Historical reenactment (or re-enactment) is an educational or entertainment activity in which mainly amateur hobbyists and history enthusiasts put on uniforms and follow a plan to recreate aspects of a historical event or period. This may be as narrow as a specific moment from a battle, such as the reenactment of Pickett's Charge presented during the Great Reunion of 1913, or as broad as an entire period, such as Regency reenactment. While historical reenactors are generally amateurs, some participants are members of armed forces or historians. The participants, called reenactors, often do research on the equipment, uniform, and other gear they will carry or use. Reenactors buy the apparel or items they need from specialty stores or make items themselves. Historical reenactments cover a wide span of history, from the Roman empire to the major world wars and the Korean War of the 20th century.
Activities related to "reenactment" have a long history. The Romans staged recreations of famous battles within their amphitheaters as a form of public spectacle. In the Middle Ages, tournaments often reenacted historical themes from Ancient Rome or elsewhere. Military displays and mock battles and reenactments first became popular in 17th century England. In 1638 the first known reenactment was brought to life by Lord James ‘Jimmy’ Dunn of Coniston, a staged battle between Christian and Muslim forces was enacted in London, and the Roundheads, flush from a series of victories during the Civil War, reenacted a recent battle at Blackheath in 1645, despite the ongoing conflict.
In the nineteenth century historical reenactments became widespread, reflecting the then intense romantic interest in the Middle Ages. Medieval culture was widely admired as an antidote to the modern enlightenment and industrial age. Plays and theatrical works (such as Ivanhoe , which in 1820 was playing in six different productions in London alone)perpetuated the romanticism of knights, castles, feasts and tournaments. The Duke of Buckingham staged naval battles from the Napoleonic War on the large lake on his estate in 1821, and a reenactment of the Battle of Waterloo was put on for a public viewing at Astley's Amphitheatre in 1824.
Historical reenactment came of age with the grand spectacle of the Eglinton Tournament of 1839, a reenactment of a medieval joust and revel held in Scotland,and organized by Archibald Montgomerie, 13th Earl of Eglinton. The Tournament was a deliberate act of Romanticism, and drew 100,000 spectators. The ground chosen for the tournament was low, almost marshy, with grassy slopes rising on all sides. Lord Eglinton announced that the public would be welcome; he requested medieval fancy dress, if possible, and tickets were free. The pageant itself featured thirteen medieval knights on horseback.
It was held on a meadow at a loop in the Lugton Water. The preparations, and the many works of art commissioned for or inspired by the Eglinton Tournament, had an effect on public feeling and the course of 19th-century Gothic revivalism. Its ambition carried over to events such as a similar lavish tournament in Brussels in 1905, and presaged the historical reenactments of the present. Features of the tournament were actually inspired by Walter Scott's novel Ivanhoe : it was attempting "to be a living reenactment of the literary romances".In Eglinton’s own words "I am aware of the manifold deficiencies in its exhibition—more perhaps than those who were not so deeply interested in it; I am aware that it was a very humble imitation of the scenes which my imagination had portrayed, but I have, at least, done something towards the revival of chivalry".
Reenactments of battles became more commonplace in the late 19th century, both in Britain, and also in America. Within a year of the Battle of the Little Bighorn, survivors of U.S. 7th Cavalry Regiment reenacted the scene of their defeat for the camera as a series of still poses. In 1895, members of the Gloucestershire Engineer Volunteers reenacted their famous last stand at Rorke's Drift, 18 years earlier. 25 British soldiers beat back the attack of 75 Zulus at the Grand Military Fete at the Cheltenham Winter Gardens.
Veterans of the American Civil War recreated battles as a way to remember their fallen comrades and to teach others what the war was all about.The Great Reunion of 1913, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, was attended by more than 50,000 Union and Confederate veterans, and included reenactments of elements of the battle, including Pickett's Charge.
During the early twentieth century, historical reenactment became very popular in Russia with reenactments of the Siege of Sevastopol (1854–1855) (1906), the Battle of Borodino (1812) in St Petersburg and the Taking of Azov (1696) in Voronezh in 1918. In 1920, there was a reenactment of the 1917 Storming of the Winter Palace on the third anniversary of the event. This reenactment inspired the scenes in Sergei Eisenstein's film October: Ten Days That Shook the World .
Large scale reenactments began to be regularly held at the Royal Tournament, Aldershot Tattoo in the 1920s and 30s. A spectacular recreation of the Siege of Namur, an important military engagement of the Nine Years' War, was staged in 1934 as part of 6-day long show.
