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Cedar Creek Battle

Cedar Creek Battle

Printed in Civil War Courier Magazine

What Reenacting Means To Me

Imagine it’s an October night time in a Virginian field and the stars fill the sky. You march, from the warmth of the campfire, into the darkness.  No one speaks and the only sound is the soft putter of brogans on rock and grass.  You hold your Springfield rifle in your hand and stare off into the darkness when, suddenly, your captain whispers sharply to “Halt!” Your captain stares off at tree line in the distance, which begins to excite your fellow soldiers.  “Fire!” A voice booms out and a flash of fire, followed by the sound of rifles, erupts from the tree line.  Everyone begins to scramble into line as the officers try to shout orders.  A huge shrill cry comes forth from the tree line, and a large rebel unit charges from the cover of the bushes and trees.  You raise your rifle, aim , and fire.  Fighting follows, but soon ends.  You are now standing side by side with the rebels, who were just charging you, laughing and sharing stories. You then realize that the year is not 1864, but 2011 and no one is trying to kill you.  You are a reenactor and you are experiencing a Civil War soldiers life more than most people ever come close to.

Civil War reenacting is a great hobby for anyone to have, including families.  It gives those who experience it the closest feeling of what it could have been like to live in the United States during the Civil War.  It is more than just a bunch of enthused hobbyist running around and playing army in hot southern fields.  But, it is an important act of remembrance to those who fought and died, while leaving their families behind to suffer.  It is too easy to forget and disconnect yourself from the past, but what reenacting does is keep alive the history and remembrance.  This is not only done by the reenactors themselves, but by the spectators that show up to these events to learn more about the war than they would have known before.  At the same time, as a reenactor, I have realized the enjoyment someone can get out of the hobby.  For a few weekends out of the year, I can leave the busy world of college and go back in time.  Yes the battles are fun, but the real experience comes from the camping and the interactions with fellow reenactors, that the public rarely sees.  During nighttime, at a reenactors camp, it becomes a whole different world.  Families and friends surround the campfire to share stories, play authentic music, and yes sometimes pass a few bottles.  This part of reenacting is where I believe you truly get the feeling of a Civil War soldier.  We always here about the battles, but many times they only lasted a few days, if that.  The Civil War soldier mainly spent his time at camp drilling and doing exactly what reenactors do now.

Overall, I believe every Civil War buff should try reenacting.  It connects you to the past in a way that nothing else can.  For the 15 years I have been reenacting, I have learned so much history and gathered so much respect for people of that time period, but there is still even more I could learn.  One great event to start out with, that I fully enjoy, is The Battle of Cedar Creek Virginia.  This year it is on October 20-21.  The whole event is on the actual battlefield which gives you a very emotional feeling, plus, in October the temperature is quite mild compared to other reenactments in the summer. Hope to see you there!

Evan McCaffrey  148th Pennsylvania Reenactor and West Virginia University Student

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