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October 4, 2002
5:34 AM   Subscribe

Hardcore vs. Farb So, you want to be a Civil War Reenactor. Here's a few sources to get you started so you can learn the lingo and shop for authentic shoes, hats, and hardtack. (more inside)
posted by Secret Life of Gravy (24 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
Want more information? Here is a formidable links page. And this (Confederates In The Attic) is the book that inspired me.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 5:37 AM on October 4, 2002


Farb (short for "Far be it for me to tell you that was not around during the Civil War") is my new favorite word.

A man who works with me is a Civil War nut. He travels all over the country at his own cost to participate in battle reenactments. He sells cheesecake and chocolate chip cookies and wrapping paper to try to raise money for all of his uniforms and shoes and his weapons. After clicking on some of the links I can see why - those are some very expensive "props". And those 95.00 black boots are calling me.
posted by iconomy at 6:07 AM on October 4, 2002


Traveling around Virginia for years, it's always amazed me how into this stuff people can get. Weâ??re talking authentic wool underwear, sleeping in the dirt, everything. Impressive.

For some reason the Civil War seems to be the most popular, but there are also reenacting groups for the American Revolution, WWI, WWII, the English Civil War and Korea & Vietnam, for starters. If that's not enough, you can become a Viking, a Roman legionary or a join the Royal Navy.
posted by gottabefunky at 7:13 AM on October 4, 2002


I've done it. Dressed up as a Reb at Sharpsburg. However I missed the early morning battle for too much whisky the night before. Which is fine as it saved my life. But I eventually met my maker later in the day on a bridge.
posted by stbalbach at 8:05 AM on October 4, 2002


Dear Sirs, 
After 16 years of reenacting I have finally found someone making quality hardtack. I was introduced to your product by a fellow member of my company and was instantly delighted with it. I am suggesting to the rest of the company that they buy all their hardtack from you. I am also letting our brigade know as well. Keep up the good work from a relieved soldier. Thanks ever so much.
I remain your obedient servant,
B. W. Amend, Captain 9th Texas Infantry


Great stuff -- thanks, Gravy! I may have to get me one of those 17th-century hats from Dirty Billy.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on October 4, 2002


Oh, laungagehat, I thought of you (really!) when I found that web site.

it's always amazed me how into this stuff people can get.

In "Confederates in the Attic", the author talks about how bizarre these hardcore reenactors get: starving themselves down to a gaunt 135 lbs, (the average weight of the rebel soldier) cultivating body lice, developing a nice "phlegm roll" (chesty voice from sleeping in the damp.) Some pretend soldiers even sigh wistfully at the thought of live ammunition..."just to make it more authentic, ya know?"
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:39 AM on October 4, 2002


Farb has 3 possible origins: "far be it for me to tell you that was not around during the civil war" and "far be it from the truth" and short for "farberware" (legend has it one unit had nice shiny farberware pots and pans during a reenactment). My favorite reenacting term is "the Ramada Rangers" an elite group that camp out in motels.
posted by stbalbach at 8:41 AM on October 4, 2002


And if all of those reenactor groups are too hard-core for you, there's always the SCA.
posted by kate_fairfax at 8:41 AM on October 4, 2002


I think the civil war re-enactors belong in the same category with the people who maniacally collect seemingly useless things (such as on ebay). Both these groups share a common affinity with compulsive handwashers and people who check again and again to see if they turned off the stove.
posted by mert at 8:51 AM on October 4, 2002


I disagree mert theres a whole social life that goes on its more like going to a grateful dead concert everyone dresses up acts funny, drinks and eats a lot dances and then goes out and does crazy stuff with guns (except the last part). Its really a blast, most people arent that hard core about it just out to have a good time.
posted by stbalbach at 8:54 AM on October 4, 2002


I just finished the book myself and have been recommending it to everyone.

Call me a farb. But then again, I am a girl.
posted by whtsherbkt at 9:06 AM on October 4, 2002


From the hardtack link:

We hear of a dish called "skillygalee" in which the cracker is soaked in water and fried brown in pork fat, salting to taste. Though Julia Child may not serve this dish, neither would she go to the considerable trouble of dressing up in 1860's clothing and fight in the hot sun for a hilltop. The finer things in life must be gotten at some risk.

Hear, hear! While previously somewhat eeped out by the whole reenactment think, this quote alone has caused me to rethink my position, and now I, for one, welcome our detail-obsessed, hardtack overlords (just as long as I am given a lifetime exemption from bodylice). And now I know what book I'll be starting this weekend! Thanks, gravy.

Both these groups share a common affinity with compulsive handwashers and people who check again and again to see if they turned off the stove.

