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An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

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  • An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

    An Attempt at Defining the Terms:
    Authentic, Hardcore, Progressive, Mainstreamer, Farb and Campaigner
    by Paul Calloway

    There is so much confusion about a certain set of terms that I think it would be useful to attempt to set some definitions to these terms. It may confuse the matter more, it may cause still more infighting - but these are not my goals when writing this article. Rather, I purpose to create a forum for the discussion of these terms alone. I also believe eliminating some of the ambiguity in how we define ourselves may lead to a more healthy reenacting experience for all.

    First and foremost, I believe that there is room in the hobby for all. I think Joe Farb has every right to go to a wide-open reenactment and drink his swill and go to the dance. At a wide-open reenactment, Joe Farb shouldn't have to put up with jeers and dirty looks from the hardcore crowd. The hardcores should expect Joe Farb to be there and it was their choice to attend that wide-open reenactment so they all should deal maturely with the result. I also think Henry Hardcore has every right to go to a reenactment where authenticity requirements are set to prevent Joe Farb from showing up. If the event clearly says, invitation-only, they mean it... Joe Farb should get his invitation before he goes. If he's turned down, Joe Farb should deal with it and not go there seeking a confrontation.

    We all get a certain degree of enjoyment out of this hobby or we wouldn't be spending our dollars and time on it. What tickles Joe Farb's fancy is likely to be different from what might give Henry Hardcore a rush. Let them both get what they want out of the hobby and everybody will be happy. We've all got guns... let's all do our part in preventing anyone from going postal.

    To both Joe and Henry, and to all those in between, I suggest you do your homework ahead of time and attend events that are likely to meet your expectations. Henry Hardcore, don't go to the battle of "Ya'll Come" where invitations are open to all and expect everyone in the ranks to be dressed in Child's kits or Wedeward sacks... it's ridiculous but sometimes that's what we expect. Joe Farb, don't show up at an expressly campaign-style event with your A-Tent and plop down in the middle of the campaign camp and not expect some dirty looks.

    Now, back to the subject at hand. In this document, I will attempt to provide detailed definitions to the proceeding set of terms. It has been my observation that friction comes when any three of these stages or levels are combined in the same proximity (whether it be a battalion formation or just in camp) and thus one of my reasons for creating these definitions. An example would be a battalion of mainstreamers, progressives and hardcores or another would farbs, mainstreamers and progressives... combining any three has been in my experience a major disappointment to somebody.
    • Farb
    • Mainstreamer
    • Progressive
    • Hardcore
    • Authentic
    • Campaigner

    I look at these terms on a sliding scale:

    - Farb -- Mainstreamer -- Progressive -- Hardcore -- Authentic -

    Reenactors normally slide from one level to the next (normally left to right) and on a on few occasions, certain reenactors have been known to skip several stages on the authenticity sliding scale. This can happen when a hardcore or progressive group takes a fresh fish under his wing and thus intercedes in what some might consider the "natural progression" or even "evolution" of the Civil War Reenactor.

    *You'll note that I did not even mention the word Campaigner which many consider to be a level of authenticity in and of itself. I do not ascribe to this belief. Please read on as I discuss this in great detail later.

    Defining the Term FARB:

    Most reenactors come into the hobby as a FARB. Some of them stay right there indefinitely, others begin moving toward the right. When we talk about a FARB, I think of wristwatches, modern eyeglasses, coolers in camp, MRE's for rations, etc. The term FARB is much like the word "hoosier" which no-one really knows for sure where it comes from. One of the more believable explanations was explained by Ross M. Kimmel in "Confessions of a Blackhat: Recopllections as a Skirmisher During the Civil War Centennial; Part Six in a Series: Friction and Film" which appeared in the Winter 2000 issue of the Camp Chase Gazette (Vol. XXVII - No. 3) pp. 55-56.

    "I have mentioned the F-word - "farby" which survives in the reenactment subculture today as "farb," meaning a person who is not authentic."

    "Believe it or not, it was invented in Gerry Rolph's kitchen in the early 1960's, I think by the time of the First Manassas reenactment."

    "It originated as an adjective, farby, to describe that which did not come up to Blackhat authenticity standards."

    ".... farben in German... means colorful, which certainly describes many farbs."

