5 Types of People You’ll Meet at Civil War Re-enactments

Whores, Thieves and Militants of the Civil War

I may have mentioned before that I love men in uniform (I think because my father was in the army and then became a police officer but who cares? Men just look great in tailored outfits). So when my best friend’s husband suggested I come with him to the 140th Re-enactment of Antietam for research for my novel, I jumped at the idea.

Someone lent me hoops, a corset and a fantastic day dress and I was hooked. All of the reading in the world could never replace the smell of campfire in my hair and the way it felt to flirt with soldiers while wearing truly feminine clothes. I learned a lot about Enfield rifles( too heavy for me to ever try to use) and about human nature.

Civil War Re-enactment Types:

  • SNOBS  I think this is what I expected to find more of: people who talked about blouse button accuracy and looked scandalized by a soda can peaking from beneath a canvas tent. I personally drew the line between kids and adults. Kids were being dragged to these events and forced to wear weird clothing and hang out with weird adults who lectured them about civics and states’ rights. The occasional soda did no harm. On the other hand I wanted to time travel and fully immerse myself in the period. Plastic milk containers and talks about television spoiled the mood sometimes. Most people were exceptionally kind and understanding.


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Pardon us while we slip this milk carton under the table.


  • ECCENTRICS The leader of our hospital unit was a toothless old lady who refused to be called by her real name–ever. Her modern bank account even sported her Civil War persona’s name. She really thought she was a surgeon. She really thought we were nurses. The men were afraid of her but loved lying in the shade and having their foreheads dabbed with cold water by the nurses. “Doc” also fantasized about her nurses dressing as whores in the evening. She wanted to be our pimp. She said she didn’t want a partner because she knew how to sexually satisfy herself. Thankfully my kids were too young to understand much of what she said.


  • MILITANTS  “Doc” was also a militant —  as was the head nurse. Towels had to be hung in an orderly way. Children had to use proper slang. “Doc” once lectured my son about his period incorrect hair and his period incorrect use of the term “mom.” Not all militants were bad. All of the men I met — without exception — had a healthy respect for period correctness and some were quite militant about it but they seemed to always have more fun around their campfires at night than we nurses who were forced to sing Grandfather’s Clock and be in bed by nine. (Many overly militant people — even in missionary work — have this weird desire to control other people’s bedtimes).


civil war reenactment-05
Kids living the dream.


  • THIEVES One thief arranged for our unit to “star” at a National Park living history event and pocketed the money for herself. No one realized it was a paid event. This same person lost her real job. My husband at the time found her a job at his very modern company as receptionist. It was discovered that she was stealing cases of soda and modern chips to bring to re-enactments and then to her home (along with food we all brought to the events). She was fired from the job and kicked from the re-enacting world.


  • FLIRTS Okay, so this was my true role. I found that as soon as I put on those dresses I couldn’t stop flirting. Many of the militant men couldn’t help flirt back. Once a man I knew from a Union unit stopped me on the lane and gushingly said I was “positively glowing.” My kids have never let me live that down. A surprisingly fair amount of affairs took place in tents at Gettysburg and Antietam — or so I’ve heard. I may have flirted but I never cheated. Once “Doc” warned me not to break a lost puppy of a soldier’s heart. I told her he needed to man up if he wanted to re-enact (I’ve always been more the Scarlett than the Melanie). “Doc” wanted to keep us ladies for herself and said as much.



Admittedly my time at re-enacting doing “research” didn’t do much for my failing marriage but it was a lot of fun.

How about you? Any unusual hobbies or methods of research that led to meeting interesting people? Let me know in the comments!

Further reading:





24 responses to “5 Types of People You’ll Meet at Civil War Re-enactments”

  1. This sounds like a whole heap of fun! I have friends who are involved with re-enactments here in the UK and love seeing the amazing costumes and props they make themselves. What a great hobby and a wonderful way to meet new people.

    Liked by 3 people

    • it’s definitely a great way to connect with your inner child. 😉 I loved it! Only not a fan of setting up canvas tents (the best time to play damsel in distress in my opinion).

      Well Lucy, you seem to like dressing in costume as well with that cute little hat!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Me too! Adore hats. Since I live near Saratoga NY where horse racing and BIG hats are a thing I get to admire tons of hats. Certain hats that I’ve had have been trans-formative. Once I tried on an extremely expensive and amazing Gainsborough hat. You wouldn’t have thought it would work but it did! Anyway it wouldn’t have allowed me to drive my car it was so big so I didn’t get it (my husband would have looked askance at the price too haha).

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hats really can make everything better. What a shame you missed out on the Gainsborough – perhaps one day it will be yours! All hail hats, the bringers of great things 🙂


  2. Makes me glad I did Revolutionary War reenacting. Definitely some characters, but not as rough as what you seem to have experienced. Lots of school teachers and a handful of retired military, but everyone was passionate about history — and generally generous and friendly and interesting.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I didn’t consider my time rough at all. Most people were exactly as you say: passionate about history. But I think anyone willing to dress up is probably going to be a little theatrical. I tend to attract drama and love it for the most part. LOL.

      Maybe Rev War re-enactors are different — I’m going to have to ask my friend who re-enacts from the French and Indian War to WWI. It would be an interesting study.

      I’d love to hear all about your experiences! What did you like best about re-enacting???


      • LOL — yes, definitely theatrical. Sometimes, after the tourist were gone for the day, Rev War soldiers would disappear into their tents and reemerge in cowboy attire and stage a shoot out. Other times, they just stayed in character. It was best to make friends with the British officers, as they had the big marquee tents and often had lavish parties in them after hours.

        As for what I liked best, it was the sense of history. There are moments, usually before any tourists arrive, when you crawl out of your tent and look around and everyone is in costume and cook fires are being built up for the days cooking and everything is as it was — and for a few minutes, you’re there.

        There will be a huge Civil War reenactment nearby this weekend, and I hope to go. Members of Culinary Historians help judge the authenticity of the food being prepared in the camps. Great fun.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds like this was lots of fun and very informative. I’ve been to the Renaissance Pleasure Faire – that’s about it. Much the same kind of participants. Lately, the California revelers have been looking more Steampunk than authentic, but I don’t care.

    Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve always wondered how they could work the farm dressed as they were, in clothes that were restrictive and dragged in the mud. But then I also wonder about artists, dressed from neck to ankles and toes. When I paint, I wear the shabbiest stuff from the bottom of my closet. Still, I do think it’s fun to dress up. Isn’t that what Halloween is all about – and weddings, for that matter? (OK, way off topic here.)

        Liked by 1 person

      • it’s those bustles that get me! can you imagine washing those clothes on a regular basis? I’m with you — I love when men wear something other than flipflops, t’s, & shorts LOL

        Liked by 1 person

      • I love bustles. For me it’s the layers of clothing to have to deal with. I think we’ve made men think dressing up is somehow feminine when for most of history it was women copying men’s cool fashions. A well dressed man is very masculine to me anyway. LOL.

        Liked by 1 person

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