It is our desire to educate ourselves and others and preserve the history of those people who exhibited immeasurable courage, strength, and sacrifice in answering their country’s call.
Re-enacting is living history. It is an interpretative tool and process that uses techniques from theater and translates data from the historical document into a multi-sensory experience. That means we become the physical presence of those people who made history. Living history has the potential to create a larger-than-life feeling of the times. Civil War re-enacting began with the returning troops from the war re-enacting their experiences for their neighbors. The 20th century hobby of re-enacting began in 1961 with the century mark of the civil war.
The authenticity of re-enacting has grown too. The image presented is exact in appearance and attitude to the period being portrayed, some of which seem absurd today. A woman’s place was at home. A single or widowed woman could not have gentlemen visitors in her home un-chaperoned. A man outside in public without a hat & coat or at least vest was considered indecently dressed. Public humiliation for the “wrong” attitude was common place. Drunkards were held up for derision. One woman in Mason City, IA was given a dunking the creek by the towns people for stating she was glad President Lincoln was shot. Ladies who were pregnant were hidden away and not seen in public for the most part.
Historical re-enactments have dimensions beyond personal appearance. These include:
1) First person impression 2) Battle re-creation 3) Camp appearance 4) Demonstration of period skills 5) Third person interpretation
Common words and their meaning:
`Impression’ means the living embodiment of a person or character. When re-enactors are in period clothing, either male or female, they are creating an impression. ‘First person impression’ is when a re-enactor takes on the role and characteristics of an individual or type of individual. A good re-enactor generally does not step out of period or character to discuss 20th century matters.
With a ‘third person interpretation’, there are no pretenses about a re-enactor’s role. They will relate knowledge about individuals without assuming their personality as in first person. This style is used to teach in schools and by guides through a camp or building and is useful in bringing you back in time to our period. There are a variety of impressions in re-enacting. The idea is to travel back in time with enough knowledge about the differences to assure a better performance from the reenactor.
- Artillery = Soldiers who man and fire the cannons
- Battery = One or more cannons and men who operate them
- Cavalry = Soldiers who ride horses. Sometimes dismounted to fight an enemy.
- Chausseur = Pronounced “chaw-sir” Some regiments wore uniforms based on French design, which would be baggy red pants & a short waisted jacket with many buttons.
- Corps = 2 or more Divisions
- Division = 2 Brigades
- Brigade = 2 Regiments
- Regiment = 10 Companies or 1000 men
- Company = 100 men
- Infantry = Soldiers that walk most of the time. They are the bulk of the army. Senior Officers rode horses.
- Vivandiere = Pronounced Viv-Van-Dee-Air, was a woman who wore a pseudo uniform and assisted the soldiers in battle. They were few but effective.
- Zouave = Also a French design uniform. They consisted of very baggy pants with the crotch below the knees and a fez, which was a small round, hat with a tassel & no brim. It also had a short jacket with colored trim. Some regiments called themselves Zouave but only wore the jacket.
Equipment & Weapons:
All the weapons we use are fully functioning reproductions. The originals existing today are far too valuable to be used. The tents and equipment are as they were in the 1860’s. The 24th Iowa Volunteer Regiment was issued the Enfield rifle musket on mustering in at Fort Strong.
After a time of unhappy experiences with antiquated American smoothbores and offcasts of European arsenals, came the Springfield or English Enfield rifled musket. The Springfield was slightly bigger caliber .58 compared to the Enfield .577. The Springfield was lighter and the difference in bore was so close that the same bullets could be used in each. This bullet, which was a elongated hollow based cone, was called a Minie’ ball after its French inventor. Both these muskets were muzzleloaders. Breechloaders and repeaters were not an item of general issue to foot soldiers and their use was mostly restricted to calvarymen.
