On the Reenacting-Go-Round

reenactment Gettysburg

Donald Gilliland’s article about whether battlefield reenactments are appropriate is making the rounds. The author does a pretty good job of watering down Peter Carmichael’s thoughts in a way that reinforce some of the same tired and meaningless battle lines between academics and amateur historians/reenactors. Anyone familiar with Pete’s views on the subject can pinpoint what is problematic with Gilliland’s piece. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been misquoted or have spent a hour on the phone with a newspaper reporter only to find that he/she used a small snippet taken completely out of context.

Unfortunately, what Gilliland missed in his rush to frame this debate as part of our larger “culture wars” is that the National Park Service has been consistent in steering clear of endorsing battlefield reenactments from the beginning of the sesquicentennial and has made those reasons very clear. This stands in sharp contrast with its policy during the centennial commemorations during the early 1960s.

The NPS’s policy on reenactments that simulate actual fighting can be found in the following video.

If Gilliland wished to question the appropriateness of Civil War reenacting he should have engaged various folks about the NPS’s guidelines as outlined in the video. No one, including Peter, is denying the value of living historians.  The point of controversy centers on the simulation of the horrors and chaos of a Civil War battlefield. Of course, this policy is meant to govern Park Service land, but it is not a stretch to apply the NPS’s ethical guidelines to any such event. It’s not simply that it is disrespectful to those who died in battle. In my view, it is also disrespectful to those who have survived combat. Consider the following point that Peter made in the comments section of the article:

Fourth, I stopped doing reenactments for many reasons that are deeply personal and involve my father who struggled with his combat experiences in Korea, but I still maintain close relationships with my reenactor friends from my youth.

I see this very personal comment as falling squarely within the NPS’s ethical guidelines. How can simulating combat convey anything close to the experience of war beyond the carefully choreographed smells, sights, and sounds of a reenactment? The issue is not between those who reenact and those who do not. The question is whether large-scale battle reenactments are an appropriate form of commemoration and education.

I suspect that the National Park Service would answer in the negative even if the dangers of black powder and resource management were a non-issue.

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30 comments… add one
  • Steve Cottrell Jan 9, 2014 @ 19:35

    I think the answer to all these soul-searching questions could simply be found in the history of Civil War reenactment itself. Who held the first such event? Answer: Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick. Who were the participants? Answer: the old vets themselves of the G.A.R. They loved it and had a blast! What happened next? Answer: G.A.R. reunions across the country started staging what they called “Grand Sham Battles.” A huge poster of one such event held in the 1880’s is in a local museum near where I live and the guest speaker for the event was Gen. John Pope. Did all of these tough old vets sit around with a tearful eye wondering if they were morally deficient for reenacting the rough old times of their youth? LOL folks. Perhaps we have become “sensitive” girly men compared to these old true American bad-asses.

  • Pat Young Jul 9, 2013 @ 5:36

    Just a relation of my own experiences. I have been to several large battle reenactments in Maryland and Virginia, but most of my encounters with reenactors have been in the New York area. Most of the local reenactors that I have run into have been very good at what they do. Most came from families that arrived in the US after the war, so I don’t meet a lot of men and women who are trying to justify an ancestor’s service.

    I really appreciate them as volunteers trying to help the public learn about the past while living in what can be described as a subculture, which is interesting in itself.

    On the other hand, my sister invited some reenactors to her school who explained that slavery had nothing to do with the Civil War….

    None of this is a comment on anything others have said here, Just a personal reflection.

  • Ken Noe Jul 9, 2013 @ 4:16

    It’s not surprising that this has turned into another round of the tired us vs. them, academic vs. non-academic argument–and one only needs to skim the original comments for the code words to see why–but it’s exactly the wrong debate. Here you have a reporter who clearly got too close to his story and became an advocate, using a source who says he was grossly misquoted. In this case, I know the source well enough to be comfortable that he was indeed misquoted, and like you I’ve been misquoted enough anyway to believe it. So the real story here is yet another “Absence of Malice” tale about what the media can do to an innocent person’s reputation for its own biased reasons. That’s what people should be concerned about.

    But for what it’s worth, I also know “hardcore” reenactors who agree that battle recreations have no place in their hobby. It’s not a one size fits all movement, however badly some people want to explain it that way to the public.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 9, 2013 @ 5:13

      The reporter had the opportunity to frame this as a serious question about one form of Civil War reenacting and instead chose the easy way out.

