When you visit a Civil War re-enactment, you are often confronted with a series of unit numbers - 35th Indiana, 153rd Pennsylvania, 44th Tennessee. While these descriptions let you know what unit you are seeing, they leave out an important word - volunteer.
During the Civil War, the majority of both Union and Confederate armies were volunteer soldiers. They came from all walks of life- rich and poor, farmer and businessman. Regardless of which side a man served, he was in the field to support something that he believed in.
Many of these volunteers made the ultimate sacrifice. Over 600,000 were wounded, lost limbs, or lost their lives. Today, we often fail to remember that the union was preserved by volunteers.
This same volunteer spirit exists today. Across the United States, several hundred re-enactments take place each year. At least one can be found each weekend between April and October. A single re-enactment can host upwards of 3,000 soldiers and civilians. Virtually every re-enactor who shares their time, talent and passion for Civil War history does so as a volunteer.
People involved in the hobby, as they refer to re-enacting, spend a significant amount of time preparing to go out into the field. They study the history and experiences of the men who fought the war, often visiting battlefields, historical sites and libraries during their vacations. Military re-enactors learn about the weapons and equipment of their army. They also spend time practicing drill and rehearsing battle tactics.
Conner Prairie's annual Civil War Re-enactment
is one our most popular programs. Without the volunteer efforts of hundreds of re-enactors, this experience would not be possible. Civil War Days weekend is May 21 & 22! Visit the soliders in their camps, and witness the battle at 2 p.m. each day.
On behalf of Conner Prairie, I would like to thank the re-enacting community for their time, effort and dedication in bringing this story to the public.
If you’ve visited Prairietown
this year, you may have noticed that the Prairietown Host, that blue-shirt-wearing, modern-minded person at the main crossroads in town, had a few new tricks up his or her sleeve. We’ve been testing different guide-book-like options that you can carry around to help you get involved with the daily life of Prairietown more deeply. By the end of the year, we hope to hone in on what the best possible version or versions of these guides should be for people of all ages to use in town.
Another item that the host has been using is a ballot box and a set of ballots with one really simple question: do you think you would want to settle in town or keep moving West? We would like all of our guests in Prairietown to put themselves in the shoes of the average traveler in 1836. Many, many people were on the move, in search of a place where the grass truly was greener and where life could be a little easier. Any traveler who happened across a little town like ours would have to ask themselves that same question: do I stay or do I go? The relative safety offered by a town like Prairietown (most of the Indians have moved on, most of the bears and wild cats have been killed off, etc) would be attractive, but the wide-open possibilities of the endless ‘West’ would still call to most of those men, women, and children who couldn’t help but be curious about what else was out there.
By casting your vote on our little ballots, you’re helping us reenvision our understanding of Prairietown. For decades, we have thought of Prairietown as a fictional-yet-typical little village in the 1830s, and for decades we’ve sealed its fate – a town Prairietown’s size would not have been likely to survive the economic collapse of 1837 and would have disappeared.
But what if Prairietown didn’t stay the same size? After all, some small towns in Indiana did survive the collapse, all thanks to the proper balance of settlement, economic investment, and natural resources. So, what if Prairietown could attract enough of the right kind of people – hard-working, ingenious types – who can help make sure the town survives? As we collect information from you all in the form of ballots and other feedback, we’re going to periodically evaluate Prairietown’s potential strength and vitality – if we find a high enough percentage of determined settlers who want to put down roots here, we might be able to justify Prairietown’s fictional survival.
Check back throughout the year to see how the decisions you make in Prairietown shape its fictional future! And, as, always, please let us know what you think of this idea!