The Reenactment

Reenactments are organized events designed to exhibit the routine of the Civil War soldier and civilian.  Reenactments are divided into two groups........the " Reenactment " event has a battle scenario or a skirmish included in the activity.  A "Living History" event typically does not include a battle.  In this situation the participants exhibit camp life and demonstrations on drill and other military functions and civilian life. 

Most events occur over a weekend, with Friday being the set-up day followed by a full day Saturday of activities, and usually concluding in the afternoon on Sunday to allow for travel home.   To get the full experience its best to arrive on Friday and participate all weekend.  Set-up on Friday includes setting up your tents, the company fly or mess tent as some call it.  Digging a firepit, gathering firewood and getting all the supplies required to support yourself for the weekend.  Upon arrival check in at registration.   Most events have a liability release form you sign, and they will have directions to your camp site.   There may be registration fees required that can range anywhere from Free to $25.00 a person.   Usually with larger events the fees are more.  Keep in mind it costs a great deal of money to stage these events. They organizers have to rent a farm, pay for medical and traffic support, rent port-a-johns, water to be trucked in, hay and straw,  pay for security, insurance, and a legal team to get Township approval to host an event.  It can  cost upwards of over $1,000,000 to stage a large scale re-enactment.   Some events require advance registration and will not allow anyone to "walk-on", a term used to describe someone who shows up that day, and pays the fee, and participates.   Its best to register as early as possible, because the trend is to have a sliding scale of increasing registration fees.  For example, if you register early in the year, they may only charge $10.00, if you register after May 1st, the fee may go up to $15.00, and if you walk-on, it could be $25.00.  Walk-on fees are always the most expensive.   Most units have a company clerk or secretary/treasurer who will take registration fees for the unit and submit as a group.  They will also have information on all the events on the schedule so be sure to ask about that. 

Once you register, you need to find your group.   The obvious question you need to ask, where are  the Federal camps located or where are the Confederate camps located.  Camps are usually in different areas of the site.   Once you find your camp, you need to find where your Brigade is located.  You will need to know  what Brigade your group is with.   Most reenactment groups belong to a large umbrella groups called a Brigade.   Units within  a brigade support events and work together all season.  At larger events, brigades will actually portray a single Regiment, with a Colonel in command.   So ask the unit your with what Brigade are they affiliated with.  For Federal troops brigades include Birney's Division, Federal Volunteer Brigade, US Volunteers, Mifflin Guard. There are many more.  Once you find where your brigade is located, the companies in the brigade are laid out in company streets.  The unit you are falling in with will have its own street.  You need to find where they are located by asking an officer or finding the Sgt. Major of the Brigade.    Once you find your unit, they will direct you where to place your tent.  A word about setting up, at larger events space is premium, so if your drive in to set-up, unload as quickly as possible and get set-up.  Don't block access to the camping area or your street as others are arriving and need to set-up also.   Its best to arrive before dark on Friday.  Its much easier to find your company in the daylight than in the dark.  

Friday is good time to meet everyone, if your brand new take the opportunity to learn.  Ask questions.   They should be assigning a non-com to you to teach you safety and firing basics.  A word of caution:  If the unit does not teach you anything, hands you a rifle and allows you go into battle.....find another unit quickly.  Do not fall in with that group.  These are real weapons firing with real gunpowder.  Serious and life threatening injury can occur if you don't know what your doing, and if the people around you are not safety concious.

Saturday morning revielle will blow around 0630 to 0730.......if you don't know what that is you will hear it when the bugle blows.   Get-up and get busy.  Roll call will follow in about 15 minutes.  Fall in on the street with uniform, and hat only.  The First Sgt. will take roll call to see who is here and complete the morning report for HQ.  This lets the commanders know how many troops are present for the day.   The First Sgt will give you the schedule for the day.   Schedule will include a Dress Parade, which is a formal ceremony where all the companies fall in for the brigade, usually followed by company drill, where you act as unit and get training and practice on marching. maneuvers, and firing, followed by brigade drill, where you practice as a much larger group.  All of this usually occurs around 0900 to 1000. If battles are scheduled, they usually occur in the afternoon.  It is extremely important that you maintain a full canteen before going out for any activity.  Plus you must be hydrating all day, even when its cool out.  You will sweat, and you need to replace fluids.   Stick to the schedules, in other words if the Sgt says be in camp at 0900, be sure to follow instructions.  Do not be late.  Also, schedules change often and sometimes quickly.  Be prepared for that.  Communicate with your First Sgt. if your leaving camp ,and when you will return.   

The battle is the most physically demanding and intense period of the day.  At smaller events, battles typically go for about 30 minutes, at larger events battles can go for up to 1 to 2 hours.   Be prepared.  Always full canteen.  Full cartridge and cap box.  Communicate any health issues you have such as asthma or if your diabetic.  Carry contact information in case of an emergency.  99.99% of the reenactments occur without any incident, but you need to be prepared.  Follow orders, which will change.  The soldiers of 150 years ago wrote about the confusion of battle and its true today, especially at larger events. Much planning goes into battles, but thats quickly thrown out the window when the battle begins, because plans break down.   That's a part of it.   Take the time  to recognize what your participating in, and enjoy the event.  There are moments out there where you get caught-up in the event and it will strike you as amazing.  Your first battle will be confusing, but people will get you into line.  Don't be offended by that, its all part of the process. After the battle march back to camp, cool down, clean your weapon. Camps typically close to the public after 5:00. Sometimes there is a dance scheduled for the re-enactors later the evening.  Around the campfire at night is the best time.  Enjoy the sounds and atmosphere.  Take the opportunity to meet folks.  

Sunday will be an abreviated Saturday, with a Church service thrown in.  At the end of the day tear down your camp and pack.  Assist with cleaning up the unit campsite.   Cover and properly extinguish the fire-pit, assist with removing the company fly.  Make sure all borrowed equipment is returned in good condition.   

What to Expect:

1) Expect to learn a great deal
2) Expect to sweat
3) Expect to be safe and to be taught how to be safe.
4) Expect to have a great time, it is a hobby after all.