I frequently check again to see if I've turned off the stove, but it has rarely, if ever, prompted me to take up arms and pretend to free the slaves.
posted by scody at 11:47 AM on October 4, 2002


curses! think = thing in previous post.
posted by scody at 11:48 AM on October 4, 2002


You can find some good Civil War Era recipes here for foods such as hard tack, Johnnie cakes, and Sallie Lunn cake. Afterwards, you can wash these down with these drinks. Enjoy! Hard tack is nice in soups but otherwise hard on the teeth!
posted by Modgoddess at 12:53 PM on October 4, 2002


Confederates In The Attic was both fascinating and scary to me when I read it, and I think that's how the author perceived his little journey, too. But I read it several years ago before discovering MeFi, and now I know the world is an even weirder and scarier place.

I think it would be fun to match up the Civil War re-enactors against some hardcore Klingons.
posted by briank at 1:20 PM on October 4, 2002


Elmore Leonard's latest novel, Tishomingo Blues, deals with the Civil War reenactment subculture in well-researched, often hilarious detail. Great book if you like Leonard, much better than Be Cool or Pagan Babies.
posted by Daze at 1:47 PM on October 4, 2002


kate_fairfax:

> And if all of those reenactor groups are too hard-core for
> you, there's always the SCA.

There are some just-for-amusement SCA folks and others who seem to want to make it their entire life. The dichotomy goes farther back than that, though, to sci-fi fandom in the thirties and the contrasting attitudes FIJAGH (Fandom Is Just A Goddam Hobby) and FIAWOL (Fandom Is A Way Of Life.) In fact, now I think of it, I'll bet you'll find varying degrees of core density among Masons going back hundreds (maybe, if you believe hardcore Masons, thousands) of years.
posted by jfuller at 1:49 PM on October 4, 2002


P.S. kate, having checked out your homepage and encountered Caterina d'Alessandro Franceschi, I suspect your knowledge of things SCA-ish is more than theoretical. Say, do opinionated wenches fight up your way? I'll never forget being pounded into the ground like a tent peg by Trude Lacklandia. Greetings from Meridies.
posted by jfuller at 2:16 PM on October 4, 2002


My project for this weekend is to introduce the word 'farb' to the renaissance faire.
posted by moss at 2:59 PM on October 4, 2002


I can't say that I've been a reenactor although several of my friends are. In fact, 2 of them are at the Perryville event this weekend.


I won't speak for others but my friends are big history buffs and into the experience of camping and roughing it in service to a cause with the convenience of going home after the weekend. If Americans knew 10% of American history my friends knew (and maybe 30% of what I know ;P) maybe this country would not be the ignorant cesspool of TV junkies it is.


True, contemporary America allows obsessive consumerist behavior, but really I'd rather people be learning something when they buy their crap rather than just following a fad.


FWIW, getting "authentic" gear is a pain as American have gained height and weight over their Civil War counterparts meaning historical regulation gear can be quite constricting.


posted by infowar at 10:22 PM on October 4, 2002


kate_fairfax & jfuller - Greetings from the East! I suspect there are more of us on Metafilter ... but I can't prove how many.

I wonder if this thread will reveal more?
posted by anastasiav at 4:13 PM on October 5, 2002


Greetings from the Middle, this year's custodians of Pittsburgh! (Man, I remember when we thought 5000 was way too many to fit into Coopers: it's gone over the 11,000 mark already? Crikey!)

You know, I didn't even see this very cool thread until I scrolled down today.

*wraps self in the finest hockey gear and plastic armour, points finger, sticks out tongue*

It can't be my fault that I didn't notice it -- let's blame all those people posting all those news links.

*casting spell to ensure Matt doesn't take this comment seriously*
posted by maudlin at 6:11 PM on October 5, 2002


These guys spend thousands of dollars to lie on the ground all weekend in a wool uniform, pretending to be dead. That's no fun. You wanna have fun reenacting the Civil War? Get in your car, take 95 South, drive down to Georgia, and burn Atlanta to the ground. Entertaining and educational.

A guy I work with has a tattoo of a Confederate battle flag on his arm. He said, "Yeah, I got this 'cos I'm a rebel." I said, "Yeah? So where's your Star Wars tattoo? You're a rebel? So's Yoda."
posted by basilwhite at 9:02 AM on October 7, 2002


> You wanna have fun reenacting the Civil War? Get in
> your car, take 95 South, drive down to Georgia, and burn
> Atlanta to the ground. Entertaining and educational.

I'm already in Georgia and I'd have to take 316 west but I'm ready to go. What weekend we talking about?
posted by jfuller at 11:35 AM on October 7, 2002


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