How to Volunteer in Historical Reenactments

Researching Historical Reenactments

On hot days, you might want to bring your own water, but consider putting it in a period canteen, lest you ruin the effect.
On hot days, you might want to bring your own water, but consider putting it in a period canteen, lest you ruin the effect.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If the idea of volunteering in historical reenactments is appealing to you, the first thing you should do is attend some of these events as a spectator. Check your local newspaper or search the Internet to find a reenactment near you. Reenactments are family events, so feel free to bring the kids, too. They'll have fun watching the excitement, and you'll get to teach them about history. In many war reenactments, there aren't roles for women on the battlefield, but some events have side attractions geared toward women, such as tea parties, craft activities and quilt shows.

As a spectator, you have a great opportunity to get a preview of what volunteering is like. In particular, take notice of the grisly conditions a reenactor has to deal with -- especially in battle reenactments. If the unit is dedicated to historical accuracy, the accommodations will be meager. For reenactments that span several days, this can be grueling. In addition to having to wear hot, uncomfortable clothing, participants can forget about sleeping in comfortable beds, eating decent food and taking hot showers. What's more, you could get hurt. John Miller, a veteran reenactor who specializes in the Civil War, warns prospective volunteers that the hobby can get dangerous [source: Miller]. The weapons that reenactors carry are real -- and loaded. It might be a good idea to spring for the unit's annual fee for insurance coverage in case of an injury.

Of course, you might decide that Civil War reenactments aren't your cup of tea, and you'd prefer to dabble in the Colonial era. Keep attending reenactments until you find a period that suits your specific interests and talents. Once you do, it's time to create your own historical persona. You'll also have to brush up on the language and customs specific to the era. And many battle reenactment societies require that you acquaint yourself thoroughly with the manual of arms. This manual includes such things as company tactics and firing details [source: Miller].

Historical reenactors are known for being sticklers for accuracy. This is especially important when it comes to clothing and weaponry, as we'll see on the next page.