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Reenacting FAQ

What is Civil War Reenacting?
   Reenacting is an attempt by modern people to "walk a mile" in the shoes of our ancestors. By adopting the clothing, equipment, and sometimes even the speech and ideas of a now-vanished world, Reenactors are trying to explore the personal meaning behind our public history.
How is reenacting done?
   Reenactors are involved in many different kinds of activities:
"REENACTMENTS" typically involve the re-creation of a specific historic battle. Most reenactments take place during the course of an entire weekend, and may include a number of other activities besides the main battle scenarios, such as memorial ceremonies, parades, dances, dinners, entertainment, and so on.
"LIVING HISTORIES" are mostly weekend long events, involving setting up typical scenes and activities of the period for the benefit of non-reenacting visitors. Living histories usually don't include active battle reenactments, but often take place at actual historical sites. Many of the secondary activities listed above also occur at living history weekends.

Memorial ceremonies, parades, period dances, and other events are also held as special events in their own right. In addition, reenactors give personal presentations for schools and civic groups.
Why Reenact?
   For spectators, reenacting brings the past back to life in a vivid way. Reenacting has the ability to dramatically remind viewers that real people were once involved in great historical events that are often recalled today only in old books, fading signs, and dusty museum exhibits. Reenacting can wake people up to the reality and significance of their own past, and such improved public awareness often translates into increased support for important historical preservation efforts going on today.
   For Reenactors, reenacting satisfies a deep personal curiosity about the past. The interest that a Reenactor has in history can be related to the traditional academic world of documents and artifacts, but is not identical. While reading an account of a Civil War Campaign, for instance, a Reenactor will know what if feels like to march for many dusty or muddy miles on hard leather soles; He will know how (and why!) a soldier welcomes his campfire and coffee at the end of the day, and he will know the incredible noise and confusion of a black powder skirmish. This intimate revelation often "brings home" the documentary record in a striking fashion, and the direct experience is one highly valued by Reenactors.
What things do I need to get?
   The exact things that you'll need for reenacting depends on the role that you intend to portray. Military Reenactors, for example, will require an appropriate uniform, weapon, and other equipment, while Civilian Reenactors may only need a period suit of clothes. You should talk to the appropriate unit representative about the details. (And PLEASE: BEFORE your start buying reenacting gear!)
   We know that many willing recruits can't afford to get everything they need right away. For this reason, most WVRA units have a small amount of loaner gear that they can provide to beginners for a little while until they can get themselves fully equipped.
What does it cost?
   Membership in the WVRA costs $15.00 per year, and there is a discount for families. Membership includes the right to vote on all group decisions at our regular monthly meetings, as well as a subscription to the "Trans-Allegheny Dispatch", the monthly newsletter of the WVRA. The Dispatch contains valuable information on area reenactments and other items of interest to Reenactors.
What do I need to know to start?
   NOTHING! A sincere interest in history is helpful, but the WVRA can teach you everything you need to know for your basic Civil War "impression" in a short time. The WVRA even runs a special "School of the Soldier" each spring just to teach newcomers what they need to know, and most people find that this one weekend is all they need to get them off to a good start in reenacting.
What is "Authenticity"?
   Authenticity is the word Reenactors use to indicate how close our appearance comes to the historical models that we're trying to portray. National standards of authenticity have increased dramatically in recent years, and the WVRA takes pride in maintaining good authenticity in its units. For this reason, WVRA members avoid serious anachronisms like leather kepis, plastic eyeglasses, sunglasses, sneakers, work boots, T-Shirts, and other modern items while reenacting.
How are the military "ranks" determined?
   All "ranks" in the WVRA are elected. To avoid having "all chiefs and no Indians", the grade and number of ranks is determined by the number of private soldiers in each unit. WVRA members seeking rank are expected to have a sound knowledge of drill and history, and to have some experience as private soldiers.

Some of Our Favorite Questions…

Are those clothes hot..?
Do you sleep in those tents?
   It's not required, but most of us do.
Are those real guns?
   The rifles we use are precise, working replica's. They are made of real steel and will shoot "minnie balls". (We use blanks, though)

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