This is Cal Kinzer's article originally posted in 2000 on the Authentic Campaigner with his permission. Cal - if you'd like to revise this let me know.
Cal Kinzer on Definitions
Copyright 2000. All Rights Resevered
By Cal Kinzer of Uncle Billy's Boys / 55th Illinois
As one who's done everything from a "farb" to a "hardcore" in my 30 years in the hobby, I've been interested in the current discussion on the differences between "progressives" and "hardcores". These are very nebulous terms - to say the least! - and very subjective and open to differing interpretations. In the final analysis, each of us does reenacting at the level with which we're comfortable - at the present time. But, among most reenactors, there is a general tendency to progress towards higher standards of uniform and camp authenticity. This varies widely, of course, from individual to individual, from unit to unit, and from event to event.
The choice of the term "campaigner" to describe "progressive" or "hardcore" reenacting is an unfortunate one, in that it will inevitably lead to confusion over the differences between the physical impressions and the camping styles being used. As Paul Calloway points out in his recent article on the "campaigner's" website, a "mainstream" unit may do "campaign-style" camping at given event (as many did for the first time at Raymond and Chickamauga), while a "hardcore" unit may do "garrison-style" where it is appropriate - such as at a fort or some other type of fixed encampment scenario. To equate "mainstream" with the use of tents, and "hardcore" with bivouac-only style camping (i.e. without tents), is bound to cause confusion - because real Civil War soldiers did BOTH types at various times throughout their wartime experiences. Even troops "on campaigns" sometimes used tents - even the larger Sibley and A-tents - at various times - especially early in the
war, and even later during campaigns during the colder months.
Here are the ways our unit, the 55th Illinois, describes the various levels (we consider ourselves a "progressive" unit for the most part, although we do attend both "mainstream" and "hardcore" type events):
"Farb" - A unit or event which literally has NO authenticity requirements. Clothing may consist of altered modern clothing, or clothing made from modern patterns and/or materials. Equipment is made from altered modern military equipment, or from incorrect materials and patterns. Camping is done using modern tents and camping equipment.Cooking is done using modern utensils and stoves, and no attempt is made to simulate period foods. "Farb" units make little effort to learn drill
or to recreate the life of the soldier in camp. They exist entirely to participate in battle reenactments, and have few period activities other than that. Few such units still exist among the infantry today, although some may still be found among cavalry, artillery, support services and civilian groups.
"Mainstream" (formerly called "Authentics") - The product of the "authenticity movement" of the 1960s and 1970s, and of the advent of professional "cottage makers" (such as C. & D. Jarnagin) which accompanied it. Clothing is generally of a fairly correct pattern, although modern influences can sometimes be seen in the construction details. Materials are usually of natural fabrics - wool, cotton, linen, etc. - although the weave, weight and color is sometimes incorrect. Interior details and buttonholes normally reflect modern sewing techniques. Personal equipment is usually of fairly good construction,
although it often reflects mass production techniques not in use during the period. Most "mainstreamers" do only "garrison-style" camping, i.e. with tents. Tentage is usually the larger types, multi-occupant military styles - "A's" and "walls" (even though the Sibley was more common for infantry, especially on the Federal side), but often reflects modern short-cuts such as brass grommets or machine-sewn buttonholes. Mainstream units permit modern "anachronisms" to be used with regard to sleeping and cooking equipment and foods, but usually require that these be kept "hidden" during public viewing hours, during which time they attempt to maintain the "illusion" of a period encampment within the bounds of their
camps. However, after hours, this "illusion" is no longer maintained and the rules are considerably relaxed. "Mainstream" units emphasize drill using period drill manuals. The "mainstream" approach has become the "norm" for most reenactment units since the 1980s, and remains so today - although there is evidence that many infantry units are beginning to move
on to the "progressive" level.
"Progressive" - The "progressives are the product of a movement which began around 1990 after the end of the 125th Anniversary series of events. As their title suggests, they are attempting to move the entire hobby to a higher level of authenticity; but, unlike the "hardcores" they do not advocate separating themselves from the "mainstream" units or
events, and in effect starting a whole new hobby. Although they may RECOMMEND "museum quality" reproductions (uniforms, weapons and equipment), they do not require such items as a PRE-CONDITION for participation with the unit or at events (this being probably the biggest difference between them and "hardcore" units). On the other hand,
"progressives" differ from "mainstream" units in that most seek to maintain the "illusion" of authenticity IN CAMP [but not in the "authenticity free zones" such as the sutler area or the parking lot] 24-hours a day while at an event - not just during public viewing hours. Modern "anachronisms" are banned, for the most part [our unit allows (1) necessary medications and (2) small pocket cameras, both of which must be used with discretion and kept hidden down inside the haversack or
knapsack when not in use] from anywhere in camp, including the insides of tents. Only period foods and cooking equipments are used. Most "progressive" units do a combination of "garrison" (using larger tents) and "campaign" style camping (using shelter tents or nothing at all). They emphasize "camplife" and "living the life of the soldier", including
drills, guard and fatigue details, digging trenches and fortifications, roll calls, mail calls, baseball games, etc."Progressives are the fastest-growing element in the hobby, especially among the infantry reenactors. They include many units which may aspire to hardcore, but which contain too many "greenhorns" or inexperienced or poorly-equipped members to maintain "hardcore" standards. They are often the "training ground" for those who move on to the "hardcore" level.
"Hardcore" - "Hardcores" attempt to take authenticity, especially the issue of "the quality of reproductions" to the ultimate level by requiring "museum quality" uniforms, weapons and equipment - i.e. reproductions made with only the most exacting standards of construction, materials and interior details - AND by making such a level of quality a PRE-CONDITION for participation in their groups and at their events. Although most do not LITERALLY "count stitches" or "pee on their buttons", "hardcores" generally make an attempt to reach the highest possible standards with regards to their physical impression - both in their clothing and equipment and in their personal physical appearance. Most "hardcore" units do only "campaign" style camping, and do not permit larger tents to be used at any of their events or, especially if
Confederate, do not allow even shelter tents. Some "hardcores" empahsize the quality of clothing and equipment reproductions to the exclusion of other aspects of "soldier life"; and some do very little cooking, drill, fatigue and guard details, battle reenactments and tactical demonstrations - or even much authentic camping. At events, especially "mainstream" or "progressive" events, they often do little more than show up and stroll around the sutler area in their outstanding outfits! Because of the great diversity in the clothing and equipment used by the Confederacy - and because of the very specialized nature of the interest in these items - most "hardcore" units tend to be Confederate groups - or at least groups whose primary impression is Confederate. Few Federal units can attract enough men to become truly "hardcore"; most are forced to compromise to a certain extent in order to have a group at all. Even Confederate "hardcore" groups often have difficulty in bringing enough men to the field - and then keeping them there through rain and cold weather - to do an effective portrayal of drills, fatigue and guard details, and other aspects of "soldier life". "Hardcore" units emphasize
primary research, and the actual examining of original clothing, weapons and equipment, much more than other groups. However, their findings are often tainted by a lack of time and of professional training, an "antiquarian" approach to artifacts, and an often superficial or "anecdotal" approach to primary documentary evidence and a general knowlege of the period. Because of the very realistic hardships often associated with "hardcore" camping, the lack of very many "hardcore" events, and the ostracism that often goes along with being considered "hardcore", this is often the final level reached by those old, veteran reenactors who are "on their way out of the hobby".