A Brief History Of Civil War Reenactment

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On July 4th, America's 300 million citizens will mark the 234th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The holiday weekend that's famous for fireworks, barbecues and apple pie is increasingly being used as an occasion for tens of thousands of Americans that identify as "hard-core" war reenactors to wear outfits made from 19th century fabric adorned with arcane military pins. For the July 4th holiday also marks another major American historical milestone — the anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1st to July 3rd in 1863. For American war reenactors, the battle is the Gettysburg of their annual reenactment calendar.

"When you come to the fields of Gettysburg, you cannot help but feel the awe," said Andrea Di Martino, the media supervisor for Gettysburg Anniversary Committee. Di Martino, who moved to the southern Pennsylvania town fifteen years ago to be closer to the battleground site (and even has the number 1863 in her e-mail address) will help organize the weekend's reenactment festivities that runs from July 2nd to July 5th. Events are scheduled to run around the clock, and will include a reenactors' dance as well as live mortar-fire demonstrations. (In 2006, the U.S. National Park Service banned reenactment on actual battleground sites, saying, "Even the best-researched and most
 well-intentioned representation of combat cannot replicate the tragic complexity of real warfare.")...

"There is something deeply democratic, and republican, in the attempt to make history your own, rather than to leave it to the academics and the schools, television stations and politicians," says Wolfgang Hochbruck, a history professor at the University of Freiburg in Germany, who was a one-time American Civil War reenactor. "Not that reenactment is necessarily progressive — a lot is politically backward at best."


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