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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Would you like to be a Civil War re-enactor?

Ladies' styles

Have you ever wondered why people get involved in Civil War re-enactments and other period events? After visiting with several folks at the recent Old Settlers Day in Waynesville, Missouri, I realize the reasons are as varied as the people.

Wayne Issleb as General Grant
Several ladies explained that they love making and wearing their costumes. For accessories, they like to shop at the encampment tents and pick up gloves and other sundry items. Since I don’t sew, I admired their skill in making dresses with such intricate designs.

“I am involved in this period of history because it’s such an important part of our nation’s unity,” Wayne Issleb, who portrays General Ulysses S Grant, said. “Families divided, states at war with each other; we cannot imagine this in modern times. The Civil War brought the nation together.”

A couple of other re-enactors also spoke of preserving history, both of the war and of the period.

President Lincoln (Lance Mack)
addresses attendees
When I asked if re-enactors choose special characters, Wayne answered, “I portray U. S. Grant because he is such an important part of the Civil War. People enjoy hearing from him and his point of view as Commanding General.”

Wayne does approximately 20 events a years. That’s a huge commitment.

“A re-enactor needs to study the Civil War, why it took place. They learn the life and the daily routine of a soldier of that time. They invest in period clothing and a uniform, and they join a local re-enactment group.

Sometimes they want to portray a relative who fought in the war, learn where he’s from, the battles he fought in, and even if he survived. It’s always interesting to portray an actual person.”

A couple of the re-enactors spoke of preserving history, both of the war and of the period. We watched one gentleman make and fly turkey-feather kites.
Union troops march into Waynesville

Some are simply fascinated with the North-South division that existed in Missouri before and during the war. Others love studying the strategies employed by both sides.

In any case, re-enactments present a visual and auditory experience of the scope of battle. The first time I saw a Pearl Harbor re-enactment at the Brownsville CAF Air Fiesta, the timing and the noise taught me something a history book never did. I was struck by the noise, how long it took the planes to circle and the color of the sky as bomb after bomb exploded.

Re-enactments take time and physical space. It’s one thing to drive a mile and think that troops marched the path. It’s completely another to watch – and listen to – them march that distance. Think, then, of the undeveloped land, lack of roads and modern conveniences, not to mention lack of food. It boggles my mind to read that troops march through states – or countries – and then engage in battles.
On the battlefield

If you and/or your children haven’t seen a re-enactment, it’s well worth your time. The Pulaski County Museum and Historical Society sponsored this year's event and next year is already in the planning stage. For current information, follow their Facebook page at

Many of the reenactors were from The 8th Missouri Militia Cavalry (check out their Facebook page for more information

The Kickapoo Trace Muzzleloaders also demonstrated frontier skills.


  1. I have attended some Civil War Reenactment's and it's beyond me how these people stay comfortable. I would agree with you, events like this are great for families.

  2. Fascinating. I have never attended a Civil War Reenactment before.