period correct pipe and carry it in a jacket buttonhole as some photo evidence has indicated, and doing so got me gifted an even more period correct pipe new in the box the other day!

Cigarettes are pretty period correct, BUT not modern filtered ones. Hand rolled cigarettes are period correct and apparently was common enough, but most smokers left still prefer they're modern cigs in my experience.
 

major bill

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 25, 2012
A lot of reenactors prefer cigars, officers and enlisted men, which is probably incorrect as cigars are fragile. Chewing is probably not represented enough. Not very many typical reenactors smoke pipes, although I've taken up putting my cigarettes away and using a pipe at events. I got one roughly period correct pipe and carry it in a jacket buttonhole as some photo evidence has indicated, and doing so got me gifted an even more period correct pipe new in the box the other day!

Cigarettes are pretty period correct, BUT not modern filtered ones. Hand rolled cigarettes are period correct and apparently was common enough, but most smokers left still prefer they're modern cigs in my experience.
Does anyone have evidence that hand rolled cigarettes were common during the Civil War?
 

johan_steele

Regimental Armorer
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
South of the North 40
Cigarettes like we know them were a Southern thing, really mostly Texas from Mexican influence. North of there most viewed cigarillos as a bit effete.

Cigars were rarely for the common soldier as they were pricey.

Pipe smoking was quite common all across the country. It wasn’t uncommon for kids as young as 10 smoking a pipe. The pipe smokers cigarette equivalent was the simple clay penny pipe.

Chaw or chewing tobacco was also common and depending upon geography was more common among women.

For a reenactor a pipe is probably most appropriate with a simple clay penny pipe being PEC/NUG.

I’m a closet pipe collector with around 50 pipes. I have a Swiss briar pipe made a little after the ACW, a Meerschaum that is a copy of one brought home from the Crimea, the Dutch Porcelain pipe I have I cannot fathom someone actually smoking dates to the late 1870’s and the style predates the ACW. I had a gutta percha pipe (broken by my daughters cat) dated 1870. I also had a French briar dated 1876 inscribed “Paris Fini, Viva America” my favorite is still a carpenters pipe where the bowl doubled as a plumb bob (I bid it up to $120 but lost) attributed to a NY soldier of the ACW.

It isn’t that difficult to find a period pipe or period style pipe. Period tobacco containers are more difficult. I have a brass tobacco box about the size of a cigarette pack I use to hold small plumb bobs. After several months of holding brass plumb bobs the tobacco smell has not dissipated. I have seen tobacco pouches made of both gutta percha and leather. One original is at the Wi Veterans museum collection made from either a poncho or gum blanket scrap.
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
I have a nice little reed pipe with a ceramic bowl that I´ve enjoyed for many years. Pipe smoking is somewhat more economical that cigar smoking - you can make a couple ounces of pipe tobacco last a whole event. I first smoked a pipe at 200th Yorktown in 1981. It was twist tobacco in clay pipe. I got ¨pipe drunk:¨ I broke out in a cold sweat, had spots in front of my eyes and got lost when I went for a walk. That was potent stuff.
 

mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
I used a period correct pipe. I had a pretty big pipe collection at one time. I do not like clay pipes too fragile. i found a correct period pipe I found in my travels and I used it for many years. The only bad tobacco I used came from Scotland. Now that stuff could get you high, especially if it got moldy. Talk about a trip. I watched A Nightmare on Elm Street on HBO that night, it was too real and weird. It freaked me out.
 

Trooper "D"

Private
Joined
May 20, 2018
During the Civil War people chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, or smoked cigars. So do reenactors take up pipe smoking so they can look period correct? I take it smoking cigarettes at reenactments is not period correct.

So what percentage of Civil War soldiers chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, or smoked cigars? To be period correct, a reasonable number of reenactors should be smoking pipes and chewing tobacco.

During the Civil War was there a class division of who chewed tobacco, smoked pipes, and smoked cigars? Would enlisted men smoke cigars at the same percentage as officers?
I read somewhere about Confederate Soldiers keeping a leather pouch about their neck for tobacco. Wasn't tobacco issued to the troops?
I tried Days Work in a plug one event. Couldn't help from swallowing a bit of it and I was dizzy. Switched to a clay pipe that finally broke down to a very small stem and I have a wood bowl and have used corn cob pipes. Finding pipes with period stems is difficult.
Cigars always get broken with me. The pipe is a good tobacco item. Carrying it upside down in the teeth just for looks is good as well. I also did the buttonhole thing with that clay pipe until there finally aint enough stem to button with.
Had planters raised crops instead of tobacco and Cotton some of that starvation may not have happened.
Cheers!
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
You need a cigar case if you´re going to pack cigars. I´ve had a couple over the years that will hold 3-5 cigars each. Clay pipes are disposable. I buy a new one once a year and throw the one I´m using away when it gets fouled. You can put a fouled pipe in a hot oven for about an hour and burn off the residue, but the pipe is really brittle afterwards; you won´t get more than a few days use afterwards. They made tin and papier mache cases for pipes, too. Using a case for storage extends the life of the pipe, but makes it less convenient for use.
 

