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First Posted: Aug 6, 2012
Sep 12, 2013

The American Civil War/Civil War Reenactments

Reenactment of Battle of Gettysburg/2012

At the barn where our horses are boarded there is a farrier who participates in Civil War Renactments. His client who boards at our barn has now started to be a part of this wonderful culture of reenactment. She loves it. Recently DeNelda participated in the Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment - July 8, 2012. Enjoy the video below:

Gettysburg Reenactment

Gettysburg Civil War Battle Reenactment - July 8, 2012 - starring the 10th Confederate Cavalry with Col. Sean Paul. Also featuring Jerry Chesser, B.S.A. Venture Crew 1861, Trail Rock Ordnance - Steve Cameron, and a cast of hundreds. For photos see http://ChoosePennsylvania.com

The Horse's Role in the American Civil War

The American Civil War would have been quite different if it were not for the horse. The horse's role in the War Between the States cannot be minimized. There is a statue at The National Sporting Library, in Middleburg, VA, which gives tribute to the one and one half million horses and mules who were wounded or died in that war.

Artillery Horses

This has been taken from The Artillerist's Manual. The format has been changed. It gives the specifications for a suitable artillery horse:

  • The horse for artillery service should be from five to seven years old (the latter age to be preferred), and should be from fifteen to sixteen hands high.
  • The saddle horse should be free in his movements; have good sight; a full, firm chest; be sure-footed; have a good disposition, with boldness and courage; more bottom than spirit, and not too showy.
  • The draft horse should stand erect on his legs, be strongly built, but free in his movements; his shoulders should be large enough to give support to the collar, but not too heavy; his body full, but not too long; the sides well rounded; the limbs solid, with rather strong shanks, and feet in good condition.
  • To these qualities he should unite, as much as possible, the qualities of the saddle horse; should trot and gallop easily; have even gaits, and not be skittish. The most suitable horse for the pack-saddle is the one most nearly approaching the mule in his formation. He should be very strong-backed, and from fourteen to fifteen hands high.

If is difficult to imagine what went into the maintenance of these horses. We know, as horse owners, that often it is difficult to give the necessary care under the best of circumstances in time of peace. Both the Calvary and the Artillery were dependent upon their horses in battle. The Calvary rode them and the Field Artillery used them to pull the cannons. The horses were as much a target as the soldiers. Both the soldiers and the horses were subject to disease, lack of food, poor living conditions, and the absence of medical care.

To give some perspective on this I found in my research that "a battery of six light guns needed 110 horses to take the field, and an even larger number would be required for a battery of mounted artillery. As the principle motive power for the guns, they were a prime target for the opposing force; disabling the horses meant that the guns were at risk of capture." Horse's Role in Civil War

A Bit About the American Civil War

"The American Civil War (1861-1865), often referred to as The Civil War in the United States, was a civil war fought over the secession of the Confederate States. Eleven southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ('the Confederacy'); the other 25 states supported the federal government ('the Union'). After four years of warfare, mostly within the Southern states, the Confederacy surrendered and slavery was abolished everywhere in the nation. Issues that led to war were partially resolved in the Reconstruction Era that followed, though others remained unresolved.

In the presidential election of 1860, the Republican Party, led by Abraham Lincoln, had campaigned against expanding slavery beyond the states in which it already existed. The Republicans strongly advocated nationalism, and in their 1860 platform they denounced threats of disunion as avowals of treason. After a Republican victory, but before the new administration took office on March 4, 1861, seven cotton states declared their secession and joined to form the Confederate States of America. Both the outgoing administration of President James Buchanan and the incoming administration rejected the legality of secession, considering it rebellion. The other eight slave states rejected calls for secession at this point. No foreign governments recognized the Confederacy.

Hostilities began on April 12, 1861, when Confederate forces fired on a U.S. military installation at Fort Sumter in South Carolina. Lincoln responded by calling for a volunteer army from each state to recapture federal property, which led to declarations of secession by four more slave states. Both sides raised armies as the Union seized control of the border states early in the war and established a naval blockade. Land warfare in the East was inconclusive in 1861-62, as the Confederacy beat back Union efforts to capture its capital, Richmond, Virginia, notably during the Peninsular Campaign. In September 1862, the Confederate campaign in Maryland ended in defeat at the Battle of Antietam, which dissuaded the British from intervening. Days after that battle, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, which made ending slavery a war goal.

