War Time Play…Act Now!

When I was in first grade, I discovered the wonderful world of live theatre.  My childhood was spent doing many school and community theater plays and I simply couldn’t get enough of the live performance experience!  I found it exhilarating to put on a costume and go on a journey with an audience, in which both of us make discoveries along the way.  As I continued in my theatrical endeavors, I began to realize that a live performance is more than child’s play.  It has the power to make people feel, to introduce them to a new perspective, or to educate them in some way.  And it is probably for these reasons that Civil War reenactments are in existence and popular today as a form of live entertainment and education.

In the same way that thespians enjoy dressing up to create a live theatrical performance, so hobbyists and historians find enjoyment in recreating battles and events associated with the Civil War.  These recreations are known as reenactments and the players are known as reenactors.  Civil War reenactments are most common in the United States, but have also spread to other countries, such as Canada, Germany, and Italy.

Civil War Costume:

Civil War Hat

Civil War reenactments began even before the war had ended.  Their initial purpose was to pay homage to fallen soldiers and to educate others on what transpired during this time.  One of the most noteworthy reenactments was at the Great Reunion of 1913, honoring the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg.  This event was attended by over 50, 000 Union and Confederate soldiers and significant events of the battle were recreated, including Pickett’s Charge.  Modern reenactments developed during the early 1960s and grew in popularity in the 1980s and 1990s.  The largest reenactment took place in 1998 on the 135th Battle of Gettysburg anniversary, in which roughly 40, 000 reenactors participated.

Over the years, participation in Civil War reenactments has grown.  Participants are very loyal and are willing to spend a great deal of time and money to accurately recount war events in detail.  In fact, there are even places where participants can take classes on how to dress, cook, fight, and die like Civil War soldiers.  Most reenactments have anywhere between 100 to 1,000 participants, taking on the roles of Union and Confederate soldiers.  In the event that the sides are unbalanced, participants may be swapped around to equal out.  Reenactors range in age, from young to old, and the majority of them are men.  Women and children participate as soldiers’ family members, but it is frowned upon for women to portray military roles.  The appeal of reenactments is to gain a deeper understanding of war time and some people do it for the sheer thrill of reliving the danger and excitement of being on the battlefield.

Civil War Calvary Bugle:

Civil War Bugle

Most Civil War reenactments are three day long events, usually starting on Friday and ending on Sunday.  The main battle reenactment commonly occurs on the second day of the event.  These reenactments are open to public viewing and may incorporate different reenactment events.  One of the accompanying events is a living history, which focuses on civilian life.  This event often includes weapon and cooking demonstrations, lectures, and educates on the lifestyle of a Civil War soldier.  There are also public demonstrations, which are mock battles, intended to show fighting tactics and how the people in the 1860s lived.  Usually, these demonstrations do not recreate actual civil war battles, but more so give a general perspective.  Another type of reenactment is scripted battles, in which the battle recreation is planned in advance, including what moves to make and when people are wounded or killed.  These reenactments try to emulate the original battle closely and are often held close to the original battlefield.  In addition to public reenactments, there are close reenactment events, such as total immersion or tactical battles, which are purely for the enjoyment and edification of the reenactor and focus more on historical authenticity.  These reenactments are more time consuming and have a higher cost to participate in.

Civil War reenactments are a special breed of entertainment and offer a unique perspective on this historical period.  And if your historical appetite is beckoning, take a moment to look at our selection of Civil War collection at http://www.armorvenue.com/

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