This past weekend I met a group of Civil War re-enactors at the Canal. After talking to the men honoring the 7th Pennsylvania Reserves from 1861 I learned a good deal about what drives some to go into Living History representations. Very thoughtful fellows. Hope you enjoy:
Civil War Re-enactor just awakened, in his night cap.
Behind him is the Dunker Church. Antietam Battlefield. Site of the bloodiest day in American history. Some 23,000 men were killed wounded or missing after just twelve hours of fighting. General McClellan’s troops outlasted General Lee’s. As they rested for what could have been the final crushing blow, Lee took his army back over the Potomac in retreat. And so the Great Civil War lasted another two and a half years. McClellan was soon relieved of his command by Lincoln.
This kindly fellow is a secessionist re-enactor. Eager to chat, he regaled me with facts and figures of the battle, peppered with much praise for anything and anyone of the South and much derision of anything and anyone of the North. Funny, that.
It’s hard to watch these Confederate Civil War re-enactors going through their drills and not wonder about the psychological make-up of each one. What drives them? How did this become their passion? Do they long for the South to “rise again?” How many harbor deep resentments over what many call not the Civil War, but the War of Northern Aggression? How many are out there just to have a good time, explore a little history and camp out with their buddies? Is it all just harmless play-acting?
Having a brief conversation with a few of them revealed very little in this regard. To a person they were open, friendly, happy to chat and more than willing to be photographed. Their feelings toward the South, the North, Lincoln, slavery, and the war itself (even what to call it!) I suspect are as numerous as the men on the field of play/battle. Sweeping generalizations won’t do any good. Still, for me, it is hard to shake that they are willingly representing the former Confederacy and all the history that that entails. But I guess that’s all about my psychological make-up, isn’t it?