In 1863, Confederate general Robert E. Lee's northward advance ended in defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg. To the west, the Union gained control of the Mississippi River after the Battle of Shiloh and Siege of Vicksburg, splitting the Confederacy in two and destroying much of their western army. Due to his western successes, Ulysses S. Grant was given command of all Union armies in 1864, and organized the armies of William Tecumseh Sherman, George Meade and others to attack the Confederacy from all directions, increasing the North's advantage in manpower. Grant restructured the union army, and put other generals in command of divisions of the army that were to support his push into Virginia. He fought several battles of attrition against Lee through the Overland Campaign to seize Richmond, though in the face of fierce resistance he altered his plans and led the Siege of Petersburg which nearly finished off the rest of Lee's army. Meanwhile, Sherman captured Atlanta and marched to the sea, destroying Confederate infrastructure along the way. When the Confederate attempt to defend Petersburg failed, the Confederate army retreated but was pursued and defeated, which resulted in Lee's surrender to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9, 1865.

The American Civil War was one of the earliest true industrial wars. Railroads, the telegraph, steamships, and mass-produced weapons were employed extensively. The practices of total war, developed by Sherman in Georgia, the experimental use of the first usable predecessor of the machine gun and of trench warfare around Petersburg, all foreshadowed World War I in Europe. It remains the deadliest war in American history, resulting in the deaths of an estimated 750,000 soldiers and an undetermined number of civilian casualties. Historian John Huddleston estimates the death toll at ten percent of all Northern males 20-45 years old, and 30 percent of all Southern white males aged 18-40. Victory for the North meant the end of the Confederacy and of slavery in the United States, and strengthened the role of the federal government. The social, political, economic and racial issues of the war decisively shaped the reconstruction era that lasted to 1877. ..."


American Civil War Reenactment

American Civil War reenactment is an effort to recreate the appearance of a particular battle or other event associated with the American Civil War by hobbyists known (in the United States) as Civil War reenactors, Civil War recreationists, or living historians. Although most common in the United States, there are also American Civil War reenactors in Canada, the United Kingdom, Germany, Australia, and Italy.

Image: Wiipedia Commons/MamaGeek
Confederate reenactors fire their rifles during a reenactment of the Battle of Chancellorsville in May 2008.

History

Reenacting the American Civil War began even before the real fighting had ended. Civil War veterans recreated battles as a way to remember their fallen comrades and to teach others what the war was all about. The Great Reunion of 1913, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, was attended by more than 50,000 Union and Confederate veterans, and included reenactments of elements of the battle, including Pickett's Charge. Modern reenacting is thought to have begun during the 1961-1965 Civil War Centennial commemorations Reenacting grew in popularity during the 1980s and 1990s, due in large part to the success of the 125th Anniversary reenactment near the original Manassas battlefield, which was attended by more than 6,000 reenactors. That year, Time magazine estimated that there were more than 50,000 reenactors in the U.S.

In 1998, the 135th anniversary re-enactment of the Battle of Gettysburg took place near the original battlefield. There have been several estimates on the number of participants, but it is widely agreed that it was the largest re-enactment ever held anywhere in the world, with between 30,000 and 41,000 re--nactors participating. This event was watched by about 50,000 spectators.

Participation

...American Civil War reenactments have drawn a fairly sizable following of enthusiastic participants, young and old, willing to brave the elements and expend money and resources in their efforts to duplicate the events down to the smallest recorded detail. Participants may even attend classes put on by event sponsors where they learn how to dress, cook, eat, and even 'die' just as real Civil War soldiers would have. Most reenactments have anywhere from 100 to 1,000 participants, portraying either Union or Confederate infantry, artillery, or cavalry forces. Some people, though uncommon, may portray Engineers or Marines. The 135th anniversary Gettysburg reenactment (1998) is generally believed to be the most-attended reenactment, with attendance estimates ranging from 15,000 to over 20,000 reenactors.

