CIVILIAN RE-ENACTING ROLES FOR MEN
There are any numbers of civilian roles for men. Almost any civilian job has a counterpart that can be found in a military camp. Remember that although one man in eight joined the Union army, the other seven remained civilian all through the war. Civilian living history is necessary for an accurate re-enactment.
Male civilian re-enactors can portray preachers, doctors, lawyers, sutlers, schoolteachers or headmasters, tourists, teamsters or workmen, artisans, spies, telegraph operators, linesmen, railroad engineers, undertakers, slave catchers, dancing instructors, gamblers, con men, politicians or local farmers with complaints about the soldiers stealing or insulting wives and daughters. Other roles may include fathers, brothers, or sons of soldiers who come to visit or bring new boots; someone who comes to camp to find a runaway son, younger brother, or apprentice, only to get enlisted or drafted; a politically appointed pompous inspector from the governor's office who comes to poke about in that state's regiments and annoy the officers; or an army contractor who comes for payment or to sell something shoddy (sometimes he barely escapes a lynching!).
Many men had specific styles of dress for the type of work they did, and it is amazing how much can be told by the cut of the clothes. With only a little research, the clothing worn by artisans can be re-created.
If you decide to play the part of a carpenter, surveyor, or photographer, be prepared to answer questions about the trade. Many visitors will know something about the skills needed and will ask questions galore. They will be disappointed if you don't know the answers.
An accepted part of military re-enactments is a visit from the provost marshal (military Police), which can be disconcerting to the civilian man and amusing to everyone else, especially if the civilian re-enactor is unfamiliar with Civil War-period re-enactment and the authority of the provost marshal.
Extracts from "Reliving the Civil War" by Lee Haddon. Published by Stackpole Books, 5067 Ritter Road, Mechanicsburg P.A. 17055
Supplied by Pvt. T J Finn, 24th Michigan
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, April 1998