Civil War Reenactment: Info

Hobbyists known as Civil War reenactors, or living historians, attempt to replicate the look of a certain battle or other event linked with the American Civil War.

Although most frequent in the United States, American Civil War reenactors can also be found in other countries.

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History of Reenactment

Even before the actual battle finished, people began reenacting the American Civil War. Civil War warriors re-enacted battles to honor their dead friends and to teach people about the conflict. More than 50,000 Union and Confederate veterans attended the Great Reunion of 1913, which commemorated the 50th anniversary of the War of Gettysburg and included reenactments of key battle scenes, notably Pickett's Charge.

During the 1961–1965 Civil War Centennial commemorations, modern reenacting is said to have begun. During the 1980s and 1990s, reenacting became increasingly popular, thanks in part to the success of the 125th Anniversary reenactment near the historic Manassas battlefield, which drew over 6,000 reenactors. According to Time magazine, there were more than 50,000 reenactors in the United States that year.

Largest Reenactment

The Battle of Gettysburg's 135th anniversary re-enactment took conducted near the actual battlefield in 1998. The number of participants has been estimated at 15,000 to 20,000, although it is largely acknowledged that it was the greatest re-enactment ever performed anywhere in the globe, with between 15,000 and 20,000 re-enactors taking part. Approximately 50,000 people attended this event.

Organization of Reenacting Units

Reenacting companies and regiments are arranged similarly to Civil War companies and regiments. Nearby reenactors build a ring around a company that originates from the same region. Companies will be combined into larger regiments to establish a state-wide structure. A local company commander will be appointed to recruit new members, instruct them in military exercise principles, and assist them in purchasing the proper equipment. Only a few men will rise to the rank of general, and they must be capable of commanding at that level. They must also have established ties with the brigades and divisions they want to lead. No reenactor will react if an unknown commander appears on the battlefield and attempts to seize leadership of the troops.

Popular Reenactments

Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment
Gettysburg, Pennsylvania
Brooksville Raid Reenactment
Brooksville, Florida
Annual Reenactment of the Battle of Ocean Pond or Olustee
Sanderson, Florida

Why Reenactors Do it

Camping, cooking over an open fire, firearms, loud noises, marching, military discipline, and sharing stories are all things that reenactors like. What's not to appreciate about that?

Reenactors are used to discomfort, port-a-potties, cramped quarters, and the aches and pains that come with hauling gear weighing 20 pounds or more.

Reenactors use "impressions" to represent the sort of person they intend to portray.

No one in the twenty-first century truly understands what life was like in the nineteenth century, but one may get a sense of it by reading about it and then turning that sense into a reenacting reality.

Most reenactors, for example, depict ordinary soldiers, but if someone wishes to portray a foreign-born ancestor, they can enhance their image by speaking in an accent.

Perhaps a single unit or regiment had special clothing during the battle.

By joining a reenacting unit that follows certain uniform requirements, a reenactor might pick that impression.


What Reenactors Say!