seriously, what is the deal with Civil War re-enactment?

* update > this discussion really takes off down in the comments.  Comments are now closed

So, I was thinking.  December 7th is coming up, the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor base in Hawaii.  I think we should build a full scale replica of the USS Arizona.  Then, the morning of Dec 7th, we should dress up as Japanese pilots and blow it up.  Right smack dab in the middle of the Harbor.  Sound like a good idea?  Let’s dress up as grizzly bears and surprise Timothy Treadwell’s parents in the middle of the night.

On April 20th, we will gather at Columbine High School in South Denver and re-enact the killings that took place.  We’ll wear trench coats, and someone with a beard can play Dave Sanders.  He is the teacher who bled out and died while authorities waited three hours to enter the school.  We can eat food like people did back then, and stay in suburban tract houses.

I know, awesome, right?

On Sept 11th, we will make 1/3rd scale remote control airplanes.  We will set them on fire and fly them over the ground zero site into stuff.

Do you see the problem with all of this?  Do any of these look like a good idea to you?  Insenstive?  Cruel?  Sick?  You would be correct.   How is this any different from these folks who re-enact the Civil War? It’s no different, and nothing to celebrate in my eyes.  Our own country took up arms against itself.  Brothers had to fight each other to death.   This isn’t something to celebrate, nor is it something to re-enact.  How come nobody is re-enacting WW2?  Now that was an enemy worth fighting, and we won that one.  There are still people alive who lived through and fought through that.  You don’t see them hanging out in tent petting their muskets.  They fought so that they wouldn’t have to do that ever again.  It’s why you fight a war, to make shit better.

Also, why is it only the South seems to do the re-enacting?  Didn’t they lose?  Aren’t we glad they lost? Weren’t they proven wrong?  Did they not take up arms against the United States of America?  Doesn’t that make them terrorists?  Yes, it does and yes they are.

So, why are we romanticizing the civil war?  Were things so much better back then?  Nope.  Everything sucked back then.  The coffee was shit, the outfits were tacky, we spent all our resources killing off our own country, and torching anything left.  They (re-enactors… or ‘racists’ for short) seem to think that things were great back then.  It’s not just dumb, it’s offensive.  To celebrate the Civil War on the side of the South is to say that Blacks are property and the United States is the enemy.  If you are still of that mind set, I am thinking maybe you should gtfo.  Instead of re-enacting the Civil War, just buy a shirt that says “I hate black people” and save yourself the time and money of running around in a field pretending to be martyrs.

I will tell you what, confederate fans.  If you want to secede, this time we will let you.  Shit, I will help you pack.  Your values are not welcome here, nor will they be tolerated.

* comments are now closed


26 thoughts on “seriously, what is the deal with Civil War re-enactment?

  1. ****, (name withheld)

    thank you for your feedback, and taking the time to read my piece. I appreciate it, sincerely. However, I disagree. Yes, people from the south are racist. I have been often reminded that (it goes both ways, though). Meaning, the black folk don’t like the white folk, either. Regardless, y’all ar racist.
    Further, I understand that you see the Confederate Flag as your heritage. However, everyone else sees it as a big mistake. It says slavery and terrorism are ok here. Yes, terrorist. Your ancestors took up arms against The United States of America. That makes them, by all accounts, terrorists.
    As for what white America did to the Native population, it is agreed. It was abhorrent. This is why we don’t have flags and traditions that celebrate the genocide of the native people of America. We don’t recreate the attacks on natives people for fun to celebrate our “heritage”.

    Larry Wilmore explains it beautifully on the Daily Show clip. “No one is saying you invented slavery, but you held onto it like a mother fucker!”

  2. man you have seriously got the wrong attitude towards the south, war re-enacting and the confederate flag. as sarah pointed out people re-enact almost every major war that has been fought. i myslef am a civil war reenactor as well as an ex army ranger with five combat tours under my belt. i am also a very very proud son of dixie. im sure that you have never served anything or anyone other than yourself. i could try to explain to you why we do what we do and why history is so important to us but you arent worth my time or effort. i would however encourage you to be very careful about running your mouth as you do about southerners. i promise you that if i ever met you face to face and you spewed your ignorant opinion at me i would most certainly commence with what we call a good ole southern ass whoopin. thanks for your time and god bless dixie.. deo vindice.

