I’ve only attended one reenactment in my time and have no plans to do so again in the future. My interest in Civil War history does not extend to watching people dress up to “recreate” battles. I do love, however, the way in which these events are marketed. Consider this one for the yearly reenactment of Gettysburg which takes place a few miles from the actual site.
Witnessing a battle re-enactment changes forever the way visitors view Gettysburg history – even if they’ve visited the Gettysburg National Military Park before. The event is replete with booming cannons, the taste of kicked-up dust and dirt, and the acrid smell of spent ammunition mixed with sweat-soaked wool uniforms. Thick, gray smoke sometimes obscures the view. And that’s all experienced from sitting on the sidelines in the comfort of a chair.
That may be so, but does this change in view get us any closer to understanding the realities of battle or is this simply a matter of having your emotions manipulated?
Some re-enactors, among them descendants of Civil War veterans, give speeches about their ancestors and their family histories. The response is generally emotional, with the re-enactor often receiving a standing ovation.
The generals tell about some of the deadly mistakes they made and how saddened they were by fighting their comrades. Many Union and Confederate officers had attended West Point and fought together in the Mexican-American War of 1846-48.