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.