McNair Scholars Research Journal


Americans remember history in many different ways. The Historical Re-enactment is the most controversial and bewildering event of public remembrance. Americans re-enact every war in American history from the French and Indian War down to the Vietnam War. My research set out to answer several questions about this custom of public history: why does it exist, what purpose does it serve, and who started it? My research led me to a shattered post-Civil War America. The true test of the unity of American had passed and people were left to make sense of the war that was experienced on the level of a national tragedy. The re-enactor, a veteran and an amateur historian, would begin to write his tory and present it for the public. This form of public memory would be used to facilitate an idealistic ad blind reunion of North and South. The history would be changed to make remembering safe.