Victory Against Hygiene Achieved At 150th Gettysburg Re-Enactment

Illustration for article titled Victory Against Hygiene Achieved At 150th Gettysburg Re-Enactment

One not-so-fun fact about the 150th reenactment of the Civil War battle at Gettysburg: The whole not being able to shower for three days thing. Perhaps this contributes to the long-held notion that reenacting was a boys' club — some women insist is still an issue, as many groups don't allow women to play soldiers or allow them as long as they can pass for male at 10 yards away.

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In fact, hundreds of women went incognito to serve in the military at the time. (Enthuses one woman allowed to play a soldier in one particular infantry: "We talk to people about how women were in charge of making sure no one got scurvy!" People have fun in all kinds of ways, don't they.)

The Evening Sun has penned a hard-hitting report about the hygienic grossness level in order to achieve authenticity as a re-enactor, and how awesome it feels to take a shower when they are back in 2013. Or, as they charmingly put it:

For more than eight years, the local YWCA has opened itsdoors to re-enactors seeking refuge from their own filth after marinating each day in a cocoon of wool baked beneath the July sun.

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Some gems:

"You sweat a lot and dry off," said Eric Stahl of Baltimore, Md. "I'm sure I'm pretty ripe. I try to get the experience as close as I can to real. There wasn't much of a need for those guys. It was all guys getting dirty and being guys."

"There's a certain level of funk I'll accept," [another reenactor] said. "When all of you people go home, I have a series of baby wipes and I'll give myself a wipe down."

"I put on cologne, too," said Alan Globokar. "Just in case... You never know," Globokar said, defending his decision to wear Chaps, a scent by Ralph Lauren. "I might meet somebody."

Incidentally, Robert E. Lee's final words to his remaining troops before they took the walk of shame back to Virginia were "I'm sure I'm pretty ripe."

'Women take the field at Gettysburg re-enactment' [Philly.com]
'Gettysburg 150th re-enactors deal with body odor' [Evening Sun]

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Image via Getty

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DISCUSSION

mothafuckinSNAKES
mothafuckinSNAKES

My boyfriends a really really intense reenactor, you name the war he does it - (WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Napoleonic, Medieval). He worked at a civil war era attraction for a while, but tends to not do civil war for fun 1. because that's where all the craziest people who reenact go (eg. refighting the war) and 2. because he's really into accuracy and that tends to be the most mixed period in terms of that. There's a lot of pull between two (generalizing) types of reeanactors: 1. Those that are there because they're trying to teach some history to the public and strive for as close to accuracy as they can and 2. The folks who like to dress up in costumes, drink some beers, and shoot things. Some thoughts:

1. I've talked to him about the "not letting girls fight" situation and I see his point. If you're coming at reenacting from a "i want to be as historially accurate as possible so i can use this hobby as a teaching moment" there were girls that fought but they weren't everywhere. Having a girl in each regiment would overexaggerate something that was more of an anecdote as a whole. There are female reenactor things you can do at a civil event (cooking, nurses etc.) but I will say the one and only time I ever reenacted I did this and it was the most uncomfortable weekend of my life. No wonder we had no rights back then, i couldn't even lift my arms! There are however other periods that offer better (and lord, more comfortable) fighting options for women. Boyfriend has several female friends who do WWI/WWII civilian resistance or WWII russian (which had female soldiers).

2. It's as much a "rich older dude's club" as a boys club, because it is EXPENSIVE. Getting a good kit (even if you can sew most of it yourself) takes a ton of money so you've got guys in their 40s doing things historically guys in their 20s would be doing just because they can afford the gear.

3. I have never seen a dirtier human being come home than Boyfriend after a reenactment. He's covered in dirt. How does one get poison ivy on their face 3 separate times? THREE TIMES?