Robert Lee Hodge on Reenacting

You all know the name. Hodge occupies a special place in the reenacting community given his appearance on the cover of Tony Horwitz’s book, Confederates in the Attic (1998). In this Civil War in4 video he makes an incredibly compelling argument for the value of Civil War reenacting.

[Uploaded to Vimeo on November 5, 2014]

Searching for Black Confederates: The Civil War’s Most Persistent Myth

“Levin’s study is the first of its kind to blueprint and then debunk the mythology of enslaved African Americans who allegedly served voluntarily in behalf of the Confederacy.”–Journal of Southern History

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10 comments… add one
  • northierthanthou Dec 2, 2014 @ 2:31

    I read Confederates n the Attic back when it first came out and loved the book. It’s very cool to see and here Hodges speaking.

  • Ryan A Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:22

    I think there’s been a considerable decline in progressives attending large scale events because there are other opportunities available now that may not have been available in years past. In the video, Rob mentions Maryland My Maryland. This was an event put on specifically by some progressive umbrella organizations to get away from the “farb-ness” of the big ones and still involve units larger than just mess or company size. I was at both Summer of 62 in 2005 and At High Tide in 2008 and they were both excellent events that got you a good “look” combined with a scale slightly smaller than your usual big event. That being said, these events are kinda rare – once a year at best and if you don’t attend the “normal” reenactments elsewhere, progressives will opt for the smaller events like living histories or the occasional preservation march which doesn’t involve “fighting” but rather the experience of camp life and a little bit of marching.

    I haven’t been to an event since the Antietam living history in 2012 (the most rewarding event I ever attended). After going to the BGA Shiloh event that year, and not participating in the really cool Paddle-Wheeler adjunct, I kinda got a little put-off by the whole reenacting thing – and this is after almost 10 years in the hobby. I’ll be 30 next summer, and it’ll be a bit tougher to pull off the Civil War soldier look the older I get. I had talked about phasing out by the end of the 150th but the desire to have some exceptional experiences at certain events is still there.

  • Robert Lee Hodge Nov 7, 2014 @ 5:53

    Thank you for the interest. I will just scratch the surface here. The Cedar Creek Battlefield Foundation (CCBF), which started the reenactment 1990, started very strong with great reenactor leadership that had a reputation for striving for authenticity and the reenactment had a much stronger focus on history. This reenactor leadership was made up of some of the similar players that were involved in the amazing 125th anniversary reenactments. George Hefner was the reenactor guru for the old Cedar Creek reenactments and had a bend towards authenticity. Brian Pohanka invited me to come to the reenactment in 1991. And it was at that 1991 Cedar Creek that I had my “reenactor epiphany” — I saw reenactors en masse that looked like Civil War soldiers. I was about the quit reenacting because I felt disenfranchised to some degree, but that Cedar Creek event changed everything. Chris Sanders was the executive director of the CCBF in the early 1990’s and many thought she was great, including myself. After the massive 1994 reenactment at Cedar Creek (7,000+ reenactors attended) the CCBF paid off some debts and Sanders was let go. With her left many of the amazing volunteers that performed yeoman service. My view is that is when the decline began, and eventually became apparent in the following years. There is much more I could write about CCBF, etc. but I will save it for now. I have attended Cedar Creek in more recent times but often as an organizer for historical interpretation at neighboring Belle Grove where education, preservation, and appreciation have been the themes. Less of a carnival and more of an enjoyable, somewhat visually-based, classroom “in the field” where we have tried to connect with the public in a better way.

  • Robert Lee Hodge Nov 6, 2014 @ 13:22

    Mr. Harris, You guessed wrong — I have not changed my feeling about battle reenactments — they are generally very poor representations of Civil War history and simply lack dynamics. The latest example was Cedar Creek, just a few weeks ago. It was very odd. The authenticity has plummeted at that annual event.

    • Kevin Levin Nov 6, 2014 @ 13:31

      Thanks for taking the time to comment and for the enlightening video. Any thoughts about the decline in authenticity at Cedar Creek?

    • Boyd Harris Nov 7, 2014 @ 8:37

      Thanks for the clarification. Perhaps I misunderstood you in the video. Sorry to hear about Cedar Creek.

  • Boyd Harris Nov 6, 2014 @ 7:59

    So I guess Hodge has changed his opinion about battle reenactments. In Horowitz’ book, Hodge comes off as not particularly fond of battle reenactments because of the “farb”-ness factor at most events. Course with the sesquicentennial, reenactment has received more press and he has emerged as a bit of of a spokesman for the hobby.

  • Garry Adelman Nov 6, 2014 @ 2:48

    Man, Kevin, you don’t play around. We only built that page in draft yesterday and it’s not even finalized yet! Congrats on finding it before I even officially approved it

  • Al Mackey Nov 5, 2014 @ 20:06

    I think he makes a compelling case for living history, not for pretending to fight a battle.

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