Civil War Reenacting:
The Hobby that is More than a Hobby
A century and a half ago,
the nation was torn by a great Civil War that consumed four
years and hundreds of thousands of lives. Not a family in
America was untouched by the war, and its effects -- and memories
-- linger on to this day. Civil War reenactors have the opportunity
to don the uniform, fall in with like-minded souls, practice
the drill, and, on occasion, be lucky enough to experience
what we call the "period rush," wherein one is not quite sure
what time, or place, one really inhabits. We call this "a
hobby that is more than a hobby" for good reason. It is a
hobby that reinforces one's love of history, to be sure. But
it is much more than that, as in addition to having fun going
onto battlefields, firing our muskets, and sitting around
the campfire with our pards, we also honor those many thousands
who served the Union during the war. We do this by taking
part in living history events under the auspices of the National
Park Service and other organizations at locations with revered
names, such as Gettysburg, Antietam, Manassas, Fort McHenry,
Gaines Mill, Cold Harbor, and many others.
Here is a video,
created by Mark Elson Pictures as a proposal for a major documentary,
that will give the newcomer to our hobby a brief glimpse into
what it is like to be a Civil War reenactor: The
Video is courtesy of Mark Elson Pictures. markelsonpictures.com/motionpictures/index.html
- Getting Started
- Other Equipment
- Recommended Reading
Most of these books can be found on the Internet, or
at bookstores in Gettysburg (and some other national battlefield
parks). When you are at a living history event, people will
ask you a lot of questions about the life of the soldier,
and book such as these will fortify you with answers you
would never find in more standard works.
of Company K 1st (Inft,) Penn'a Reserves "The Boys Who
Fought at Home," by Henry W. Minnigh.
Minnigh was the captain of Company K, and this slim volume offers
a good general history of the company. He is buried in the national
cemetery in Gettysburg.
- Hardtack and Coffee, or the Unwritten
Story of Army Life,
by John. D. Billings.
This book is a staple for reenactors, and offers one of the
best accounts for what life was like for the average Union soldier
during the Civil War.
- The Life of Billy Yank: The Common
Soldier of the Union, by Bell Irvin Wiley.
Another book that is must-reading for anyone interested in portraying
a Federal soldier of the Civil War.
- Corporal Si Klegg and His Pard,
by Wilbur F. Hinman.
Though a novel, many believe this to be one of the finest
memoirs to come out of the Civil War. Hinman was an officer
of the 65th Ohio. His tales of Si Klegg's odyssey, from
his first days as a volunteer through the end of the war,
in a fictional Midwestern regiment, became a best-seller
as as serialized novel, decades after the war. Sales were
fueled mainly by veterans, who recognized many anecdotes
as relating to their own personal experiences.