Reasons given for participating in such activities vary. Some participants are interested in getting a historical perspective on the turbulent times that gripped the nation, particularly if they can trace their ancestry back to those who fought in the war. In some cases, if there are not enough reenactors present on one side, reenactors from the other side are asked to change sides, or 'galvanize', for the day/event.

Although many periods are reenacted around the world, Civil War reenactment is, by far, the most popular activity in the US. In 2000, the number of Civil War reenactors was estimated at 50,000, though the number of participants declined sharply through the ensuing decade, to around 30,000 in 2011. Possible reasons for the decline include the cost of participating and the variety of other entertainment options.

Although women and children commonly participate in reenactments as civilians (portraying, for example, members of a soldiers' aid society), some women also take part in military portrayals. This is controversial within the reenactment community; while there were a small handful of women who may have fought in the conflict, almost all of them did so disguised as men. Attitudes on this topic seem to vary widely.

Categories of Reenactors

Reenactors are commonly divided (or self-divide) into three categories, based on the level of concern for authenticity:

  • Farbs
    Some, called 'Farbs' or 'polyester soldiers' are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, or even period behavior. The 'Good Enough' attitude is pervasive among farbs, although even casual observers may be able to point out flaws. Blue jeans, tennis shoes, polyester (and other man-made fabrics), zippers, velcro, snoods, and modern cigarettes are common issues.

    The origin of the word 'farb' (and the derivative adjective 'farby') is unknown, though it appears to date to early centennial reenactments in 1960 or 1961. An alternative definition is 'Far Be it for me to question/criticise', or 'Fast And Researchless Buying'. Some early reenactors assert the word derives from German Farbe, color, because inauthentic reenactors were over-colorful compared with the dull blues, greys or browns of the real Civil War uniforms that were the principal concern of American reenactors at the time the word was coined,. According to Mr. Burton K. Kummerow, a member of 'The Black Hats, CSA' reenactment group in the early 1960s, he first heard it used as a form of fake German to describe a fellow reenactor. The term was picked up by George Gorman of the 2nd North Carolina at the Centennial Manassas Reenactment in 1961, and has been used by reenactors ever since.

  • Mainstream
    Another group of reenactors often is called 'Mainstream.' These reenactors are somewhere between farb and authentic. They are more common than either farbs or authentics. Most mainstream reenactors make an effort at appearing authentic, but may come out of character in the absence of an audience. Visible stitches are likely to be sewn in a period-correct manner, but hidden stitches and undergarments may not be period-appropriate. Food consumed before an audience is likely to be generally appropriate to the early 1860s, but it may not be seasonally and locally appropriate. Modern items are sometimes used 'after hours' or in a hidden fashion. The common attitude is to put on a good show, but that accuracy need only go as far as others can see.
  • Progressive

    At the other extreme from farbs are 'hard--ore authentics' or 'progressives', as they prefer to be called. Sometimes derisively called 'stitch counters' many people have misconceptions about hardcore reenactors.

    Hard-cores generally seek an 'immersive' reenacting experience, trying to live, as much as possible, as someone of the 1860s might have. This includes eating seasonally and regionally appropriate food, sewing inside seams and undergarments in a period-appropriate manner, and staying in character throughout an event. The desire for an immersive experience often leads hard-core reenactors to smaller events, and to setting up separate camps at larger events, which often other reenactors often perceive as elitism.

Character Reenactors

Some reenactors portray a specific officer or person such as General Robert E. Lee, General Ulysses S. Grant, President Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, or a less well known officer such as Col. Abram Fulkerson. Character reenactors may also portray a civilian man, woman, or child of significance. These reenactors often do not participate in the actual combat portion of the reenactment and serve as narrators to the audience during the battle. Often, character reenactors have extensively researched the person they portray and present a first-person narrative of his story.

...In addition to military reenactment, a significant part of Civil War reenactment includes the portrayal of civilians, including men, women, and children from infants to young adults. This can include portrayals as diverse as soldiers' aid societies, sutlers, saloon proprietors, musicians, and insurance salesmen.

