I will be honest, reenacting did not honestly SAVE my life, but it did change my life, drastically! In the summer of 2013, I was given the chance to go to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania for the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. Only one stipulation was given, buy a uniform... I thought this was a great obstacle to overcome but it was not actually.
Where can one actually buy reproduction Civil War reenacting uniforms in the 21st century you might ask? It is a very common thing actually there are shops all over the country including Virginia, Mississippi, and Tennessee. The particular store I went to would be just like a modern clothing store, except only in the 1800s.
There were racks of clothing for both men, women, and a fairly large selection of children's clothes. There were even rows of shelves that housed hats, plate, cups, eating utensils, and shoes of the Victorian style.
The fact is, reenacting has been going on since the 1960s, 100 years after the actual battles took place. most of the biggest surges in recruitment numbers began in the 1980s-1990s, most of the men I reenact with joined at this time.
Since those years reenacting has sort of fallen on a "back burner" with falling numbers and age creeping up on most, this is the sad times of reenacting. We still have our good times, but the numbers in the field may never be what they used to be, but we remain hopeful.
Another big hurt to our hobby is the authenticity standards, some will completely break the standards of reenacting just to come out in the woods, shoot a gun, and have a good ole' time. The fact is, reenacting is fun, yes, but you're supposed to walk on the field lightly, let yourself fall into the shoes of those that actually fought, and live like they lived.
That is what reenacting means to me, living out the very days that my ancestors lived out, of course, I will not be starving, or eating rancid food, or even getting shot at, you can almost feel the realness occasionally.
On the authenticity standards, it is unfair for someone to put such little effort into their uniform when I have put so much effort into mine. There are a couple local events in my area that I intentionally do not attend because they lack standards.
Blatant women in uniform, tennis shoes on soldiers, improper military maneuvers and tactics, and especially the unauthentic camping standards such as nylon tents or Coleman camping stoves just to name a couple.
Aside from the issues in falling numbers, the liberal left is not helping our hobby at all, some retailers will not sell black powder to reenactors. There have been open protests at many reenactment events, and last year a pipe bomb was found at an event in Cedar Creek, Virginia.
Reenacting has been a great addition to my life and like I quoted at my first reenactment (Gettysburg "I will be reenacting for the rest of my life".
I've met many new friends, traveled thousands of miles, shot several pounds of powder, used up a plethora of Paid Time Off, and spent thousands of dollars, and It's still not over!!!
I hope this article helped you to better understand this hobby of mine called reenacting!
My living quarters when in the field.
Yes, we actually cook and eat from that fire!
Awesome photographs like this truly capture why reenacting means so much to me
155th Perryville, KY charging across the cornfield
Charging into battle, 150th Gettysburg
Sometimes as a reenactor, you get featured on many cool magazines, newspapers, and in this case... Maps!!!
The Oxford Independent front cover, from Gettysburg 150th.