Friday, July 31, 2009

Is That A Real Fire? And Other Questions Reenactors Get Asked

We that reenact the Civil War era get asked tons of questions. Most are intelligent and thought out, asking specific questions about our clothing, our 'occupations,' social history, etc.
Many, however, can be borderline ridiculous.
The following are actual questions that are repeatedly asked at reenactments - some serious and some silly, but all real. I have included answers given. Please understand that if an answer looks like we're being 'smart-aleck-y,' we're not. We're usually smiling when we respond in that manner.

Is that a real fire?
Yes, it's hot! Do not touch!

Are you going to eat the food you're cooking over the fire?
YES! We would not waste whatever we happen to be cooking. Our food is not a prop.

Is that a real baby?
Do I really need to answer that?

Would you really live in that era if you could?
All signs point to...yes!

Aren't you hot in all those clothes?
We wear wool and cotton just as our ancestors did, and they survived without air-conditioning or even an electric fan. Both fabrics breathe.
If it's 95 degrees - would you think we were hot? Are you hot in your shorts and t-shirt?
The sun burns your sweat off as it beats on your exposed skin while our body retains the natural coolent underneath our clothing. Plus, we drink lots of water.
Cancer free!
Oh, by the way, yes, we are hot.

Where do you get your "costumes" from?
What we wear are NOT costumes. Costumes are polyester-fake-high school play-velcro-closing pretend clothing bought at the local Hallowe'en costume shop, like the guy in the picture to the right.
What we
do wear are authentic replica period clothing that we hope is every bit as accurate as what our ancestors wore.
And, yes, they are expensive.

Look at the people in the funny clothes!
Ha! We say the same about you!

Do you get paid for doing this?
On rare occasions the units we belong to will get some money. For the most part, however, we do this out of a love - a passion - for the past.

Do you really sleep in the tents?
Yes, most of the time.

Did civilians really follow the army like this, living in tents and all?
For the most part, no they did not, although there were refugees mainly in the south as well as a few military families. There were also entrepreneurs who would sell their wares to the soldiers. Sometimes their 'wares' might not be exactly moral or legal...
As a civilian from Michigan I would have been safe and secure in my wood-framed home, just the same as most folks of the era.
But, since we cannot bring houses with us (or, except for rare instances, use real period homes), one has to use their imagination a bit and think of our tents as our wood frame home.

Is that a real gun?
They are authentic replicas and yes they can actually fire a real 58 caliber bullet. Except on rare 'pumpkin shooting' occasions, most reenactors never fire a missile out of their muskets.

Can I fire it? can I phrase this...NO!

How do you know when to die during a battle?
When you feel the time is right or when the Capt. tells you to.

(A few questions asked of my Rebel friends)
1.) Why do you portray a Rebel? My ancestor was in the Confederate army. I am honoring him. Besides, someone has to be a Confederate otherwise who would the Yankees fire at during the reenactments?
2.) Are you racist? No - there were more 'racists' in the north than in the south
3.) Do you believe in slavery? I believe in states rights

And, finally, as God is my witness, the following happened:
We did a living history presentation for the local Community college in the early spring of 2008. Afterwards, about 15 of us decided to eat at the Big Boy restaurant directly across the street. Of course, we were all still in our period clothing.
We walked into the restaurant and were promptly and politely greeted by the young hostess (I'm guessing she was around 18 years old) who asked why were we dressed the way we were. Me, being ever the smart-aleck, told her we were from the Victorian era.
Hostess: "Seriously?"
Me (playing along with what I thought was a joke): "Yes, we are Victorians. We were born in the 19th century."
Hostess: "Were you really?"
At this point, the president of our unit, who was listening to this conversation and realizing the young lady was in earnest, stepped in to add: "Yeah, we're from the Civil War!"
Hostess: "The Civil War? Really?"
President: "Yeah, you know, from the 1860's."
Me: We're from the past."
Hostess: "That's pretty awesome."

At this point she had gathered the menus and lead us to our tables.

Ahhh...the life of a reenactor...
If there was a way I could do it for a living, I would!


Chandra said...

I read somewhere that the guides at Gettysburg have been asked "How did the soilders fight around all these monuments?". Here's your sign...

Historical Ken said...

I heard that too - hilarious!

Miriam said...

Hahahaha!!! That's hilarious! "Look at the people in the funny costumes!" "we say the same about you!" LOL.

Stephanie Ann said...

This is hilarious! This reminded me of my experience with reenactors in restaurants...

Back in the day, I used to work at a Dairy Queen which was the only thing near a local reenactment site. The reenactors would come after the battle. The Dairy Queen was also close to a Native American Preserve which always hosts a "Pow-Wow" the same weekend.

All weekend we would have Native Americans and Yankees glaring at each other over their cheeseburgers like Custer's Last Stand. :D

(Now I have to admit that when reenactors ordered cheeseburgers, I would wrap up a piece of hardtack in a cheeseburger wrapper and serve it.-- The looks on their faces were priceless. ***So for all of you reenactors who attended that event--yes that was me. I've never admitted that before. :D)