Monday, September 18, 2006

Watch Out Boys, She's Got a Gun!

Much to the amusement (& amazement) of my friends, family, & people I meet, I eventually reveal to them that I am a Civil War reenactor. Though the subject usually doesn’t come up in the first teet ta tee, eventually people who get to know me well will wonder why there’s a reproduction 1858 Enfield Musket leaning up against my entertainment console, & a scratchy, flea-bitten, wool suit hanging in my closet.

A Civil War Reenactor indeed! Why would any self-respecting, liberal, New England gal get involved in messy, bloody, mock battles, with GUNS even!

First & foremost reenacting nearly helps me fulfill my childhood dream of ' going back in time.’ Of course we reenactors do not actually step back in time, but at some events it feels as darn real as it possibly can be. The hungry, historical imagination (if you have one) is quite satisfied in getting a picture of what it was like to live in the 1800's.

Secondly, I have always had an interest in history, and have read over the years a few good books about the Civil War. Once I discovered that many women (about 600) fought in the Civil War, many disguised as soldiers, I wanted to step forward & portray such a woman. Not to overlook the fact that thousands of men from all walks of life died in this horrible war, but to just help in revealing to the public the largely untold female side of the story.

Thirdly as a reenactor I have learned a great deal about history in the past 5 years. Not the dry, textbook history about names, dates, & battles, but the history of real people that lived at the time. My great-grandfather, great-grandmother, and your great-grandfather & great grandmother lived at this time. (Or perhaps great-great) Even if in a foreign country in 1863, the events of the Civil War trickled down to affect the lives of every American living now.

The latest event I attended was this past weekend at the Oak Grove farm in Millis, Massachusetts. I am a private in the 22nd Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. (& proud of it!) Of course no actual Civil War battles occurred in Massachusetts, so it is a bit ridiculous to portray a battle or even a skirmish. But it speaks to the passion of the people involved. Though I have nothing else in common with many of the middle-aged, overweight, balding male veterans I battle with, they treat me with respect. (Mostly) Any gal willing to don a scratchy wool uniform in 90 degrees & carry a 25lb. gun all day is okay in their book. Huzzaah!

I suspect the REAL Civil War soldiers of 1863 thought much in the same way about their REAL female counterparts.

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