If history repeats itself, then why do people take so much pleasure in the reenactment of medieval battles? While the answer for this may not be found in any text book, the people of Poland recreate the Battle of Grunwald each year with more than 3000 people participating in the event.
The Battle of Grunwald
The Battle of Grunwald is considered one of the greatest battles ever fought in Medieval Europe. It also has been the most important victory for Poland and Lithuania, which probably validates why it has been celebrated in Poland for the last 600 years. The Battle of Tannenberg as it is also known, was fought in 1410 on July 15th and is reenacted the same day each year. The war took place between the Kingdom of Poland with the Grand Duchess of Lithuania as it's ally and the Knights of the Teutonic Order. The Teutonic knights were defeated and although they saved their fortress from siege suffering only minimal territorial losses, they could never recover their former power. Post battle power shifted towards the Eastern European section and the Polish-Lithuanian union rose as a dominant political and military force.
Knights from Germany, Poland, Italy, Finland, France, Slovakia, Hungary, Czech Republic, Belarus, Russia, Ukraine and the USA participate in the medieval battle's reenactment. The number is upwards of 1500 with over 100,000 spectators watching over the reenactment. It includes marching parades, mock battles, concerts and festivities and spans a period of 5 days from the 14th of July to 18th of July each year.
The program starts with the Grunwald Call to Arms with King Władysław Jagiełło and Ulrich von Jungingen, the Grand Master arriving with mounted companies at the fields of Grunwald. This is followed by the festivities of medieval style, a fair in the village of the craftsman followed by a tournament of knights and the Fire Festival. The medieval battles reenactment 600th anniversary is jointly organized by the Warmia and Mazury Province authorities, Grunwald Commune authorities and Grunwald Foundation. The tournaments of the knights include Board games, Archery, Grunwald Longsword Tournament and the “5”Grunwald Team Tournament complete with the Polish eliminations. Artificial illuminations make the battle almost come alive. For the five days of the event, the participants rehearse the battle re-enactment and the final mock battle is reenacted by over 2000 historical impersonators on the 17th of July at a specially erected Battlefield location. On the 18th July the medieval battles reenactment is marked by the symbolic departure of the troops.
Battle of Hastings
The Battle of Hastings, which was first fought in 1066 when the Normans defeated the English, is reenacted each year in the weekend following the 14th of October. The medieval battles reenactment is held at its original location of Battle Abbey in East Sussex. Participants from all over the world take part in this yearly event. What initially started as a reenactment by amateur groups has since developed into full fledged scenes by professional actors. The event is organized by English Heritage with more than several thousand spectatorships. As the years pass by more and more people are participating in this enactment and in 2006 alone more than 3400 participants registered and more than 25000 people paid to watch the reenactment.
American Civil War
The reenactment of the Civil war began even before the end of the real war. Veterans of the civil war recreated the battles to commemorate their fallen comrades and also to teach people a thing or two about the war. In fact the 125th Anniversary of the American Civil War held in the 1990s was the largest ever enacted in the whole world. The event was held near Manassas battlefield and over fifty thousand participants reenacted the battle.
The enactors of the American Civil War are divided into 3 main categories according to which they undergo training in every aspect of the war including dressing, cooking etc. The first is the Farbs which is for enthusiasts who cannot dedicate much time or money for the event. Nothing from the period behavior to the uniforms and accessories match the actual war scenario. The 2nd set is the Mainstream where the enactors are able to put more efforts in making the event look authentic. The 3rd and the most important are the progressive who are hard-core authentic individuals. They try to live the actual experience of the war and seek immersive reenacting experience from the event. They are involved to an extent where they only eat food that is appropriate for the season and the region; they sew the inside seams like the ancestors did and even the undergarments are worn according to the appropriate era. They live as their chosen character during the entire event.
The reenactment event includes public events on Saturdays and Sundays, living histories which is intended to educate the public, public demonstrations which are mock battles and also the scripted battles. Total immersion events and tactical battle events are not open to the public and are fought like the real ones as each group devises strategies and tactics to defeat the opponent.
Participating in these symbolic epic battles boosts the national pride in the people and also allows them to relive the historic happenings.