Here we have a list of questions we are frequently asked by spectators or folks interested in joining up. If your question isn't listed drop us a line on the message board or e-mail us.
Why do y'all do this?
Reenactors and living historians are involved in this hobby for a variety of reasons. Some were Civil War buffs that naturally gravitated to reenacting the battles they had studied. Some became interested after finding a soldier "in the woodpile" during their genealogical research. Some were interested in Civil War period weaponry. Many are simply honoring the soldiers that fought by keeping their memories alive and before the public. Its hard to come up with a single overriding reason why someone takes up this hobby. Whatever the reason they started, they stay for one reason, it's a lot of fun. Every once in a while you can experience a moment when you are transported back in time. It might be when the Yankee you aimed at actually "takes a hit", it might be around the campfire at night, it might be when you are challenged by a picket coming back into camp late, or it might be when you look across the field and see 5,000 men lined up against you. Those moments are what makes it all worthwhile. Sometimes you run across someone who just "can't understand why someone would want to do that", that's because they don't try to understand. Every once in awhile you run across someone who thinks you are crazy. They might be right.
Are you part of the Sons of Confederate
No. The SCV is a fine organization that performs a variety of functions such as conducting memorial services for Confederate veterans, cleaning up and maintaining Confederate cemeteries, performing educational programs and displays about Southern history and the Confederate soldier. Some of our members are indeed SCV members. Reenactors often provide honor guards and escorts for SCV and UDC events, our interests often overlap, but we are not affiliated with one another.
Aren't you hot in all that wool?
Yes. Except in the winter, then we are just warm.
Do you use real bullets?
Do you march a lot?
That depends on the soldier and the event. Some events are campaign style events where you may march many miles with fighting along the way. Some events you may form up right next to the battlefield. Of course we do have parades that involve a bit of marching. If someone can't make a march they may stay in camp or make arrangements to get to the actual fight.
What happens if not enough people
show up for your unit?
Its generally no problem to fall in with another undersize unit to form a full strength unit.
Isn't it racist to go parading
around with a Confederate flag?
No. The War Between the States is part of American history. Confederate soldiers were American soldiers, they have long been noted for their incredible feats against overwhelming odds. Their courage and honor are rightfully part of the heritage of our united country. Reenacting units on both sides are attempting to memorialize that heritage and educate the public, they have no political agenda. Several Confederate reenactor units have black Confederates who accurately portray the role of African-Americans in the Confederate army, it's about accurately portraying a historical period, not making any political statement. It is true that the symbols of these soldiers have been misappropriated, misused, and abused in the hands of unsavory groups but that is not the true heritage of the symbols. In general Confederate reenactors are immune to "political correctness" on this account because we know what we are about.
Isn't it a dangerous hobby?
I am much more comfortable in a Confederate line of battle than I would be jumping out of an airplane, hang-gliding, bungee jumping, or climbing up a big rock without a rope. Safety is the number one priority of all reenactors. When we are in line of battle our officers and NCO's aren't concentrating on the Yankees, they are focused on our actions and monitor their men at all time to make sure that all safety procedures are being followed. Immediately before any reenactment each company undergoes a safety check where all weapons are inspected.
How do you know when to "die"?
Each soldier generally decides when to "take a hit". If you get overheated, you "take a hit". If you run out of cartridges, you "take a hit". If you want to lay down, you "take a hit". At some events a pre-determined number of casualties is determined beforehand and the timing of your "hit" is determined by some random means. It's best to make sure that you don't "die" in a mudhole or on a fire ant hill. When you do take a hit a "chaplain" will come over at some point and check your "body" to make sure it doesn't have a problem.
What is a typical event like?