      • M.D. Blough Jul 9, 2013 @ 7:51

        Kevin-Given that Prof. Carmichael has had his say here and made some very strong accusations against the reporter, I think the reporter’s responses both to one of the comments that rather stridently attacked academics and the second to Prof. Carmichael’s comment to the article in Pennlive.com should be in the record here as well (I was just going to post that the reporter had responded and leave it at that until Prof. Carmichael posted here as well. If one is here, the other should be). I’m not saying what position people should take. I just want a complete record for their evalution:

        1. [in response to an attack on academics] “I have to respectfully disagree with your blanket characterization of academics; while some can indeed be a bit superior, it’s certainly not all of them. What’s more, the degree usually does represent the fact the person has not only done the research but also has had to defend it in the face of rigorous questioning from skeptical experts. I appreciate your defense of re-enactors, but I also think we dismiss academics and higher learning at our own cost. The people of the 1860s generally held education in very high esteem, which accounts in part for the high rate of literacy at the time.”

        2. [In response to Prof. Carmichael] “Prof. Carmichael is a well-respected academic, and though I admit I have not read his work, I’m sure it is carefully researched and written with nuance.

        I also recognize that public discourse is often more rough-and-tumble than that which takes place inside the academy and navigating between the two is never easy.

        I agree with Prof. Carmichael that this is not a culture “war.”

        The story explicitly rejects the hackneyed phrases of Gettysburg controversy – war, battle lines, etc. – and characterizes the tension between academics and re-enactors as a complicated “feud” or “spat.”

        That may be a sloppy way of phrasing it, but the tension does exist.

        Bringing it into the open – along with Prof. Carmichael’s blue collar/working class comment – may make him resentful and uncomfortable, but he also knows there are portions of our conversation that I did not print – because he explicitly asked me not to. I respected those requests.

        What’s more, Prof. Carmichael’s claim that “we discussed the socio-economic background of Civil War re-enactors in attempt to understand the many reasons why people are drawn to this hobby,” is a bit disingenuous. The discussion was a short one because when I disagreed with him about re-enactors being predominantly working class, he changed the subject.

        More significantly, and as the story elucidates, Prof. Carmichael’s objection to battle re-enactments in preference for Living History ignores the fact the re-enactors who are “good enough” to do Living History usually got that way by doing lots of battle re-enactments.

        I agree with Prof. Carmichael that there is a conversation to be had over the “mystification” of war and treating it as entertainment, and that conversation goes well beyond the Civil War, as I note in the story.

        What’s more, it is a conversation that has been going on at least as long as the Civil War itself. 150 years ago, yesterday, this newspaper bemoaned just such a trend in the battle reporting of the day. The Harrisburg Patriot & Union of July 7, 1863, wrote:

        “God knows the realities of war are bad enough. Fields covered with ghastly corpses that should only be showing the growing maize and wheat ripe for the sickle, sicken the senses and lead to serious reflections on the folly and the madness of man. But we shudder intensely when the bleached bones and quivering flesh of decaying humanity are represented to us in glowing colors by sensation writers who make a romance of slaughter and wring glory dripping from the blood, the sacred blood that our sons and brethren are pouring so copiously upon the soil from which we draw our sustenance. We have no heart for such rehearsals. We feel that we are all mad, and in our madness are committing terrible excesses. We are butchering each other and giving up to the ravages of war a glorious country which Christianity, statesmanship, philosophy and the arts of peace, might convert into the granary and Eden of the world.”

        The current tension – as the article notes – comes down to who controls the narrative.

        Prof. Carmichael enjoyed a largely unchallenged platform in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. In this story for the Patriot-News/PennLive I gave the re-enactors a voice as well.

