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Thread: Sooooo....Why do it?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Sep 2012

    Default Sooooo....Why do it?

    Okay so Im new to the board and the hobby so bear with me...I have been researching reenacting and have found an article on (I dont have the link but Im sure if you go there and search for Civil War reenactors, it will show up) that completley bashes the hobby...I am very interested in doing this and I was wondering what are some reasons that you, personally, do this...I am not judging anyone (like I said I would like to reenact) or making fun, I just want to know if people really ridicule and slam reenactors as much as they do in the article. Also, I have heard of white power/neo nazi groups using this hobby to recruit and wondered if this is as common as the rumors say...(BTW,thats not my thing and I dont support racism at all.)

    I personally have several family members that fought during the war, one of which was KIA. I am doing it because I want to know what it was like to live in that time period, I want to honor my family and I absolutley love history and teaching. I have since I was 10yrs old and now Im 25. I guess Im just nervous of falling into the wrong crowd or something. Well I hope to hear something from you all soon. Thank You!

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2011
    Clermont County Ohio


    Love of history pure and simple. But more than that, a total interest in the average man of the day, who really is no different than I when it comes to wants and desires. His reasons he served. Was it a sense of State or National pride, political reasons, more personal reasons, just wanted to be with his family and friends, beating the draft, or forced? How did he feel, live, eat, sleep, what kept him going through very difficult times. What was the homefront like, how did they cope?

    You see I am as much interested in the man or woman if not more so, than the grand strategies or politics of the "BIG BUGS."

    That said, it drives me to be more progressive in my impression. So I am not a theme camper. But there are great folks in both the mainstream or campaigner, and then there are the bottom feeders of reenacting which gives it a bad name. Go to quality events, with quality folks and you will enjoy yourself no matter what aspect of the hobby you decide to join, be it powderburners, living history impressionist, or campaigners.

    Best wishes pard, and do not listen to articles of the media, they have a agenda and are looking for something to drive thier ratings and or subscriptions. As for the white power trash out there, they are few and far between and the average reenactor will have them run out of camp, since they give the hobby a bad name.

    What area of the country you live in, I may be able to point you to the folks you want to meet.

    Last edited by S.D.Swart; 09-26-2012 at 10:41 PM. Reason: additional information

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Indianapolis, IN

    Default An observation

    My 41 years in the hobby has caused the following observations as to why some reenact.
    1. No two people reenact for the exact same reason.
    2. Some do it so they can play army.
    3. Some do it so they can recreate a soldier down to the most finite detail.
    4. There is generally a "honor our ancestors" thread in some peoples explanation as to why they do it. While it is impossible to read their minds, some of those same folks engage in conduct that would appall the very same ancestors.
    5. I have been told that "ancestor" reason by more Confederate reenactors then Union reenactors.
    6. A lot of guys began reenacting for a particular reason then discover the intangible aspects that cannot be defined or anticipated. After years of sharing hardships, i.e. cold, rain, mud, hunger, stupid officers, a bond forms between reenactors that defies explanation. There are men that I see twice a year but because of the decades of mutual trust and respect, would give my life for them.
    7. The realization that "they really did this" eventually hits all reenactors that stay with it. When that sinks in, then the bond with your pards who have been with you through thick and thin, begins to form. I suspect that bond is within most of us who have done this for a while.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Aug 2012

    Default History and friends

    I'd agree with pretty much everything Shawn mentioned. When I started I was 14 or 15 I think. A buddy of mine was getting starting to go with his Dad and I joined in. I got out about 8 years ago when life got busy (new career, wife, kids) and lost touch with those guys. I found myself reading and re-reading diaries of soldiers, regt. histories, etc. etc. I never lost the interest in the period. Especially the common man during the period. Just getting back into reconnect with old pards and the fun we used to have. I honestly can't remember having a bad time at an event. be it a farb fest, powder burner, invitation only etc. They all have something to offer if you go with good people. I was fortunate that I had friends that all had a desire to be better in our impressions, and they still are....try to find a unit that wants to always improve, and most importantly has no ego. You'll have a TON of fun that way and earn a new respect for the boys of '61-65

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    On The Road Again


    What Colonel Shakelford said in #6 and #7.

    Now let's look to the problematic areas. First, it's no wonder that the media has a poor opinion of us. It's really easy to stereotype us as nut cases, and assign modern political motives. Often the worst impressions or those with other agendas are the ones waving their hands in the air wildly so the reporters will pick them. Meanwhile the folks with good impressions have their heads down trying to avoid the cameras--again for a multitude of reasons. I tend to pull my slat bonnet firmly forward to obscure my face as cameras roll. I've found my image misused as backdrop for a Neo-confederate site (yes, they took it right down when I objected).

    Are there folks out there 'still fighting the war' ? Yes.
    They are much fewer and further between than they were a decade ago. Or maybe I've just changed my event mix rather than associate with such. I've found that if participants are concentrating on the history, they are not spending time on modern political agendas(or which football team is winning, for that matter)

    How do to deal with them? I walk away. I'm having too much fun doing this to allow somebody to ruin my good time.
    Terre Hood Biederman
    Yassir, I used to go by Mrs. Lawson
    Weaver, Spinster, Strong Fast Dyes
    Knitted Goods and yarns available

    Moderator, When I remember. We got Rules here!

