Sunday, May 15, 2011

Civil War Reenactors - the 2nd Vermont discusses Union, Emancipation, and Uncle Tom's Cabin

Greetings Cosmic Americans!

Yesterday I had a lovely time in Woodland Hills, California. Why on Earth would I go there, you ask? Well, I often find reasons to drive to the Valley - and this was one of them. Yesterday I attended a Civil War reenactment at Pierce College. I spent a lot of time talking with reenactors from both sides - trying to get a little insight in to what makes these guys tick.

Recently, some overly harsh criticism has boiled over from the academic world - I speak of one person, really - Civil War historian Glenn Lafantasie seems to think that reenactors are generally cut from the same cloth. I will not get in to too many details - let's just say that Lafantasie doesn't have to jump far from reenactors to right-wing extremism. Read his article and draw your own conclusions HERE, and for good measure, you should also check out this rebuttal HERE.

But at any rate - I did not come across any wing-nuts, whackjobs, or extremists this weekend. I did however meet a lot of men and women (and....something I did not expect, quite a few women reenacting as soldiers) who take understanding Americans at war in the nineteenth century pretty seriously. I sat in on and contributed to some discussions of both the issues at stake during the Civil War as well as military topics - weaponry, accoutrement, and tactics.

Now if you think that grown men and women dressing up and playing soldier is just a little strange, well....I am not going to disagree with you. I find it hard to imagine myself trying to replicate the look, feel and dare I say...attitude of the nineteenth century - if only because I live imbued with 21st century sensibilities, and thus striving for authenticity, as many reenactors do, would seem to me - not even remotely possible.

But I speak only for myself - this in no way implies that I will stand in judgment of reenactors or reenacting, as does my colleague Dr. Lafantasie. If yesterday's experience evidenced anything - it was that these people take great care to inform the general public about a wide range of Civil War topics. One might not agree with everything said...there was plenty of room for debate. But to my great relief I found that most welcomed discussion, embraced it, in fact.

Huzzah to you my reenacting friends!


PS - there is a documentary currently in production that focuses on this very intriguing culture - stay tuned for The Reenactors.


  1. Thank you for this post Keith. Well done! Your blog is always full of thoughtful and articulate posts. Your blog is usually a daily stop for me. Thanks again.

  2. Thank you for the kind words, Chris - I am glad you are enjoying it!


  3. Hi Keith. I enjoyed chatting with you at the Woodland Hills reenactment. It was great to see scores of young people learning about the Civil War. My hats are off to all the reenactors. They bring history alive. I believe they perform a valuable service. It is also alot of fun and I see nothing wrong with that!

  4. Here is a thoughtful and measured response to the criticisms of Lafantasie by Tim Orr who is a professor of military history at Old Dominion and also a reenactor for over 20 years.

  5. Oops, try this link.

  6. Whatever their opinions, I have to admire people for delving so deep into our history so that others don't forget it. Living in Vermont myself, I think it's so cool that you got to learn more about one of the state's regiments.

  7. Thanks for the comment, Marilyn. I enjoy reenactments mainly for the educational component. I have found that most reenactors especially enjoy engaging with the public - these Vermonters were quite enthusiastic!