Share your "bad history" questions from events or reenactments

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#1
Anybody have examples of “bad history” questions asked of reenactors at living history events or reenactments?

I do not mean questions like, “Is that a real fire?” or "Are you hot in that?" Although those are fun, I mean questions that show a lack of education about history in general and the Civil War era in particular.

Here are some I’ve been asked:
  • At a Civil War living history event, I had a teenager ask me if the Civil War occurred before or after WWII. I thought he was joking, but then realized he was serious--he really didn't know!
  • While waiting to step off in the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade, I was standing next to a stack of arms consisting of Springfield muzzleloaders, and a youngster from the drill team next to us asked, "Are you guys supposed to be from WWII or something?"
  • Onboard the USS Constellation, which is a US Navy sloop of war, a young woman asked me, "So, where did they keep the slaves?" She really thought they had a former slave ship docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor as a tourist attraction.
  • At a Civil War living history event, a young woman strode up to me, pointed at my V Corps badge and asked, "Why are you wearing Nazi insignia?"
  • At Ft. McHenry, we were having a Civil War weekend, and a woman stopped me in my Union uniform, pointed at a Union Zouave reenactor from NY walking by and asked, “So, he’s British and you’re...an American?”
  • At the Remembrance Day Parade, I was wearing my Civil War era Marine Corps musician's dress uniform, and a spectator asked, "Are you from France?"
  • Finally, not from an event, but when in middle school, one of my kids (who was reenacting with me at the time) sat through a presentation by a student teacher on the Buffalo Soldiers and their role in the Civil War, which included the song "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley. This was from a teacher, no less.
Please share any you've encountered!
 
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#4
I don't have too many experiences of people asking questions showing a horrible lack of education at reenactments on that level, but there have been a few.
1. At one event I remember someone asking us, we were Confederate, "Where are your MP-40's and Panzers?" I think the gray uniforms combined with a lack of education made the teenager think we were WW2 Germans.
2. Someone asked me about where the Confederate concentration camps for Indians were at during the War. (That one really incensed me, as my Confederate GG-Grandfather married my Cherokee GG-Grandmother after Appomattox)
3. One of favorites, I heard a teenager ask his parents "When are the Huey's gonna come and drop in troops?"
4. Another favorite, still get asked from time to time, "How many rounds do muskets hold?" or "Where does the magazine go on your rifle?"

Finally, not from an event, but when in middle school, one of my kids (who was reenacting with me at the time) sat through a presentation by a student teacher on the Buffalo Soldiers and their role in the Civil War, which included the song "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley. This was from a teacher, no less.
I got a story or two related to that, in High School I used to get in trouble with the history teacher when I'd contradict her, and I'd get sent to the principle, who knew I wasn't gonna be silenced, she'd just tell me to go to the local Dairy Queen and get lunch. It was the history teacher's fault, I couldn't let her statements about how "George Washington started concentration camps for Native Americans." and "The Confederacy oppressed the Mormon people in the 1850's forcing them to immigrate to Utah." stand. There are some serious things wrong with the education system, thankfully the principle found a way to get the teacher to pass me, as otherwise I'd failed her class. I really ticked her off for being "racist" because a photo of some soldier from the USCT who had been hanged in the CW for rape she labeled it as "lynching in the 1920's" and I told her how she was wrong, and after that I wasn't let back in that classroom. Fun times.
 
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#5
Not a question, but one of the stupidest comments I overheard was from a woman about 50 years old. We were sitting on a small stone wall near the old Gettysburg Visitor's Center overlooking the field of Pickett's Charge on an idyllic June day at dusk when she leaned over and said to her friend: "I don't know who was in charge and ordered Pickett to cross that field, but whoever it was should be shot!"
UGH!
 
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MC44

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#8
=I got a story or two related to that, in High School I used to get in trouble with the history teacher when I'd contradict her, and I'd get sent to the principle, who knew I wasn't gonna be silenced, she'd just tell me to go to the local Dairy Queen and get lunch. It was the history teacher's fault, I couldn't let her statements about how "George Washington started concentration camps for Native Americans." and "The Confederacy oppressed the Mormon people in the 1850's forcing them to immigrate to Utah." stand. There are some serious things wrong with the education system, thankfully the principle found a way to get the teacher to pass me, as otherwise I'd failed her class. I really ticked her off for being "racist" because a photo of some soldier from the USCT who had been hanged in the CW for rape she labeled it as "lynching in the 1920's" and I told her how she was wrong, and after that I wasn't let back in that classroom. Fun times.
It's teachers like that who are screwing up our kids today. Selling their own brand of history and giving real educators a bad name.
 