Cavalry used pistols or carbines. The single shot horse pistol was replaced by revolvers. These were Remington and Savages, but the most common was the Colts revolver. An unusual revolver was the 9 shot Confederate LeMat. The .41 caliber cylinder was arranged around a .69 caliber shotgun barrel and was manufactured for the Confederates in France. This made a formidable weapon. Among carbines were Gallagher, Joslyn Patent and Hall, but the Sharps became the most widely used of the single-shot models. Men also carried a haversack or bread bag; cartridge box of 40 rounds, bayonet and scabbard, cap box, a rubber and a wool blanket, canteen and knapsack with stationery, photographs, toothbrush, razor, soap, books and letters, a sewing kit called a “housewife”, and his mess kit of metal plate, knife, fork, spoon and tin cup maybe a skillet. All this equipment weighed about 40 to 50 pounds. Early in the conflict, men may have had a pistol given by his mother or father, etc. Because of the weight they were sent home or thrown away.
The Colt Army Model 1860 was a streamlined version of the earlier 1848 dragoon (used in the Mexican War). It became the most popular sidearm in the Union army (the Colt Navy Model 1861 .36 calibre was preferred in the South) and was renowned for its interchangeability of parts. The Colt Model 1860 was a .44 calibre six shot weapon which weighed 2 lbs 11 ounces. At $13.75, the Colt Army Revolver was much more expensive than those made by Remington or Starr. Government orders ceased in November 1863.
The rifled muskets generally referred to as Enfields got their name from the British government's Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield, England. An Enfield had a bore diameter of .577 inches and weighed 9 lbs 3 ounces with bayonet. It fired a bullet similar to the minie ball and was very accurate at 800 yards and fairly accurate at 1,100 yards. Although called Enfields, they were not made in Enfield since the British government, as owner of the factory, was sensitive about maintaining neutrality and could never sanction such sales to either North or South. Instead, the rifled muskets used in the Civil War were made in England by private contractors in London and Birmingham. A few other models, primarily two-banded rifled equipped with a sword bayonet were also imported from England. Each side imported approximately 400,000 of these weapons during the course of the war -- making them second only to the Springfield in popularity.
The Model 1861 Springfield Musket was the most widely used shoulder arm of the Civil war and saw service in every major battle. It was made in the North at a cost of $15 to $20 to the federal government at the Springfield Armory in Mass. as well as 32 other private manufacturers and was a very modern weapon for its time. Its rifled bore, interchangeable parts and percussion cap ignition system incorporated the major innovations of the prewar years into an accurate, dependable rifle. It weighed in at 9.25 lbs, was 58.5 inches overall, came with a triangular 21 inch socket bayonet and fired a .58 caliber conical minie ball at a muzzle velocity of 950 ft/sec. A later "improved" 1863 model was also produced, but the 1861 remained the basic combat weapon of the war.
In camp, things appear to be of the 1860’s period. You should not see anything modern. The people there will probably be in “first person impressions." In the military & civilian civil war period there were basic skills. Some of these are things we take for granted today, but in the 1860’s these were talented specialties. Watch for these period skills:
social tea parties sewing & tailoring cooking & baking play-acting letter writing children’s games blacksmithing playing musical instruments parlor gamesThe soldiers sometimes gambled. It was not acceptable behavior. You might see soldiers using cards or sometimes dice. They might ask you to take a hand at it. Be careful, there are some shady characters in camp.
Travel in the 1860s was primarily either on foot or horse drawn vehicles. There were also steam trains referred to as “the cars” and boats. The soldiers from Iowa would get to Keokuk or maybe Davenport and after a short training period, take the boats down the Mississippi river to the South.
The clothing we wear is similar to the original clothing worn during the war. Uniforms are wool. Wool because they had it and it was very durable. The colors of clothing were from chemical dyes as well as natural dyes. Women’s clothes had many layers with long pantaloons and hoop skirts. Women around the campfire had to be very careful. The “stop, drop, and roll” method of extinguishing a fire as taught today would not work. The hoop skirt had the effect of making the fire burn even faster, like a bellows for the fireplace. Sometimes ladies wore wool petticoats. If they caught on fire, one could smell the burning wool quicker than if it was cotton.