    Defining the Term MAINSTREAMER:

    MAINSTREAMERS use general-line equipment from sutler-row and usually exhibit a "this is only a hobby" mentality. Some folks start at this level, believing that wearing wrist-watches and sunglasses are obvious anachronisms that need be avoided. They'll usually keep their coolers hidden in their tents and often times are very focused on the battles. It has been my observation that they usually hold hardcores in contempt even though they most have never met or talked with one. This was the case with me in the early days of my reenacting experience. I frequented terms such as "button-pissers, stitch-nazis and stitch-counters" without really knowing who or what I was describing. I only knew what I had been told by other mainstreamers and farbs. However, tt was at this stage of my impression that I could easily have been described a campaigner! I was using mainstream gear but sleeping under the stars, eating out of my haversack and shying away from status quo reenacting. I don't think the term Progressive could have been ascribed to me as I had no interest in obtaining more correct gear.

    Personal Note Aside: Mainstreamers and Farbs aren't all bad, and whatever you might have heard, hardcores don't hate them...

    Defining the Term PROGRESSIVE:

    Reenactors reach the PROGRESSIVE stage when they begin making an all out effort (within the limits of their finances) to get things as right as possible. They'll usually have an increased interest in doing Living History and may have started to feel that pitched battles are losing their luster. When the event calls for garrison-style camping, they will bring A-Tents and limited camp furniture. If it's a campaign-style event, they'll usually put up shelter halves or sleep under the stars. They'll be consciously looking for the best gear they can buy and can be noticed as having a more soldierly outlook and approach to the hobby. Their views on hardcores are noticeably changing and are now becoming for appreciative of the research many other hardcores and progressives have done which they now realize is of great benefit to them, the progressive reenactor.

    Defining the Term HARDCORE:

    This is perhaps the least understood of all the levels / stages and thus I intend to spend a fair amount of time on it. In the grand scheme of Civil War Reenacting, few have made it to the HARDCORE stage. Although, arguably, more and more have made it to the Hardcore level of late. Still more think they've made it here but probably haven't. Scott Cross of the Mudsills has dutifully described in the following manner in a recent web posting and I've taken the liberty to quote him:

    "After 20 years of Civl War living History with the Mudsills, I have some definite ideas [about the definition of hardcore.] A hardcore bases every article of his impression on documented sources, i.e.: actual items in museums or private collections. He doesn't have to do the primary research all by himself, because he networks with other trusted hardcores that do primary research on artifacts. He doesn't have to make all of his impression parts, but knows who is out there that can do it in the same manner as the 19th century manufacturers. First-Person is another part of being a Hardcore. Either individual biographical research or unit research is important to him. The first-person stories of the common soldier are an integral part of his study. Campaigning is another factor. Re-enactments are not important, because one can never authentically recreate a battle. Marching with minimal gear, camping and cooking as they did, and experiencing every possible hardship, from winter cabins to burning and bending railroad iron, helps the Hardcore to connect with those men from the past. I would also have to include a military mindset is also essential. Some may disagree with this, but you can't understand the day to day life of the soldier without running a military style camp, with competent officers and NCO's. I suppose that we are looking for total immersion type experiences in what we do. The closer the experience, the more we identify with the historical people, the closer we identify, the better we can share that knowledge with each other and the public. I'm sure I've forgotten a few things, but I'm also sure my comrades will fill the gaps."

    This is the big leagues where complete immersion is the goal. Finances be d***ed, there are no excuses to be made at this level. Do it right or don't do it. Some call this the BIRD principal, ie."because it's right darn-it!" On a side note, please don't assume someone is a hardcore because they use the term BIRD. Rather many hardcores shy away from the term as it seems to trivialize and humarize the effort of authenticity. Not everything in life need be demoted to a catch-phrase. Although, if you are a frequenter of the term BIRD, don't let hardcores push you around about it while saying other catch-phrases FARB out the other side of their head. Come on reader, smile, that was a good point.

    An excellent treatise on the Hardcore movement can be found in both the March 2000 issue of the CCG as well as being posted on the internet. It's called the Campaigner's Manifesto, written by Col. Nicky Hughes of the Breckinridge Battalion . (A similar treatise exists for Civilian reenactors.) Although I don't agree with how he has couched the term Campaigner in his writing, I think the manifesto clearly applies to the hardcore movement. I'll spend more time discussing the term Campaigner but suffice it to say that using my definitions, a more apt term might be, "The Hardcore's Manifesto". Although the name Hardcore is a term of derision by many mainstreamers, it is also a badge of honor that most real hardcores are happy to have ascribed to them. The term campaigner however is adopted by groups with clearly mainstream impressions and thus my belief that in the context of the manifesto, the term hardcore would be more appropriate. This is not to denigrate Mr. Hughes' work here though as it is outstanding and should be the gold-standard for serious reenactors in their pursuit of authenticity.