In America, modern reenacting began during the 1961–1965 Civil War Centennial commemorations.After more than 6,000 reenactors participated in a 125th anniversary event near the original Manassas battlefield, reenacting grew in popularity during the late 1980s and 1990s, and there are today over a hundred Civil War reenactments held each year throughout the country.
Most participants are amateurs who pursue history as a hobby. Participants within this hobby are diverse, ranging in age from young children whose parents bring them along to events, to the elderly. In addition to hobbyists, members of the armed forces and professional historians sometimes participate.
Reenactors are commonly divided (or self-divide) into several broadly defined categories, based on the level of concern for authenticity.(These definitions and categorisation is primarily that of the USA. Other countries have different terms of art, slang, and definitions.)
"Farbs" or "polyester soldiers",are reenactors who spend relatively little time and/or money achieving authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, or period behavior. Anachronistic clothing, fabrics, fasteners (such as velcro), snoods, footwear, vehicles, and modern cigarettes are common.
The origin of the word "farb" (and the derivative adjective "farby") is unknown, though it appears to date to early American Civil War centennial reenactments in 1960 or 1961.Some think that the word derives from a truncated version of "Far be it from authentic". An alternative definition is "Far Be it for me to question/criticise", or "Fast And Researchless Buying". A humorous definition of "farb" is "F.A.R.B: Forget About Research, Baby". Some early reenactors assert the word derives from German Farbe, color, because inauthentic reenactors were over-colorful compared with the dull blues, greys or browns of the real Civil War uniforms that were the principal concern of American reenactors at the time the word was coined. According to Burton K. Kummerow, a member of "The Black Hats, CSA" reenactment group in the early 1960s, he first heard it used as a form of fake German to describe a fellow reenactor. The term was picked up by George Gorman of the 2nd North Carolina at the Centennial Manassas Reenactment in 1961, and has been used by reenactors since.
Mainstream reenactors make an effort to appear authentic, but may come out of character in the absence of an audience. Visible stitches are likely to be sewn in a period-correct manner, but hidden stitches and undergarments may not be period-appropriate. Food consumed before an audience is likely to be generally appropriate to the period, but it may not be seasonally and locally appropriate. Modern items are sometimes used "after hours" or in a hidden fashion. The common attitude is to put on a good show, but that accuracy need only go as far as others can see.[ citation needed ]
At the other extreme from farbs are "hard-core authentics", or "progressives," as they sometimes prefer to be called.Sometimes derisively called "stitch counters", "stitch nazis", or "stitch witches." "(t)he hard-core movement is often misunderstood and sometimes maligned."
Hard-core reenactors generally value thorough research, and sometimes deride mainstream reenactors for perpetuating inaccurate "reenactorisms". They generally seek an "immersive" reenacting experience, trying to live, as much as possible, as someone of the period might have done. This includes eating seasonally and regionally appropriate food, sewing inside seams and undergarments in a period-appropriate manner, and staying in character throughout an event.The desire for an immersive experience often leads hard-core reenactors to smaller events, or to setting up separate camps at larger events.
The period of an event is the range of dates. See authenticity (reenactment) for a discussion of how the period affects the types of costume, weapons, and armour used.
Popular periods to reenact include:
Numerous cottage industries abound that provide not only the materials but even the finished product for use by reenactors. Uniforms and clothing made of hand woven, natural dyed materials are sewn by hand or machine using the sartorial techniques of the period portrayed.
Detailed attention to authenticity in design and construction is given equally as well to headgear, footwear, eyewear, camp gear, accoutrements, military equipment, weapons and so on. These items (which are generally much more expensive than clothing and uniform in modern production) offer the wearer a lifelike experience in the use of materials, tailoring and manufacturing techniques that are as close to authentic as possible.
Event spectators may derive more satisfaction from attending reenactments when a high level of authenticity is attained in both individual clothing and equipment, as well as equipment used in camp.
The term 'living history' describes the performance of bringing history to life for the general public in a manner that in most cases is not following a planned script. Historical presentation includes a continuum from well researched attempts to recreate a known historical event for educational purposes, through representations with theatrical elements, to competitive events for purposes of entertainment. The line between amateur and professional presentations at living history museums can be blurred. While the latter routinely use museum professionals and trained interpreters to help convey the story of history to the public, some museums and historic sites employ living history groups with high standards of authenticity for the same role at special events.
