Frequently asked questions
Where are events?
Events are held at museums, historic sites, and battlefields. Most of our events occur at sites in our home region of Texas, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Some events we attend are in Kansas, Missouri, Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Check out our Schedule of Events to see where we are headed next!
How much does it cost?
New Recruits or participants who have more uncertain schedules may register for events one at a time, at our "Conscript" rate of $100 per weekend event.
All participants must attend training prior to any Battle events, either at specific Training activities, by arriving early on the Friday of certain Battle events, or by attending a Camp event. Training activities are free, while Camp events are subject to the same rate as Battle events.
Regular participants should consider Enlisting to become full Institute members! Full members enjoy extra perks, access to our Virtual Camp, and a 40% discount on event fees
What do I need to bring to events?
The Institute provides all the living history equipment that you will need. However, for your health, safety, and basic comfort while participating, we ask that you bring a few modern items with you, which you can fine here. Please bring ONLY those items listed.
What side do you portray?
The default impression of the Institute is that of Union soldiers. However, should the situation require it, we are prepared to field Confederate soldiers with the same dedication to historical accuracy.
How do you know when you get "hit"?
Being the quintessential question asked by those learning how living history and reenactment works, we get asked this a lot. In short, we have several methods. The simplest is the officers will call out a number to which you are assigned, in which case you are to take your hit. Another method is the officers will carefully control how much ammunition you are issued for each engagement to correspond to the battle combat scenario. When you run out of ammunition, you are to take your hit.
How old do you have to be?
The minimum age to participate in living history events is 16 years old. Participants age 12 and up may participate if they audition to be a drummer, fifer, or bugler. Younger children whose parents are participating in a civilian roll may be permitted, subject to approval from program staff.
Can women participate?
We strongly encourage women to participate in the roll of nurse, civilian, or camp support. These rolls are under-represented in Civil War living history, and we would love for you to help us tell the stories of the women who fought in their own way in a still very male dominated society. While hundreds of women did fight as soldiers, compared to the millions of men who fought, this percentage is rendered miniscule. If a female participant would still like to participate as a soldier, we will work with them to assist them in making as accurate a portrayal of this special historical occurrence as possible.
Is it safe?
The Institute follows firearm safety principals as established by the NRA and used on live gun ranges across the country. Combined with safety procedures particular to living history events, continuous training and practice of simulated combat scenarios, and well-trained and vigilant officers, our events have a very high safety rating. Additionally, most events have paramedics on site in case of injury, and the Institute strives to maintain a "hospital" staff that is trained in first aid. In the unlikely event that an accident or injury occurs, our participants are covered by our liability insurance. See a copy of our firearms safety policy here.
Do you use real guns?
Our firearms are working reproductions of Civil War era firearms, and are capable of firing bullets. However, we never use or produce live rounds, only blank ammunition produced by the Institute is allowed. Additionally, our standard practice is to load blank ammunition without the use of the ramrod, thereby removing the possibility of loading any sort of projectile.
Some live-fire activities may be conducted on an established rifle range, following all NRA recommended safety rules for gun ranges. For such an activity, bullets would be handed out individually, separate from the powder charge, and are carefully controlled by the acting range master.
What if I want to participate but I don't want to fight?
The are plenty of opportunities for those who want to participate but would prefer a more non-combat role. For talented individuals who can play the fife, drum, or bugle, we have musician positions available. We also have cook, ambulance corpsman, hospital, and civilian roles available as well. If you have something particular in mind, contact us and we will do our best to accommodate you!
How can I help, if I'm just not that into camping?
If you just aren't a camping person, but believe in education through living history, then please contact us to ask about joining our Board of Directors! Board members help guide the Institute, make programming decisions, and work behind the scenes to make everything go.
Where do you sleep?
For most living history events, we sleep in canvas tents. For some events at historic forts, barracks with bunk beds may be available to accommodate our troops.
What do you eat?
We eat food that is similar to the fair that the real Civil War soldiers had to eat. All of our ingredients would have been available to the soldiers at one time or another, and no strictly modern food is used. However, we understand that eating a diet of only hardtack and salt pork wasn't fun for the soldiers, and it definitely would not be fun for our troops! Our camp meals are made to be hearty and tasty, while still using various period ingredients.
Are there bathrooms and showers?
All of our events have some form of restroom facilities. While some sites may have modern bathrooms with flush toilets available, others will have several "Porta-Johns" available for use. As for shower facilities, these are much more rare to have available. However, we encourage our participants to stay clean, and we will do our best to provide warm water, soap, and towels so that our troops may have a "sponge bath" if they desire to wash up a bit.