Geekin' Out Over the American Civil War
Virginia is a state overflowing with classic American history. It is documented in textbooks and can be found in any library. However, historical reenactment groups choose to represent this history in an entirely different way – by getting into character and bringing it to life.
Not all reenactment groups and situations are equal. A farb is a reenactor who is the least concerned about historical authenticity. Farbs most often reenact Civil War era history with modern day elements – like tennis shoes, zippers, and polyester – mixed in with their semi-historical ensembles.
At the other extreme are progressive reenactors. Progressives place their emphasis on complete historical accuracy, which involves hand-sewing all parts of their costumes and only eating what would be seasonally and historically appropriate.
Kevin Grantz, a mainstream reenactor, founded Virginia Patriots, Inc. seven years ago. Grantz’s is a non-profit, volunteer-based company which reenacts eras from Jamestown to World War II. Members are expected to purchase their own historical ensembles, of which Grant said, “You can usually get away with less now.”
Grantz has lived in Richmond, Virginia for about forty years. He began Virginia Patriots, Inc. while he was working as a reenactor at St. John’s Church and considers himself a “historical communicator” to bridge the gap between historians and the people “who only give a rap about history in the casual sense.”
“As I began to research, I realized how this country is ignorant of its history,” Grantz said. Grantz most often plays George Washington, clothed in a two thousand dollar costume he purchased himself.
“It is an educational and an emotional mission. Great feedback from the audience offsets the small paycheck,” Grantz said of his loving reenacting for history - not the money gained from it.
Virginia Patriots, Inc. reenacts regularly in the Richmond area. Members can be found every Sunday from June until September performing Patrick Henry’s “Liberty or Death” speech at St. John’s Church. The lives of other famous men – George Washington, John Paul Jones, and Frederick Douglass – are also artfully and historically rendered.
Todd Post is another man with a passion for history. He is the founder and President of the 2d Virginia Regiment. Post began his group in 1998 when he moved to Richmond. 2d Virginia Regiment has about thirty members, ranging from college students to retired military colonels.
The 2d Virginia Regiment mostly reenact the events from the Revolutionary War period. While Post does not have an academic career in history, he became interested in the Revolutionary War period while growing up in New Jersey.
“Virginia history tends to focus on the Civil War, but the state also had a huge contribution in the Revolutionary War," Post said.
As in Virginia Patriots, Inc., members purchase or make their own costumes. The capable members hold workshops to teach others sewing techniques. As Grantz said, “It’s ironic that guys who are interested in the Civil War and guns have to learn how to sew their costumes.”
The Regiment operates off of donations and small stipends from appearances at parades and fairs. For major events, the group works in conjunction with historical societies and associations.
Post attested to his hobby and passion when he declared his love of “sharing history with other people.” The Regiment’s next big event is called Prelude to Victory and will be held in Colonial Williamsburg in October.
Whether a farb, a progressive, or a mainstream reenactment group, each faction brings something unique to the historical table. Regardless of how relaxed or stringent, each one shares, and usually well accomplishes, the art of bringing history to life.