  3. I call lie to the one called James R Guenard… My brother was a ranger… and as far as documentation goes nothing shows you as a ranger … who was attached to the 51st …… no ranger no airborne…. and maybe from the south but no ties to dixie as they would disown him… ESPECIALLY without 5 combat tours… lol… maybe dreamt of 5 but no such thing for him…. and he need not explain but to recover from the lies that were presented…. and ignorant… maybe when you can explain your own actions….I represent Dixie… on my GLee … but no misrepresenters like you sir

  4. Sir:

    Normally I would not respond to anything like this, but some of this intrigues me. What has your contact been with Civil War reenacatments? Are you aware that there are probably an equal number of people from the northern states that participate as there are from the Southern States? In addition, there are people from all over the world that travel here for the big events. I had a great time about 10 years ago with some guys from Northern Ireland that camped next to me at an event in Raymond, Miss.

    Do you have a problem with the demonstrations (called living histories) that are put on by the National Park Service (that would be the United States Government Park Service)? Those are the same people that participate in the reenactments.

    I suspect that blacks and whites get along better here in the South than they do up north, the exception being those involved in activist organisations like the klan or the naacp.

    So far as all the Confederates being racists and terrorists, and I believe you included us in the present day, let me put it in perspective. I had seven family members that fought in the War Between the States. Five of them were immigrants. Two of these were officers. Four were from Ireland and one was from Cuba. The one from Cuba was Hispanic and by todays standards part of an oppressed minority. He made the highest rank of the bunch (Major) and was elected mayor of his town at the end of the reconstruction period.

  5. All,

    Again, thank you for reading and commenting. I appreciate the feedback. However, some points i must clarify as the author. Sarah, above, wrote that people re-enact all kinds of wars. Wrong. I ran a search on re-enactments and ‘war re-enactments’; the results that came up were almost exclusively civil war events.

    They were also almost exclusively in the South.

    So, I absolutely did execute stereotypes here, admittedly. I implied, seemingly without remorse, that folks South of the Mason-Dixie like are all: hillbillies, racists, and/or terrorists.

    I gotta tell you, with some hindsight and further research, I totally stand behind what I said. Plus, an awesome bonus is that James is going to personally give me a ‘southern style ass whoopin’, when he is done with Robert, who implied that every word of James’ response was total horseshit.

    This is even better. When my critics forget about my argument and start slandering each other… well then my work here is almost done! Go get ‘im, Cooter!

  6. Oh, I should say there are a couple of responses that I didn’t approve. One dude questioned my ‘ebucation’ and then called me an ‘imbacle’.

    Sorry, bro… but your comment was denied. My education is precisely why you were edited out. My degree is in Lit, so I abhore typos. Also, it means I read your hillbilly tomes glamorizing the civil war.

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  8. seriously ?
    we are “civil war re-en-actors………. have you read a school history book lately? I have and there is hardly anything in them on the civil war. you used a picture depicting the KKK when you made this post. why is that ? I am curious ,
    My opinion on the events of the civil war is that the US would rather have everyone just forget about what happened, but indeed charlie brown it is part of our history just like 911, columbine etc. and also we must not forget that there are ww2 and revolutionary and french and Indian re-en-actors that you forgot to mention.just pointed this out to you . so i guess the whole point here is the reenactors dont want the history of what truely happened or whats not in our history books to fade away !

  9. Joyce,

    Thanks for reading and reaching out. I appreciate it. Now, to your points > Seriously YES. I have read the history books and sat in countless classes and they extensively covered the civil war. Now, why did I put a KKK picture up? Because in my view, celebrating and re-enacting the civil war on behalf of the south is to celebrate racism and terrorism. See, when you take up arms against your government, that is terrorism. And when the reason why you do so is to keep black people more oppressed. it shows your odiousness.

    Note, people do not seem to re-enact any other wars at the level they do the civil war. In addition, those people are always in the south and celebrate the south. I get that you have your heritage and history. Just know that you were wrong on every level. You were wrong to fight for slavery and you were wrong to take up arms against your country. So, spending the weekends celebrating that EPIC and history mistake you all made seems scary and sad and incredibly in bad taste.