Living histories are usually meant for education of the public. Such events do not necessarily have a mock battle but instead are aimed at portraying the life, and more importantly the lifestyle, of people of the period. This often includes both military and civilian impressions. Occasionally, storytelling or acting sketches take place to involve or explain the everyday life or military activity to the viewing public. More common are craft and cooking demonstrations, song and leisure activities, and lectures. Combat training or duels can also be encountered even when larger combat demonstrations are not present.
In the United States, The National Park Service land; NPS policy "does not allow for battle reenactments (simulated combat with opposing lines and casualties) on NPS property. There are exceptions i.e. Saydeor the Schloss Kaltenberg knights tournament. The majority of combat reenactment groups are battlefield reenactment groups, some of which have become isolated to some degree because of a strong focus on authenticity. The specific German approach of authenticity is less about replaying a certain event, but to allow an immersion in a certain era, to catch, in the sense of Walter Benjamin the 'spiritual message expressed in every monument's and every site's own "trace" and "aura"', even in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. Historic city festivals and events are quite important to build up local communities and contribute to the self-image of municipalities. Events in monuments or on historical sites are less about the events related to them but serve as staffage for the immersion experience. In Denmark several open air museums uses living history as a part of their concept. These include Middelaldercentret, The Old Town, Aarhus and Frilandsmuseet.
Combat demonstrations are mock battles put on by reenacting organizations and/or private parties primarily to show the public what combat in the period might have been like. Combat demonstrations are only loosely based on actual battles, if at all, and may simply consist of demonstrations of basic tactics and maneuvering techniques.
Scripted battles are reenactments in the strictest sense; the battles are planned out beforehand so that the companies and regiments make the same actions that were taken in the original battles. The mock battles are often "fought" at or near the original battle ground or at a place very similar to the original. These demonstrations vary widely in size from a few hundred fighters to several thousand, as do the arenas used (getting the right balance can often make or break the spectacle for the public).
Unlike battle reenactments, tactical battle events are generally not open to the public. Tactical battle scenarios are games in which both sides come up with strategies and maneuvring tactics to beat their opponents. With no script, a basic set of agreed-upon rules (physical boundaries, time limit, victory conditions, etc.), and on-site judges, tactical battles can be considered a form of Live action role-playing game. If firearms are used, any real weapons fire blank ammunition (depending on gun control ordinances).
Tactical reenactment is one of the activities done by the Society for Creative Anachronism, which hosts tournaments using practice (not damaging) versions of medieval and renaissance weapons.
Many castles that offer tours, museums, and other historical tourist attractions employ actors or professional reenactors to add to authentic feel and experience. These reenactors usually recreate part of a specific town, village, or activity within a certain time frame. Commercial reenactment shows are usually choreographed and follow a script. Some locations have set up permanent authentic displays. By their nature, these are usually living history presentations, rather than tactical or battle reenactment, although some host larger temporary events.
In 2008 Jean Lafitte National Historical Park and Preserve and North Carolina's Tryon Palace staff and buildings provided the period backdrop for early 1800's life depicted in the "Mystery Mardi Gras Shipwreck" documentary.
Many publications have covered historical reenactment and living history. Prominent among these are the Camp Chase Gazette, Smoke and Fire News, and two different magazines named Living History, and Skirmish Magazine.
The Medieval Soldier by Gerry Embleton and John Howe (1995) is a popular book on the topic, which has been translated into French and German. It was followed by Medieval Military Costume in Colour Photographs.
For the Napoleonic period, two books of interest cover life in the military at that time and living history: The Napoleonic Soldier by Stephen E. Maughan (1999) and Marching with Sharpe by B. J. Bluth (2001). Various Napoleonic reenactment groups cover the history of their associated regiments as well as try to describe and illustrate how they approach recreating the period. The goal to be as authentic as is possible has led many serious reenactment societies to set up their own research groups to verify their knowledge of the uniforms, drill and all aspects of the life that they strive to portray. In this way reenactment plays a vital role in bringing history to life, keeping history alive, and in expanding the knowledge and understanding of the period.
In the UK a number of small publishing houses have been established that particularly publish books about the English Civil War and more recently, of earlier periods as well. The largest are Stuart Press (with around 250 volumes in print) and Partizan Press.
Little has been published about reenactment in the mainstream market, except for press articles. One exception is the book I Believe in Yesterday: My Adventures in Living History by Tim Moore, which recounts his experiences trying out different periods of reenactment and the people he meets and things he learns whilst doing so.