    Did your sales post disappear? Try again. But read the rules first.
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  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    La Crosse, Wisconsin


    I do it because of my love of history and the camaraderie of my pards in my unit.

    I also do it because the originals are not here to represent themselves and I feel it is up to me to make sure that their history lives on for posterity.
    Pvt. William Beseler
    2nd Wisconsin Vol. Infantry, Company B

    "I was not a Wisconsin soldier, and have not been honorably discharged,
    but at the judgment day I want to be with Wisconsin soldiers," - John Gibbon, 1880

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Expatriate Kentuckian in Florida


    Out of curiosity I looked up the article referred to in the original post - I haven't seen before and I don't know what their usual slant is, but that rambling and vitriolic article was disturbing to say the least. It's disturbing that this professional (I would say that term is applicable only because he is a history professor so he gets paid for studying history) apparently truly hates the time period that he has chosen to study for his profession, but it's even more disturbing that he is a teacher. I wonder what students are actually learning from a teacher who apparently sees no value in historical archaeology or research through trying to experience what some conditions were like back then.
    Greg Walden

    4th Kentucky Infantry, Cotton States Battalion

    Honoring Ensign Robert H. Lindsay, 4th Ky. Vol. Inf.
    KIA Jonesboro, GA August 31, 1864
    Roll of Honor for Murfreesboro and Chickamauga

    Member, The Company of Military Historians

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Columbus, OH


    Take a look at my "Why we do this hobby" thread.

    Yeah, there's nutjobs in the hobby, just as there are in every human endeavor known to man. And reporters like to point to the screwballs and nutjobs here, just as they do everywhere else. But those folks are only a part of the hobby, and not the part that I operate within.

    The hobby originally began as a way for my son and I to have time together doing something we both liked. As one might expect, it evolved into much more than that. For him, it led to a possible career in the Marine Corps. For me, it has led to new friends, experiences, and tests of my own stamina and makeup.

    The people that I've met in this hobby are some of the best I've encountered anywhere. I'd have not met them otherwise.
    While not every experience in the hobby has be the best, the good far outweighs the not so good. I wouldn't trade it.

    So find the people within the hobby you want to be with. If you don't find them on the first try, look some more. They are out there in droves, each with their own oddities and endearments. And you'll find out things about yourself, too. I did.
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jan 2011


    Personally, I reenact because:
    1) I love camping, and I'm too old to be a Boy Scout and too young to be one of those Smokey Bear-hat-wearing Scoutmasters.
    2) I play the fiddle, and my main (fiddle) interest is in Irish, Old-time, and Civil War-era music. So this gives me the perfect outlet to play to my heart's desire for an appreciative audience.
    3) That 'moment' I experienced at Maryland, my Maryland where I was transported, for a few seconds, back to 1862, and was truly fearful and overwhelmed by the gunfire all around me. I was grateful for being in a well-positioned unit (7th Wisconsin, flanking them Johnnies).

    Let me also invite you to check out some of the units out there.
    You did not say where you are from. But if you're anywhere near DC, come join the Regulars! I live in Southwest Virginny, but since all the events are where they are with no regard to which unit I'm in, I find unit location largely doesn't matter (unless it's a drill weekend, then it's a haul).

  10. #10


    Quote Originally Posted by KyColorSgt View Post
    Out of curiosity I looked up the article referred to in the original post -
    Well, it's amusing that he complains he can't get away from the Civil War, mentally, even when he tries to, but then says he's not as obsessed as those crazy reenactors. Maybe he could use a better mirror.

    But this part I can agree with:

    To a very large degree, I confess to some unease about all this playacting as we look down the road to four years of battle reenactments, fancy-dress balls (modeled on the ones portrayed in the films “The Birth of a Nation” and “Gone With the Wind”), and professions of neo-Confederate sentiments about the war having been fought over states’ rights and not slavery, as if that’s a good thing.
    He says:

    And how accurate will any of these celebrations of the past really be?
    I’ve never attended a reenactment where the Confederate encampments are replete with compliant African-Americans portraying the slaves who actually accompanied their masters — officers and enlisted men — on the march.
    Still going to the wrong events?

    In fact, that seems to be the theme of the whole article: he wants more gritty realism and less moonlight, magnolias and hometown festivals.

    I don't think his solution of silent, solemn memorials is the best answer, because that errs toward turning the people of the 1860s into heroic gods or unsmiling martyrs, rather than remembering them as living, breathing human beings like us.

    But I can't say that I disagree with his overall complaint.

    Edited to add: I forgot to respond to the original post!

    Quote Originally Posted by medic744 View Post
    I just want to know if people really ridicule and slam reenactors as much as they do in the article.
    Some academic historians, like the article writer, do. Other academic historians are reenactors. But those who dislike reenactments don't generally spend time attending them and criticizing the participants, so if reenacting is something you think is worthwhile, they'll have no effect on your weekend.

    I guess Im just nervous of falling into the wrong crowd or something.
    It's like any large, loose category of people, and the same skills for finding compatible people apply in reenacting, as in any other part of life. Figure out what you want from the hobby. If the first group or event you find isn't providing that, don't change yourself to fit in with them, regardless of the peer pressure they exert. Look for another group or event that's more compatible, because there are lots of different options. Eventually, you can have you cake and eat it too: get from the hobby the experience you want, among supportive people who want pretty much the same thing.

    Hank Trent
    Last edited by hanktrent; 09-27-2012 at 10:03 AM.


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