Why Reenact or Interpret Living History?


by Allen Mordica, TMLHA

There are probably as many reasons to reenact as there are reenactors. Living history is a rewarding hobby for amateur and professional historians who seek more insight into the lives of men who fought than one they could gain from books, lectures, and round tables. One soldier explained it this way:
"You can appreciate music from centuries past by reading the sheet music, but it is hard to get the feeling that the composer was expressing from that. Then you could listen to a record or a CD of the music and can gain an added dimension that way. Attending a live performance with period instruments is even more immersive to the listener, but the closest you could get to actually "being there" and experiencing the feel of it would be to perform in an orchestra with authentic antique designed instruments."
So, reenacting can allow one to experience first-hand what it was like to handle lines on deck of a launch, work a gun underway aboard an ironclad replica, muscle a boat howitzer ashore, shoulder a musket and drill in the period manual of arms, and in so doing, make the learning experience more immediate.
The hobby also allows us to present to the public a more enlightened and informed impression of the life of a sailor aboard a ship or boat squadron during the war. During our big event, the annual School of the Sailor, some of the old sailors arts and sciences, such as marlinespike seamanship, boat handling, sailmaker's skills, and shipboard customs and terms, are taught to sailors and marines (and soldiers!) new to the hobby. We also hold presentations at local historical sites, intended to better inform and educate the public.
Most living historians do NOT glorify or belittle the tragedy of the War (at least, this writer has yet to meet one who does), but they attempt, through study and discussion with other like-minded folks, to gain a better understanding of life in the period, sailor's arts and skills otherwise lost to the future and understanding of the sacrifices made on the battlefield and at sea.
As historians we can not really comprehend the feelings and emotions of our ancestors, but we can at least gain an impression of what they experienced by recreating some of their activities.
Of couse, one can not discount the growing of a fellowship of like-minded folks in a common field of interest. Good friendships are created and sustained in our unit, and with other groups, through our activities. Last, but certainly not least, much of what we do, from boating to camping, marching in a parade to seeing the look on a spectator when they learn something new, is plain old fashioned fun.

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