Civil War Reenactment Groups


History is important for all of us, although it is important for different reasons. That is why taking part in a reenactment group is such a good way to show our interest in history and pass it on to others.

Civil War reenactment group example
Civil War reenactment group example. Source: www.milsurpia.com

Reenactment groups exist in almost every country and often, in various areas throughout the country. They often portray the events that took place within the area and shaped the country in some way or another.

This is perhaps seen more than in any other group when it comes to the American Civil War. Civil War reenactment groups exist in all 50 states, and in the eastern part of the United States, the people who take part in them are very passionate about what they do.

If you have been considering taking part in a Civil War reenactment group, there are some things you must know before you get started. Knowing these things can help you to get off on the right foot and to make the most out of the living history you will now be part of.

Battle for Old Mill Station Civil War Reenactment
Battle for Old Mill Station Civil War Reenactment. Source: www.crazycrow.com

Civil war reenactment groups

Civil War reenactment groups are groups of individuals that will take part in a reenactment of various battles. They may also take part in some of the lifestyles that were common during the late 1800s. Most reenactment groups are full of volunteers but some have taken it to the next level, doing it professionally and perhaps even traveling from one event to another.

Civil War reenactors at Fort Missoula
Reenactors portray the Civil War regiment at Fort Missoula. Source: www.missoulian.com

We are going to cover a lot of information in this article that will help you to be an active member of a reenactment group. It all starts, however, with finding a group that you can join.

Don’t be too quick to simply choose a group that is closest to you. It may be possible that you could do a little bit of traveling and get involved with a group that is more active or perhaps is taking part in a reenactment of a different battle within the war.

Location of major battles of the Civil War
Location of major battles of the Civil War. Source: www.blendspace.com

In addition, some reenactment groups are going to be very helpful to those who are new while others may expect a certain degree of understanding when somebody joins the group. Admittedly, most groups are going to be helpful but if you join one that expects a lot out of its members, they will expect a lot out of you.

When you are part of a Civil War reenactment group, you are actually part of history. The portrayal of the battle and lifestyle that you display on the field is something that will show the event to others in a way that can’t be described in the textbook or in a movie.

Let’s jump right in with where to find a reenactment group. You might be surprised to learn that there are some in your own backyard.

Where to find a Civil War reenactment group

If you have made up your mind to be part of a Civil War reenactment group, you are really ready to be a part of something bigger. The Civil War was something that did more than shape a nation, it shaped the world in some ways as well.

Since the American Civil War took place, for the most part, on the East Coast of the United States, that is where you will find the majority of the Civil War reenactment groups. There are also some that are found throughout the United States in almost every location. You might also be interested to learn that there are some that operate internationally.

online base of the Civil War reenactment groups
Currently one of the biggest online bases of the Civil War reenactment groups in the US by the state is available at www.milsurpia.com

Although reenactment groups exist for almost any battle and war, those that reenact the American Civil War tend to be the most dedicated. Likely, you will find one that is easy to attend and before long, you will be taking place in one of their events.

If you live in an area where a major battle was fought, such as Gettysburg or Antietam, then you will not have difficulty finding a reenactment group. It is just a matter of attending one of the events and speaking to some of those who are already taking part in it.

Reenactment groups Gettysburg and Antietam
Reenactment groups – The Battle of Gettysburg (top) and Antietam (bottom). Source: www.crazycrow.com

You might also try speaking to people in your local Chamber of Commerce. Many of them are interested in the history of the local area and will be familiar with the reenactment groups that are operating nearby. In addition, some of those members of the group as well.

Something else you can do is search on the Internet and see if you can find a reenactment group nearby. In many cases, they will have their own website and they will be listed in various online directories. This is often a good place to start because you can learn a lot about the group before you ever contact someone directly.

While you are on their website, take some time to look at their rules and regulations. They often have an area where people who are new to the group can learn more about what they offer and how to get started.

reenactment and encampment regulations
Example of reenactment and encampment regulations from Genesee Country Village and Museum, New York State. Source: www.gcv.org – link to full pdf file

Attend as many Civil War events as you can and speak to those who are taking part. Although we mentioned it briefly, it is also important to break it out on its own.