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#9
I was doing a living history presentation for our church youth group in uniform, and one teenager asked me if I actually served in the Civil War. I asked him, "How old do you think I am????"
I've gotten that one a couple of times as well, but didn't include it in my list because it's usually from 4-6 year olds, who aren't going to know anything about history anyway, it's just cute--but to get it from a teenager? Good grief!
 

Joshism

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#10
Another favorite, still get asked from time to time, "How many rounds do muskets hold?" or "Where does the magazine go on your rifle?"
The museum that I work at has musket balls on display. Some visitors are astonished that bullets looked like that just over 150 years ago.

The first time I heard that from a visitor I really appreciated the value of museums teaching people that the way things are now is not the way they have always been. If a visitor learns nothing else I think that is a critcal lesson.

"I don't know who was in charge and ordered Pickett to cross that field, but whoever it was should be shot!"
It's funny they didn't know it was Lee, but the point is still valid: even today people can look across that big open space and recognize how suicidal the charge was. It's a little more complicated than that, but she's not off base, especially if she was speaking figuratively.

(There is a mindset that views all attacks across open ground in the age of firearms as a form of murder. It's probably derived from a combination of Revolutionary War mythos and fallout from ACW & WW1. Probably a topic worth its own thread.)
 
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Kurt G

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#11
It's teachers like that who are screwing up our kids today. Selling their own brand of history and giving real educators a bad name.
Not to get off track , but I had a college history professor complete with Phd who claimed Jefferson Davis was caught while wearing a dress and that Indian trade guns were very long because the Native Americans had to have a stack of beaver pelts as tall as the gun to purchase one . This guy even wrote a few books .
 

Joshism

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#12
It's teachers like that who are screwing up our kids today. Selling their own brand of history and giving real educators a bad name.
It's not just teachers, although they tend to have a more direct impact. It's not even necessary an issue of bias or agenda. Some people manage to be very passionate about history yet incredibly ignorant about it as well. Sometimes it's poor memory and they cannot keep their facts straight. Some just like sensationalism.

That said, whatever the reason, the teacher in question sounds like she should have been fired.
 

BlueandGrayl

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#13
A lot of these people like genocide deniers don't really know much about history nor have they read history books. At best they have a vague conception of what X this or in this case the Civil War was and like what the thread poster pointed out confuse it with another conflict like say World War II.
 
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lurid

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#14
Who was Calvin Coolidge?

Revisionists with an ultra spin to their ideology write history books for academia. Considering the majority of Americans don't know nothing about or never heard about President Calvin Coolidge the ignorance is palpable. He gets two sentences in academic history books in which they blame him for the crash in 1929, which is utterly absurd. Coolidge was the most conservative president the US ever produced and he adhered to the Constitution and to the founders sensibilities almost to fault.
 

BlueandGrayl

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#15
Who was Calvin Coolidge?

Revisionists with an ultra spin to their ideology write history books for academia. Considering the majority of Americans don't know nothing about or never heard about President Calvin Coolidge the ignorance is palpable. He gets two sentences in academic history books in which they blame him for the crash in 1929, which is utterly absurd. Coolidge was the most conservative president the US ever produced and he adhered to the Constitution and to the founders sensibilities almost to fault.
Coolidge now is seen as a good president though.
 
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#17
I did my dissertation on Andrew Mellon in 1999-2002 and nobody knew who he was and nobody knew who Coolidge was either. The ones in academia blamed Coolidge for the crash and for not dealing with the KKK.
Can we stay on track, please? These look like interesting topics for another thread. Thanks!
 

major bill

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#18
One day the Michigan History Museum asked/forced me to wear a Hospital Steward uniform. As groups of students went through one told me his bus driver stayed with the bus. I realized he thought I was a bus drive. I have tried to avoid wear the uniform ever since.

Well at least the State of Michigan purchased my "bus driver" uniform. i wonder if they would buy me a Spanish American War or World War Two uniform to wear?
 
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#19
I would say that these instances are good examples of how good for the public reenactments are, attempting to defeat the menace of ignorance or just plain faulty educations, but we do have a class of reenactor that is wholly ignorant, such as my favorite to really hate, (that's due to being a victim of their infamous unsafe practices in my parts), the dismounted cavalry. Mainly referring to them in area of the South and America, I don't know how they are elsewhere, but out here they do a tremendous amount of damage to educating the public by really being a bunch of folks playing cowboys and Indians. Seriously seeing them at reenactments on Friday school days they teach fantasies.
 



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