Tuesday, January 03, 2006

"Civil War Historian" - Is this history?

I looked at my mail today and in the pile of credit card offers was an invitation to subscribe to a new magazine called Civil War Historian . The title intrigued, especially the historian part. So I opened the envelope. Well my initial intrigue was short lived but I did decide to check out there web site. This magazine as their website describes “was founded to promote knowledge of Civil War-era life in America. Civil War Historian accomplishes its goal by producing a high-quality publication that supports those who reenact the lives of Americans who lived in this era. The nature of the publication is both informative and entertaining. Civil War Historian contains after-action reports of reenactments, reprints of period publications, and historical research articles, all of which are supported by exceptional color images and artistic page design. Civil War Historian's guiding principle and belief are the need to protect, preserve, and share accurate information about this momentous period in our history.”
As their mission statements indicates this magazine will cater to “those who reenact”. I do not want to knock reenactors. I have a lot of respect for them and was in fact one myself for a few years. What I do question is the choice of historian in the title. Any magazine that is going to contain after action reports of reenactments is not history as far as I am concerned.
Don’t get me wrong, most of the people who reenact are good people, who have a passion for the military/camp life aspects of the Civil War. Within reenacting people can find the level of authenticity that they are comfortable with. (i.e. counting the number of stitches on a button hole, to wearing modern day glasses on the battlefield) and that is what makes reenacting attractive to so many. Beyond the living history aspect of reenacting gives people a chance to sit around the camp with friends and many cases family and enjoy each other’s company. Some of my best memories were sitting around the campfire at night and just talking with guys in my unit. Most were avid ACW readers and could talk about the experience of CW soldiers, battles, weapons and uniforms. While I still treasure these memories I would be hard pressed to call what we talked about or our performance in the scripted battle scenarios the work of historians. It was fun and entraining and in some cases helped create awareness for a related CW cause like battlefield preservation, but was it really history? I don’t think it was but that is my opinion.For those who reenact this magazine looks like it will be useful but for those who want a larger perspective of the Civil War period in regards to its causes, the role of slavery, its impact on the nation, reconstruction and memory would be better served with other publications. However if I find one at my local newsstand I may pick up a copy.

3 Comments:

Anonymous Eric Wittenberg said...

I'm with you, Andy. My experience is that there are a lot reenactors who are serious about learning, but there are also a lot who are interested in partying and don't know a damned thing about the war.

With a few notable exceptions--usually in the category referred as "living historians" and not "reenactors:--I have little respect for what those folks do. Consequently, their magazine--albeit a handsome publication--is of no interest to me. My own humble opinion is that the name is inappropriate.

Eric

4:11 PM  
Blogger Andy said...

Eric, thanks for the comment. I had fun while reenacting and enjoyed the time I spent with my friends discussing the CW and other things. We had fun but never really considered it history. I think alot of reenactors have a had postive impact in supporting preservation efforts, but to refer to reenacting as serious history is just wrong.

Andy

10:05 AM  
Anonymous Brett Schulte said...

Andy,

I'm not a reenactor and I have no plans to become one in the future, near or otherwise, but I recently subscribed to the magazine. There are some interesting articles from time to time, but in the hierarchy of Civil War magazines, I'd place Civil War historian and Camp Chase Gazette a lot lower than N&S, B&G, Gettysburg, ACW, and CWTI.

Brett S.

10:26 AM  

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