    Now, to be transparent, I am obviously not from the South. Yes, I do generalize a LOT, and yes I assume everybody in the south is illiterate and racists. Just beacuse the civil war is your history, I don’t see it worth celebrating. I mean, do you see how this seems to the rest of the world? Do you think the family members of the Columbine shootings stage re-enactments? I mean, it is a HUGE part of their lives. Yet… they realize what happened was horrible and wrong.

    Now, am I likening civil war re-enactors to mass killers? Yup, I sure am.

    The good news is you will see I am absolutely open to discussion. Almost all of these posts are about how wrong I am. I could delete all these, but I won’t. I accept I may be wrong and I like a lively debate.

    I guess here is my closing point. Surely, you all in the south have something to be proud of? Celebrate that, whatever it is. If there is anything y’all did back in time that did not involve taking up arms against your country in order to further subjegate and torture black people… that might be something to celebrate. How about pie? You guys make great pie, and that doesn’t have to involve killing blacks (though I get your gramma has a recipe for one that does). So… celebrate that.

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  11. I agree lets do a semptember 11 reenactment that would be cool..but get real planes and do it again..and yeah keep running your mouth off at southerners coz there a redneck weirdo cunts that fuck there kids snd stuff and eat roadkill..people that are war reenacters(never haf a life or sex) are fuckheads..go blow some schools up or massacre yourselves or something..or watch shitty nascars go around a circle track,boring life down south..

  12. Wow… I have been a living historian and reenactor for more then three decades and I can honestly say that I have never read such an uneducated, ill-informed and ignorant tirade about reenacting. I have always found it painfully ironic when someone as blatantly idiotic as yourself pronounces their views about people they feel are stupid.

    Some quick clarification, please, pay attention this time, I don’t want to assign homework.

    The reenactment of Wars has existed since early history, in fact the Roman Army took part in several reenactments of their own campaigns, used as demonstrations for visiting heads of State and the public at large.

    Here in the US there are reenactments of everything from Colonial America to the Vietnam War, with thousands of events of all types every single year throughout the country.

    For you to go on and on about how there is virtually no other kinds of reenacting by Civil War is just plain stupid. You are either blind, inept or just haven’t figured out how Google works yet.

    Your article did nothing but prove to everyone here how idiotic your personal views are and gave serious credence to the idea that people should really have to pass an IQ test before they are given the ability to post a blog.

  13. I feel like im wasting my time writing this buy go do some research on reenacting i am from Canada and we have American civil war reenactments here they are very rare but i personally do ww2 reenacting go look up also reenacting is to remember the fallen no matter the uniform you are just another internet troll trying to see how many people you can piss off and your article is so badly written it should be taken down, vetrens of any war would be offended by your post. No one should read this article, continue your reenacting everybody this fool has no ide

  14. This is your much maligned author with an update. First off, I want to pat myself on the back for not censoring these comments. They are all critical of me, on every level. I could have deleted them, but I did not. I embrace the discussion… especially when I am Correct.

    The last two comments (along with several others) intimate that re-enacting is not just a Civil War thing. Everyone does it, and that I am placing a disproportionate and unfair emphasis on the Civil War. I will pause for a minute so my critics can look those words up. I did some searching: google, soul, and otherwise. Guess what came up; I WAS CORRECT. If you Google ‘war reenactment’ you will receive 15 hits on the first page. These are driven by volume and traffic. Meaning, historically, when people typed in these search terms before… these are the top 15 actual links they then selected. It is a meritocracy in that sense. Guess what comes up when you do that, fuckos? 14 of those 15 links all pertain to the Civil War.

    If you or I went up to ten thousand Americans and did some word association, you know the results would confirm this as well. So, you are wrong and I am Correct.

    Now, obviously it is hyperhbole when I imply that everyone from the South is a racist, illiterate, mysoginist dipshit. I am sure there are some exceptions, though I have yet to meet them. As for Shultzy’ comments right there… there are simply too many typos and grammar errors to take seriously. Also, Shultzy suggests that no matter what I say, keep on re-enacting. I agree. In fact, I never said to stop. I think respect for history is awesome and valuable.

