History of the ACWA
Here is a list of the Union and Confederate Commanders of the ACWA past and present:
A Long History of Civil War Reenacting
Reenacting began during the 1961-1965 Civil War centennial commemorations. These battles and events found a receptive audience, but public interest in reenactments faded by the late 1960's. Living history reenacting grew in the 1980's and 1990's, due to the popularity of the 125th Anniversary Battles series (1986-1990) and the 130th Anniversary Battles series (1991-1995). Recently many historic battles and events were re-created during the 140th Anniversary Battles series (2001-2005). Currently, the (2006-2010) 145th battles Anniversary series is set to include more realistic reenactments of major battles such as Antietam and Gettysburg. The re-enactments can often take on a religious sense of a sacrament or memory.
American Civil War reenactments have drawn a fairly sizable following of enthusiastic participants, aged often between 8 and 64, willing to brave the elements and expend money and resources in their efforts to duplicate the events down to the smallest recorded detail. Participants may even attend classes put on by event sponsors where they learn how to dress, cook, eat, and even "die" just as real Civil War soldiers would have. Most reenactment have anywhere from 100-1,000 participants, portraying either Union or Confederate infantry, artillery, or cavalry forces. Some people, though uncommon can portray Engineers or Marines and some even choose to don the Veterans uniform, which is like the dress coat, but instead of dark blue with light blue trim, it is light blue with dark blue trim. To date the largest Civil War reenactment was the 135th Gettysburg (1998), which had over 41,000 reenactors and over 45,000 spectators attending. Many groups are planning on making the 150th anniversary of the battles and events the largest to date. There have also been rumours (as of yet unverified) of sponsorship by the US Federal and State governments of several of the more famous battles.
Reasons given for participating in such activities vary. Some participants are interested in getting a historical perspective on the turbulent times that gripped the nation, particularly if they can trace their ancestry back to those who fought in the war. Others participate merely for the escapism that such events offer. Some commentators have suggested that Southerners are drawn to these activities for political reasons, because they represent a rejection of the North. Often, however, this is a false stereotype. In fact, some are Northerners that may have been "sympathetic" to the Southerners, who are often outnumbered in events in the North. In some cases, if there are not enough Union soldiers present, Confederate soldiers are asked to change sides, or become galvanized yankees, for the day/event.
Some people are interested in reenacting other historical events, such as Revolutionary War, World War One, World War Two, and now even Viet Nam battles, but Civil War reenactment is by far the most popular activity in this area. However, when reenacting the American Civil War many users have an established inference that their modus operandi must be based on historical particulars such as period correct documentation and other things.
The Types of Reenactors
There are thought to be four types of Reenactors.
Some, called "Farbs," are reenactors who spend relatively little of their time or money maintaining authenticity with regard to uniforms, accessories, or even period behavior. The 'Good Enough' attitude is pervasive among farbs, although perhaps few casual observers would be able to point out flaws in their impressions. Blue jeans, tennis shoes, polyester (and other man-made fabrics), zippers, velcro, snoods and other modern things are prevalent. Some think the origin of the word is a truncated version of "Far be it from authentic." An alternative definition is "Far Be it for me to question his/her impression", or "Fast And Research-less Buyer"
Another group of reenactors is often called "Mainstream." These reenactors are somewhere between farb and authentic. They are more common than either farbs or authentics.
Another type of reenactor is the "Authentic/Progressive". They try to recreate life in the Civil War to the fullest, researching details of material goods and operations in a quest for accuracy. They are constantly trying to "progress" in their knowledge and other aspects of the mid-19th century.
On the opposite side from farbs, you have "stitch counters". A number of hard-cores crash-diet themselves in the lead-up to campaign season in order to look like authentic under-fed Southern soldiers, such as would have been part of Stonewall Jackson's foot cavalry. Many people have misconceptions about hardcore reenactors, which spawn from a published book about hardcore reenactors, Confederates in the Attic. Such things as urinating on buttons to "make them look old", even though an actual soldier from the American Civil War would have had relatively new things issued to them. Hard-cores are typified by their disregard for farbs, whose frequently corpulent appearance and inaccurate dress is a source of great irritation.
Types of Civil War reenactments
There are four main categories of Civil War reenactments.
Living histories are meant entirely for education of the public. Such events do not necessarily have a mock battle but instead are aimed at portraying the life, and more importantly the lifestyle, of the average Civil War soldier. This does include civilian reenacting, a growing trend. Occasionally, a spy trial is recreated,and a medic too. More common are weapons and cooking demonstrations, song and leisure activities, and lectures. These should not, however, be confused with Living history museums. These outlets for living history utilize museum professionals and trained interpreters in order to convey the most accurate information available to historians.
Public demonstrations are smaller mock battles put on by reenacting organizations and/or private parties primarily to show the public how people in the 1860s lived, and to show the public civil war battles. The battles are often only loosely based on actual battles.
Tactical battles are battles that are generally not open to the public. Tactical battles are fought like real battles with both sides coming up with strategies and tactics to beat their opponents. Since there is no script, the battle tends to follow the same course an original battle might.