View Full Version : Newbie Question--Gettysburg Reenacting

02-22-2006, 02:44 PM
Myself, my son, and a good friend would like to participate in at least one battle reenactment at Gettysburg this July. The three of us are converging on Gettysburg that weekend from different parts of the country. We all have some experience in living history, but none of us have participated in Civil War battle reenactments. We would like to take part in a battle reenactment before taking the (money and time consuming) plunge into CW living history.

Does anyone out there have any suggestions as to how we could get involved in a battle reenactment at Gettysburg without going the full nine yards and buying everything from caps to weapons to shoes? We want to participate with sensible expenses, but we also do not want to be "that one guy in sneakers."

Any insights for a new guy would be appreciated.


Graves Mercantile
02-22-2006, 03:32 PM
Your best bet is to find a local unit that will be at the event and ask if they can loan you gear to fall in with them. I would offer to help, but my unit won't be at gettysburg this year. Maybe someone else could step up and add 3 rifles to their ranks this summer. Good luck!

02-22-2006, 06:20 PM
It would be good if at least one of you (and better if all) has had some experience at a smaller venue beforehand. Although the reenactor impressions at G'burg range from poor to very good, gear and looks is only a small factor in being on the field or in camp. Knowing how to move to the commands, and how and what to eat are important, along with a multitude of other things.

While a goodly number of reenactors feel that what happens at G'burg is not the best quality type event, it's still the big daddy as far a numbers of participants and spectators. That's a somewhat difficult place to put yourself without any prior experience doing this.

Again, I'd suggest attending some reenactments in your local areas to start learning the basics. It'll pay off well at G'burg.

02-22-2006, 06:41 PM
I would agree with Bernard. Showing up to any event, be it farb, mainstream or progressive as an independent is hard enough when you are experienced and have your kit and drill together. To try to fall in cold at a Cluster @#$% the size of the Annual G-Burg event would be mad.

You should definitely find a local unit and fall in with them once or twice before July. You aren't really going to be able to gauge how much you are going to like this hobby by any Gettysburg Re-enactment. It is more like a non event as most re-enactments don't look like G-Burg.

Start small with a good history based unit. That will give you a better idea of what you are in for.

How you start in this hobby really determines which part of this hobby you wind up playing in. Choose carefully.

As always just my two cents.

02-23-2006, 09:43 AM
I understand what you want to do, but I would suggest that each of you link up with a local unit for training prior to coming to Gettysburg. To be frank, from a safety point of view, you do NOT want to be involved in any unit that would take three totally untrained spectators, put loaner gear on them, and let them participate in a full scale reenactment the size of Gettysburg. Let me explain. First and foremost, this hobby is dangerous. We are using real weapons loaded with real gun powder and are firing them with real percussion caps. If participants performing these tasks are untrained, people can get hurt. IT HAS HAPPENED. Second, you have large numbers of people moving together through all sorts of terrain. They are able to do so because they have been trained (drilled) to do so. This training ensures that every man knows where to go and when to go as various commands are given. This in turn ensures that when the unit comes into line ready to fire, every man is usually where he is supposed to be - a key element of weapons safety because "fresh fish" are always in the front line and the front man is never taller than the man behind him. Having three undrilled fresh fish in the ranks could easliy result in chaos during the manuevers across the field which could scramble the firing positions once the unit comes onto line to fire. Also the choas caused by three undrilled fresh fish can be a major distraction for the remainder of the troops which increases the risks of troops twisting ankles and knees because they are less focussed on the uneven terrain over which they are marching.

Having said all this, at a bare minimum, you would need at least one or two hours of basic drill to at least become aquainted with the various movements and weapons carrying positions followed by refresher training the day of the reenactment. Then on top of this you would at least another hour of drill in weapon loading, firing, and firing positions - preferably on-site. Unfortunately, the reenactment schedule at Gettysburg has become so cramed with activities, there is rarely such time available for the training of new recruits to the level needed for them to be safe on the field.

So to repeat the advice others have given earlier, each of you should link up with a local unit and use that experience to determine how much you would enjoy actually participating as CW reenactors instead of what you originally proposed.

03-08-2006, 01:50 PM
Just as a point of curiosity...which area of the country are you all coming from?

04-12-2006, 05:40 PM
No self-respecting company commander would take three newbies and put them in his line without knowing the level or their drill expertise.

I would suggest you follow other suggestions and get some experience at local events before even thinking about going to a large event like Gettysburg.

As was pointed out, this can be a very dangerous hobby and three newbies in the same line only ups the odds of something stupid happening. Do yourself and those around a favor and learn the manual of arms and school of the soldier and company before trying to take the field.

