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So, You Want to Be a Civil War Reenactor?

Frequently Asked Questions

Who can be a reenactor in your organization?

Anyone who is healthy and fit can participate in living history. Our primary mission is to be authentic educators by portraying life during the Civil War. We accept members into our military ranks as soldiers, and accept as associate members people wishing to portray period musicians and civilians.

What events and activities do you offer members?

We have activities all year long. Our most active season runs from about April to October. A normal season includes eight to twelve weekend events, both local and out-of-state. These activities are battle reenactment weekends, living history demonstrations, National Park Service events, company drills, and parade participation. The off-season is occupied by discussion groups, organizational meetings, and research activities.

What kind of investment does it take to get started?

All told, the initial investment can run about $1200. This sounds like a lot of money, but once you have the necessary items, it really can be an inexpensive hobby. A normal reenactment weekend might then cost pocket change for registration, gas and tolls for your trip to the event, and a little food from home. You will spend around $400 for a period three-band musket. You can figure $400 for your uniform, including hat, frock, pants, shirts, shoes, and socks. The soldier's accoutrements cost about $200, including a waist belt, cartridge box, cap box, bayonet, scabbard, haversack, and canteen. Figure an additional $200 for your camp equipment, including tent, wool blanket, and rubber blanket, cups, plates, etc. Those are the essentials. Of course you can spend more, and you might be able to spend less. We will assist you in getting the best quality at the best value. Do not attempt to do it on your own. There are two reasons. The first is that the unit has some requirements, so you do not want to buy things that you cannot use. The second reason is that you might get burned on quality or price. Not all sutlers are your friends.

What should I buy first?

The first thing you should buy is a musket. It should be a period three-band Springfield or Enfield musket. That should be followed by shoes, canteen, rubber blanket, cup, and plate. If you require eyeglasses, you will need a pair of period spectacles. Buy an antique frame, and have lenses installed. Follow that with the accoutrements. Then comes the uniform, and the rest of the camp gear. This formula is to get you on the field the fastest, since most of your comrades have extras, and might loan you coats, pants, socks, shirts, but not that many soldiers keep spare muskets. A canteen and rubber blanket or poncho rank high as essentials for hot and wet weather. This is a rain or shine hobby, and you must be prepared for the extremes. Living outside can be uncomfortable otherwise.

How do I learn to be a soldier?

We train everyone in the ranks, and periodically run schools of instruction. You can study the material in books like Hardee's, Casey's, the Customs of Service, and the Army Regulations. This will help you learn faster. You will be personally instructed in key safety items prior to your falling in the ranks. But be assured that when you are in the ranks you will learn. The NCOs will see to that, and your comrades will help you as well. It is a great education, and you will soon feel comfortable. Education does not stop there. We continually offer training, and have an NCO certification program, where soldiers earn qualification for promotion, then are elected by the membership when openings occur.

How do you live at these events?

We establish an army camp, centered around company streets, where the tents of each company are arranged in two long rows, facing each other, with a space, or the street, separating them. This is the center of the soldier's life, at least when he is allowed to be there. Here all cooking, playing, and resting takes place.It is part of the soldiers job to also work in the camp, to provide wood and water details, and to do guard and picket duty as assigned by command. If you are a civilian or family participant, a separate civilian camp is established. In general, we do not allow civilians to reside on the military street. Visits between the camps are common.

How authentic do I need to be?

We strive for authenticity. We want to portray, to the best of our knowledge, life in the army. We do not want not be compulsive, but we do want our appearance to be accurate. We keep camp authentic 24 hours a day. This means that all 20th century vestiges must be out of sight at all times. Special attention must be paid to period shoes and eyeglasses. We strive to do as much first person portrayals as possible, especially for the public during the day. It is even more fun to try it for the full 24 hours. It can be a challenge, and an education.

What about eating?

All the food is prepared over the company fire on the company street. All food preparation must be period. Plastic wrappers, coolers, or modern containers are restricted to the tents, out of sight. Hot dogs or Dinty Moore stew are not acceptable. Better yet, many of us learn how to eat as they did then, and you will be authentic to a tee with little effort. Salt pork, coffee, hardtack, beans, rice, and some in-season vegetables will be just the thing. Food is prepared in small three to five man messes, individually, or as a complete company. There is no rules for this, the men are left to their own devices, and no one has starved, or died, yet.

So, how does a typical reenactment weekend go?

Reenactors start showing up at the event site Friday afternoon, evening, or early Saturday morning. The camps are set up, all the equipment is organized, and all the modern items are removed from the camp. It is now the 1860's. Camp fires burn, and coffee is brewed. Saturday morning revielle comes at dawn, and you wake up to find that you are in the army, and subject to the hardships and orders of the officers and NCOs. Breakfast, roll call, drill, details, are the business of the day. A skirmish or battle may develop with the enemy, and some hard marching and fighting are involved. The wounded go to hospital, and the survivors back to camp. Dress parade comes at retreat, followed by supper, and some campfire songs, and conversations. It all happens again on Sunday, save for the addition of some church services or some prayer meetings. Late Sunday afternoon, the event winds to a close, the camps are struck, and everyone says goodbye to good friends, and reluctantly head back home to 20th century reality.

What about the safety of the hobby?

Your safety is the most important thing to everyone in this organization. We are conscious of the many dangers associated with the hobby of reenacting. These include the cook fires, axes, black powder in muskets and cannons, its storage in camps, tent fires, sharp bayonets, extreme hot weather, extreme cold weather, extreme wet weather, horses, woodchuck holes, and the list goes on. It is the responsibility of each and every person in the unit to look out for all, and to identify and correct any and all potential problems. We are incorporated, and do carry insurance to protect us from liability. You can also purchase medical coverage through the unit at a nominal cost. In general, if it is hot, you will be told to drink water. If you lean over the fire, you will be reminded to be careful. This group approach is the first thing on our minds at all times.

Why should I join the Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.?

We are a group of experienced and inexperienced reenactors alike, who love the Civil War, the Union, the history of the original Eighth Conn. Vols. We are a living history organization that has our act together. We function under a set of by-laws, and are run by an executive board who are elected annually. We are incorporated, and are not-for-profit. We belong to the United States Volunteers, a well respected national organization. We have the respect of, and work with the National Park Service. But beyond all that, we enjoy the incredible comaradarie that this hobby creates. We are from all walks of life, and family backgrounds, but when we do living history together, we are like the boys back then, thrust into a situation where we all pull together for family, honor, and country. We look forward to each new face that shares those dreams, and hope to provide the public insight into your portrayal, and to provide you the chance at your Civil War moment.

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Eighth Regiment Connecticut Volunteers, Co.A, Inc.

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