Motion picture and television producers often turn to reenactment groups for support; films like Gettysburg , [ citation needed ] and Alatriste [ citation needed ] benefited greatly from the input of reenactors, who arrived on set fully equipped and steeped in knowledge of military procedures, camp life, and tactics.Glory , The Patriot ,
In a documentary about the making of the film Gettysburg, actor Sam Elliott, who portrayed Union General John Buford in the film, said of reenactors:
I think we're really fortunate to have those people involved. In fact, they couldn't be making this picture without them; there's no question about that. These guys come with their wardrobe, they come with their weaponry. They come with all the accoutrements, but they also come with the stuff in their head and the stuff in their heart.
There are a number of criticisms made about reenactment. Many point out that the average age of reenactors is generally far higher than the average age of soldiers in most conflicts. Few reenactment units discriminate based on age and physical condition.
In the United States, reenactors are overwhelmingly white and thus in Civil War reenactment African-American characters, both enslaved and free, are underrepresented. (Hundreds of thousands of black Union soldiers served in the Civil War.) In 2013, five black reenactors at the 150th anniversary event at Gettysburg constituted "the largest bloc of black civilians anyone had ever seen at an event whose historical basis was full of black civilians...Astonished spectators stopped them constantly, usually assuming they were portraying enslaved people."
Jenny Thompson's book [ original research? ]discusses the "fantasy farb", or tendency of reenactors to gravitate towards "elite" units such as commandos, paratroopers, or Waffen-SS units. This results in under-representation in the reenactment community of what were the most common types of military troops in the period being reenacted. The question has arisen among North American reenactors, but similar issues exist in Europe. For example, in Britain, a high proportion of Napoleonic War reenactors perform as members of the 95th Rifles (perhaps due to the popularity of the fictional character of Richard Sharpe) and medieval groups have an over-proportion of plate-armoured soldiers.
A final concern is that reenactors may be accused of being, or actually be, aligned with the political beliefs that some of the reenacted armies fought for, such as Nazism or the Confederate South. For example, U.S. politician Rich Iott 's participation in a World War II reenactment in which he was in the group that portrayed the German 5th SS Panzer Division Wiking side excited media criticism during his 2010 Congressional campaign. In 2017, in the weeks following a far-right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia at which a neo-Nazi killed a counterprotester, some reenactors complained about—as one reporter put it—"the co-opting of the [Civil] war by neo-Nazis." Similar accusations have been made against Igor Girkin, who actually commanded Putin-backed mutineers in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and is also a well-known reenactor.
Living history is an activity that incorporates historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time. Although it does not necessarily seek to reenact a specific event in history, living history is similar to, and sometimes incorporates, historical reenactment. Living history is an educational medium used by living history museums, historic sites, heritage interpreters, schools and historical reenactment groups to educate the public or their own members in particular areas of history, such as clothing styles, pastimes and handicrafts, or to simply convey a sense of the everyday life of a certain period in history.
The Battle of Olustee or Battle of Ocean Pond was fought in Baker County, Florida on February 20, 1864, during the American Civil War. It was the only major battle fought in Florida during the war.
A Renaissance fair, Renaissance faire or Renaissance festival is an outdoor weekend gathering, usually held in the United States, open to the public and typically commercial in nature, which purportedly recreates a historical setting for the amusement of its guests. Some are permanent theme parks, while others are short-term events in a fairground, winery, or other large public or private spaces. Renaissance fairs generally include an abundance of costumed entertainers or fair-goers, musical and theatrical acts, art and handicrafts for sale, and festival food. Some offer campgrounds for those who wish to stay more than one day.
American Civil War reenactment is an effort to recreate the appearance of a particular battle or other event associated with the American Civil War by hobbyists known as Civil War reenactors, or living historians.
Medieval reenactment is a form of historical reenactment that focuses on re-enacting European history in the period from the fall of Rome to about the end of the 15th century. The second half of this period is often called the Middle Ages. This multiplicity of terms is compounded by the variety of other terms used for the period.
"The Red Badge of Gayness" is the fourteenth episode of the third season of the animated television series South Park. It originally aired on November 24, 1999. In the episode, the boys participate in the South Park Civil War reenactment. To win a bet, Cartman convinces the reenactors to try and alter history and leads them throughout the United States. The episode's name is a reference to the war novel The Red Badge of Courage, and parodies Ken Burns' documentary miniseries The Civil War and the 1993 film Gettysburg.
