When to Die

Inside the World of Civil War Reenacting

When To Die is a film that examines the legacy of the United States Civil War through reenactors.


Civil War Reenacting in Pop Culture

This list will be actively updated as a resource for reenactment portrayed in popular culture. This is not an exhaustive list of every place that Civil War reenactment has been portrayed, but we will update the content any time that reenacting is featured in a movie, television show, book, article or other media. Please feel free to write in the comments any that we've missed and we'll be sure to update the listing. 

Some content portrays reenactors in a positive light, some in a negative and some portrayals are completely off the wall. All of these examples below have been distributed for public consumption and have helped to form some of the opinions regarding Civil War reenactment. 

Some of the content below may be offensive to some viewers. Please make sure to screen the videos before sharing.


Movies and Television

2016 - When to Die - Old Glory Productions

When to Die is a documentary film that seeks to understand  how the Civil War still resonates with the American public 150 years after the end of the U.S. Civil War. The film is set for release Fall 2016. To follow When to Die on Facebook or Twitter, follow the links here: 

2002 - Sweet Home Alabama - Touchstone Pictures

Starring Reese Witherspoon, Sweet Home Alabama is a romantic comedy that features a prominent role of Civil War reenacting. Watch the trailer below for the comedic scene portraying reenactors. 

 2013-Conan O'Brien- Conan Becomes a Civil War Reenactor

Conan O'Brien brings his late night comedy routine out to the battlefield. Check out this sketch of Conan trying his hand at reenacting. 


2009-CONAN O'BRIEN- CONAN Plays old fashioned baseball

Although not directly about civil war reenacting, Conan's sketch of him playing 1864 baseball is worth the time to watch the video.


2012 - Key and Peele - Key and Peele Episode 2.1

Key and Peele are a sketch comedy duo and one of Comedy Central's most recent rising stars. They are known for a type of comedy that is meant to poke fun at stereotypes that are generally taboo in popular culture. For more examples of their comedy, follow this link to their Comedy Central page:   http://www.cc.com/video-clips/6cv74p/key-and-peele-confederate-reenactors


2016 - Vice - Vice Does America

Vice is relatively new on the scene. Their journalistic style is geared toward the Millennial generation. They connect with a diverse audience and is seen as one of the standouts in a crowded field of emerging new media. They dedicate a large portion of one of their episodes of a popular show, Vice Does America, to Civil War reenacting.

Follow this link for access to the full episode: http://www.vice.com/read/clashing-with-confederate-loving-civil-war-reenactors

Video courtesy of Vice

 Source: http://www.vice.com/read/tonight-on-viceland-vice-does-america-civil-war-reenactment

2014 - House of Cards - Season 2 Episode 5

Below is the teaser for Season 2 of the Netflix original series, House of Cards. This series is a highly critically acclaimed political drama. Civil War reenacting is prominently displayed in Season 2 Episode 5. You can catch glimpses of the reenactment scene is this trailer. This is a great series and may just be worth a Netflix subscription.


Confederates in the Attic

By Tony Horwitz

The most widely read account of Civil War reenactment, Confederates in the Attic is highly controversial within Civil War reenacting. For all of the controversy surrounding this piece, the author, a Pulitzer Prize winner, has been the recipient of wide ranging critical success. The book has achieved great commercial success and is a New York Times best selling book.

Image of the front cover of Confederates in the Attic

Image of the front cover of Confederates in the Attic

The Civil War still rages across the South in ways both quirky and compelling. “Hardcore” reenactors crash-diet to resemble starved Confederates and spoon in ditches to stave off frostbite. A Scarlett O’Hara impersonator lifts her skirts for Japanes toursists. And Sons, Daughters, and Children of the Confederacy gather to sing “Dixie” and salute the rebel flag.

Pulitzer Prize- winner Tony Horwitztakes us on a ten-state adventure, from Gettysburg to Vicksburg, from Charleston graveyards to Tennessee taverns. Probing both the history of the Civil War and its potent echo in the present, Horwitz crafts an eloquent, fast-paced, and penetrating travelogue that shows us how the Lost Cause still resonates in the memory and rituals of the South.
— Confederates in the Attic

War Games: Inside the World of Twentieth Century War Reenactors

 by Jenny Thompson

Click on the image for more information on this book.

Click on the image for more information on this book.

D-Day with beach umbrellas in the distance? Troops ordering ice cream? American and German forces celebrating Christmas together in the barracks? This could only be the curious world of 20th-century war reenactors. A relatively recent and rapidly expanding phenomenon, reenactments in the United States of World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War now draw more than 8,000 participants a year. Mostly men, these reenactors celebrate, remember, and re-create the tiniest details of the Battle of the Bulge in the Maryland Woods, D-Day on a beach in Virginia, and WWI trench warfare in Pennsylvania.

Jenny Thompson draws on seven years of fieldwork, personal interviews, and surveys to look into this growing subculture. She looks at how the reenactors’ near obsession with owning “authentic” military clothing, guns, paraphernalia, and vehicles often explodes into heated debates. War Games sheds light on the ways people actually make use of history in their daily lives and looks intensely into the meaning of war itself and how wars have become the heart of American history. The author’s photographs provide incredible evidence of how “real” these battles can become.
— War Games - Inside the World of 20th Century War Reenactors


Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor's Handbook

By: Robert Lee Hadden

Front cover image. Click on the image for more information.

Front cover image. Click on the image for more information.

