Lincoln’s Death, New Nation: April 1865 to 1877

Modern-Day Reenactments

When did the reenacting movement begin?

The desire to enact scenes from the Civil War has been with us almost from the day the war ended. Countless returning veterans were asked by family and friends to perform skits, to demonstrate what it was really like to serve in the trenches. To the best of our knowledge, the majority of returning men, even if they had witnessed horrific scenes, tended to oblige their family and friends. Then came the Grand Army of the Republic (known as the GAR; Union vets).

During the 1880s and 1890s, hundreds of thousands of surviving veterans enlisted in the Grand Army of the Republic. They put on parades, large and small, around the nation, enacting scenes from the past. Many, if not most, of these men believed that their task was complete, and that the nation would never be troubled by so large an event in the future (they could not envision the new equipment and casualty lists of the First World War, for example). There may have been some surviving veterans who scorned the whole thing as a waste of time, but for many persons, it was reenacting the highlight of their lives.


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