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The rise and fall of Civil War reenactors

Civil War reenactors approach their hobby with the zeal of a prophet and the curiosity of an academic. On the battlefield they live to "see the elephant," a nineteenth-century phrase describing the rush that only certain daring pursuits — exploration, hunting or war — can provide. Those moments, however, are becoming fewer and far between. The old guys are getting out of the game and, although it's a young man's hobby, the kids aren't necessarily rushing to take their place. What was considered hardcore only a couple decades ago is now looked down upon. Meanwhile, the Great Recession has taken its toll on what was already an expensive endeavor. Time, in this case, may not be on their side. Their numbers have dropped significantly in the last 15 years and may never return.

They see themselves not as the gun nuts and losers that popular culture would have you believe, but as teachers, the self-anointed and self-effacing stewards of our nation's past. And to save that past — or rather, future — the 14th Brooklyn and their allies are leading the charge to do two seemingly irreconcilable things: make the hobby more appealing and yet more absolute.

And yet there may be a silver lining in the hobby's decline. Those members of a group or a movement who stick through it in good times and in bad are often the most devout.

Read the full story at Narrativley

Civil War: The Untold Story Documentary


There is a new PBS documentary coming out this February that focuses on the Western Theater. It was made by Great Divide Pictures and was formed from the new interpretive videos at Shiloh, Chickamauga, and Kennesaw Mountain Battlefields. There are some big names who provide insight, great animated maps, and realistic battle footage.

Chris Wheeler, the director of the documentary states that many nationwide public broadcasting stations have picked up the film but it will be up to the stations when it will be aired so they may air it at separate times.

From Civil War Talk

Great Divide Face Book Page

Battle of Chickamauga reenactment


McLEMORE'S COVE, Ga. — Choking clouds of dust swallowed up Civil War soldiers 150 years ago at the Battle of Chickamauga.

That wasn't a problem at Saturday's battle reenactment at Mountain Cove Farms, where it rained from the middle of the night until about 2 p.m.

Still, many of the 5,000 reenactors and 6,500 spectators seemed to have a good time, despite torrential rain that made a muddy mess of things.

"I've been to worse. I've been to much worse," said Scott Bloodworth, a Confederate infantryman reenactor from Jackson, Tenn.

Read more at the Times Free Press

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Future of Civil War re-enactment events rests on the young

Laura Garcia | Laker Weekly Richard Jennings, 12 (from left), Nathan Jennings, 14, Matthew Furr, 14, Doug Camper and Jacob Jennings, 9, relax Friday outside of Jubal A. Early Homeplace.

It’s doubtful that Nathan Jennings’ knowledge of the Civil War can be matched by many his age .

Last weekend, he camped out at LakeWatch Plantation in a field with friends and kin for Franklin County Civil War Days. They slept under makeshift tents and wore uniforms fit for a soldier.

“I do it for the fun and to educate people,” the Rocky Mount teen said. “How many people do you know who actually get to do this?”

Nathan started participating in re-enactments about two years ago, and at 14 , he’s not far from the age of some Civil War soldiers, especially those fighting toward the end of the war. Nathan, along with his two younger brothers, Richard and Jacob, and their mother, Kim Jennings-Valerga, participated in the weekend events.

On Sept. 7, Nathan and his friend Matthew Furr, 14, sat on the lawn of Gen. Jubal A. Early’s homeplace and talked about how to get authentic-looking wooden canteens for future Civil War re-enactments. The next day, he could be seen leading a group of boys in formation for drills.

Nathan said his sense of duty and seriousness about history was inherited from his uncle, Doug Camper, a Civil War re-enactor for 23 years.

Most re-enactors are Camper’s age and older, which will create problems for both authenticity and the future of Civil War re-enactments if young people keep losing interest.

Camper said this event had fewer re-enactors than in previous years, but the volunteers made it work, although some had to change coats mid-battle to play the opposition. Camper said despite luring his nephews into his favorite hobby, recruitment of all ages is difficult, in part because of the equipment expense; a brand-new replica of a Civil War-era rifle can cost $1,000.

He said re-enactors take their roles seriously .

“It’s about learning the history and teaching the history,” Camper said.

David Palmer of Boutetourt County, who played Gen. Robert E. Lee during the event, said that for many children, watching living-history re-enactments could be their only exposure to the Civil War.