Zack

Sergeant
Joined
Aug 20, 2017
Location
Los Angeles, California
Bell Wiley in LIFE OF BILLY YANK remarks that a surprising number of Union soldiers commented on the use of tobacco by Southern women.

Illinois Captain in Scottsboro, Alabama: "I went to the nearest house to camp today, to beg a little piece of tallow. . . . I sat down by a fire in company with three young women, all cleanly dressed, and powdered to death. Their ages were from 18 to 24. Each of them had a quid of tobacco in her cheek about the size of my stone inkstand, and if they didn't make the extract fly worse than I ever saw in any country grocery, shoot me. These women here have so disgusted me with the use of tobacco that I have determined to abandon it."

Private John Tallman in Vicksburg: "Thare are some nice looking girls, but they will chew tobaco, Sweet little things. Don't you think 'I' for instance would . . . make a nice show rideing along in a carrage with a young lady, me spiting tobacco juce out of one side of the carrage and she out the other . . . wall aint that nice, oh, cow!"

In LIFE OF JOHNNY REB he wrote (the below is an extended quote):

Any cataloguing of kinds of diversion in the Confederate Army would be incomplete without a mention of tobacco. It is doubtful if any single item except food, water, and letters from home was so highly cherished by Johnny Reb as "the delightful weed." References to its scarcity, to its availability, to cost, to its quality and to its soothing powers appear repeatedly in soldiers' correspondence and diaries.

"Nancy what do you do fur tobacco to chew?" inquired a Reb of his wife; "I have to pay two dollars a plug fur what I chew."

Another scribbled to his sister:

"Well Bet I herd you got three plugs of tobacco to go on I am glad to here that old Milan [his home county in Texas] can afford it. last Friday I got three plugs of No. one I can't sleep of nights Since for chewing $1.50 per plug and would not take twice the money for it . . . Tell Mass John that I am all right while my Tobacco lasts."

A third wrote:

"Tell Bettie not to be uneasy about my using tobacco. I shall not chew it, nor hurt myself smoking it. I am convinced that it has been of some benefit to me."

This was certainly a case of understatement. More enthusiastic was the Reb who observed "I . . . got my pipe and I woulddant take a dead negro for it," and another who boasted, "I am Sassy as a big house N*ggar got money and tobacco a plenty for the present."

A note of despair creeps into Sergeant Frank Moss's communication to his sister "Lizer" when he observes:

"Tobacco is only worth $2.50 cts per plug and I have taken my last chew this morning So you may guess I will have a hard tim as I dont use that kind of tobacco."


And a few excerpts from this article: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1964&context=student_scholarship

"The Civil War also occurred at an important moment in the evolution of tobacco usage: the aristocratic obsession with snuff was fading, the relatively understudied cigar, pipe, and chewing tobacco reigned supreme, and the cigarette was only developing the dominance it would finalize in the twentieth century."

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Joined
Oct 6, 2021
I find a pipe fits very well in the breast pocket of my sack coat almost like it was meant to be there. The problem with pipes I find and I smoke a pipe in normal life is they need to be maintained cleaned and occasionally allowed to rest for a bit or the start to smoke wet at that point the old farby pack comes sneaking out and I’m hiding behind a tree and as I’m sure you guys know spectators never talk to you lol brilliant your engaging in some non-period activity
 

Rusk County Avengers

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 8, 2018
Location
Coffeeville, TX
Bell Wiley in LIFE OF BILLY YANK remarks that a surprising number of Union soldiers commented on the use of tobacco by Southern women.

Illinois Captain in Scottsboro, Alabama: "I went to the nearest house to camp today, to beg a little piece of tallow. . . . I sat down by a fire in company with three young women, all cleanly dressed, and powdered to death. Their ages were from 18 to 24. Each of them had a quid of tobacco in her cheek about the size of my stone inkstand, and if they didn't make the extract fly worse than I ever saw in any country grocery, shoot me. These women here have so disgusted me with the use of tobacco that I have determined to abandon it."

Private John Tallman in Vicksburg: "Thare are some nice looking girls, but they will chew tobaco, Sweet little things. Don't you think 'I' for instance would . . . make a nice show rideing along in a carrage with a young lady, me spiting tobacco juce out of one side of the carrage and she out the other . . . wall aint that nice, oh, cow!"

In LIFE OF JOHNNY REB he wrote (the below is an extended quote):

Any cataloguing of kinds of diversion in the Confederate Army would be incomplete without a mention of tobacco. It is doubtful if any single item except food, water, and letters from home was so highly cherished by Johnny Reb as "the delightful weed." References to its scarcity, to its availability, to cost, to its quality and to its soothing powers appear repeatedly in soldiers' correspondence and diaries.

"Nancy what do you do fur tobacco to chew?" inquired a Reb of his wife; "I have to pay two dollars a plug fur what I chew."

