to Get Started in Civil War Reenacting
Civil War Reenactment is one
of the fastest growing hobbies in the United States, and with
good reason. Not only does it reinforce our sense of pride
in our heritage, but it's something in which the entire family
can participate. It's educational and, finally, it's a great
way to escape the worries of today and "pretend" in
the great outdoors.
Beginners should start by attending Civil War Reenactments and observing what goes
on. Get a feel for the atmosphere and conditions of
a living history event before you rush to buy vintage style military uniforms & equipment.
Once you're sure that the discomfort (sleeping on cots or bedrolls,
wearing uncomfortable clothes, and generally avoiding anything
"farby") is worth it, then find a unit to join.
"Farby" is a Civil War Reenactment
term for anything not typical of the period. A plastic mug
would be farby as would a polyester uniform since they didn't
have polyester in 1861. Wearing historically accurate clothing is essential to your "impression" and attention to details is important, i.e. Civil War soldiers or civilians didn't have digital watches or plastic frame eyeglasses.
There is no age requirement
for being a Civil War reenactor, but, of course, minors will need to have
their parents' approval and support.
For a great description of women's
clothing and textiles during the Civil War, read this Civil War Fashion piece by Kathy Dhalle on the Bits of Blue & Gray website.
Following are some useful terms
to acquaint you with Civil War Reenacting. Used by
permission of Kathleen Smith.
Civilian – A person,
male or female, who reenacts any non-military impression during
C.S. or C.S.A. – Confederate
States or Confederate States Army.
First-person – When a
reenactor speaks to fellow reenactors and the public as a person
during the 1860s. They will take on the “persona”
of one who is living through the period and will not speak in
modern language. They will speak as though the War Between the
States is current.
Impression – Many reenactors
will choose an “impression” during a reenactment.
Military reenactors will choose infantry, artillery, cavalry
or medical (and a few others such as engineers or sharpshooters)
and many will choose a civilian impression. While doing their
“impression” many will do a “first-person”
Muster – A gathering,
especially of troops, for service, inspection, review or roll
Reenactor – A person,
male or female, dedicated to recreating the War Between the
States or Civil War. Most will sleep/camp at the reenactment
Threadcounter –A reenactor
who insists on a historically accurate impression, down to fabric
and buttonholes having the same threadcount typical of the time.
The derogatory term for this same person is “stitch nazi.”
Sutlers – Merchants who
followed troops during the Civil War. Also, merchants who set
up during reenactments and sell period-style goods to reenactors
and the public.
Units – Groups
of Civil War reenactors who participate as an actual unit that fought
during the War, i.e., the 7th Texas Infantry, the 69th New York
or the 19th Alabama.