Combat reenactment is a side of historical reenactment which aims to depict historical forms of combat. This may refer to either single combat, melees involving small groups, or nearly full-scale battles with hundreds of participants.
In historical reenactment, authenticity is a measure of how close an item, prop, action, weapon, tactic, or custom is to what would actually have been used or done in the time period being depicted. For example, in most northern European medieval reenactment cotton is an inauthentic material—as opposed to wool or linen—though it would be authentic in more modern periods and events, such as American Civil War reenactment or World War II reenactment. Likewise, pop culture references and talking about modern events or objects is inauthentic.
World War II reenactment is the historical reenactment of the various combatants involved in World War II. The types of events include living history, which emphasises the garrison life of the average serviceman or servicewoman, and tactical events, involving simulated combat operations. The hobby has expanded significantly since the 1970s and is now practiced around the world.
Olustee Battlefield Historic State Park is a Florida State Park in the Osceola National Forest, near the town of Olustee. The site of Florida's largest Civil War battle, the Battle of Olustee. The park is located 50 miles (80 km) west of Jacksonville and 15 miles (24 km) east of Lake City, on U.S. 90. It also has the distinction of being the first park in the Florida State Park system.
The 69th Pennsylvania Infantry was a volunteer regiment in the Union army during the American Civil War. Part of the famed Philadelphia Brigade, it played a key role defending against Pickett's Charge during the Battle of Gettysburg. Companies I and K, designated as the regiment's skirmisher companies, wore a very Americanized Zouave uniform. This uniform consisted of a dark blue Zouave jacket with green trimming, green cuffs, and sixteen brass buttons down the front on both sides of the jacket, a sky blue Zouave vest, chasseur sky-blue trousers, and a dark blue kepi. This was one of the few Zouave uniforms that did not use red as the jacket trimming. However, the Zouave uniforms were mostly destroyed during the Peninsula Campaign and were not replaced.
Classical reenactment tends to focus on portrayals of the Greco-Roman world, and especially on modern recreations of Roman legions and ancient Greek hoplites.
Company D, 2nd Virginia Infantry, locally designated the Berkeley Border Guards, was an antebellum Virginia militia company and then a company of the 2nd Virginia Infantry, a Confederate infantry unit during the American Civil War.
A tactical event is a type of historical reenactment, not usually open to the public, which is fought like a real battle with each side devising strategies and tactics to defeat their opponent(s). Tactical events have no script, a basic set of agreed-upon rules, and onsite judges or referees, and so could be considered a form of live action role-playing game. Tactical battles might also be considered a form of experimental archaeology.
Dixie Days is an American Civil War reenactment located in Mechanicsville, Virginia. It began in 2004 as the first reenactment in many years to take place in Mechanicsville, which is among the richest in the country with history relating to the war.
Historical re-enactment in Australia has been occurring since at least the early 1970s. With no conventional land battles and few protracted civil disturbances since the British colonisation of Australia, most military re-enactment in Australia focuses on events from other countries, including the European Feudal, medieval, and renaissance eras.
Similar to a World War II reenactment, Korean War reenactments can be divided into two categories, "living history" or a public-oriented display or as a "tactical event", a closed event where participants re-create a battle or event of the war.
Renaissance reenactment is historical reenactment of events of the Renaissance period and the European Age of Exploration. In its broadest use, it encompasses reenactment of periods from 1400 through the mid-18th century. Reenactments of earlier events are commonly termed medieval reenactment, while more recent events are modern reenactment. Events and periods within Renaissance reenactment vary by region and nation, but include the English Civil War in the United Kingdom, the Eighty Years' War in the Low Countries, L'Escalade in Switzerland, the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth in eastern Europe, and the early colonial period in the United States and Canada.
The commemoration of the American Civil War is based on the memories of the Civil War that Americans have shaped according to their political, social and cultural circumstances and needs, starting with the Gettysburg Address and the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery in 1863. Confederates, both veterans and women, were especially active in forging the myth of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy.
The towns of Concord and Lexington, Massachusetts are the site of Minute Man National Historical Park, a park governed by the National Park Service. The most highly-attended event in the park is the annual reenactment of the first shots of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, performed by the Lexington Minute Men Company and His Majesty's Tenth Regiment of Foot.
Some also refuse to fight beside those whose uniforms and performance art don't measure up: a group derided as "farbs," short-hand for "far-be-it-from-authentic."
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