The life of a Civil War re-enactor is a very dedicated one. They’re dedicated to the history, the stories, and the lives of those who fought in The War Between the States. They take care in being as accurate as possible, representing the true history of the war down to the smallest details, from the things they carried to the food they ate all the way to their personal appearance. The America of some 150 years ago was a very different place.
Nylon-cotton blend uniforms give way to wool, the “woobie” gives way to old gum blankets, and MREs become a much more complicated process, handed over to a camp’s cook. These are just a few of the details in the mind of the re-enacting foot soldier. But not everyone who carries a .58-caliber Minié ball rifle onto historical battlefields has the same dedication to accuracy.
Re-enactor memes are so dank.
Imagine spending all year practicing long-obsolete infantry drills with members of your unit just so you can execute them beautifully on oft-forgotten battlefields in the Spring and Summer months. Imagine the patience it takes to purchase (or, in some cases, build) infantry gear that hasn’t been necessary in over a century. Imagine the dedication required to sit in those wool uniforms in the dead of summer, swarmed by mosquitoes and plagued by the hot sun, only to have the FNG roll in, wearing sunscreen and insect repellent and playing with his iPhone.
Do not bring your camera, either.
The farb is someone who wants the glory of the job without putting in the work. It’s a judgmental term, one that, when used, ensures that the farb knows he’s not just factually wrong, but he’s also morally wrong. Their lame attempt (and acceptance of their subsequent failure) at authenticity is offensive. Like a civilian trying to pass themselves off as a Marine (aka “Stolen Valor”), farbs ruin the immersive experience of this kind of time travel — not just for the viewer, but for the re-enactors themselves.
It’s the worst thing you can call someone in these fields of dreams.
“That jacket is farby,” “his farbery is appalling,” and “can you believe the farbism he just dropped?” are all common lamentations of the truly dedicated.
Re-enacting battles of bygone eras isn’t strictly a Civil War pastime. History buffs in the north and south alike also re-enact the Revolutionary War (and, in some places, even World War I). Overseas, dedicated Europeans re-enact the Napoleonic Wars, especially the 1815 Battle of Waterloo in what is today Belgium. There is no limit to how far the dedicated will go to keep history alive — some battles date as far back as the Middle Ages, where fighting Mongols in Eastern Europe was the thing to do.
They’re keeping history alive and it’s a big job.
Wilson Freeman, an 18-year historical re-enactor, runs the blog “Historically Speaking: The Life and Times of a Historical Reenactor.” He says it’s not just an insult to the other re-enactors, it’s an insult to the people they’re working to portray.
There are several reasons that farbs are looked down upon in the reenacting hobby. One argument I’ve heard is that it’s an insult to the people we portray. Another is that it’s an insult to reenactors who actually take the time and effort to create a highly authentic impression. Yet another is that seeing something inauthentic on the field takes other reenactors “out of the moment” by reminding them that what they’re experiencing isn’t real.