    What I do take issue with, and the nature of the whole piece, is this:
    1) why is the Civil War the most commonly re-enacted
    2) why are the re-enactors almost always representing the South
    3) if you take up arms against the United States of America, you are a terrorist… correct?

    honestly, though. I realize I come off super dickish here, but keep commmenting. I really do enjoy the discussion and I really do have an open mind. I love you all!

  15. I’m a southern liberal atheist who has dabbled in reenacting for the best part of a decade. I currently am involved in Civil War (Federal), War of 1812 (US), and medieval reenacting (12th century Norman). In the past, I have done WW2, both US and German, as well as Confederate impressions. I do not and have not done it because I have any interest in vicariously reliving a long-decided conflict or because my political views are linked to men who have been dust for fifty plus years. I’m a history major, and I have an interest in the material culture of these periods, and in sharing that interest with others.

    With all respect, please try to generalize less.

  16. James, I can’t. 93% of the resources on the web for re-enactments are specifically for Civil War. that isn’t me generalizing. I will cop to the fact that I do generalize a bit for dramatic effect. It is possible that not every single person in South Carolina is a racist. It’s possible. I haven’t seen it yet, but I remain hopeful.

    let’s hope they never learn to read, or I am truly in for an ‘ass whoopin’ as suggested above.

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  18. Hey I’m a civil war reenactor from new york. As far as you saying the South is racist there are racist every where. Here’s a fact you don’t know there were blacks in the south that fought for the south and by there own free will. Look it up there where several that fought with Forest look it up. And the reason you didn’t find hardly anything on reenacting other than the civil war is because civil war is the most popular. The people in this hobby love what they do and the people in my group are amazing people. There is also several black reenacting units to. Also jw have you ever been to a reenactment I dare you to walk up to a reenactor and tell him he is a racist better yet tell that to a black reenacting a confederate. I realize you aren’t saying reenacting is full of racists but it seems you are implying it. We do this to honor the brave men that died for what they believed in.

  19. Tcove – thanks for your feedback. I agree. I don’t doubt the passions or fascinations of civil war reenactors. What concerns is me is there are many great moments as Americans we can all support and get behind. I think the civil war was, I retrospect, a mistake and done for the wrong reasons. You can say this was about states rights and independent from a busy minded regime that had no business dictating the lifestyle or economy of the south.

    At the end of the day, though,it was about keeping slavery in place. I also understand it also was about the very survival of the agrarian south. The cold hard facts though meant keeping blacks as property and that is absolutely the wrong side of humanity and rights. I speak for myself to say the south was wrong on this issue. I can also say, speaking only for myself, that taking up arms against the US is terrorism’ and in that sense is not different than what McVeigh did. He was a citizen and served his country. He fought for what he a believed. Honorable? Not when you kill thousands of innocent people.

    So why the hell is this 90% of what people reenact? Lets celebrate beating the nazis. We can all agree on that, right? And don’t tell me that people do, because the research shows people aren’t.

    But, as I have said above, I absolutely welcome the discussion. Note that I could delete all these posts criticizing my position, but I have not. This is what makes America great. W can disagree. It doesn’t make you my enemy, and I hope I am not yours. Lets keep the dialogue open.

  20. And a follow up:
    I did as I said before CW re-enacting from about 1986-1994. I was invited in to joining by friends and co-workers. But I finally I decided I had done enough of it… enough was enough… I leave it for others now.
    I was later requested by members of my community to research and do some living history for my old hometown. This was a military garrison fort (Fort Southwest Point) circa 1797-1811. So I did for several years and we created a living history park / fort… Google that one, you’ll find it if you look.
    I now am doing some reenacting I’ve always wanted to do before I retire completely… and that is World War 1 as a member of the 117th Tennessee Infantry, 59th Brigade, 30th Infantry Division ‘Old Hickory’.
    So I am one that knows very well there is more than Civil War reenacting. I have friends who regularly do WW2 as both Americans on the Western Front, Russians on the Eastern Front, and few who do the Germans. Tanks, Trucks, Jeeps, Kubelwagens, cannons, machine guns, etc.
    The reenact in Missouri, Virginia, Georgia as well as Tennessee.
    Why is the Civil War the most popular? Probably many reasons, too many to count.
    One it is a war that was fought from the Atlantic, to the Gulf, as far west on land as New Mexico, and north above the Mason Dixon (Gettysburg) and Ohio River (if you count Morgans raid).
    So it can be done in so many places. And it attracts women (as in wives, girlfriends, and family members) to come along and even participate. Buying a musket is cheaper than buying a real Thompson or Mp-40 submachine gun. Towing a reproduction Napoleon cannon with horses to pull the caisson is easier than a diesel rig with low boy trailer and wide load permit to tow a Sherman or Panzer tank across country.
    Plus the Civil War and antebellum south conjures up more romanticism with wives who like to attend balls in period attire. Where as concrete pillboxes, bunkers, barbed wire, minefields… not so much! You can try and understand that can’t you.
    While Band of Brothers was a GREAT mini series… North and South was a bigger hit with women viewers. Gee I wonder why?