Another scribbled to his sister:

"Well Bet I herd you got three plugs of tobacco to go on I am glad to here that old Milan [his home county in Texas] can afford it. last Friday I got three plugs of No. one I can't sleep of nights Since for chewing $1.50 per plug and would not take twice the money for it . . . Tell Mass John that I am all right while my Tobacco lasts."

A third wrote:

"Tell Bettie not to be uneasy about my using tobacco. I shall not chew it, nor hurt myself smoking it. I am convinced that it has been of some benefit to me."

This was certainly a case of understatement. More enthusiastic was the Reb who observed "I . . . got my pipe and I woulddant take a dead negro for it," and another who boasted, "I am Sassy as a big house N*ggar got money and tobacco a plenty for the present."

A note of despair creeps into Sergeant Frank Moss's communication to his sister "Lizer" when he observes:

"Tobacco is only worth $2.50 cts per plug and I have taken my last chew this morning So you may guess I will have a hard tim as I dont use that kind of tobacco."


And a few excerpts from this article: https://cupola.gettysburg.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1964&context=student_scholarship

"The Civil War also occurred at an important moment in the evolution of tobacco usage: the aristocratic obsession with snuff was fading, the relatively understudied cigar, pipe, and chewing tobacco reigned supreme, and the cigarette was only developing the dominance it would finalize in the twentieth century."

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I've learned so much reading all that...
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2019
Cigarettes like we know them were a Southern thing, really mostly Texas from Mexican influence. North of there most viewed cigarillos as a bit effete.

Cigars were rarely for the common soldier as they were pricey.

Pipe smoking was quite common all across the country. It wasn’t uncommon for kids as young as 10 smoking a pipe. The pipe smokers cigarette equivalent was the simple clay penny pipe.

Chaw or chewing tobacco was also common and depending upon geography was more common among women.

For a reenactor a pipe is probably most appropriate with a simple clay penny pipe being PEC/NUG.

I’m a closet pipe collector with around 50 pipes. I have a Swiss briar pipe made a little after the ACW, a Meerschaum that is a copy of one brought home from the Crimea, the Dutch Porcelain pipe I have I cannot fathom someone actually smoking dates to the late 1870’s and the style predates the ACW. I had a gutta percha pipe (broken by my daughters cat) dated 1870. I also had a French briar dated 1876 inscribed “Paris Fini, Viva America” my favorite is still a carpenters pipe where the bowl doubled as a plumb bob (I bid it up to $120 but lost) attributed to a NY soldier of the ACW.

It isn’t that difficult to find a period pipe or period style pipe. Period tobacco containers are more difficult. I have a brass tobacco box about the size of a cigarette pack I use to hold small plumb bobs. After several months of holding brass plumb bobs the tobacco smell has not dissipated. I have seen tobacco pouches made of both gutta percha and leather. One original is at the Wi Veterans museum collection made from either a poncho or gum blanket scrap.
D5663F2F-0BAE-417E-8542-43119944C91C.jpeg

Here are three nice clay pipes I personally excavated from Union hut sites occupied during the winter of 1862-63. Left to right 1) frog in talons from the camp of the 14th New York Regiment 2) cavalry boot with spur from the camp of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry 3) plain large clay from the camp of the 9th Massachusetts Infantry.
 
Joined
Nov 15, 2019
Cigarettes like we know them were a Southern thing, really mostly Texas from Mexican influence. North of there most viewed cigarillos as a bit effete.

Cigars were rarely for the common soldier as they were pricey.

Pipe smoking was quite common all across the country. It wasn’t uncommon for kids as young as 10 smoking a pipe. The pipe smokers cigarette equivalent was the simple clay penny pipe.

Chaw or chewing tobacco was also common and depending upon geography was more common among women.

For a reenactor a pipe is probably most appropriate with a simple clay penny pipe being PEC/NUG.

I’m a closet pipe collector with around 50 pipes. I have a Swiss briar pipe made a little after the ACW, a Meerschaum that is a copy of one brought home from the Crimea, the Dutch Porcelain pipe I have I cannot fathom someone actually smoking dates to the late 1870’s and the style predates the ACW. I had a gutta percha pipe (broken by my daughters cat) dated 1870. I also had a French briar dated 1876 inscribed “Paris Fini, Viva America” my favorite is still a carpenters pipe where the bowl doubled as a plumb bob (I bid it up to $120 but lost) attributed to a NY soldier of the ACW.

It isn’t that difficult to find a period pipe or period style pipe. Period tobacco containers are more difficult. I have a brass tobacco box about the size of a cigarette pack I use to hold small plumb bobs. After several months of holding brass plumb bobs the tobacco smell has not dissipated. I have seen tobacco pouches made of both gutta percha and leather. One original is at the Wi Veterans museum collection made from either a poncho or gum blanket scrap.
509988EF-769E-4D73-8FC3-C1F3177D4F67.jpeg
DBF55216-D213-4C2C-8172-F8CEAEB98477.jpeg

Here are a few more I excavated from civilian sites, all pre 1863 context.
 
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