        Prof. Carmichael has written elsewhere that “journalists are an intellectually deprived clan.” That is another conversation. He is, of course, entitled to that opinion, and I respectfully disagree. “

  • Pete Jul 9, 2013 @ 3:45

    I would like to return to Kevin’s original point about how this particular journalist fueled the perception of a cultural war between professional historians and the general public. I made it clear to the writer that I thought living history encampments were very effective and had great value in educating the public. The writer did not mention this point until deep in the article—after using me as a straw man to symbolize how academics were in a wrestling match over who owned history. Contrast this with the responsible way the Wall Street Journal handled this issue. The writer for the WSJ explicitly connected my reservations about mock battles without sacrificing my advocacy of living history (he linked it in the same sentence), and thus any reasonable person would see that I believe that every man and woman should be his own historian. The most egregious suggestion by the author is that the director of the CWI resents reenactors because they come from blue collar backgrounds. This is the most outrageous and unfortunate of all the author accusation (We were simply speculating on the background of people who do living history—there was no value judgment made and the author knows that for a fact). And the very fact that I endorse living history counters any claim that one must have an advanced degree to practice history.

    My central point–which the writer disfigured—is simply that people should spend time on the battlefield and with battlefield guides. Nowhere do I suggest that people should just read academic books or sit in a classroom. Once again the author of this piece deceives the public on this matter by leaving out a critical part of our conversation. He asked me if my suggestion was elitist. I said that we have to remember that most people have between 3 to 4 hours when they visit a historical site. It is impossible to do it all from a practical perspective. For the educational value, I think staying at the historic site and interacting with park guides is a good choice. Of course this observations is not for everyone, but I resent how the author selectively used my words to paint me as an elitist. And he did this in the first paragraph by suggesting that I oppose reenactments, which include camp life, drilling, and demonstrations. He should have stated in that opening paragraph that I am also an advocate of many of the things that happen at reenactments. His sloppiness and his desire to be provocative kept the reader from understanding the nuance of my point. Let’s not forget, I only suggested that people spend more time at the actual historical resources itself. How that is an elist position is mystifying !

    The author’s stridency is so troubling, and his inability to recognize how he has inflamed passions rather than contribute to an informed debate says everything about him as a journalist. What was so amazing about the anniversary was the incredible outpouring of interest in the Civil War history of Gettysburg in which a wide range of people came together to engage our shared past. The contrived controversy of the article should not obscure the tremendous and important partnerships that have been forged over the last 15 years among a wide range of practicing historians from all walks of life. One journalist trying to get a headline cannot undue all of those gains.

    • Pat Young Jul 9, 2013 @ 4:46

      It strikes me that you have done quite a bit to bring about an exchange between academic historians and the interested public. You don’t seem to be someone afraid to have your views aired in public or to learn from the opinions of others.

  • Pat Young Jul 9, 2013 @ 3:39

    There have been representations of events of the past for thousands of years, and they have always been controversial. The first thing Protestant elites did when they took over Catholic Churches in England was strip the altars and paint over the depictions of the life of Jesus. Yet we have always had an urge to try to “see” that which we were born too late to witness. The Coliseum was flooded in ancient Rome to depict naval battles of the past. Death was a real presence at these reenactments since some of the gladiators involved were killed.

    Tableau vivant, historical plays and pageants, and movies like “Glory” and “Lincoln” are of a piece with living history. Interesting that when I read about reenacting words like “sacred ground”, “honoring the dead”, and “desecration” are deployed. One side seems to want the white Puritan churches and the other side Chartres Cathedral.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 9, 2013 @ 3:44

      I certainly don’t see myself positioned at one side or the other in your framing of this issue. There is an incredibly wide array of reenactment activities that can be employed to satisfy the “urge” that you describe and they should be fully explored.

      • Pat Young Jul 9, 2013 @ 4:37

        Not suggesting you are on one “side” or the other. When I read your post this morning I was just reflecting on how many of us need to “see” something, while that act in itself can make us (or our spouses) queasy. It occurred to me that this has been going on for centuries. We no longer evaluate these representations of prior events as history, typically, but as art.

        When we see a 16th Century painting of ancient Rome, we can criticize its ahistoricity.

        • Kevin Levin Jul 9, 2013 @ 5:07

          Good points, Pat. Thanks for the follow up.

    • Rob Baker Jul 9, 2013 @ 11:29

      Good points Pat. I thought about movie portrayals of the past in line with the question on ethics.

  • Bryan Cheeseboro Jul 8, 2013 @ 19:09

    I just got back into reenacting and I enjoy it, except for the fact that the gear is very expensive. Fortunately, I was able to get my gear at a good price.

