Civil War Reenactments


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Yo Mama
June 30, 2011, 09:18 AM
Anyone participate in Civil War Reenactments? I'm really interested getting into it as I love camping and shooting :).

Need to know what gear are must haves.

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animator
June 30, 2011, 09:45 AM
There's a lot more to it than just shooting and camping. I kinda enjoyed drilling as much as actual shooting.



For a beginner, the one "must-have" is a good pair of period shoes. Pretty much anything else can be borrowed until you figure out exactly what you need.



I've done it before, but do not actively pursue it as a hobby.

LibShooter
June 30, 2011, 09:51 AM
Apparently I look a lot like a semi-famous Union General. After being cast in a Civil War period video produced for a museum, I met a bunch of reenactors. I thought it looked fun. Then I started investigating the cost. Doing it right is very expensive. Doing it cheaply is no fun. And my wife said she was not going to camp in a cotton tent wearing petticoats and whalebone!

I was also surprised at how little shooting actually happens.

But the guys who love it love it a lot. I've found most are willing to tell you all about it when they are not in character. I hope you have a great time.

+1 on what animator said about borrowing. Sometimes they need "amateurs" to fill out the ranks in a battle. (It's often hard to find Union reenactors in Georgia :) ) They will loan you enough kit to look right to the crowd 50 yards away. That's a good way to get a taste without a big investment. And you get to sleep on a real bed that night.

AlexanderA
June 30, 2011, 11:20 AM
I was heavily into Civil War reenacting in the 1986-89 period (the 125th anniversary events). I would say the first thing you need to do is hook up with a good unit. The hobby is built around local units (clubs), and there aren't any big national organizations worth mentioning. (This is as opposed to Civil War skirmishing, which is another hobby entirely, and is run by the North-South Skirmish Association.) The best way to find a unit is to attend a big reenactment as a spectator, and ask around.

As others have said, a unit that you join will probably lend you most of the equipment you need, to start.

You're going to end up having to buy at least a basic uniform (shoes, pants, jacket, hat), basic weapons (3-band rifle-musket and bayonet), and basic gear (cartridge box & sling, belt, cap box, canteen, haversack). Figure on $1,500 - $2,000 for everything.

The search for authenticity is a big thing in reenacting. Participants can be characterized as "farbs" ("far be it for me..."), mainstream types, and "hardcore campaigners." Many reenactors typically proceed up this ladder of categories until they reach the stage of "burnout" and drop out altogether.

Sometimes authenticity can be measured by what you don't wear. Wristwatches and modern eyeglasses are big no-nos here.

If you want to see the best of reenactors in action, watch the movie "Gettysburg" (working title was "The Killer Angels"). This is full of reenactors.

By the way, because of safety concerns, reenactors don't use live rounds. It's blanks only. In fact if you are found with a live round at an event, you will most likely be ejected. (Some events even ban ramrods.) If this is what you mean by "shooting," well and good. Otherwise, you're better off joining the "skirmishing" hobby, which is all about target shooting with CW weapons.

Mike OTDP
June 30, 2011, 11:42 AM
And in that vein, if you are interested in shooting live ammo at targets, the N-SSA's website is www.n-ssa.org.

I've been a member since 1978. Great organization.

Cosmoline
June 30, 2011, 12:14 PM
(Some events even ban ramrods.)

How can you tamp down the blank powder charges?

Apparently I look a lot like a semi-famous Union General.

Ambrose E Sideburns?
Benjamin "Spoons" Butler?

Either way it's pretty cool to rise that fast in the ranks and get to stand there looking regal.

Yo Mama
June 30, 2011, 12:29 PM
Thanks everyone for the input so far.

I will probably take the advise to check it out as a spectator. It's good to know I can dable a bit borrowing some of the gear. I don't think I have near the time to commit to being a hard core reenactor. I do think the rooted aspect of period gear will help change a bit of my mindset relying on new fancy smancy gear we take for granted today.

Buddy of mine got me starting to think about it as he does reenactment for the only battle AZ saw at Picacho Peak.

Found a neat site about the battle if anyone is interested: http://www.civilwaralbum.com/misc6/picacho_pass1.htm

herkyguy
June 30, 2011, 12:44 PM
Check out Tony Horwitz's 'Confederates in the Attic.' It's been years since I read it so I can't remember exactly what his position on the whole reenactment thing was, but he really went into detail about how determined folks were to be as authentic as they could.

J-Bar
June 30, 2011, 02:39 PM
I participated in a brief re-enactment of a gunfight once. I learned that pointing my revolver in the general direction of another person made me very uncomfortable, and that I was even more uncomfortable having someone point their gun in my general direction.

I haven't done that anymore.

Owen Sparks
June 30, 2011, 03:45 PM
Didn't someone actually get shot by mistake at one of these things?

goon
June 30, 2011, 04:16 PM
I'm interested in reenacting too, except I'm into the French and Indian War period. The advice to buy shoes is good. I made the mistake of buying a musket first... and sold it last month to start over.
Everyone seems to have spare stuff to loan you, but no one has spare shoes.

