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TexasDude's avatar

What should I know about historical re-enacting?

Asked by TexasDude (25184 points ) July 11th, 2010

I love history. No really. I friggin’ love history. You probably will never meet anyone with as big a boner for history as the one I have.

That said, I’d like to know what you guys think about reenacting. Military history is my true forte’, and it seems like getting involved in historically accurate reenacting of the American Civil War, World War One, or World War Two would be the natural extension of my love for history. I have alot of authentic WWII and WWI gear, but other than that, I don’t even know where to begin.

Have any of you dear readers ever been involved in reenacting? Where should I look first if I’d like to give it a shot?

Opinions and banter are welcome. This is mainly in the general section because of heavier reader traffic.

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15 Answers

PandoraBoxx's avatar

I have a friend who was a re-enactor with the Lewis & Clark expedition; he was Charles Floyd. He loved it. I went to a few of the encampments. The people who are re-enactors are great people.

Do you have a particular person or unit that you’re interested in. Generally, a lot of work goes into understanding who your character is, what the unit was like, the activity and place in history. I think you might have more fun with Civil War re-enactment, because the battles were fought in the US, and there are more opportunities for engagement. Start with your family tree, and pick a person and a unit and go from there. If you narrow it down a bit, I can probably help you out a bit more.

TexasDude's avatar

@PandoraBoxx, none of my ancestors served in any conflict that I know of, including the Civil War. I’m very interested in just about any of the numerous British and Australian units that fought at the Battle of the Somme, and I’m also really interested in the South Wales Borderers, particularly their involvement in the Zulu War (they had the snazziest uniforms).

I think any of these types of units would be hard to find in my area, and the Civil War probably would be my best bet, like you said.

betterdays's avatar

I would first actually attend a re-enactment so see if it’s really something you would like to become involved with. Our newspaper did an article today about re-enactors and their period clothing that was really interesting. According to the article, the materials alone can cost between $1500 to $1800. They import their materials from Ireland and even mold their own buttons out of pewter. The persons in this regiment (700 men) spent 10 years researching archives and even went to museums that would let them take down authentic uniforms to let them look at the materials and construction.

I’m sure that if you contacted a group, even if they were not active in your area, they would be able to lead you to a group that would be near you. Good luck and have fun!

YARNLADY's avatar

Do your research. Don’t use modern fabrics for your re-enactment clothing. Try to use as much authentic articles as you can. Wood for wood, copper for copper, and so on. No plastic replicas.

You can usually purchase some great gear from people who used to participate, but have dropped out.

TexasDude's avatar

@betterdays, I’ve been to a few smaller Civil War reenactments and encampments in my area. It is definitely something I would like to do, but unfortunately the WWI and WWII performances are much more interesting to me (and harder to become involved with).

@YARNLADY, I definitely wouldn’t be a farb ;-)
Realism is the primary attractant for me. I would only participate in a reenactment if it was actually historically accurate.

PandoraBoxx's avatar

This would be a great place to start http://www.reenactor.net/forums/index.php/page,10.html

The state parks are the site of a lot of enactments.

Pick one of the Clays.

TexasDude's avatar

@PandoraBoxx, awesome link. Thank you.

anartist's avatar

The people who do it really enjoy it, develop many roles for their era and attend many festivals as well as participate in mock battles. When I worked for the Naval Historical Center we had a Revolutionary War group fire the “big guns” on our Constitution gun deck exhibit a few times a year. There are a lot of replica items you may have to buy, but if you really get into it and have the right sort of skills you might start making them. One CW buff makes powder horns and a variety of leather goods for himself and for sale at gatherings.

Know your history, and stick with one era to keep it simple. At different fairs, you can end up being a soldier [for either side], a gunsmith, a saddler [or provisioner not just saddles],a farmer etc

a supply source here

Mtl_zack's avatar

I heard of this videogame where players can create battles between any two armies. Mongols and Spartans. Mayans and romans. French and Zulu. Etc… I think it’s called civilization 4.

Also you might want to look into reenactment of ancient weapons. Model makers create exact replicas of trebuchets and armour. See you nearest ancient history museum and ask if they need an intern.

anartist's avatar

June 19 – 20 Living History Civil War Reenactment—this event may have been held near you and perhaps the upcoming October 8 – 25 Gatlinburg Craftsmen’s Fair will bring in reenactors and some of their handmade period wares.

Civil war reenactors links including sutlers

TexasDude's avatar

@anartist, yes, that is very near me, actually. Thanks again for the invaluable links. I have quite a few crafts and mechanical skills that I think I could employ in a reenactment.

@Mtl_zack, yep, I’ve played that game. I’m not as interested in ancient battles and warfare as I am in relatively modern militaria. I do have some experience with ancient weapons though.

cazzie's avatar

I do re-enacting, but we go back a little further…. Early Christian Norway. We use it as an excuse to hone our old skills too. Weaving, cloth and fiber dying, carving, and making food and drink of the era. I’ve learned nålbinding and I enjoy it immensely. This year, I’m hoping to create soap from pot ash and animal fat, how they would have done it around 1200 or so here in Northern Europe.

It’s good fun. Some take it more seriously than others, but it’s all about learning and showing people a little window into the past.

If you’re a history lover, you’ll really enjoy it and be able to learn and teach about something you are passionate about.

TexasDude's avatar

@cazzie, those are the kinds of skills I’d really like to take from something like this. Thanks.

doublebogie's avatar

FPCB, I belonged to a history re-enactment group connected with the historical society in Oregon. They would dress in period clothing and walk the old town district telling historical facts and stories. One of our biggest productions was a graveyard tour on halloween night. We would stand at different grave sites and dress in the period clothes that the person lived in and talk to passersby about their life and accomplishments in their time. They would have us study the history of that period and of course the persons we were re-enacting history. They coached us to tell a good story but don’t fantasize or believe we knew more to the story if it wasn’t supported by fact. Yours sounds much more involved and should be quite a learning expierence. Have fun!!

TexasDude's avatar

@doublebogie that sounds awesome. Thanks for the well wishes and for sharing your experience!

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