  21. I just wanted to make a couple of comments here. I agree with Lono here, but not just with the Civil war. I think re-enacting any horrific event such as this is pretty heinous. I understand remembering history and truly believe it to be vital to not making the same mistakes in the future. However, acting it out takes it a little far. There are plenty of other ways to honor and remember fallen soldiers. I would like everyone making comments about, (and I think also missing the point,) the fact that there are many re-enactments; to understand that most, if not all wars in my opinion were fought to/for the detriment of someone else. Therefore celebrating them almost always is offensive to someone.

    The civil war,The French & Indian war, Vietnam, The Revolutionary war and so many other wars (read as pretty much all) suffered horrible atrocities on both sides of the wars. So what you do as fun or hobbies essentially mocks the actual physical and metal abuses they occurred during those times. As well as perpetuating the mentality that surrounded them, in some sort of freakish obsession with the past. It would be amazing if people were able to separate the overt racism that doused most of these wars, but most of the time this is not the case. It only prolongs the feelings. While I am grateful that men and women are willing to lay down their life for me; It also has to be acknowledge that a great many of them were, (hopefully they feel this way now,) erroneously racist and or ignorant at the time these wars were fought.

    To Tcove: Yes there were black people that fought on the side of the confederates. However, to say it was of their own free will, is a huge leap. Most black people of the time did so because they were offering slaves their freedom if they fought and survived. Hardly a choice. Originally black slaves were able to be forced into the army without the acknowledgement of their masters. On February 27, 1864, Confederate Congress had passed a law that allowed the army to impress slaves with consulting their owner, however this was not a law that was frequently implemented. The legislation was then promulgated into military policy by Davis in General Order No. 14 on March 23, 1865. The emancipation offered, however, was reliant upon a master’s consent; “no slave will be accepted as a recruit unless with his own consent and with the approbation of his master by a written instrument conferring, as far as he may, the rights of a freedman” Under most circumstances I would not fight in most wars. In most circumstances I most definitely would not have fought on the side of the confederates. Given the choice in that instance……yes i would have on my own “free” will.

    The fact of the matter is that almost all wars involve some other sides oppression. Therefore, not always, but mostly will offend people when it is “celebrated” or re-enacted. Just as a side note: I really don’t think live re-enactments are needed for people to remember these horrible sufferings. Yell at me if you like. I’m not seeking any glory or discussion really. I probably won’t even return. I just happened upon this site and thought I’d leave my 2 cents. Keep open discussion alive without ignorance.

    One love.

  22. Wow! Thank you SO much Sarah. You NAILED it. You are the first person to get my concern and my point. Also, you neatly steered clear of my other point, which is that these people are also racist bastards. Well done. Thanks for the feedback and being a reader!

  23. People that do this reenactments are doing it for there asters and not only are there reenactments for the civil war but ether wars to like for example the revolutionary war.

  24. Very interesting, your story. I think your missing the mark but what ever I say won’t broaden your mind. I started re-enacting when I was 13 and started as a drummer boy till the age of 35. Doing so enlighten my mind and I have been interested in history ever since. I looked at this as a personal journey and touched on what the solders felt mentally and physically. I am proud to have knowledge and experienced “my journey.” Because of this, my life has never been the same. I am now a successful artist using historic photography process called “wet plate collodion.”

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