How can you tamp down the blank powder charges?



You don't. You pull out a paper cartridge, pour the powder down the barrel, drop the paper, put a cap on the nipple, and fire.
With flintlocks you prime the pan, pour the rest down the bore, drop the paper, and fire.
At close range a ball of paper can become a potential projectile and would also pose a fire hazard.
And if you don't use the ramrod, there's no risk of forgetting to return it before firing.

AlexanderA
June 30, 2011, 06:56 PM
Didn't someone actually get shot by mistake at one of these things?

There have been occasional accidents, but in general the safety record of American reenacting has been quite good, especially compared to our brethren "across the pond." The British seem that think that reenacting is like a Rugby game, and that blood is expected to be shed. British reenactors that would come over here to participate in American Civil War events used to be shocked at the safety precautions that we would take. I heard remarks that we approached this "like sissies."

I was at a reenactment of the battle of 2nd Manassas, when a drummer took a slug through his drum. Action was halted until this could be investigated. It turned out that the projectile was a ramrod tip that had broken off. This is why you're not supposed to ram down blank charges!

The danger factor at reenactments depends a lot on the era being portrayed. I would say that the most dangerous era for reenactors, by far, is WWI. There's a lot of muddy ground, shell holes, trenches, barbed wire, pyrotechnics, automatic weapons (even though shooting blanks), smoke, action at night, etc. That's why practically all WWI events are closed to the public -- these are events by and for the reenactors themselves. However, the realism is something that really needs to be experienced. WWII reenactment is also somewhat dangerous, mainly because you have the introduction of the vehicular factor.

I've done just about all the periods, from the English Civil War through Korea. (Vietnam hits a bit too close to home for people my age, although younger people are doing it.) The hardest part about doing multiple time periods is that the drill is different in each case, and it's easy to get confused.

Cosmoline
June 30, 2011, 07:06 PM
You don't. You pull out a paper cartridge, pour the powder down the barrel, drop the paper, put a cap on the nipple, and fire.

Those barrels must get really nasty! They wouldn't have any of the usual self-cleaning mechanism of scraping and shooting out the soot that comes from the standard practice with live ammo.

CapnMac
June 30, 2011, 07:15 PM
VN reenacting also has the problem of "when" too; reenacting an SF advisor patrolling with RF/PFs has some complications. Recruiting "opposing force" reenactors rather complicated, too. Then, there's the issue with being a 40-50 something VN reenactor--especially if one is emulating an E-4 or 5.

It's getting near the time to start seeing DS/DS reenactor groups emerge, too. In case a body wondered what they might do with that set of chocolate chips in the closet or attic.

Unistat
June 30, 2011, 07:35 PM
Check out Tony Horwitz's 'Confederates in the Attic.' It's been years since I read it so I can't remember exactly what his position on the whole reenactment thing was, but he really went into detail about how determined folks were to be as authentic as they could.
This is what I was going to say.

I used to work at a museum and my boss and her fiance were reenactors. They were on what I would call the rational side of "Hard Cores," serious about have period gear, and behaving in a period manner on the field, but they would turn it off when not on the field.

They had friends who were period all the time of the event, on field or off. One lady who couldn't make it to Gettysburg with her husband stayed at home, used no electricity, was period correct 24/7, and wrote her husband letters everyday he was gone.

goon
June 30, 2011, 07:53 PM
Those barrels must get really nasty! They wouldn't have any of the usual self-cleaning mechanism of scraping and shooting out the soot that comes from the standard practice with live ammo.


Yep. They clean their guns after every battle and it's pretty nasty.
But I still really look forward to getting some kit together and getting on the field with those guys! I wish the OP luck in locating a group. Shouldn't be too hard - Civil War reenactments are among the most common.

Trader Ray
June 30, 2011, 08:02 PM
The events were just held here in Virginia in my town on Memorial Day, I am from SE Michigan myself, Wyandotte in fact, but have lived in Tennessee for 18 years and now Virginia. I really wanted to go but was concerned that some of the people in my new town might have some reserve about it when I spoke and they heard the yankee voice. Lots of battles went on within 15 miles of this area and thought it would be better to wait to next year when I know a few more people, is this a odd way of looking at it? I worked with a guy for over 10 years in East Tennessee that suddenly one day in the lunch room moved from the table I was sitting ate as always and said his great grandfather died at the hands of a yankee! he never spoke to me again, only about the work at hand. :confused:

infmp32
June 30, 2011, 08:03 PM
I've been reenacting since I was 17 years old, going on 13 years now and it's one of the things that reignited my interest in guns.

