QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT CIVIL WAR REENACTING
Reenacting with the 19th Alabama Infantry Regiment combines a love of history with theater, camping, exercise, firearms, and escape from the stresses of 20th century life. Ours is a non-political, sociable organization that prides itself on being professional but has a good time. Our reenactment unit was organized in 1982, and is recognized as one of the premier units in the Southeast. We are a non-profit corporation in the State of Alabama and enjoy tax-exempt status with the IRS. We publish an outstanding newsletter six times a year to ensure all our members have complete information about upcoming events and activities. No previous experience in the modern military is required for membership. Neither must you spend a great deal of money to "try it out."
All you need to start is the desire to learn, a willingness to help educate the public on this era in our Nation's history, and some free weekends. While we take great pride in being authentically uniformed and equipped, our members have enough extra gear that we can usually fully equip prospective recruits. This ability to "try before you buy" ensures that you won't invest a lot of money only to find out reenacting doesn't meet your needs. The following are answers to frequently asked questions by folks thinking about getting involved.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
Well, you've already taken the first step by asking about it! If you're not sure yet if you want to join and just want to try it out first, then talk to one of our NCOs or officers. We were all in your shoes at one time or another, so we understand what you're going through. We will review with you our upcoming schedule of events, and try to pick one that would be convenient for you to participate in.
WHAT DOES IT COST JUST TO "TRY IT OUT"?
Pretty much nothing. You'll bear the expenses of traveling to the event (unless you carpool with one of our current members), and any purchases you make during the weekend, of course. You won't have to buy any uniform or equipment items in advance if you'll just provide us with your approximate sizes for all clothing items. Normally, our meals are provided during the event through a company mess, so a few dollars for food should do you. We also have company tents, so you will have shelter available to you. We will provide you cartridges and percussion caps, so you can be in the battles, if you are a potential soldier member. You must be at least 14 years of age to be a soldier in the ranks. Children under the age of 16 must have a parent or legal guardian present at each event.
IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD BRING MYSELF?
For sleeping, you should bring a quilt and/or one or two wool blankets, depending on the weather. You may use a sleeping bag, air mattress or other modern bedding, but we will want to keep these out of sight during the day when the public is in and around the camp. Also, bring a knife, fork and spoon to eat with.
WHAT WILL I BE EXPECTED TO DO AT THE EVENT?
If a potential soldier member, you will be assigned to a section with a Corporal in charge. Your Corporal will be responsible for your well-being and safety. He, or one of the experienced Privates in the section, will instruct you in the School of the Soldier including the manual of arms that you will need to know. You will be expected to follow any reasonable instructions given you by the NCOs and officers in the unit. Your fellow reenactors in the ranks will also help and coach you, especially on the battlefield. You'll be treated as a member of the unit in all respects, which means you are expected to participate in any drills and help out with guard and camp duties as required. You will also have plenty of free time to relax, ask questions, and participate in any social activities at the event. Besides the soldier's impression, you can choose to portray a civilian such as a spy, journalist, photographer, preacher, undertaker, teamster, sutler, or other period civilian. If you are interested in Civil War medicine, surgeon, assistant surgeon, and hospital steward impressions are possible.
I'M A DIEHARD REBEL (OR YANKEE). WILL I HAVE TO WEAR THE UNIFORM OF THE OTHER SIDE?
Although our unit was founded as a Confederate infantry unit, we also portray Federal infantry as the 42d Indiana Volunteer Infantry. We seek to honor the soldiers of both sides who fought in that War, and most of us find that doing a Federal impression now and again adds another dimension to living history.
ARE THERE ROLES FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN LIVING HISTORY?
Absolutely. Women played a key part in supporting the troops in the field, but remember that we are portraying the 19th century so the roles of women were different than modern attitudes. Women and young ladies can portray refugees, nurses, laundresses, cooks, seamstresses, and if we are in a garrison camp, wives or sweethearts visiting their men folk in the army. It is just as important for us to portray civilian roles authentically as it is the military roles, so correct period dress will be equally important if your wife, girlfriend, or daughter wants to participate.
I'M INTERESTED IN A CIVILIAN IMPRESSION. WHERE DO I FIND THE APPROPRIATE CLOTHING?
When you join, you will be given a copy of our civilian guidelines, describing the period-correct dress and sources for making purchases. Be sure and ask the Civilian President or other members for assistance.
IS IT NECESSARY FOR A WOMAN TO GIVE UP MAKE-UP AND CHANGE HAIRSTYLE?
Make-up that is obvious is strongly discouraged and nailpolish, lipstick, eyeshadow and mascara are not used at all. The idea is to appear to be wearing no make-up at all. As to hair styles, our ladies try to look the part of ladies of the 1860s. Most of those ladies wore their hair pulled to the back of the head, with center part in front. We will be glad to suggest ways for you to achieve that period look, of, of course, you can always hide your hair under a stylish bonnet!
CAN I PARTICIPATE BEFORE I HAVE RESEARCHED AN IMPRESSION?
Yes! Many of our members continue to research and work on their impressions, often changing from one to another. Until you decide on the direction you want to go, there are several generic impressions you can do such as farmer, farmer's wife, or family member leaving home to visit other family or friends.
OK, I'M SOLD! HOW MUCH WILL IT COST ME ONCE I JOIN?
Our annual dues are $25 per year for the entire family plus a $5 one-time, new member fee. In addition, the dues are prorated, so if you join after the first of the year you only pay for the remaining months. As for clothing and equipment, it's hard to give one figure because of the variables involved. Used uniform items and equipment are sometimes available depending on your size and luck. Also, if you or someone else in your family is handy at sewing, you can purchase patterns and material for most of the clothing items and make them yourself. This is especially true for women's clothing. In addition, most of your out-of-pocket expenses, including uniform and equipment purchases, are tax-deductible as a charitable contribution for your services in public education and living history. Finally, we allow every member a year to become fully outfitted, which allows you to buy a little bit at a time. For a soldier, the single biggest expense is the rifle which runs about $400 new ($300 used). As an estimate, your average monthly expenses, if you had to buy everything new, would run between $50-$100, for the first year of membership, only. Thereafter, you would only incur expenses for consumables (e.g., powder, caps) and maintenance of your gear.
ARE THERE ANY OTHER COSTS OF MEMBERSHIP?
The only other "cost" is your time to participate. Ours is a very active unit, and we often have two or more activities on our schedule some months. Normally, there will only be one Maximum Effort event a month. These are events where we really are counting on all our members to arrange to be there, if at all possible. Other events are designated as Voluntary, and you are encouraged to make as many of these as you can. There are no minimum attendance requirements for continued membership. If you pay your dues, you are part of our "Band of brothers and sisters", and we all recognize that this is a volunteer activity and that family and work responsibilities come first. If you work almost every weekend, then this is probably not the activity for you, as most of our events are weekend encampments and living histories.
HOW DO I JOIN?
Give your name, address, and phone number to one of our current members or call Don Davis at (256) 539-8240 (Home) or email him at email@example.com. You can also contact us through our web site,http://www.19thalabama.org. You will be mailed a recruitment package which will include an application form and other information. Just fill out the application and mail it with your dues check to the address on the form. Shortly afterwards, you will receive a membership package. See you in the field! Return to 19th Ala General Info Page