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First Manassas Reenactment, 1961

Last update
Jul 1, 2016

In July 1961, Manassas National Battlefield Park hosted the first, and as it turned out, only reenactment of a Civil War battle in a National Park. The event was a logistical nightmare. There were not enough reenactors to accurately portray both armies. In addition, there were so many people, participants and observers, the Park Service was not able to provide adequate facilities. Several visitors and reenactors were injured. And, all of the modern intrusions had to be screened. Further, the reenactment was viewed as an entertaining event, rather than as a portrayal of a deadly serious battle in which thousands of men were killed or wounded.

Following this event, the Park Service decided to concentrate on using living history rather than reenactments for interpretive programs. Employees or volunteers dressed in period uniforms could demonstrate and explain the various tactics and maneuvers to visitors. Thus, a visitor could learn from living historians and gain a better understanding of what it was like to be a Civil War soldier.

Modern Reenactors should get a kick out of the inaccuracies of many of the uniforms seen in these photographs. Most of the images were shot on July 22, 1961,

Read more on the reenactment on the National Park Service site


On June 20, 2013 I received the following note from a reenactor who participated in the event. (Posted with permission)

I was a participant in the reenactment at Manassas Virginia 1961 attending with the 67th Volunteer infantry, Long Island, New York. Our group was more a musket rifle team that shot competition against other rifle teams all over the country. We competed in full regalia as Confederate and Union forces and keeping true with the primitive methods of load and fire. With few reproduction firearms available at that time we used original Civil War era muskets. My rifle was an 1861 Springfield and all my leather goods were original federal issue, including original lambs wool and nipple pick in an original cap box. We had wool uniforms belted in and did we ever sweat that July.

A comment, not on your site but elsewhere was made that attempts at realism was pathetic in 1961 compared to present day dress of more enlightened reenactors of today, is unfair reportage. Media reportage on the 1961 event was not favorable either but who cares what reporters think anyhow. On Henry Hill we lined up and volley fired muskets and the roar and smoke from black powder rifle and cannon surely sounded and smelled no different to our fore-fathers a century before. I wanted to experience as much as I could of what they experienced. The few moments I had before contemplating my next move before the Confederates charge across the field, I wiped my face across my mouth on my sleeve. I could feel and taste the grime about my cheeks and mouth from residue black powder left behind after tearing open paper cartridges. And, my finger tips on my left hand holding the rifle stock and touching the barrel at the same time, was singed brown.

Bob Risch


100th anniversary reenactment of 1st Manassas
Click the thumbnails to see a larger view

8mm Movies of the reenactment. (Silent, no sound)

 


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48 k Superintendent Francis F. Wilshin oversees the preparations for the reenactment. Notice the camouflage coverings over the Visitor Center in the background. The same coverings are being readied for the Jackson monument behind the Superintendent. Shot Jul. 20 or 21
Then and Now (70 k)
88 k The Superintendent poses for the camera as if directing the setup. In the background can be seen the grand stands for the event to take place the next day. Shot July 20 or 21.
Then and Now (87 k)
92 k Several "Dead" solders watch the action from behind the lines.
93 k  
56 k Shot from near the Henry House looking toward the Visitor Center which can be seen covered in camouflage netting
Then and Now (77 k)
80 k  
71 k  
59 k  
26 k  
42 k A farewell kiss from the wives
35 k Eugene F. Allen of Co. G, 1st MD. Regt. with his wife and daughter Mary Lea
46 k "There stands Jackson like a stonewall". Stonewall Jackson was portrayed by George Bisacca of Lenox, Massachusetts.
47 k This photo of Jackson is credited United Press International
42 k The Park Visitor Center before the auditorium was added on the left.

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