Point/Counterpoint: An Insidious Cycle

Gettysburg College students Bryan Caswell and Heather Clancy are discussing reenacting in a series of posts on the Gettysburg Compiler, the blog maintained by the Civil War Institute at Gettysburg College. In this installment they discuss reenacting as a “gateway drug” to the lost cause interpretation. In my interactions with many reenactors over the years on the internet, I’ve developed the impression that this is likely. I should make clear first and foremost that a number of reenactors have an excellent outlook on history and maintain accuracy, avoiding the lost cause mythology. Unfortunately, they have been the exception of my experience, which I’m the first to say is not a representative sample. I think this is worthy of some additional study.

The Gettysburg Compiler


by Bryan Caswell ’15 and Heather Clancy ’15

Heather: In our last post, Bryan and I explored the unique challenges that the reenacting hobby poses to the interpretation and public understanding of the American Civil War. In it, we touched on just a few of the many motivations that inspire individuals to reenact. As we continue our Point/Counterpoint series below, we look to explore the relationship of the reenacting hobby with a particularly complex and problematic ideology–the Lost Cause.

Bryan: There are many breeding grounds for that despicable interpretation of the Civil War known as the Lost Cause. Perpetrated by Confederate veterans after the war, the Lost Cause teaches that the Civil War was neither caused by nor fought over the question of slavery, and that Confederates of all ranks, classes, and creeds were simply honest Americans nobly fighting for the doomed yet righteous cause of states’ rights. These claims…

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