Here's a link to a forum that can help get you started. A real good mix of beginners, what are termed "progressives" and "hardcores." Progressives are in between the bare minimum of authenticity camp, and the hardcores. My unit is pretty much a progressive unit. We like our powder burning events that allow us to enjoy our time around the campfire at night, and we like the 6 pm Friday to noon on Sunday you are in the 19th century hardcore events too.

http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/

And this forum will give you an insight into the really serious side of the hobby:

http://www.authentic-campaigner.com

I'll definitely second the shoes comment, but the biggest thing is don't buy anything until you join a unit! Borrow everything you need, someone will find shoes or you may have to wear some black "close enough" dress shoes at your first event. You'll be a total farb your first time or two out, but most units especially the good ones have very good and detailed guidelines of their impressions they want you to follow. It's not cheap, but most units will give you a pretty good plan of what to buy and when to space it out so you're not just dropping a couple grand at once.

You didn't say where you're from, but if you let me know I can give you a general idea of what units to look for.

Most importantly though, I hope you do get involved and end up having fun! It's one of my favorite hobbies.

infmp32
June 30, 2011, 08:05 PM
The events were just held here in Virginia in my town on Memorial Day, I am from SE Michigan myself, Wyandotte in fact, but have lived in Tennessee for 18 years and now Virginia. I really wanted to go but was concerned that some of the people in my new town might have some reserve about it when I spoke and they heard the yankee voice. Lots of battles went on within 15 miles of this area and thought it would be better to wait to next year when I know a few more people, is this a odd way of looking at it? I worked with a guy for over 10 years in East Tennessee that suddenly one day in the lunch room moved from the table I was sitting ate as always and said his great grandfather died at the hands of a yankee! he never spoke to me again, only about the work at hand. :confused:
If you find a reenacting unit like that, keep moving and look elsewhere. Anyone who's really into doing it right won't have that kind of attitude but in a joking manner.

Trader Ray
June 30, 2011, 08:20 PM
thank you for that post! I have lived in the south a third of my entire life and would really love to attend a upcoming show in my hometown. Have a great night!

Unistat
June 30, 2011, 08:48 PM
...I am from SE Michigan myself, Wyandotte in fact...

Wow! Small world! I am from Wyandotte too! In fact the Museum where I worked was the Wyandotte Historical Museums. (http://www.wyandottemuseums.org/)

Unistat
June 30, 2011, 08:52 PM
...suddenly one day in the lunch room moved from the table I was sitting ate as always and said his great grandfather died at the hands of a yankee! he never spoke to me again, only about the work at hand. :confused:

Tell him that your Great-Grandfather was in the 10th Michigan Volunteer Infantry and probably killed his Great-Grandfather.

AethelstanAegen
June 30, 2011, 08:57 PM
I would recommend finding a unit in your area that you like before buying any gear. The equipment/uniform standards varied between units, so if you buy before you've found a unit, you may have to buy a whole new set of stuff (or you'll wind up buying something that you'll regret in terms of quality). In my experience, most units are very happy to help you get started and can provide loaner gear so you can try reenacting out and have time to buy the right equipment, of good quality, as your budget allows.

LibShooter
June 30, 2011, 11:27 PM
Either way it's pretty cool to rise that fast in the ranks and get to stand there looking regal.

With the beard topiary I can pass for General Burnside.
http://www.civilwaracademy.com/images/general-burnside.jpg

Ain't he dashing? Unfortunately I am about a foot shorter than the General... and I have the same hairline. My smile is sunnier, though.

For the video shoot I borrowed the whole set-up. Borrowed navy blue wool can get hot and stinky in the July Sun in East Tennessee sun.

Trader Ray
July 1, 2011, 06:48 AM
yes small world indeed! I lived on Miller Street, it only ran from second to Jeff with no first street. I worked at a salvage yard in Rouge for many years.
I really did not have a come back for him about the yankee thing, I took it as a joke for a long time from everyone, but this one time he was serious. I realized I was in his home state and by moving there, I guess I was going to hear that from time to time. Oh, he carried a Raven 25 in his lunch pal wrapped up with his napkins.

jimmyraythomason
July 1, 2011, 07:33 AM
Benjamin "Spoons" Butler?
Butler's knickname was also"the Beast" .I was at a reenactment of the battle of 2nd Manassas,My ggguncle Pvt. Benjamin Thomason with the 35th Ga.Co.G(Walton Sharpshooters) was KIA there the first time around. Here in Blount County,Alabama,a re-enactment group re-enacts the Forrest-Streight skirmishes through Blountsville,Royal every May.

Unistat
July 1, 2011, 08:58 AM
yes small world indeed! I lived on Miller Street, it only ran from second to Jeff with no first street. I worked at a salvage yard in Rouge for many years.
I really did not have a come back for him about the yankee thing, I took it as a joke for a long time from everyone, but this one time he was serious. I realized I was in his home state and by moving there, I guess I was going to hear that from time to time. Oh, he carried a Raven 25 in his lunch pal wrapped up with his napkins.

I grew up on Lindbergh in the North end. I can't believe you just called Biddle Ave. Jefferson! lol. There's a valid historical reason streets' name change in Wyandotte, haha!

That dude sounds like a workplace psycho waiting to happen. You're right, it's best to avoid the nuts if you can.

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