    I get a lot out of the hobby, including the large-scale battle reenactments. Wearing the uniform, firing the rifle and executing the Manual of arms and line of battle formations really helps me understand a lot of how Civil War soldiers must have thought about things at the time. I’ve also learned about gun safety. I never point a gun at anyone… I fire at a 30° angle, as I have always been instructed to do. I participated in the Chancellorsville 150th, which was a great experience, although I must admit it wasn’t choreographed very well.

    Movies like Glory and Gettysburg, even with their disappointments and flaws, were made possible thanks to thousands of reenacting extras who provided their own equipment. I guess it all comes down to understanding that everything is not for everybody. And BTW, most of the big battle reenactments I’ve been to take place on someone’s private property and not on a historic battlefield (except for Olustee, which does take place in the battlefield park. As I recall, the field was fine when we were done with it).

    As a reenactor, I’ve been able to participate in battle recreations, living history demonstrations, at-length conversations with visitors and marching in parades. I’ve been able to do this with my wife and children, all of us in period dress. I’m a Black man and I absolutely love to learn about the Civil War Era and reenacting has taught me a lot of things. However, if reenacting means that I would have to play the roles this other black man seems content to play (see link below), then I’ll pass on that.


  • Vince (Lancaster at War) Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:54

    I find battle reenactments basically innocuous–perhaps better for personal development than watching football but not performing any sacred function in commemorating the Civil War. Personally, I cannot stomach battle reenactments anymore as my research has introduced me to too many people with whom I feel connected by geography, institution, or church…and death/suffering isn’t fun once it goes beyond bland and generic.

    Living histories (i.e., non-battle reenactments) are usually a great tool for learning, although even they have their limits. A local museum regularly trots out a poorly-dressed volunteer to reenact one of our nation’s more impressive First Ladies, and my wife regularly treats me to discourses on how insulting those events are to the memory of an amazingly talented woman and how arrogant it is to think we can even portray someone like her through a costumed interpreter. And I agree because I don’t think those events encourage visitors to take historical individuals seriously. Most other living histories do force visitors to take historical individuals seriously, though, usually by showcasing the challenges of their daily lives, and I admire that form of historical interpretation.

  • M.D. Blough Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:38

    I’m not a huge fan of reenactments although I thought the 135th Antietam was a remarkable experience. It was one of the rare ones that had enough reenactors that one really got a sense of what was required in moving such large numbers of soldiers in Civil War battles. Yes, I agree with Tony Horwitz, that they are too neat and too clean. But, while I have met my share of battle reenactors who are total jokes, I have also met many who took their responsibilities very seriously, more than did their homework, and didn’t regard it as a game.

    On the NPS program I can certainly see the safety and, particularly the resource, rationales. On the other hand, unless they are going to question people who participate in their living history and arms demonstrations to make sure no battle reenactors need apply, throwing terms like unethical and disrespectful to soldiers both KIA and who survived war, seems to me to be needlessly insulting to reenactors who provide the NPS with major additions to their program and bear the expense themselves.

    Perhaps my experience is skewed by knowing the late Brian Pohanka who, in addition to his work as a historian, was also a reenactor and, yes, a battle reenactor, working his way up from a private to the captain of the reenacting unit doing the Fifth NY Duryee Zouaves. He was passionate about the history of this unit and one of his last acts was writing a history of the unit and his widow and his friend and fellow reenactor Pat Schroeder prepared for publication (Pat’s publishing house published it). He also did battle reenactments and you and Peter are are wrong if you think that attending reenactments doesn’t stir an interest in the spectators. One of my best memories of Brian was at 135th Antietam. I had gone over to the 5th NY encampment. The cornfield reenactment had been very early in the day and Brian was exhausted but a group of tourists who had seen him on the History Channel’s Civil War programs and had a lot of questions about the Civil War and Brian kindly answered all of them.

    As for the distinction between living history (good, it seems) and battle reenacting (bad, it appears), I’m not sure I understand the reasoning. We can show the soldier in camp and drilling. We can show weapons being fired at nothing. But we leave out the part where the weapon is aimed at the soldier and the fact that war is not the equivalent of the Boy Scout Jamboree.

    I never thought I’d find myself defending battle reenactments. I have reservations about them. However, I think throwing terms around like unethical and disrespectful to the dead and reducing war to a spectator sport are not fair either.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:50

      Good points, Margaret.

