Reenacting 101: What is Civil War Re-enacting?
Civil War re-enacting is a hobby where re-enactors or “Living Historians” portray, honor, and authentically recreate the camp life and battles experienced by the Civil War soldier to “walk in their shoes.” There are also civilian impressions such as normal citizens, nurses, surgeons and preachers. For those looking to portray soldiers both Union and Confederate, re-enactors have the same mission of honoring the memory of our ancestors whose blood was shed during the Civil War. While most portray either Federal (Union) or Confederate, some “galvanize” (do both). Re-enactors love sharing their knowledge with the public and our mission is to interactively share the story of the Civil War on a personal level for both the participants and spectators.
Re-enactors travel with their units to different events for new experiences in various states. There are several types of branches within Civil War re-enacting such as infantry (foot soldier), cavalry (on horseback), and artillery (cannon). Some units are more “hardcore” or 100% authentic for every moment in the field, while others are more a little laid back with regulations once the public leaves. We follow period-correct drill manuals and maintain proper military discipline/respect since it is the military of our nation that we recreate. As re-enactors, we also sleep on the ground in period-correct tentage, eat out of period correct containers, and members requiring eyewear even wear reproduction period-correct glasses. Dying in the hobby is referred to as “taking a hit”. We use real black powder (blank rounds).
There is true comradery between re-enactors; we always look out for one another. It is that bond of comradeship that makes the re-enactor appreciative of what the Civil War soldier went through in drill, sitting around a campfire, marching on campaign, and being scared out of their minds during the chaos of battle. We often do 1-2 events a month on the weekend (not all events are mandatory) during the warmer months. It is a great time to get away with the guys, talk with others who love the Civil War as much as you do, and get a personal glimpse into what everyday life was like for the men who fought and died during our nation’s greatest struggle.
Re-enactors and recruits must be, at least, 16 years of age to be on the battlefield during fighting and can carry a rifle for drill but cannot actually fire their weapons. Firing of black powder weapons can only be done if you are 18 years or older: No exceptions. If you are younger than 18, however, there are other chores that can be done, however, such as drummer boys.
If interested in getting started in our hobby, please visit the website of a unit that is located close to you or does an impression (i.e., Standard Federal Infantry, Zouave, Irish Brigade, etc.) that are you are interested in. Click here for a list of NR member units.