Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Gettysburg, Hobbyists Face off against the Purists

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

In Gettysburg, Hobbyists Face off against the Purists

Article excerpt

At least 10,000 U.S. Civil War re-enactors gathered from the Fourth of July through Sunday to mark 150 years since Union troops won the decisive battle that turned the war in the North's favor.

Like thousands of other re-enactors, Eric Mueller honors the sacrifices of soldiers in the Civil War by going to great lengths to live as they did -- sleeping beneath a canvas sheet suspended on wooden posts, eating hardtack and salt pork, carrying 60 rounds of ammunition in a cartridge box and a backpack, and marching long distances in a heavy woolen tunic.

But in the interests of safety and perhaps a little comfort, Mr. Mueller, 40, allows modest divergences from the 19th-century soldier's life.

Last week, for example, Mr. Mueller packed in his knapsack two sweet potatoes and two small onions, foods that he conceded may not have been in season in southern Pennsylvania in the summer of 1863, and so would not have been available to Civil War troops even if they had tried to forage them from nearby farms.

Still, he subjected himself to discomforts like not washing for a week and squeezing into a too-short tent that he shared with another re-enactor. Mr. Mueller, a civil servant from Hawaii, said he stayed "reasonably dry" during four nights of camping out on Cemetery Ridge in the heart of the Gettysburg battlefield.

Minute attention to detail is a source of pride, and sometimes controversy, among Civil War re-enactors, at least 10,000 of whom gathered in Gettysburg from the Fourth of July through Sunday to mark 150 years since Union troops won the decisive battle that turned the war in the North's favor.

Some re-enactors -- known as "hard cores" or "campaigners" -- eschew any trace of modernity in their quest for authenticity. Others -- known as "mainstreamers" -- participate in re-enactments as a hobby and sometimes feel shunned for a lack of historical precision. …

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