I met my husband over a decade ago at a reenactment at Fort Ouiatenon at the annual Feast of the Hunters’ Moon. Now, a handful of weekends a year, we load up our SUV and trailer, drive to various forts and historic sites, and dress in funny clothes to represent life during the American Revolution.
Why On Earth?
You know, this isn’t the easiest hobby a girl could go for. The clothes need to be researched and made by hand (a lot of the obvious stitching ought to be hand-sewn, even). The gear includes very rustic implements like canvas wedge tents held up by wood poles, cooking gear made of cast iron, bowls and spoons made from wood, candles in lanterns, and wool cloaks for cold events.
It isn’t the cheapest hobby, either. The BHE is a member of the 42nd Royal Highlanders in 1776, which means he wears a red wool coat with lacing and metal buttons, a pretty intricate garment that cost us over $500. Just the coat. That he wears maybe 4 times a years. That gets tossed into a trunk, hauled around the Midwest, worn in all sorts of weather and around campfires, gunpowder, and beer.
Our friends do this. Our family does this. We as a family essentially go camping with over a hundred of our (crazy) friends over 3- and 4-day weekends throughout the summer and fall.
This is hard work requiring research and sleeping on the cold ground as well as marching with military precision and keep tiny tots away from things that are hot, pointing, or go BANG.
But we do it as a family with “family” and that makes all the difference.
Plus, Y’know, Education
We are educational non-profit living historians of life during the American Revolution.* I know members of our reenacting unit that are well-versed in British military lifestyle of the 1770s. I have a very near and dear friend who could answer any question you have about fabric, styles, shoes and hats, and the life of a woman in the American Colonies. There is a man in our group that has all the answers when it comes to cooking over a campfire with period-correct pots and utensils.
This is what we do.
Not to Mention All the Fun
What we also do is party. These are our good friends that live far and wide, and we really only see them on these handful of weekends. Personally, we have two coolers that go to each event: food and beer.
That’s right, folks: we drink. We hoot and holler. We bring out every instrument you can think of (and plenty you’ve never heard of) to have a good time all weekend long… especially after “gates close” and the spectators go home.
Woodsmoke and Laundry
It is a lot of work: years of collecting the gear – tents, clothing, uniforms, cookware, blankets, etc – so consider the work well worth it. It is a lifetime of enjoyment. It is a lifestyle of knowledge and fun. It isn’t for everyone.
But if you like the smell of woodsmoke, if you enjoy little sleep and lots of laughter, if you don’t mind packing to travel back in time, and if you can handle the crazy laundry when you get home, this is for you.
There are plenty of us who do this strange hobby. There are different time periods to choose from, even. Most everyone I know that reenacts came into it by being born into it or through a family member or friend who either was born into it or brought by a family member or friend. It isn’t the easiest “club” to recruit members into, so if you are interested, ask around.
Chances are you know somebody who can lend you some funny clothes and knows someone with an extra tent. Most likely, you show some interest in this, you’ll find yourself in buckle shoes and a canvas tent over Memorial Day weekend.
Start asking around.
You Know You Wanna
*Our unit belongs to a couple different umbrella organizations that represent slightly different time periods. Our main one is the North West Territory Alliance and information about them can be found here: NWTA. I’d like to point out that I know a lot of the pretty people featured in the photos on this website.