Civil War Civilian Living History

Interpreting the American Civil War Home Front

Developing an Impression

Mr. Nix aka Hal Simon

Mr. Nix aka Hal Simon

To “do” living history you must create a “history” to interpret. This history will be determined a great deal by the event you are participating in and the environment you have available to you, but even more so by your impression. Your clothes, props, and even your activities at events are dictated by your impression. Some events may require an impression specific to a time and place.DSCN1051

Developing an impression does not mean exclusively participating in first person activities. An impression can facilitate public interaction and gives you a focal point from which to answer questions from the public, whether it is in first or third person.

Whether you decide to do first or third person, you will need to research your impression. You will need a basic understanding of the world of the mid-1800s—what your impression would and would not know, what they would experience and understand, their beliefs and attitudes. Other pages on this site will help you with your research. You do not need to know everything. Don’t hesitate to claim ignorance on any appropriate subject; however, when you do impart information, make sure it’s accurate.

Impression Development Questions

Below are basic questions to help you develop an impression. Later, if you wish to develop a more in depth impression, you might want to consider reading Past into Present by Stacy F. Roth. Her book includes other questions that will help you add more dimensions to your impression

What is your name?VictoriaandCora
Where were you born?
Do you read and write?
What is your state of health? What diseases have you suffered?
Do you have an occupation?
Are you married?
What are the typical daily, weekly, seasonal, and annual skills that you need to know?
Do you have any unique skills or talents?
Are there customary talents that are common to your station, status and class?
Do you possess common knowledge and/or survival tactics specific to your era, station, status, and class?
How do you get from one place to the other?
What clothing is typical of your station?
Do you own property?
Do you have an opinion regarding the war? What is it?
What effect has the war had on you personally?

 Examples of Roles for Women
Refugee     Laundress     Cook     Pacifist     Abolitionist     Copperhead     Seamstress       Milliner     Mantua maker     Local farmwife      Wife/daughter of tradesman     Town gossip, busybody, local character     Society matron, social belle     Entertainer, singer, actress      Public speaker-social issues, reform, etc     Visitor or traveler       Vagrant     Servant

Examples of Roles for Men
Mayor, congressman, government bureaucrat     Judge, justice of the peace     Preacher or chaplain     Pacifist     Copperhead     Abolitionist     Scallywag or carpetbagger       Grouchy old man       Town drunk or naysayer     Entertainer, singer, actor     Local farmer       Doctor or dentist       Carpenter       Tradesman: baker, tinker, blacksmith, barber, rum seller, brewer, telegraph office, postmaster, printer, newspaper reporter, saddler, miller, tailor, machinist, mechanic, cooper, attorney       Militia member     Potential military recruit     Vagrant      
Visitor or traveler       Traveling salesman     Servant     Hired hand       Teacher


Developing Characters by Linda Trent

First Person articles.