“It does concern me,” he said. “So many people are so ignorant of our history. That’s why we do what we do.”

Palmer said participants sat around the campfire at the encampments and discussed politics and social issues .

Having enough participation on the battlefield is one thing, but the re-enactments wouldn’t be complete without the women of the Order of the Confederate Rose in their Civil War-era dresses. Paula Meador of Roanoke said that unlike the men’s groups, members don’t have to prove lineage to participate.

“You just have to love the South,” she said.

Ditty Speed of Wirtz chimed in, “And we do love the South.”

Both locals and visitors attended the Civil War Days, which included vendors and a view of battle re-enactments complete with loud cannons and rifles. The spirit of the South could be heard after the battle on Saturday when a Confederate soldier yelled out to a large crowd of spectators, “Virginia!”

Curtis and Brandi Cornell of Moneta said it was their first time attending a Civil War re-enactment. They brought their daughter Ashtyn, 9, and her friend, Emily Newman, 10, who enjoyed seeing the horses used by the cavalry.

“I thought it was a good way to learn about it,” Emily said.


The Civil War Soldier


During the Civil War, soldiers fought with their courage and character. But courage and character only got them so far. In the field, they relied heavily on their equipment.

The Civil War was known as the first "modern" war because of the guns and other weapons brought to the battlefield for the first time. Take a look at what Union troops carried with them to their victory at Gettysburg.

From Digital First Video

The Leviathan, York's own Locomotive

Dave Kloke plans to build a replica of President Lincoln's funeral train for the 150th anniversary in 2015, according to Kloke Locomotive Works' web site.

The train traveled from Washington, D.C. to Springfield, Ill., and the plan is to recreate that trip for the anniversary.

Lincoln's funeral car passed through York County on the Northern Central Railway.

Steam Into History Inc. hopes to bring the funeral car to York County in two years and do a special event with it, said Robert Gotwols, chief operating officer for the organization.

For more information, visit


Civil War Day 2012 at Southwestern Illinois College


Living History day at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville Monday, April 30, 2012. Union forces from the 3rd Illinois Cavalry along with members of the Lt. George E. Dixon Camp #1962, Sons of Confederate Veterans gave students a unique opportunity to learn about our heritage.

Civil War surgery

Garry Ladd talks about being the Regimental Surgeon for the 3rd Illinois Volunteer Cavalry Regiment during a Living History day at Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville Monday. Ladd spoke about the medicine and surgical training a Civil War doctor had during that time period. Ladd made the point that most of the training was done on the job and that the transfer of disease and infection was not a concern or known about during that time period.(caption by Derik Holtmann/BND)

Union forces from the 3rd Illinois Cavalry along with members of the Lt. George E. Dixon Camp #1962, Sons of Confederate Veterans gave students a unique opportunity to learn about our heritage. 


Civil War re-enactors drawn to stories, way of life from bloody conflict

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In this photo taken April 15, 2012, Chuck Caldwell, of Moline, Ill., speaks during a presentation on the Civil War at the Rock Island County Historical Society in Moline. At right is fellow Civil War re-enactor Darwin Gillespie of Port Byron, Ill. (AP Photo/The Dispatch, Jonathan Turner) QUAD CITY TIMES 

Moline, Ill. — Despite being the deadliest war in U.S. history, the Civil War was, at times, actually civil.

Soldiers on each side respected and helped each other, said a presenter Sunday at the Rock Island County Historical Society. Darwin Gillespie, of Port Byron, recently visited Fredericksburg, Va., and learned Confederate soldiers went out on the battlefield after fighting was over and supplied water to Union soldiers.

"There was that kind of respect. That's just the way things were back then," said Mr. Gillespie, who's been doing Civil War re-enactments for 24 years. "It was a totally different time period. That's one of the reasons I re-enact — I love the beliefs back then, what we stood for, the hardships we went through to make this country what we have."

"I say, we're wimps compared to what they did," he said of 21st-century life. "The way they lived, endured during that time period, really we're totally wimpy. That's what I totally admire about the time — the dedication each man had toward what they believed in. It wasn't over land. Nowadays, we fight over oil, we fight over land. They fought for what they believed in. It wasn't over possessions."

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