Generally we arrive on Friday afternoon, some earlier, some later. We set up our camp in the assigned position. Go fill up the canteens and get our straw ration. We might take a run up to the sutler camp and check out whats for sale. The civilians get set up in their camp or hotels. After that we might cook up some supper and sit around the campfire. We often camp next to the 7th Arkansas who has the best damn musician in the Confederate army. We then partake in a lot of comraderie, talk, jokes, and general revelry. Saturday morning they sound reveille about sunup and everyone falls in for a safety inspection and maybe a little drill to get ready. There may or may not be a tactical battle that is for the reenactors and not the public or a full scale battalion drill out in the field practicing large scale maneuvers. After that its time for lunch, food is provided at some reenactments, some cook up their own grub, and some folks will sneak off to McDonalds. The public reenactment will usually start around 1:00 in the afternoon, usually starting off with artillery and then cavalry in most scenarios and continue until one side or the other is beat. After this its back to camp for a good hot supper if the civilians oblige us. Everyone is pretty beat at this point. Another night of revelry (or rebelry) around the campfire is forthcoming but everyone usually hits (the literal) hay a bit earlier. Another trip to the sutlers is usually on the schedule. Sunday's schedule is usually very similar, reveille, breakfast from the civilians, inspection, and possibly an improptu tactical in the morning and a battle in the afternoon. The Sunday battle is often won by the loser of the Saturday battle so everyone goes away happy. After that the camps are quickly broken down and everyone heads for home. Sort of like deer camp plus with a few thousand fellow campers.
What is a "hardcore" unit?
A "hardcore" unit is a unit that takes extreme pains to make their portrayal as accurate as possible. There are varying degrees of authenticity in different units. Some units wear only hand-sewn uniforms, eat only the limited food that a soldier would have, and remain in their role throughout an event. Reenacting with a hardcore unit isn't easy, many of them have very exacting standards for authenticity, many of the most hardcore strive to accurately portray the privations that soldiers during the War Between the States faced. They are much admired in the reenacting community and maintaining a high level of authenticity has its own rewards and honor.
What does "farby" mean?
Something that is "farby" is not authentic. If you wore a wristwatch with your uniform it would be "farb" because pocket watches were standard for the Civil War period. Likewise, if you have a television in your tent you are most definitely "farby". The term is believed to have come from more experienced reenactors saying to other, less hardcore, reenactors the phrase "FAR BE it for me to criticize, but...". The worst example of "farbyism" seen so far has been the electric generator and Christmas lights on tents at Prairie Grove.
Is the 1st Arkansas a "hardcore"
Not at this time. The 1st Arkansas is a relatively new, family-oriented unit. We do want our portrayals to be as accurate as possible and strive to keep improving as much as our finances and time allow. We try to keep our "farbs" down to a low level. Some of our experienced members look "mighty fine" while some of us "fresh fish" have to slowly improve as our finances allow. It's doubtful that very many of our members will want to sleep uncovered in the snow though. While at some important and hallowed events everyone wants their portrayal to be as accurate as possible, the standards for a simple company drill would be much lower. In any event, its nothing to be nervous about, the old hands are glad to help the greenhorn.
Is it an expensive hobby?
Well, it's not as expensive as a bass boat and gear. It's not as expensive as getting your pilot's license. You won't have to take a bunch of classes like SCUBA diving. A uniform and rifle are less than a good set of golf clubs for sure. Reenacting can be somewhat expensive if you decide to buy a piece of artillery or join a cavalry unit. But for the infantry you need a uniform, some shoes, cartridge box and belt, a weapon, and your feet. Once you get this equipment your ongoing costs is a can of black powder every once in a while. Thats all you really need. Now you can, if you so desire, get yourself a tent, lanterns, cooking utensils, cots, and other assorted junk. But to get started you just need those few basics and that is considerably less expensive that start up costs for most other hobbies.
How hard is it?
The formations, maneuvers, and individual commands are, like anything, a little confusing at first. No big deal, thats what Sergeants are for. The Sergeants prod you into the right place in line, turn you the right direction, and give you hints and tips along the way as well as making sure you are drinking your water at the appropriate times. It doesn't take long to pick it up, and until that time you are comforted by the fact that you are accurately portraying a brand new draftee.
