Living the History


One of the most interesting aspects of the American Civil War is how we remember it. When the last Civil War Veteran died in 1959, the last link to the war was thought to be dead. In 1961, the 100th anniversary cycle of the war began, and a strange and some would say “odd” occurrence began. People began to recreate the life of Civil War Soldiers in camp and in battle in a strange phenomenon called reenacting.

Since 1961, reenacting has gained a huge popularity boost, drawing in many different types of people throughout the world. The Civil War is no longer the only reenacted era either, with many people branching out into other time periods. Yet it is the Civil War in which reenacting takes such an important and controversial role in the remembrance of the conflict.

The controversy stems from people who say that it is not right to re create battles and so on. In my opinion, they are totally correct in saying that, but it depends on what type of reenactor you are talking about. Some reenactors, known as “Farbs” are there to drink beer, camp with buddies, and wear the gear that they could get for the cheapest. The other group, are called “Progressives”, these reenactors are often called stitch nazis for their attention to detail.

Example of Progressive Reenactors

Example of Progressive Reenactors: The Constitution Guard. A Living History group out of the East Coast.

Example of a farb

Example of a farb

I think when done right, reenacting can be one of the most educational experiences out there. For me, since I consider myself a progressive, when I get out in 90 degree heat with three layers of wool that I know are authentic down to the stitch, it makes me feel a sense of how horrible it was to actually go through the Civil War as an average soldier. After the weekend is over and I have gotten through the 10 hard-tack crackers I was given for rations that weekend, I can touch the surface of what it may have been like to be in the war. From a spectator’s point of view, it is important to actually see an excellent representation of what a soldier would have looked like and acted like. It is better to see that than sit in a lecture hall for hours on end listening to descriptions.

150th Anniversary of Antietam with only Progressive reenactors

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