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A conversation with MICHAEL COLOSIMO

Michael Colosimo lives history on weekends as an infantryman with the 105th Pennsylvania Company E, reenacting Civil War battles in full uniform and period accoutrements. During the week he's a senior history major at California University of Pennsylvania

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To be a Civil War reenactor, do you have to be authentic down to the underwear?

No. There's people who go that far - they call themselves the hardcore. I go to what's comfortable. I will wear the period underwear just because it keeps the itching of the wool [uniform] down.

 

Where did you get your uniform?

They sell most of the stuff off the rack. They sell them out in Gettysburg and of course you can get them online.

 

You were in the Battle of Cedar Creek in Winchester, Virginia, this fall - how do you pick which battles to re-fight?

It's a good event. The rocks on the battlefield can be real treacherous. Usually it's the last big event of the season so we try to have fun there.

 

What do reenactors do for fun?

Just a good weekend - good battles, nobody getting hurt, jokes around the campfire.

 

How do you decide who dies during the reenactment?

It depends. Sometimes the commanding officer will tell you to take a hit - if you're running out of ammunition, if your rifle malfunctions. The Confederates will say the Yankees ain't taking enough hits and the Yankees will say the Confederates aren't taking enough hits.

 

What do you think of people who take half-measures, like the women I saw at Cedar Creek a few years ago, in crinolines, clutching Nikons.

It doesn't bother me. I try to ignore than kind of stuff. If we're in the middle of a battle and somebody pulls out a camera - I'm an officer and I can say, "Put that away." After battle and we're in camp and somebody pops a Coke can I'm not going to say, "Put that away." It's a hobby. The hardcore, though, sleep on the ground and eat the period food and have all correct clothing down to the littlest stitch.

 

I've even seen reenactors with period eyeglasses.

A lot of our guys have them - they'll go to a flea market and look for them. I have contacts.

 

How time-consuming is this hobby?

We usually go out two weekends a month for all weekend. But it's our option to do what events you want to do.

 

What was it like, being an extra in Gods and Generals?

It was a lot of work. I had found out on the 'net that Gods and Generals was going into production and that they were looking for reenactors. The night that I mailed in the photos I was joking with my parents - I said if I were offered a role I would quit school and go off and be in the movies. Well, about two weeks later I got a phone call from the production department, asking me if I wanted to be in the movie full time. That's when I decided to take a semester off of school. It was a unique experience. A lot of repetition. Long days. And even long nights.

 

Do you have ancestors who fought in the Civil War?

Yeah. I had two - one on my mother's side and one on my father's side. The one on my mother's side was in the 37th Pennsylvania and he got killed Sept. 14, 1862, at the Battle of South Mountain, Maryland, and then the other relative I'm not so sure of. He was medically discharged. He got a hernia loading boxcars, I think in Harrisburg.

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