Bill Reighard
04-12-2006, 09:16 PM
Iíve held my tongue long enough! I must say that the lack of true assistance being offered in some of the posts here to Mr. Carey is ridiculous. Does anyone recruit new unit members anymore? None of us started out with experience. We all had to learn. Mr. Carey made a legitimate inquiry, and he is being told that he, his son, and a friend canít even think about participating at Gettysburg because they donít already have the experience and donít already belong to a unit. Hogwash! If a unit has officers and NCOs who canít train new recruits, then that unit better reconsider who they have in those positions.

In 1988, I became a reenactor, and my first event was the 125th Gettysburg reenactment. I was trained and on the field at Gettysburg within 2 weeks of expressing an interest in reenacting. It was an experience that I will NEVER forget, and it was done safely because my officers knew what they were doing and they showed me the right way to do things.

Since that time, I have moved up in the ranks and have trained dozens of new recruits over the years. What we do is not rocket science. Iím not saying that you should hand a spectator a rifle 10 minutes before a battle and say ďLetís go getíem,Ē but the amount of training is not as important as the quality of training and the competence level of the recruit.

Rather than just crush Mr. Careyís dreams without knowing anything more about him, I have corresponded with him to find out more about his situation. This is not somebody who just fell off the turnip truck. If all goes well, I may be meeting him in the near future, and hopefully he, his son, and his friend will be with me in the ranks at Gettysburg trained and ready to go.

Bill Reighard
100th Pennsylvania, Company A
Spotsylvania, VA

04-13-2006, 06:32 AM
Since I was one of the posts that you are referring to, I will respond. Gettysburg was also my first reenactment and I too have drilled new recruits at Gettysburgs. The problem is that the Gettysburg reenactment itself has changed such that I strongly feel that it is no longer the place for introducing brand new recruits to the elephant. When I started, units had time to drill newbies in the mornings. Now, the event tries to push the troops into the field as many times each day as they can in order to provide entertainment for the spectators. I would have no problem welcoming people like the original poster at any other event EXCEPT GETTYSBURG because I would know that I would indeed have time to work with them properly prior to sending them into the field. But having served as a 1SGT at more recent Gettysburgs, I cannot say the same about the Gettysburg reenactment.

04-15-2006, 12:19 AM
Does anyone recruit new unit members anymore?

There's a big difference between recruiting a new member and having individuals "fall in" with your unit. The new recruit is assumed to have little or no experience doing what we do, while it is generally assumed that one who "falls in" has at least basic concepts learned. Mr. Carey's post indicates that he is not new to living history, but is new to CW reenacting, two different things. We don't know what that experience includes. We also do not know the extent of knowledge of his son and friend. The advice given was with these potential shortcomings in mind.

None of us started out with experience....In 1988, I became a reenactor, and my first event was the 125th Gettysburg reenactment. I was trained and on the field at Gettysburg within 2 weeks of expressing an interest in reenacting.

Did you receive training during that two weeks? If so, that makes a great difference between taking the field cold turkey for the first time and having at least some rudimentary experience in how to move and respond to commands. There was no indication that Mr. Carey, et. al, would be receiving any period training prior to attending Gettysburg.

My first event was Perryville '03. I had just finished purchasing much of my gear there, and was invited to fall in with a unit there. Upon explaining that I had no experience with firearms at all in my life, and as yet no training in drill, they allowed me on the field without weapon. It was the right decision to make. I've seen too many new men, even those with some training, get so excited/nervous being in the field for the first time that they were borderline dangerous. Constant reminders from rear rank veterans asigned to them were needed to keep them safe.

Rather than just crush Mr. Careyís dreams without knowing anything more about him, I have corresponded with him to find out more about his situation. This is not somebody who just fell off the turnip truck. If all goes well, I may be meeting him in the near future, and hopefully he, his son, and his friend will be with me in the ranks at Gettysburg trained and ready to go.

Again, with prior training, the problem that concerned most of us goes away. Not knowing where Mr. Carey lives made it problematic to offer assistance in that line. Hence, the suggestion to hook up with a local unit to gain that needed training. My compliments to you for offering to provide it.

As you say, what we do is not brain surgery, and enough can be learned in a few sessions to perform adequately and safely in the field. But without that minimal training, you don't have a "fresh fish"...you don't even have a militiaman. What you have is a civilian in the ranks, and that can be less than desirable.

What we suggested was that Mr. Carey, et. al, would be better served in their initial plunge into the hobby by getting that training prior to Gettysburg.