Civil War Top 100

What the Recreated 28th Is and Isn't

otential recruits often ask us what kind of unit the 28th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry is: mainstream, progressive, or campaigner. Although we don't really care for labels, we are probably best described as a progressive unit that in many respects has returned to its original roots.

When the recreated 28th Massachusetts first took the field in 1984, its founders were aiming to portray the regiment as it appeared on the march during the pivotal Gettysburg campaign in the summer of 1863. They slept by the fire or in dog tents, carried full packs, and formed small messes.

During its first decade and well into its second, the 28th Massachusetts grew into one of the largest Civil War reenactment units in the Northeast. We routinely fielded two solid companies and occasionally even three. Men took turns on "gilly duty," cooking large meals for the entire regiment to share.

Our high water mark came in 1998, when the 28th Massachusetts fielded 85 muskets at the 135th anniversary reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg. We were larger at that time than some of the hobby's smaller battalion organizations are today.

But with rapid growth came differences of opinion, even among close friends. In becoming more "mainstream" and trying to accommodate everyone, we had created a satisfactory experience for no one. Ultimately, there were divisions within and departures from our unit.

Although this thinned the ranks of the 28th Massachusetts for a while, it also helped the unit grow in its approach to living history. Today, we operate according to the following principles:

  • We believe there is room in the Civil War hobby for everyone, and judge individual reenactors not exclusively by their uniform and equipment, but by the sincerity of their effort to honor the men and the times they have chosen to portray.

  • Although we continually strive for improvement in the quality of our impression, we do not try to meet some other living history organization's definition of the perfect soldier, nor do we belittle or cajole others into doing so.

  • We strive for excellence in military bearing, drill, and battlefield tactics. In spite of other changes within our unit over the years, this has been and will remain a constant in the 28th Massachusetts.

  • At all times when possible and appropriate, we portray infantrymen on campaign. This means, to the extent we can, attending events with only what we can carry in on our backs.

  • We enjoy portraying army life in the mid 19th century, but we all live in the early 21st century and recognize that reenacting is a hobby. We change everything we reasonably can for a weekend in the field, but that doesn't mean we can or will change everything.

  • Authenticity is important, but safety is more so. We will never demand or expect our members to do anything in the name of historical accuracy that will place their health or safety at risk.

  • We respect others in their approach to this hobby, and expect the same in return. If you are uncomfortable with us or with how we do things, please understand that we will not change to suit you. We are who we are, and make no apologies for it.

  • Reenacting is what we do for fun. It is our temporary escape from the hectic pace and stressful nature of modern everyday life, and we want to keep it that way. If you feed on conflict, thirst for power, or don't work well with others, the 28th Massachusetts is not the unit for you.

If you want to become involved in Civil War reenacting and are thinking about joining the 28th Massachusetts, our best advice to you is this: meet us at an event. You might even want to borrow some gear from us and live the life of an infantryman for a couple of days. Get to know us while we get to know you.

By the end of the weekend, one of two things will have happened. Either the 28th will be one member larger and you will have a bunch of new pards, or you will still have new friends in the hobby and the freedom to choose another unit with goals closer to your own.

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