By Matthew Pizzolato
The first step to getting started with reenacting is pretty simple. Attend an event. Reenactments take place all over the country, pretty much year round. The majority of reenactments are during the fall and winter months, because wearing wool during the heat of the summer isn't exactly fun.
Once you are there, talk to a reenactor. All of us are pretty friendly and love talking about what we do. We are always looking for new recruits to swell the ranks. Anyone can be involved, young or old, male or female. It's something the whole family can do.
Most reenactments require participants to be registered before they can take part in an event. So if immersing yourself in the time period seems like something you'd enjoy, make plans to attend the next local event.
I can say from personal experience that the first article a new reenactor should acquire is a canteen. Regardless of the time of year, marching to and from a battlefield is thirsty work. Unless of course you choose to join the artillery, then you can ride everywhere you go.
The next thing would be clothing. Period correct clothing can be ordered online or purchased at the events from one of the sutlers. The next would be a tent. Tents come in all sorts of sizes, from the Shelter tents, to the A-Frames. Then there are Wall Tents and even the Hospital Tents, which are huge. It just depends on how much space you want or need. Most of us use the A-Frame, although the average soldier of the time didn't have anything as grand. When they had tents, it was the Shelter Tent that was little more than a piece of canvas strung across some branches to keep them out of the rain.
The most expensive thing to acquire would be the musket. There is a wide assortment of firearms that can be used depending on which branch you join. Most infantry use the replicas of the Springfield or Enfield muskets. The best way is to start small and gradually acquire your gear over a period of time.
If you are just looking to try out the experience, most reacting groups are willing to outfit newcomers completely their first time, so stop by an event, make some new friends, and then see the elephant!
Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print. He writes Western fiction featuring his antihero character, Wesley Quaid, that can be found in his story collection, The Wanted Man and the novella Outlaw.