Types of Civil War Reenactments
Public Events

A typical Civil War Reenactment takes place over a weekend with the reenactors arriving on Friday and camping on site while spectators view the event on Saturday and Sunday. Usually each reenactment is centered around a Saturday battle and Sunday battle (often, but not always, intended to recreate an actual battle from the Civil War) in addition to many of the activities listed below. Essentially, a traditional public reenactment is a three day long affair that incorporates elements from each of the following categories. A good list for 2012 Public events can be found in professional reenactor's publications or online.

Living Histories

Living histories are meant entirely for education of the public. Such events do not necessarily have a mock battle but instead are aimed at portraying the life, and more importantly the lifestyle, of the average Civil War soldier. This does include civilian reenacting, a growing trend. Occasionally, a spy trial is recreated,and a medic too. More common are weapons and cooking demonstrations, song and leisure activities, and lectures. These should not, however, be confused with Living history museums. These outlets for living history utilize museum professionals and trained interpreters in order to convey the most accurate information available to historians.

Living history is the only reenactment permitted on National Park Service land; NPS policy 'does not allow for battle reenactments (simulated combat with opposing lines and casualties) on NPS property.'

Public Demonstrations

...Public demonstrations are smaller mock battles put on by reenacting organizations and/or private parties primarily to show the public how people in the 1860s lived, and to show the public civil war battles. The battles are only loosely based on actual battles, if at all, and may consist of demonstrations of basic tactics and maneuvering techniques.

Scripted Battles

Scripted battles are reenactment in the strictest sense; the battles are planned out beforehand so that the companies and regiments make the same actions that were taken in the original battles. They are often fought at or near the original battle ground or at a place very similar to the original. A common question of non-reenactors concerns the determination of who 'dies' over the course of the battle. Reenactors commonly refer to the act of being killed or wounded as 'taking a hit' and is typically left up to the individual's discretion, although greatly influenced by the events of the battle. Because most battles are based on their historical counterparts it is generally understood when to begin taking hits and to what extent.

Closed Events
Total Immersion Events

Total immersion events are made up solely of progressive ('hard-core authentic') reenactors, who often refer to them as 'Events By Us and For Us' or 'EBUFU'. As the names imply, these events are held for the personal edification of the reenactors involved, allowing them to spend an extended time marching, eating, and generally living like actual soldiers of the Civil War. Total immersion events generally require participants to meet a high standard of authenticity, and in most cases little or none of the event will be open to public viewing.

Tactical Battles

Tactical battles, which are not usually open to the public, are fought like real battles with each side devising strategies and tactics to defeat their opponent(s). They have no script, a basic set of agreed-upon rules (physical boundaries, time limit, victory conditions, etc.), and onsite judges or referees, and so could be considered a form of live action role-playing game. Tactical battles might also be considered a form of experimental archaeology.

Reenactment and Media

Motion picture and television producers often turn to reenactment groups for support; films like Gettysburg, Glory and Gods and Generals benefited greatly from the input of reenactors, who arrived on set fully equipped and steeped in knowledge of military procedures, camp life, and tactics.

In a documentary about the making of the film Gettysburg, actor Sam Elliott, who portrayed Union General John Buford in the film, said of reenactors:

"I think we're really fortunate to have those people involved. In fact, they couldn't be making this picture without them; there's no question about that. These guys come with their wardrobe, they come with their weaponry. They come with all the accoutrements, but they also come with the stuff in their head and the stuff in their heart."

At times, however, the relationship between reenactors and filmmakers has been contentious. Although reenactors for Gettysburg were unpaid, money was contributed on their behalf to a trust for historic preservation; however, some subsequent productions have offered no such compensation. Also, in some cases reenactors have clashed with directors over one-sided portrayals and historical inaccuracies. Some producers have been less interested in accuracy than in the sheer number of reenactors, which can result in safety issues. Finally, large film productions, like Gettysburg, can draw enough reenactors to cause the cancellation of other events.

For More Information:

List of Weapons/Civil War
List of Civil War Reenactments
Civil War Reenactors Home Page
Camp Chase Gazette
Confederate Websites

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