    Defining the Term AUTHENTIC:

    Yes, finally there is the level of AUTHENTIC which all reenactors should strive for yet none of us will ever obtain. The model authentic was the true Civil War Soldier and we can know him through his photographs, diaries, letters and other primary resources. This is where we set our sights and when the world of reenacting politics begins to muddy the landscape, this is the guiding light.

    Defining the Term CAMPAIGNER:

    With regard to the term CAMPAIGNER, I view this as a particular aspect of a soldier's life. At times the real soldiers were on campaign, other times they were garrisoned. In the world of reenacting, it is possible to have a Mainstream Campaigner (Chickamauga) or a Hardcore Garrisoner (Ft. Pulaski.) I do not see the term campaigner as an independent description of ones commitment to authenticity except as it relates to the scenario at hand. As I mentioned previously.


    To summarize, these are my humble opinions having been in all these separate movements at one time or another. I have also had a great deal of exposure to all of these stages of authenticity as a result of the creation and maintaining of my website, the Authentic Campaigner. I expect there will be some disagreement and perhaps even heated debate. You're welcome to have your own opinions... as someone has said they are said to be like armpits - everyone has them and they usually stink, including my own. A certain amount of nastiness is generally expected. Please, just keep the name-calling away from using my mother's name... I get touchy on that point. She's a good woman. ;-) I respectfully close and wish you all the best, irregardless of what category I may have inadvertently lumped you in. I am fortunate to have dear, lifelong friends at all stages - I hope that never changes.
    Paul Calloway
    Proudest Member of the Tar Water Mess
    Proud Member of the GHTI
    Member, Civil War Preservation Trust
    Wayne #25, F&AM

  • #2
    Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

    Excellent article. Although I will say here and now, that being one of those that help intorduce the term "progressive" I can assure you it was meant for more than a level one was at. Being that total authenticity is unobtainable, we are continually progressing towards that goal.


    • #3
      Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

      hello sirs,
      I have a question. Does farb mean anything? like each letter?

      i would really appreciate it if someone could let me know if its an akronym(i think i spelt it wrong)

      Alex Belhumeur
      Alex J Belhumeur
      The GawdAwful Mess
      SC Society

      "one strap goes into the grbage and the other goes into the fire" -B.K.


      • #4
        Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

        The way I first heard it in the '70's was that it meant, "FAR Be it for me to do any research." Who knows for sure. It's one of those endearing legends no one will ever know the real source of.
        Paul Manzo
        Never had I seen an army that looked more like work......Col. Garnet Wolseley


        • #5

          "Defining the Term AUTHENTIC

          Yes, finally there is the level of AUTHENTIC which all reenactors should strive for yet none of us will ever obtain. The model authentic was the true Civil War Soldier and we can know him through his photographs, diaries, letters and other primary resources. This is where we set our sights and when the world of reenacting politics begins to muddy the landscape, this is the guiding light."

          Your point is taken, however some may invalidate the word "authentic" as something we can associate with what we do by a careless interpretation of what you said. This is offered in support of what you said: Words can have meaning that depends, very often, on the context in which they are used. They can have meanings that evolve over time. The use of "authentic" does not necessarily have to apply only to our ancestors and the actual stuff they carried and did.

          Merriam Webster:

          Main Entry: auĚthenĚtic
          Pronunciation: &-'then-tik, o-
          Function: adjective
          Etymology: Middle English autentik, from Middle French autentique, from Late Latin authenticus, from Greek authentikos, from authentEs perpetrator, master, from aut- + -hentEs (akin to Greek anyein to accomplish, Sanskrit sanoti he gains)
          1 obsolete : AUTHORITATIVE
          2 a : worthy of acceptance or belief as conforming to or based on fact b : conforming to an original so as to reproduce essential features c : made or done the same way as an original
          3 : not false or imitation : REAL, ACTUAL

          NOTE the connection between the words "authentic" and "reproduction" in 2b, and the specific wording of 3c.

          We can be authentic in many of the things we do. We just can't ever be "original."

