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AGSAS Authenticity Standards:

OK, we're not quite as stern as those ladies in that 1850's ambrotype, but we DO take authenticity standards very seriously.

We believe that there is no point in pretending that you are "portraying" people of the Civil War era unless you make an honest, research-based attempt to look, act and sound as accurate as possible within the context of what information and materials are available to us as 21st century people.

We consider ourselves a "progressive" reenacting organization. That means recognizing that while none of us will ever be totally authentic, because we are creatures of our own era, we nonetheless are constantly striving to be as authentic as we can be and to continue to improve our impressions -- -- to make progress.

Authenticity isn't a destination, it's a journey. While having the right gear -- clothing, material culture items, etc -- is crucial, the most important thing of all is having the right attitude, to WANT to do it right. (You can always borrow the gear when you're starting out.)

Clothing authenticity is only part of the picture. We believe in "getting beyond the gear" and attempting to understand the cultural and societal environment that would have been the common frame of reference for average Americans in the mid 19th century, and to implement and expand that knowledge through hands-on practice of period crafts, skills and pastimes, or through first person interpretation. For resources to help you learn more about the period, visit our "Research & How To" section.

Basic AGSAS Standards & Guidelines:

(Photograph from Who Wore What, used with the permission of author Juanita Leisch)


Our core portrayal is identical to that required for the Battle of McDowell reenactment, e.g. of middle class to working class rural Virginians. Therefore, our basic clothing standards for civilian men, women and children are those which we developed for the McDowell event.

We tailor our portrayals to the historical record of the event being portrayed. Thus, at events where the civilian portrayal required is that of a Northerner, our clothing will vary somewhat from our core Southern portrayal (e.g. without the impact of the blockade and shortages). By the same token, if we are portraying people who are either wealthier or poorer than the average, the impression will be adjusted accordingly.

The standards listed on the Battle of McDowell website in the link above are specifically appropriate to an event taking place in the spring of 1862 in Virginia's Allegheny Highlands. If we are portraying a different period of the War or the periods immediately before or after the War, clothing may vary slightly, depending on the scenario and circumstances.

Most of the events we attend have published authenticity standards and guidelines to assist members in developing their impressions. When this is not the case, the "core impression" standards, as articulated in the McDowell Civilian Clothing Standards, apply.

For More information on the AGSAS Basic Core Impression and on what you need to get started, read "Getting Started and Getting it Right" and also, check our our Recommended Vendors List 

Camping Regulations:

In most circumstances, civilians during the Civil War era lived in houses, not tents. Although we try to seek out events where we can stay in houses, or where being in a tent or a shebang is related to the scenario (e.g. refugees), this is not always possible and often we must set up a "camp of convenience".

We have a few policies that contribute to everyone's enjoyment and respect other reenactors' "magic moments." These rules apply 24-hours a day at events (whether or not visitors are present):

  • Appear in correct period attire appropriate to the situation. (of course!)
  • No modern items are to be seen at any time. This includes, but is not limited to, soda cans, cigarettes, plastic, modern food, coolers, etc. If event rules allow coolers or other modern items, they MUST be hidden and covered, even if the event rules don't specify this.
  • We encourage members to avoid, where possible, the use of modern items of any kind other than medical and hygiene necessities (e.g. medicine, contact lense solution, sunscreen, insect repellant, feminine hygiene items, etc).
  • In most situations, there is a feasible period way of doing things without resorting to a modern solution. Sometimes the period method or item is MORE effective than its modern counterpart. Part of the learning experience of living history is to experience as many aspects of daily life in the era as possible. When in doubt, seek a period solution.
  • Please note that the above rules about minimizing and hiding farb items only apply to "camp of convenience" type events and events where sleeping accommodations are not part of the event scenario. Coolers, modern bedding, and non-period items are NOT allowed at immersion events.
  • No hairdressing in public. Hairdressing was privately done. In a "camp of convenience" situation, this means in your tent. (The obvious exception to this rule is if we are doing a third person presentation for the public on period hairdressing techniques!)
  • No nail polish, modern makeup, modern eyeglasses, modern hair styles or other obvious farb distractions. If you have non-period body piercings (e.g. anything other than one set of holes for normal earrings) leave the body jewelry at home. We don't want to see a ring in your nose unless you're portraying livestock.
  • Children under 12 must be supervised at all times and must be dressed in age-appropriate period civilian attire. NO modern toys are allowed. For a good selection of period toys, visit www.RaggedSoldier.com
  • For legal liability reasons, all participants under the age of 18 must either have a parent or guardian present or an adult participant must be designated as responsible, with the approval of said parent or guardian.
  • If you must smoke cigarettes, the AGSAS President or event coordinator will designate a smoking zone outside of the main event area and away from the view of the public and other reenactors, provided that the event in question allows participants to take a break and absent themselves temporarily from the event. However, some events which we attend do NOT allow this, so take note.
  • Period tobacco use (cigars, pipes, chewing) is permissible in public if appropriate to your impression.
  • If event rules allow the presence of alcohol, please drink moderately and responsibly, and ensure that nobody under legal drinking age has access to alcohol.
  • No illegal drug use will be tolerated, period.
  • If we are camping, we do NOT camp in the military camp, nor are military reenactors allowed to visit our camp unless there are scenario-related reasons for doing so. Military reenactors must leave the AGSAS civilian camp by 11:00 pm at the very latest.
  • As a "civilian camp" is in most cases only a camp of convenience and not scenario related, it is important that our camp have the minimum visual impact on the event. Therefore, wall tents are not allowed. Wedge tents must be arranged in "company streets" to give the external appearance of a military garrison camp and tent flaps kept closed. If you use a fly, use it accurately, OVER your tent, not as a "front porch" Avoid being a "tent sitter" at the "front door" of your tent.
  • Minimize fire pits. One communal firepit should be sufficient for all of us at events where this is our means of cooking.
  • Any furniture and material culture items used should be of a period appropriate style, whether reproduction or original -- no two piece slat chairs, speckleware or other such reenactorisms.
  • Event rules are to be obeyed at all times.

First Person:

We reject the old-style approach to first person portrayals wherein reenactors developed a standard impression and "persona" for all events as such impressions tend to become confining and restrict you from attending the better type of events. For example, if your "persona" is of a Federal laundress and you're attending an event at which the Federal Army is documented to NOT have had laundresses, you're out of luck! Instead, we base our portrayals on the historical record of the type of civilians that were ACTUALLY present at the event being portrayed. As always, the key word is research. For help on first person, visit our "How To" section. We also do third person interpretation for the public and for school groups.

Photo credits: Carte de visite of man and woman reprinted from Who Wore What and used with the permission of the author, Juanita Leisch.