Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Costuming Hobby Rich with History & set in the Great Outdoors

One night last week I was clicking through channels and caught the tail end of a story about a local group that was going to participate in a civil war battle reenactment the following weekend. I was intrigued by the detailed costumes and accessories that were used by the people for the reenactment. I felt sure this was a small group of history buffs using costumes from local museums. To my surprise, after a little research, I learned that this hobby is enjoyed by thousands of people across the country.

Reenacting battles dates back to Roman times where the activity primarily served as entertainment. In the United States, war reenactment as a hobby first gained popularity in the mid to late 20th century. Popularity in the hobby has steadily grown to well over 500 units participating in some type of war reenactment. In the US, the Revolutionary and Civil Wars tend to be where hobbyists focus. Although cell phone towers may loom in the distance, camps are set up and battles are often reenacted in the same place where they originally took place. At camp during reenactments, there are sutlers (or suppliers), cooks, and just about every other role you can imagine; so this is a hobby definitely geared to both individuals and families.

There are a quite a few organizations that can help you get started in war reenactment. For the Revolutionary War The North Weft Territory Alliance, The Brigade of the American Revolution, The Continental Line, and The British Brigade all have informational websites to help with membership in a unit or as an individual. For Civil War reenactment, I found the most comprehensive information at the Civil War Reenactment Headquarters. All war reenactment is very strict about attention to historical details with units recreating everything down to the formations and drills of the original unit. Costumes must be true to the period. No polyester allowed! Because of the attention to detail, specialty sellers or Sutlers, sell true to period uniforms and accessories. Uniforms, artilliary, and even the camps must be exactly the way they were back during the actual battles. The costumes for this hobby can cost hundreds of dollars depending on the rank of the officer. In this hobby, the costume is not complete without accessories. Hats, guns, holsters, and other gun accessories really complete the look of an authentic reenactment hobbyist. Some units might even splurge on a cannon at a cost of about $30,000 in order to make the unit more authentic. Check out the following sutler sites for authentic war costumes: Fall Creek Sutlery, Mercury Supply Company, Coon River Mercantile, and Quartermaster Shop.

War reenactments take place all through the year with schedules of the most popular Civil War and Revolutionary War events (each organization listed above has a calendar of events) readily available on the internet. If you like costumes, try to take in a reenactment near your home. The history and fresh air are sure to please young and old alike.

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Have fun, wear a costume!