As Civil War reenacting continues to grow, beginners and enthusiasts need an up-to-date source and guidebook that will keep pace with advances and changes in the hobby. This second edition of the highly successful Reliving the Civil War improves on the firstwith new information on civilian reenacting (especially concerning women and children), a revised bibliography, and updated addresses of sutlers, organizations, and magazines. Also included are expanded discussions regarding virtual regiments, hard-core authenticity, and women in the ranks.
— Reliving the Civil War

Digital/Print Articles

Click on the title of the article in order to view the full text.


The Historical Reenactor Accuracy War

04/13/2016 - Atlas Obscura

When you load up the car for a camping weekend set in the 1800s, the gear is a little different: Canvas tent. Wool bedroll. Hobnail boots instead of hiking sandals. Homemade food wrapped in wax paper. An ice cooler disguised as a wooden chest. Muslin underwear. Silk suspenders.
— http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/the-historical-reenactor-accuracy-wars

The Birth of Civil War Reenacting  

1/08/2015 - The New York Times

On the morning of Feb. 22, 1864 in Hillsborough, Ohio, a crowd gathered for a celebration of Washington’s Birthday. “The usual monotony of our peaceful and quiet town was agreeably broken,” wrote the local newspaper, the Highland Weekly News, when three cavalry companies forming the 24th Battalion of the Ohio Volunteer Cavalry, armed and equipped with sabres and carbines, paraded in front of the public square. No one but the officers knew what would happen. In short time, “the 4-pounder known as ‘Old Red’ was brought out, and a gun-squad formed of a number of veteran volunteers.” Then the cavalry galloped off to the outskirts of town, the artillery took position and the infantry began building breastworks.
— http://nyti.ms/1yHib0T
The void was filled by ordinary men who held reenactments off-site, sometimes on fields adjacent to hallowed ground. They marched in work shirts, gray-colored jeans and cowboy boots. Cartridge boxes were constructed out of cardboard. Instead of a musket, some brought muzzle loading shotguns.

”People realized that wasn’t a good representation [of a soldier],” says Robert Lee Hadden, 62, the author of Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor’s Handbook.

A few groups, he says, began obsessing over details as early as the late 1960s, some of whose members turned up with original Civil War accoutrements. But the push towards more period-authentic dress came about a decade later, and has intensified since then. As the hobby evolved, so too did a marketplace for proper-looking gear.
— http://theweek.com/articles/448515/rise-fall-civil-war-reenactors
SOME OF OUR favorite photographers are ones that bring a fresh eye to a stale topic, which is what Anderson Scott has done with Civil War re-enactors — a favorite subject among photographers. In his recent photo book Whistling Dixie, Scott delves into the American South with a dirty aesthetic and an eye for the strange.
— http://www.wired.com/2013/05/civil-war/
The sesquicentennial should be an enormous opportunity to educate the American public about the war, its causes and its consequences. The Civil War still captures the American imagination, and there is probably no more popular event in American history than the Civil War. Civil War books outnumber works about other periods of our national history (despite the fact that the American Revolution was actually the single most important event in our country’s history), Civil War national parks outnumber other historical parks from a single time period, and Civil War reenactors and buffs by far outnumber other enthusiasts who immerse themselves in the details of, say, the French and Indian War or even World War II. Still, for all this interest, many Americans still possess little understanding of the Civil War and its outcome. The sesquicentennial might help to remedy this knowledge gap by raising public awareness of the war in all its many dimensions, revealing local aspects of the war to many who might not know that their communities were involved in fighting the war or supporting the war effort, and spreading a broad public understanding of what the war meant to the people who experienced it and to subsequent generations of Americans who live, even 150 years later, in its very long shadow.
— http://www.salon.com/2011/05/08/civil_war_sesquicentennial/
This past Saturday, a group of historians, history buffs and local residents in St. Louis organized a recreation of what is reputed to have been the “last slave sale” held on the Old State House steps in that city. Inevitably the reenactment drew a lot of media attention, and plenty of controversy.
— http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/do-civil-war-reenactments-help-or-hinder/69665/#article-comments

Civil War Reenactment

7/03/2010 - Time Magazine

For some participants, reenactment can be more than just an outlet for relief. “Educators today do not want to show weapons, do not want to show war,” said John Houck, a Maryland-based reenactor since 1991. “We’re out there teaching to the American people. In school you have two weeks to teach four years of war. My ancestors fought four years as Confederate soldiers and I applaud that. We lost the war and that’s fine. But let’s tell the real story. We’re all Americans.”
— http://content.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,2001375,00.html

Satirical First-Person Portrayals


The First Civil War Reenactment

By Colin Nissant

Friday, May 9, 1865

Men! I welcome you all to the town of Appomattox in the state of Virginia. We have gathered at this site for one sole purpose—to express our shared love of history and profound concern for its preservation. The final battle of the Civil War was waged here where we stand. On this hallowed ground, General Robert E. Lee surrendered his Confederate forces to the North, exactly one month ago, today.
— https://www.mcsweeneys.net/articles/the-first-civil-war-reenactment

Dispatches from Civil War Reenactments

Dispatch #1: Drill and Training Days, Norton, Massachusetts. 

By Ben Shattuck


A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

A selection of the satirical "dispatch". Click on the image for more.

1. As requested, the two sides will be divided into the following: North 1 and North 2.

2. When the initial guns are fired, signaling the commencement of the battle, the two sides will meet in the center of the field, shake hands, and discuss race relations and their ongoing role in our society.

3. Due to popular demand, each side gets to have three Abe Lincolns.
— http://www.funnyordie.com/articles/f6c501c82a/the-updated-rules-for-our-civil-war-reenactment