          I think also, adding to the discussion, that we tend to get into trouble whenever we try to bludgeon words into duty they just aren't meant to perform, like giving a shotgun to a sharpshooter. A parallel is using a word that describes a condition of change as a word to describe a condition of status. What's a progressive? For us, it's not a point on a scale, it's a state of mind in which one is mentally prepared to continually adjust or refine a depiction or impression based on a willingness to embrace new knowledge, which is what Clark Badgett said a lot more succinctly. Most people are progressives to some extent or other, with varying degrees of willingness to incorporate changes based on a lot of factors. I'm not sure exactly what word might be applied to each label to convey refusal to change -- but I know a militantly defiant farb when I see one....
          Bill Watson


          • #6
            Re: Authentic


            Certainly not wanting to pick any fights here (especially with Bro. Badgett, who might turn the redhead loose on me....!) I'd just like to weigh in on the subject of terms, at least as they have been put forth, and which of them is most applicable to what WE do.

            I have never been completely comfortable with the term "Progressive", because I feel there are progressive mainstreamers in this hobby too. Sadly they are actually progressing in another direction. For our purposes, I believe the term "Campaigner" is the best to come down the pike so far. I actually would include static bivouac or garrison duty under this umbrella. The rationale here being that years after the war, vets were still heard to refer to themselves as old campaigners, regardless of what types of duty they may have pulled during it's course. As for us, we don't live in the field perpetually, we drive to staged events on weekends. We don't have dysentery, scurvy, bad teeth, the pox, lice, etc. etc.-- or most of us don't as a general rule anyway. Paul hits the nail on the head there. We truly are recreating, albeit in the most "authentic" manner possible within certain physical constraints, a particular aspect of the average soldier's life. You have to put things in perspective. That's the best we can hope to do.

            IMHO until someone comes up with a better term, I think "Campaigner" most appropriately fits what our segment of the hobby strives to accomplish. Again, this is just my $.02 worth. You mileage may vary..... Thanks.

            Rich Croxton
            Last edited by Gallinipper; 09-02-2004, 08:35 AM.
            Rich Croxton

            "I had fun. How about you?" -- In memory of Charles Heath, 1960-2009


            • #7
              Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

              Maybe it's because I'm very statistical, but I have seen the following as related but not automatically associated traits:

              1: How close to the original someone personally wants to be.
              2: How demanding someone is that everyone else adhere to his own standards (or lack of standards).

              Thus, I see two axes:

              1: Personal authenticity.
              2: Desire for control (be that over other people, over a setting/situation, anything external to the individual).

              Friction between two people would come when the second axis has a high score for either and first axis scores are not sufficiently close between the two.
              Bryan J. Maloney


              • #8
                Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                Why this two year-old thread is resurrected is beyond me.

                I must say however, that while the above new comment is self-explanatory, it does warrant a response.
                Ley Watson
                POC'R Boys Mess of the Columbia Rifles

                [B][I]"The man who complains about the way the ball bounces is likely the one who dropped it."[/I][/B]

                [I]Coach Lou Holtz[/I]


                • #9
                  Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                  Originally posted by Nighthawk View Post
                  The way I first heard it in the '70's was that it meant, "FAR Be it for me to do any research." Who knows for sure. It's one of those endearing legends no one will ever know the real source of.
                  I have always understood the term "Farb" to mean someone who went around saying "Far be it from me to criticize, but you have the wrong hobnails on your shoes, you have your buttons 3/16" out of place, your trouser legs are 7/64" too short, your buttonholes don't have 67 stitches like they are supposed to" or any other of the snide and usually hatefully-intended derogatory criticisms that some people enjoy making, just because they feel they've done more than the person they're criticizing... Those are the ones that drive people out of living history.

                  I recently exchanged an incredibly informative set of emails with someone I've seen post here, and it heartened me that a certain medical condition I have won't prevent me from re-entering the life. It had been once a cause of me leaving it, as a result of a particular unthinking, and heartlessly critical individual who ended up being in a leadership position. (God knows how people like that end up as leaders)

                  Anyway, I am going to mostly lurk, search, learn, and try not to post a lot, since I have a lot of catching up to do...
                  [FONT="Trebuchet MS"][COLOR="Navy"]Lance Morrison[/COLOR][/FONT]


                  • #10
                    Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                    Floyd D.P. Oydegaard has in his possession a letter dated 1 April 1863 from A.R. Crawford in the 76th Illinois Infantry, Co D (here's only a portion):

                    "Six children from the local village appeared wearing fallacious accoutrements & reprehensible baggage and thought they would put a sham battle on for our amusement. We laughed so hard at their imitation of soldiers that our sides were hurting for hours. Talk about poorly drilled fresh fish. These boys were made honorary officers starting with general down to private. They each got a penny or more tossed at them and ran off, no doubt, to delight others."

