Tuesday, February 11, 2014
How to become a Reenactor Part 4
Everything written here are my sole opinions and observations and do not represent the opinions or observations of anyone else or any organization
Each and every reenactor has their own story of how they came into Civil War reenacting. Now that I've covered my own story of how I became a reenactor, starting with Revolutionary War reenacting through becoming dedicated to Civil War reenacting with the 1st Tennessee Co B, I have some tips for those who aren't in the hobby, but might be thinking about trying it out for yourself.
First off, this hobby isn't for everyone, but just because you're not a history buff doesn't mean you won't find enjoyment in this hobby. I, for example, started this hobby with little to no interest in history—I was a sci-fi geek. Though probably a majority of Civil War reenactors seem to be able to tie some kind of heritage back to the Civil War—usually they have a great-great grandfather or something that fought in the war—this also is not a pre-requisite. Back to me as an example—my own ancestry did not immigrate to America until the early 1900s—I have no tie to America prior to the 20th Century. Yet, I found Civil War reenacting both entertaining and educational.
Going Blue or Gray is nothing more than a personal choice—often one side is chosen over another simply because the person's ancestor fought on that side. The philosophies of the time are alien to us today. Both sides need reenactors—and all of us try to be friends with each other. You can find enjoyment regardless of the side you choose to portray and it is not uncommon for reenactors to do both sides.
The best way to start is to visit a Civil War reenactment in your area. Get there early and spend the day. Depending on the event, you are likely to find a lot of tents near where you come in of reenactors doing demonstrations and selling wares. When looking to enter the hobby, you might talk with some of these, but you actually want to move past them to the camp of tents usually located off to one side. Those up front are generally the sutlers or first person impressionists who work by themselves. When entering the hobby, you need to find the groups—the units that form for the battle.
If the event is small, there will likely be two groups, one for the Yankee side, and one for the Confederate side. A larger event will have a lot more. The smaller events are better for getting into—the reenactors will be more able to spend time training and preparing you. Find a group that welcomes you and wants to help you out. Once you find a group that you like, see if they'll let you fall in with them for the day. If they are a group you want to fall in with, they will spend time teaching you the maneuvers and the handling of the rifle.
Any reenactor that has been in the hobby awhile will have gear they can loan for the day, so if they are interested in having you join them, and have had a chance to train you for the battlefield, they will find enough to get by for you.
I have heard of groups expecting you to get all your gear before they even allow you to join them. This is really too much to expect, because you need to first find out if this hobby is even for you.
If you do find a group to join, you will be expected to get all the reenacting gear you need as quickly as possible. This will take time, and can be expensive. You should check with the group, and should seek their advice on the particulars to keep in line with the impression they are presenting. There are a large variety of things you can get, and many won't be appropriate for your unit (or even the time period). Purchasing the wrong thing will prove only a waste of money.
The first thing you should get are shoes. This is usually the most difficult thing to borrow. Your rifle will need to be next. After this, follow the guidance of the group.
Finally, pay attention to the training they give you—particularly safety training. You will be handling explosives and a real firearm—the risk to life and limb is real. Safety among reenactors is of utmost importance; the quickest way to be booted from the group is to ignore safety.
If you are already a member of a reenacting group, reading this for ideas on how to recruit, there are all sorts of things you can do to let people know about your group, but if you will lose them if you don't properly welcome them into your group once you have them.
Be prepared for the possibility that the prospect will not be a fit for your group. I have seen a few prospects for the 1st Tennessee not work out for various reasons. But be willing to help them out as much as you can. Having a spare musket is critical—how else will they be able to join you? This is the single most expensive piece of gear—someone new to the hobby will not be willing to purchase a musket—or any gear—until they know they want to make reenacting their hobby, so you need to be understanding of this.