An Overview of Civil War Reenacting

We assume that you have some interest in the Civil War period or you wouldn't have indicated an interest in becoming a reenactor. However, an interest in this period does not necessarily translate into knowledge of what is involved in reenacting. Read below for more information.


   Reenacting has two focal points - the individual AND the public. Individual reenactors attempt to perfect what is called their "impression" of a person during the Civil War period. This person can either be a real person who lived during this period or a generic one. The impression can be either military or civilian. Women and children generally render civilian impressions, but men can participate in either a civilian or military model.

   No matter whether you choose a civilian or military impression, you will be recreating the culture of the Civil War period as authentically as possible. Clothing, manners, speech, food, music, religious worship, and many other areas are studied to try to reach as high a level of authenticity as possible. At reenactments, individuals put themselves into a Civil War period frame of mind. Twenty-first Century anachronisms (plastic water jugs, for example) generally are either not used at all or are carefully hidden from view. The only compromises with authenticity relate to aspects of health and safety. If some kind of behavior or equipment is authentic but not safe or healthful, re-enactors can opt for safety and health. Much research has been done on these areas, and this information is available to beginning reenactors from veterans of the regiment.

   This attention to authenticity relates to the second focus - the public. Because re-enactors become highly knowledgeable in the history and culture of the Civil War period, they usually accept the responsibility of passing on this information to the public at large. Most reenactors will readily discuss their dress, cooking methods, handicrafts, language, military skills, etc. with the public. AND the public WILL ask questions - tons of them!!

   Reenactors participate in a wide variety of events. Some are small, such as festivals put on by towns or local historical societies. Small military or civilian reenactments are put on by individual reenactment groups. The reenactment of a major battle near the site of the original battle can involve thousands of reenactors. All types of events offer their own appeal. There is nothing more exciting than being part of reenacting a major battle. On the other hand, few things are more pleasurable than the camaraderie at a small encampment. Most reenactment groups, the 15th Michigan included, try to schedule about one reenactment activity per month from May through September.

   If you were to ask 100 reenactors what they liked most about this activity, you would probably get 100 different answers. But one thing would remain constant - no other leisure activity is more fascinating or rewarding.

   Information about costs, tax deductions, and other matters may be obtained by e-mailing the 15th Michigan.

   We hope you will join us!

Historical Note


"March 29 - A good day for spring fever and it took hold of a good many. Have been busy all day preparing to leave for the south. This eve the 15th Mich came in tired, dirty and used up. The regt. Numbers about 900 and are armed with Austrian muskets, a very clumsy looking gun."

From The Civil War Diary of Cyrus F. Boyd, Fifteenth Iowa Infantry, 1861-1863


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