Living history, or costumed interpretation, has been a popular program on National Park Service (NPS) battlefield and military sites for the past forty years. Antietam National Battlefield Site and Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park conducted historic weapons programs as early as 1961, while Fort Davis National Historic Site in Texas is considered the first NPS site to put interpreters in period uniforms in 1965. NPS Director George Hartzog was a proponent of living history farms and period programs, claiming he would “not to have another dead and embalmed historical area.”
At Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park (FRSP), living history arrived in 1973 in the form of a Confederate “camp” established on the Chancellorsville Battlefield. The camp represented a Confederate ordnance detachment tasked with salvaging and cleaning up the battlefield. According to the interpretive prospectus, the camp was intended to represent a post-battle scene, in which Confederate soldiers would interpre the daily routine of Confederate soldiers and provide an opportunity to reflect upon the battle.
“Our goal for the coming season is to develop a scene rather than a demonstration – smoething that will go on continuously and quite naturally of its own accord and with no ‘script.’ It will be a slice of mid-19th century American military life – and the visitor can see as much of it or as little of it as he likes. He can walk through the ‘scene’ for the flavor of it, or he can stay and get totally involved. It will be very much alive, because the participants will be actually living it.” – Bill Meuse, “Thoughts on the Presentation of the Living History Program at Fredericksburg – Spotsylvania N.M.P. for the 1973 Season,” Copy in FRSP files.