Become a Reenactor

2Yanks2The 1st Nebraska is a group that is open to anyone who is interested in reenacting the American Civil War, no matter their reenacting experience level.  Whether you are a fresh fish who has never even seen a reenactment or a 10 year veteran who has recently moved into the area, we invite you to join us!  We ask that you join us at one of our monthly meetings.  We meet the second Wednesday of every month at 7:00 pm in the basement of the American Legion Post #1 at 7811 Davenport Street in Omaha, Nebraska. This will give you an opportunity to meet the members and get a feel of what our group is about.  At the meeting you will receive the Unit Handbook which contains some general information on reenacting, where to purchase equipment, how much, etc.  It is designed with the new recruit in mind, but is equally applicable and useful to the veteran.


What follows are questions that many new recruits have when they are first getting into the hobby.

What is Civil War Reenacting?  Civil War Reenacting is a hobby in which people try to bring the Civil War era to life. This is done by wearing historically accurate clothing, setting up military encampments and civilian “towns”, and adopting the persona of someone living in the 1860’s. These are all brought together so that a snapshot or fragment of the Civil War time period can be seen and understood by the public.
Where do you do reenactments?  Reenactments happen all over the country, but for the most part, we attend events in Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, Kansas and Missouri.  Sometimes there are big national events held out on the East Coast.  If there is enough interest in the unit, we might attend those also.  The national events are where you can really get a feel for what it was like to be a soldier in the Civil War, when you see thousands of reenactors like yourself stretched out in long battle lines.
When do you have reenactments?  Our reenacting season takes place between mid/late March and October. There are a few exceptions though when we might attend an event in, say, February or December.
Why do you do reenacting?  Because it is fun!  If it were not fun, then it would not be a hobby.  Everyone who is involved in this hobby has at least some interest in American History, or more specifically, the Civil War.  We all have a desire to learn more about it.  Civil War Reenacting is also used to educate the public about various facets of the time period that rarely get mentioned in any classroom or book.  It is one thing to read about it, it is a completely different matter to see it done first hand and experience it.
What do you do at reenactments?  Most of the time is spent conversing with and educating the public.  Usually an encampment is laid out and spectators walk through.  This gives them an opportunity to ask questions and see the daily minutia of soldierly life.  Depending on your commitment level in reenacting, you may wish to answer their questions in a third person format (i.e. They did this…They had that…etc) or you may do so in First Person. First Person is where you assume the personality, dialect, attitude, and beliefs of a character.  You will then act him out as if you were actually living during the 1860’s.  This is the most intense form of reenacting and requires much research, dedication, and time into your character and the time period he represents.  Although it can be quite difficult, when done properly it is very rewarding.

We also relax with friends we have not seen for awhile and have the chance to make new friends.  Many of us like camping, and usually on the first night of a event we spend long hours just talking around the camp fire.

There are also battles.  These take place during the afternoon and give the reenactors and spectators an opportunity to witness the sights and sounds of Civil War combat.  Often times, a small portion of an actual battle will be scripted out and reenacted.  There are times though, when there is no script, and the battles are determined by the skill of the commanders and their knowledge of Civil War tactics.  These are called tacticals.  Once the battles are over, and the sun has dropped below the horizon, many events have a Saturday night ball in which Ladies and Gentlemen do period dances to period music.

If I start reenacting does that mean that I am in the real military?  No.  During reenactments we will follow military courtesies that were used during the Civil War.  The reason for doing so is because we are trying to create an atmosphere of a Civil War encampment, not because we are actually enlisted in the military.  Although we are not in the military, there is a rank structure that is followed.  A vote by the group determines who gets to be what rank.  Even though a reenactor portraying an officer has no real authority to command troops, he still receives the courtesies that of an officer during the Civil War would have received.
Drill?  What is that?  Drill is where we practice handling the rifle and maneuvers that were used during the Civil War.  A soldier’s life during the war mainly consisted of drill, drill, and more drill.  They were extremely proficient at it.  Unfortunately (or fortunately depending on how you look at it) we cannot spend every waking moment practicing drill.  Usually we will drill twice at an event: once Saturday morning and once Sunday morning.  Drill allows use to look and maneuver as a real Civil War Unit, but it is also important for safety.  Even though we are shooting blanks, a powder burn is nothing to laugh about.
I don’t know the drill, will you teach me?

Of course!  You cannot safely work with the group unless you know how to A) handle the rifle and B) maneuver with the group.  If you join the unit at the beginning of the reenacting season, you will have the opportunity to attend Spring Muster.  If you join during the middle of the season, a Corporal will pull you aside and bring you up to speed to the point where you can begin learning with the whole group.

What is Spring Muster?  Spring Muster is an event that is held at the beginning of every reenacting season.  This event gives the veterans a chance to brush off the rust accumulated over the winter and allows new recruits a chance to learn the drill.  It is a non spectator event, and there are no battles.  The entire weekend is spent practicing drill.
Do I have to have all of my gear by my first event?  No.  Actually, we would prefer that you wait to purchase anything until you have had the opportunity to attend an event.  This will give you an opportunity to see if you enjoy being with our group and if the hobby is worth getting into before you start laying down money.  There is nothing worse than buying all of your equipment only to discover you don’t enjoy the hobby!

Any equipment that you do not have, you can borrow from the Unit.  First Nebraska has loaner uniforms, accouterments, etc. that a new recruit can borrow until he obtains his own.  We do ask that you try to acquire all of your basic equipment in a reasonable amount of time so that other new recruits lacking equipment may also participate.

How much does all of the equipment cost?  This is the BIG question!  It can cost anywhere from $1,500 to $2,000.  Keep in mind though, you do not have to purchase everything all at one time.  As stated above, you can borrow any equipment that you do not yet have.  Almost everyone acquires their equipment over time.  The single biggest expense is for a musket, which can run from $400 for a used one to $700 or more for a new one.
What do I need to buy?  We suggest that your first purchases be your shoes, canteen, and hat.  Because everyone’s feet and head are different, it is really difficult to borrow these items and have a proper fit.  Also, if you have to wear glasses, we ask that you acquire period frames.  You can then take these frames and have your prescription lenses put in.
Where do I buy this equipment?  We have a suggested vendor/sutler list located on the “Links Page”.  They have been chosen because we feel that they provide the best quality and authenticity for the most practical price.  We ask that when you begin purchasing items, you start by checking out the sutlers from this list.  It also helps to talk to a member of the authenticity committee or experienced member of the Unit, they can give you a hand when picking out equipment.
SpringfieldReversedIf your question has not been answered, or if you would like clarification on one of the questions above, please do not hesitate to contact us!