Many of those who take part in Civil War events are volunteers and they are very proud to be part of a group of individuals that portrays those events as accurately as possible. Getting to know them is a good segue into joining the group but they may also be able to introduce you to other groups as well.

Where are Civil War Reenactment groups located?

Civil War reenactment groups are located in almost every state in the United States. There are also some that operate internationally. You’re more likely to find an active group in the eastern part of the United States, although there are some larger groups that take part in regular events elsewhere.

Europe’s largest US Civil War reenactment
Europe’s largest US Civil War reenactment, “Rebel Yell”. Source: www.wearethemighty.com by Blake Stilwell

If you are into traveling, you might want to consider moving from one state to another during the year and taking part in the events. In various parts of the country, these events take place all year long.

Of course, you will have to get in touch with the various groups but often, there are those who can assist you in making the move from one to another. It’s a great way to keep your skills sharp and to have a lot of fun.

Some of the most enjoyable reenactments take place on an actual Civil War battlefield. There are others that may take place in large fields that are owned or otherwise used by the reenactment group. Any of these can be fun, but being on an actual battlefield is something special.

If you live in an area where the Civil War was fought, you will likely find one or more reenactment groups nearby. Some of them are large and very active while others only take part in occasional reenactments.

Gettysburg battle reenactment
Gettysburg battle reenactment. Source: www.tribpub.com

For example, if you live near Gettysburg, then you will want to show up for the Gettysburg Civil War battle reenactment. There are some 5000 reenactors available, along with 70 cannons and 200 horses. It is the largest reenactment event held in the United States.

Time to Choose Sides

Another factor that must be considered but is often overlooked is whether you’re going to be part of a Union or Confederate reenactment group. It is definitely something to think about before you start looking for a group to join.

Admittedly, both the Union and Confederate reenactment groups are portraying a part of history that needs to be shown. Without one or the other, there would be very little to see at these events.

It is really up to the individual to decide if they are going to be part of the Union reenactment group or the Confederate reenactment group. In some cases, it may be personal feelings that are associated with the decision. In others, it is all about location.

Union soldier uniform during the Civil War
Example of Union soldier uniform during the Civil War. Source: www.civilwaracademy.com

If you already have some of your kit put together, then you may want to give careful thought to which group you are going to join. There are going to be obvious differences in the uniform and some other swag, so choose one that has the lowest barrier to entry.

When you will be looking for information about what you have to include in your kit, here are some books from Amazon (starting from $16) that you might want to have as a solid resource:

What do you need to get started?

If you made the decision to get started with a Civil War reenactment group, then the battle is practically won. That is the biggest choice you need to make, as all others are just personal choices that will make a difference in what you do and where the reenactments take place.

There is very little barrier to entry when you join a historical reenactment group. The Civil War reenactment groups may have some specifics that are associated with them, and it’s important to understand those specifics so you can be as prepared as possible.

Example of equipment guidelines reenactment
Example of equipment guidelines – 1st Maine Cavalry Reenactment Group. Source: www.mainecav.org

The first, and perhaps most important thing you can do is to research the rules and guidelines for the reenactment group you plan on joining. The more you understand about them and what they do, the more likely it will be that you will have a good time and fit in well.

People who are part of these reenactment groups are very passionate about what they do. They may be volunteers, but they throw themselves into it completely.

You also want to begin putting together your kit. That is what the costume and firearms are referred to as being, a kit.

Coat example from reenactment kit
Coat example from reenactment kit – part of a complete uniform package for the Confederate soldier priced from $177.95. Source: C&C Sutlery; www.ccsutlery.com

In some cases, the reenactment group will have a specific requirement that will show you exactly what you need to get started. This could limit how much you are able to do if you are prepared to put out that much money.

Fortunately, most historical reenactment groups will do what they can to help people who are new have what they need. As you get your own gear and grow your kit, what they gave to you will go back into the mix for other newbies.