      I only met Brian Pohanka once and was duly impressed. My guess is that anyone’s experience would be skewed after only a few minutes with the man. He was exceptional in so many ways. I am not sure what point you are making re: the NPS questioning “battle reenactors.” From what I can tell the NPS has a pretty good working relationship with any number of reenacting organizations.

      I do believe that large-scale battle reenactments are disrespectful and provide a superficial experience of war that might do more harm than good. I’ve only been to a few, but I am both very uncomfortable watching among spectators and by what I see. In the end it comes off as more entertainment than educational or commemorative. What can I say.

      • M.D. Blough Jul 8, 2013 @ 19:50

        My point is that, if battle reenacting is so questionable on an ethical scale, why the NPS would want to risk involvement with them or should stick to people who only do living history presentations. They don’t appear to make that distinction in their actual dealings with reenactors.

        I haven’t been to a reenactment since 1998 (I was working a fundraising tent on Sutler’s Row for the Longstreet Society. I still have nightmares about the gridlock leaving the grounds and hordes of hungry diners converging on the only place open that late at night, the Lincoln Diner). I understand many of the criticisms of them and share more than a few. But I’m troubled by throwing around words like unethical, etc. which, IMHO, paints battle reenactments with two broad a brush.

        Brian was an extraordinary man. I knew him primarily through the CompuServe Civil War Forum. He attended as many of our reunions as he could, usually when we visited an Eastern battlefield although he made it to Vicksburg because Ed Bearss was our guide. Brian always came as a participant and always hung at the very back of the group so that our guides, all of whom were friends of his, wouldn’t think he was trying to compete. He was supposed to speak at dinner when we held our reunion at Manassas. I had heard that he was battling a reoccurence of the cancer but it wasn’t until he had to cancel because of illness that I realized how bad it was. Brian would never have missed the opportunity to speak of Second Manassas unless he physically couldn’t. He was one of the few people I knew who I believed not only could have functioned in all aspects of the 19th century but actually might have liked it. He was a gentleman in every sense of the word. I don’t pretend to have been a close friend in his inner circle but I was honored to call him a friend.

        • Kevin Levin Jul 9, 2013 @ 2:58

          My point is that, if battle reenacting is so questionable on an ethical scale, why the NPS would want to risk involvement with them or should stick to people who only do living history presentations. They don’t appear to make that distinction in their actual dealings with reenactors.

          As I understand it, the ethical guidelines govern how the land ought to be utilized and is not necessarily a commentary on those who take part in large-scale reenactments. I don’t believe I am “throwing around words”. I’ve been very specific as to what exactly I find problematic.

  • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:01

    For starters Kevin, I don’t think the video is all inclusive, meaning those views do not necessarily carry over to all reenactments. This brochure from the NPS highlights a different attitude.


    For living historians, a battle reenactment can be a powerful catalyst for personal reflection about the human drama and cost of war. NPS staff appreciate the strong connection and deep emotions that living historians bring to park sites and stories. So, at
    times, the NPS may partner with other organizations to provide expertise and support for battle reenactments on land outside park boundaries

    I think the ranger featured in the video you highlighted, is speaking primarily in terms of reenactments on preserved battlefields.

    I was up at Gettysburg the week prior to the 150th anniversary week. I walked Pickets Charge. Three days later, I walked it in full gear in a reenactment with several thousand reenactors. There is a dramatic difference in scope, and sensation.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:13

      Thanks for the link. I didn’t see much that contradicted the ethical guidelines as outlined in the video. Furthermore, I stated in the post that while the NPS is focused on park land the ethical guidelines could and should be applied more broadly.

      I don’t doubt that the a “dramatic difference in scope, and sensation” but I do take issue with whether that is sufficient to disregard the kinds of concerns expressed by the NPS and others. In the end I think reasonable people can come to different conclusions about the appropriateness of large-scale battle reenactments.

      • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:29

        I didn’t say there were contradictions, I am just pointing out that it is obvious the park service, as well as some of its rangers, see the power in that medium.

        According to Hadden’s book, and the NPS, Civil War veterans started the first reenactment to commemorate, honors and educate. I don’t think that process ends when the Veterans pass away. I am curious however, given that we are discussing the ethics of recreating the horrors of war, how many veterans are reenactors and what their thoughts on that issue is.

        • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 17:37

          Wrong word choice on my part. To me the video speaks volumes, especially since it was meant to address the sesquicentennial.

