Every year, all across the United States, thousands of tourists gather at different historical American Civil War battlefields to watch reenactors recreate monumental battles on the very ground the battle took place. Most participants of a Civil War Reenactment are so particular in the authenticity of their performance that they actually wear historically correct replicas of Civil War Union uniforms and Confederate uniforms and carry authentic reproduction Civil War guns and swords.
The beginnings of Civil War reenactments can be traced back to before the war was even over. It was started as a way for the veterans to remember and honor their fallen brothers and to give others a way to understand their cause for the war. One reunion that garnered the most attendants from Union and Confederate veterans was the Great Reunion of 1913. There was said to be around 50,000 veterans during the reunion. The event centered on the reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, the event also highlighted the historic Pickett’s Charge.
During the 1960’s, civil war reenactments and commemorations started to spring up around the country. Over time, more and more people came to appreciate the value and the historical significance of the Civil War. Over the next few years, civil war reenactments started to integrate audience participation, in Civil War games, total immersion experiences and exposure to living histories. Part of the purpose of these gatherings was to educate younger generations on the importance and the historical significance of the war.
The reenactments of today have more audience participation than ever before, and some do not merely involve battles, but are living histories that center on the everyday lifestyle of an ordinary soldier. These events sometimes feature living conditions in the soldiers camp have weapon and cooking displays that a Confederate or Union soldier would do in their leisure time.
Then, there are public demonstrations and scripted battles for reenactment. The difference between the two is that public demonstration battles are more into tactics and strategy, and may be more fictional than the actual battle. Scripted battles, on the other hand, show every detail of the original battle and every movement is planned by the reenactors to portray the battle as realistically as possible.
One of the last types of a Civil War reenactment is a total immersion. These are for those serious reenactors who like to get into the authenticity of their performance which is as close as possible to the actual event. Most would go into character for hours, eating the same food that the soldiers ate, and will go to extra lengths in producing the most accurate portrayal of the Civil War soldiers life. These events are definitely for military and civil war aficionados and are not generally open to the public. Being a part of this kind of event is probably the closest thing to actually being in the Civil War.
There are Civil War reenactments going on year round. The purpose of these reenactments is not to endorse the cause of either the Union or the Confederate states but to just enable the participants to live the experience for a day or two. Attending a reenactment is an educational experience that gives a person more appreciation of our nation’s history and the battles fought in getting the United States of America to where it is today.