                    Sounds more believable than "FAR Be it from authentic" to me :tounge_sm but draw your own conclusions. But since I have not seen this letter personally, I'll have to believe it on heresay. Does sound pretty good though, eh? ;)
                    -Ty "Tic-Tac" Gladden
                    Co. A, 1st Texas Infantry
                    One of the "Three Jesi", and founding member of the Shire Mess.
                    Part of the Chocolate People Mess, of the Texmosippiana Society...


                    • #11
                      Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                      I think that unfortunately 'definition' reflects some hard and fast rules and I see a lot of blurry line here.

                      For example Mainstream/Progressive. I'll pick on myself as an example. I started with 'Sutler Row' items because that is what I could afford and wasn't sure if I wanted to make a huge financial investment in something I didn't like. Yet I never carried anything modern or modern looking into the field with me. Never had a coolers/canned goods/flash lights/cots/etc. I used tins to carry a lot of items but I took all the paint of of them first and they stayed in my pack/haversack unless I needed something in them (extra meds/whatnot). I only took foods into the field that would have been available in the 1860s.

                      So even at my first event I didn't fit either definition completely. Kit wise I was more mainstreamer - attitude was more progressive.

                      And I went to unit drill day BEFORE I went to my first event so I didn't look like a complete numbskull the first time I took the field.

                      Campaigner - that one could apply to any catergory because it is an action more than attitude or equipment thing. I see it as basically as the idea that 'I have to carry this stuff 20 miles today, now what do I want to carry that far.' It is more of the soldeirly concept of 'this is what the Col said I have to carry now what 'extra' items do I need'. For example you could be carrying your shelter-half, blanket, rations, weapon, extra clothes, etc in your knapsack/haversack/pockets. An authentic's equipment is going to be the finest reproductions he can acquire. A mainstream's might be reasonable facsimilies that he can afford. But it might be exactly the same list of items.

                      And again picking on myself I have always had the attitude that if I can't get it from the supply wagon (car) to the camp in one trip it ain't coming along.

                      I think there is also a knowledge component that slides you up or down the scale. You could have the most authentic gear available, done great research into where your unit served and what Great Grandpa did and looked like, but if you don't know how to do picket duty, or skirmish duty or even canteen detail are you really portraying a CW soldier?

                      And maybe that is where the issue comes in we try to define ourselves or someone else by a 'standard' yet we can't really define the standard ourselves.

                      Maybe Authentic is the easiest to define and the hardest to obtain. It is the desire to look, act, be equipped and have the knowledge that an actual CW soldier would. So if you were ever dropped out of the sky into a battle line you wouldn't look out of place. And maybe this is impossible to obtain because we have so much more information at our fingertips and we live in a modern world 340 of 365 days a year that it is impossible for us to actually think like a CW soldier we have too much to unlearn or not face.

                      But bless those who try.
                      Bob Sandusky
                      Co C 125th NYSVI
                      Esperance, NY


                      • #12
                        Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                        for what it's worth i agree with Mr Calloway concerning the theory of "Campaigner" you can be "mainstream" or "hardcore" and do a garrison or campaign impression. To me a campaigner is simply that fellow at the event who packs what minimal goods he has brought to the event in and can bring it all with him out to fight and pack it out when its over. whether said items are "row" bought or not i don't think is an issue. But then i could be missing the point completely, it's been known to happen..

                        steve hutton


                        • #13
                          Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                          In 1976 I heard it from some Rev War guys that they were using the word FARB to represent "Fairly Authentic, Resembling British" when describing the reenactors who were making a feeble attempt to portray the redcoats. (just one more example)

                          I will say too, that at this time Jarnagin was in Bolder, Colorado deliving mail as a full time job and doing "reenacting uniforms" part time. We considered his catalog the basis of uniform study and anyone with his stuff authentics. After that, anyone who wore cadet gray. It took more erffort to wear CG becuase you couldn't get it off out of a catalog and it cost $15 more. I guess my comment is after 30 years somethings have changed, and somethings have stayed the same. At one time, it could have been said that "even the farbs now are wearing good stuff". I guess that everything is relative to what's available. Back then, is was difficult to obtain knowledge even though you wanted it badly. Today, with such things as the www there is not much of an excuse not to tap into a world of resourses and ways to find out. In the end it is what's in the heart that discribes the living historian- whatever is there will sooner or later show up on his back.

                          Joe Walker


                          • #14
                            Re: An Attempt at Defining the Terms: by Paul Calloway

                            This article was written thirteen years ago. Has anything changed? On the heels of the "Are We Getting Soft" discussion, I am bumping this to the top to let you decide that question.
                            ERIC TIPTON
                            Former AC Owner