It was also a snapshot of a hobby in decline. Gettysburg is among the biggest re-enactments of the year, and it still draws thousands to the sweltering Pennsylvania countryside in the middle of summer.
But that’s nothing compared to the re-enactments of the 1980s and 1990s, when tens of thousands would turn out. In 1998, at the 135th anniversary of Gettysburg, there were an estimated 30,000 re-enactors and 50,000 spectators.
Many of today’s re-enactors were born as the last Civil War veterans were dying, and grew up amid the celebrations and re-enactments of the centennial that lasted from 1961 to 1965. But the heyday of re-enacting was the ’90s, during another moment of national fascination with the Civil War.