Last week I learned of the retirement of long time Robert E. Lee impersonator, Al Stone. Mr. Stone plans on using the 150th anniversary of Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House as the backdrop for his final performance. I’ve noticed an uptick in stories from around the country that plan on using this particular anniversary as the final roll call for local reenactments. Check out this story from Keokuk, Iowa. Not too long ago I read that a large group of veteran reenactors was going to lay down its arms for good at Appomattox in April 2015.
You can still read stories about young men and women who are entering the hobby, but I have to wonder whether the end of the sesquicentennial will, for all practical purposes, mark the end of Civil War reenacting. For now I am referring to the large events organized for the anniversaries of Antietam, Gettysburg and other high profile battles. With the aging of the centennial generation it should come as no surprise that interest in reenactments is on the decline.
I’ve always seen the centennial generation as the last direct connection or one connection removed from the Civil War generation. As we approach the end of the sesquicentennial it’s worth reflecting on what will be lost as battlefield reenacting becomes less a staple of our Civil War memory and what will be gained as well.