Where do you get your stuff?
You can purchase it mail-order from a variety of sutlers. Many of the sutlers have an internet presence and you can order on-line. If you go to one of the large reenactments you will usually find a variety of sutlers selling their wares in camp.
What if I tried it and didn't
The best way to start out is to come on out, borrow some uniform pieces and a weapon, and give it a try. If you don't like it you are out nothing. If you do like it, then you can get one of the grizzled veterans to assist you in getting your basic set up.
How much time does it take up?
That varies. All of our members have families, jobs, school, church, and other duties outside of reenacting just like anyone else. Sometimes we have a month where we have something going on every weekend, some months we have no scheduled events. Generally we do a few weekend long reenactments each year, several Company drills, perhaps a candlelight tour, a couple of parades, a Christmas party, a business meeting, and several memorial services. Major reenactments usually are 2-3 days long over a weekend, the other events usually take a few hours here and there. Our unit may also schedule an overnight camp every once in awhile out at Camp Sulphur Springs just to get a little "campfire time".
What if I can't make it to many
Thats fine, attendance isn't required. We always want as many soldiers we can get at each event so we can field as our own unit. But sometimes the modern world won't take no for an answer. Whether its the boss, the beeper, a sick family member, or National Guard drills there isn't any hassle about that sort of thing. Our brigade usually has one event each year that they classify as a "maximum effort" event. Everyone is encouraged to strive for attendance at that single event even though it is not mandatory.
How do you get to an event?
Its generally up to each soldier to get to the event. Some folks team up for a long drive. Generally our events are not that far away. We have done Prairie Grove, Parkers Homestead (Poinsett Co.), Vicksburg, Ditch Bayou (Lake Chicot), Boggs Mill (up near Russellville), Hardy, Old Washington, Little Rock, that sort of thing. Some of our members went to Gettysburg and they fell in with another unit and rented a van. There has been some talk of renting a bus for Chickamauga this year. If it's a long drive things are usually worked out.
Do you have to register for events?
Usually the unit pre-registers at a big event and you just sign in with the authorities when you get there.
How are families involved in
Nearly every reenactment has an established civilian camp on site. The civilians dress in period civilian clothing and portray civilian activities that might be seen during the war. There are preachers, politicians, wives, refugees, etc. They enjoy their own "campfire time" as well. The civilians are normally allowed in the military camps between sunup and sundown. They often cook period food for the soldiers and play an important supporting role. Wive's and children are welcome in the 1st Arkansas and can play an important role. Usually hotels, restaraunts, and shopping areas are nearby and family members who don't wish to participate in the civilian camp can enjoy a "mini-vacation" while we shoot yankees.
What is meant by the term "galvanize"?
Generally there are more people who want to portray Confederates than Yankees. Unfortunately this is not an accurate portrayal of the War Between the States since the Yankees considerably outnumbered the Confederates during the war. To solve this problem some Confederate units are required to "galvanize" for one day of an event on a rotating basis. In other words, they have to put on the blue. Of course most Confederate reenactors would rather avoid doing this. But its important for Confederate reenactors to faithfully show the public the true odds that the Confederate soldier faced and that means making sure that there are a respectable number of yanks.
Do I have to be from Arkansas
or the South to join the 1st Arkansas?
Nope, anyone is willing to accurately portray an Arkansas Confederate soldier is welcome to come have some fun. Now if you are from New Jersey you might anticipate that you would hear a few comments about "damnyankees" but I wouldn't take it personal.
What is the oddest question reenactors
are sometimes asked?
That would be...."Is that a real fire?"
What's the most dangerous question
to ask a reenactor?
That would be "Where is the bathroom?" A real hardcore reenactor will pretend not to know what you are talking about. The best way is to ask "Which way to the sinks?"
Copyright 1999, 1st Arkansas Infantry,
Co. D, All Rights Reserved.