A sutler’s life: Providing the wares of a 19th-century war

Lauren Wood | Daily Journal Brian Nobles of Raymond, portraying a second lieutenant in the Confederate Army, talks to his wife Nicole while looking around the Sue's Creations sutlers tent at the battlefield site Saturday afternoon during the Battle of Iuka. Sue Maust and her husband Ray traveled from Cut and Shoot, Texas to set up shop.

Brian Nobles of Raymond, portraying a second lieutenant in the Confederate Army, talks to his wife Nicole while looking around the Sue’s Creations sutlers tent at the battlefield site Saturday afternoon during the Battle of Iuka. Sue Maust and her husband Ray traveled from Cut and Shoot, Texas to set up shop. (Lauren Wood)

By JB Clark
Daily Journal

IUKA – Hundreds of Civil War re-enactors, adorned in wool uniforms in 90-degree temperatures, gathered in Iuka to make camp and participate in the 151st anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Iuka on Saturday.

Much research and preparation goes into historically portraying a member of one of the battle units like those at the 26th annual Iuka Heritage Festival/Battle of Iuka, which continues today in Mineral Springs and Jay Bird parks.

Sutlers’ tents line the dirt paths around most battlefield re-enactments, providing period clothing, Union and Confederate uniforms, period cooking utensils, period dresses and bonnets for the families of re-enactors, food and toys for the children.

At large re-enactments, traveling sutlers can be seen in period dress setting up small general stores under aged, beige tents. They provide everything the re-enactors need to give an authentic performance while providing a part of the performance themselves.

Susan and Ray Maust, of Cut and Shoot, Texas, began going to re-enactments to spend time with their son. Now they have a traveling general store – Sue’s Creations.

“We aren’t a part of any groups, just individuals who travel to different re-enactments across the country,” Susan Maust said, tending the counter in a simple period apron and dress. “All of us strive to have as close to period stuff as we can find.

I make the dresses from actual period patterns, which is a lot of fun.”

Maust said looking for the items to sell is just as fun as selling them to re-enactors. She has friends and family members who provide her with pottery, handmade soaps and bonnets. Her husband gets pipe tobacco, grown and blended by Oklahoma Native Americans.

Sylvia Hall, of Columbia Tenn., wore an elaborate purple dress under her tent, which was filled with period women’s clothing.

“I went to a civil war re-enactment four-and-a-half years ago and got the bug and the rest is history,” Hall said. She makes all of the hats at Sylvia’s Emporium from scratch and they are period correct.

The traveling stores transport visitors back 150 years in history, until a customer doesn’t have cash. Hall is prepared with a cellphone credit-card reader, possibly the only thing in her store not up to period standards.

“Everyone carries plastic now,” she said.

jb.clark@journalinc.com

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