You are taking part in living history

Being a part of a historical reenactment group is more than simply being a member of an organization. You are actually taking part in living history, and that has benefits for all involved.

The role that you play and the reenactment that you are part of can introduce people to an event in history that shaped their lives in ways that they don’t understand. Thousands of people may show up for these events, so your accurate portrayal of life on the battlefield is something that they could all go home with.

Spectators taking pictures with the Civil War Reenactors
Spectators taking pictures with the Civil War Reenactors. Source: The New York Times

As you continue to learn more and more about your part in the reenactment, it helps you to do even more for those in attendance. You can take that knowledge and help them to understand what you are portraying.

In addition, you’re going to get some odd questions and you might even wonder if they could be serious about asking them. Those questions could be anything from if you are hot in your ‘costume’ to if it is a real fire that you are burning.

Don’t be alarmed at what you are asked, just continue to take part and help others to enjoy the event. Who knows, perhaps they will want to take part in the next event?

Continue to grow your kit and your knowledge

One of the most important things for any Civil War reenactor is the gear that they carry. This gear is often referred to as being your kit.

When you first get started, you may have very little in the way of a kit, and many groups will even help you out by lending some of the things you need. They expect, however, that you will continue to grow your kit and eventually, you will be flying on your own. At that point, anything that was lent to you will come back for those who may need it.

There is more than just gathering the gear that you need for the event. It is also important for you to understand the gear and its significance in history.

Civil War Reenacting Kit example
Civil War Reenacting Kit example. Source: East Coast Outdoorsman YouTube Channel

When you are on the battlefield and taking part in a reenactment, you will sometimes be in close proximity to spectators. At times, they may even ask you questions about your uniform, your firearm, or perhaps what life was like during the Civil War.

Being prepared to answer such questions will give you an opportunity to pass along some living history to others. The more you learn about your part in the event, the more you will enjoy it and the more knowledgeable you will be.

Safety guidelines for historical Civil War reenactment groups

One important factor for any historical event is the safety that is involved in it. This is especially true for Civil War reenactments. Why?

There are often extensive safety guidelines associated with any Civil War reenactment. You will be using firearms, bayonets, swords, and all of it will be in close proximity to other volunteers and spectators.

Safety regulations in reenactment
Safety regulations example – Safety Rules of the Pacific Area Civil War Reenactors. Source: www.ncwa1863.org

Understanding the safety guidelines associated with any historical reenactment group and the events they take part in is an important aspect of being part of something bigger. Though safety guidelines are going to differ from one event to another and from one group to another.

It is a given that you will not be able to carry any live ammunition onto the field with you. You may even have to drop your ramrod into the barrel to show them that there is nothing lodged in it.

At that point, you may have to surrender the rod so that you don’t accidentally leave it in the barrel and fire your gun. It may seem odd, but it has happened and people have been injured as a result. In the heat of the battle, even if it is a reenactment, accidents do happen.

You will also be given additional information, such as how far you have to be away from spectators when firing your firearm and if you have to lift your firearm and fire over the heads of those on the other side.

gun during the reenactment
Safety protocols example – firing with an elevated barrel of the gun during the reenactment. Source – National Geographic

Take the time to learn the safety guidelines and you will be in a better position to enjoy being part of a Civil War reenactment group.

Help others to get started with reenactments

Now that you have made the decision to get started with a Civil War reenactment group, you also have the opportunity to help others.

Be prepared for people to ask you questions when you are taking part in any reenactment. You can also do your part to encourage them to be a volunteer at the next event. Many of them will not even know that it is a possibility.

Continue to be an advocate for your Civil War reenactment group. You should also do what you can to be encouraging and excited about the events when they come up. It will be something that helps to bring people together in a way that everyone will enjoy.

For more info you may refer to our other articles – Is There Value In Historical Reenactments and 5 Easy Steps to Start Reenactment as Your Hobby.

ReenactmentGuide

Group of reenactment passionates, writing for people looking to start an adventure with historical reenactment and struggling to find valuable and actual information.

Recent Posts