          I wrote about two reenactments in my Crater book. The one in 1903 involved the still living members of Mahone’s Virginia brigade. Those who chose to be involved clearly believed that it was an appropriate way to remember their service. No doubt it inspired the broader community including a young Douglas Southall Freeman who attended the reenactment with his father.

          You said: I don’t think that process ends when the Veterans pass away.

          Now we are back to your earlier point. Why do the beliefs of an earlier generation take precedent over our own? The fact that some veterans of the war chose to take part in what they identified as a reenactment and the fact that more recent veterans choose to take part in what we refer to as a reenactment is an interesting perspective to consider. I certainly don’t believe it ought to dictate or be given undue weight simply because they are veterans. Perhaps I am missing your point. You do raise some important questions.

          • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:13

            I wish I had the context of the information provided in your book. Sadly with my current reading list, I am limited to your blog for your scholarship but hopefully in the not too distant future I can read your book.

            I do not think a prior generation’s beliefs take “precedent” unless of course I consider them superior. Which circles back to my belief that ethics is perspective. Some may be progressive, some regressive. But even that is subject to a generation’s definition of progress. It’s a philosophical argument all around which is why I do not care much for Charmichael’s approach. Personally I wonder what his motivations for making such statements are. It has to be rough being in his esteemed position but being outdone in public memory each year by the GAC’s reenactment. But that’s beside the point.

            I think one can learn a lot from a reenactment. A whole lot. Each time I participate in one and I have to eat horrible hard tack when I really want a steak, or I have to sleep in the mud when I want to be back in the A/C in my bed, I get just a tidbit of tactile learning which draws me closer to the diaries of soldiers long gone. I know full immersion is not possible, but partial immersion wields mental lessons that can be translated.

            • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:17

              On a side note, this is getting some interesting feedback from some of my reenactment friends that are Veterans.

              • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:26

                I hope you will encourage them to share their perspective here. It would definitely take the discussion in a new direction.

              • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:30

                I passed on the message.

            • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:28

              I can’t speak for Pete, but I certainly didn’t read his thoughts as purely philosophical. He clearly has thought this through carefully based, in part, on his experience as a reenact or as well as his father’s own personal struggles with his war experience.

              Think it is presumptuous to assume that he feels any pressure from the GAC. His most recent Institute was completely sold out.

              • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 18:49

                It may be, but his version of sold out probably isn’t the same capacity of the GAC’s “sold out.” Of course I’m not a fan of the GAC, so there “Sold Out” has double meaning 🙂

                But of course, even Carmichael says this is up for civil conversation.

  • Rob Baker Jul 8, 2013 @ 16:24

    Perhaps you should pose the same question to NPS Rangers that reenact (I am 99% positive Lee White was at the 150th Manassas, I could be wrong though), or those that work with battlefield preservation that also reenact (the infamous Robert Lee Hodge).

    I wish a friend of mine was more internet oriented. He does WWII Reenactments, and participated in D-Day simulations in front of Veterans. He had incredible stories of his interactions with those men. I wish he could give some input. Can we be certain how “ethical” modern reenactments of the Civil War are? For that matter, can we be certain about the ethics of any reenactments ever? Moral issues are circumstance that change with each generation. We can however, look at some WWII reenactments and see how they are received by veterans of that War. Perhaps that might give us a window of interpretation. Ultimately, most re-enactors claim, at least, to be “honoring” those that fought through an educational format. You cannot bring this type of visual representation to a classroom. The numbers in Picket;s Charge are simply that, numbers, to most people. But if they see, 15,000 men walking across the field, that seems to take root a little more.

    • Kevin Levin Jul 8, 2013 @ 16:47

      Hi Rob,

      Thanks for the comment. Not sure I understand this argument: “Can we be certain how “ethical” modern reenactments of the Civil War are? For that matter, can we be certain about the ethics of any reenactments ever? Moral issues are circumstance that change with each generation.”

      How does the fact that views of the appropriateness of reenactments have evolved function as a barrier against making ethical judgments? The NPS has laid out a set of reasons as to why they believe large-scale battle reenactments to be inappropriate. Either you agree or disagree with those reasons.

      The NPS organized a very large number of visitors on July 3 to commemorate Pickett’s Charge. I thought it did a sufficient job to highlight the numbers involved.

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