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10 Amazing Battle Re-enactments You Have to See to Believe

The culture of battle re-enactments stretches across the U.S., with tens of thousands of aficionados recreating some of the seminal moments in American military history. And in summertime the battles really heat up, with these 10 topping the list of must-see history in action.

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reenactmentAndrew F. Kazmierski/Shutterstock

Battle of Monmouth

Manalapan, New Jersey (June 17—18, 2017)

For Revolutionary War buffs, the summer kicks off with the largest living history event in New Jersey. The Friends of Monmouth Battlefield and the New Jersey Division of Parks and Forestry co-sponsor this event, which commemorates the 1778 battle that made Molly Pitcher famous. The weekend features hundreds of troops encamped at Monmouth Battlefield State Park, recreating moments from the battle. For non-participants there are lectures, presentations, and tours of the camp, all to get a taste of the action. Learn more about what makes New Jersey unique in these 50 facts about our 50 states.

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A Remembrance of Our Greatest Generation

Elks Page Park, Dixon, Illinois (June 23–25, 2017)

The tanks, trucks, hardware, and lifestyle of the soldiers of World War II are on full display in this three-day look at American and German troops of the European Theater. Presented by the World War Two Historical Re-enactment Society, the event is a piece of living history that’s authentic and educational. There’s even a recreation of a baseball game with the Rockford Peaches, the wartime women’s pro baseball team made famous in A League of Their Own. And while you’re in town, you can also stop by President Ronald Reagan‘s birthplace and boyhood home.

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Tigerland Tactical Vietnam Event

Kisatchie National Forest, Provencal, Louisiana (June 23–25, 2017)

There are an estimated 850,000 living Vietnam veterans, and the Living History Re-enactment Association pays tribute to them and their experiences with this ultra-realistic weekend. The Tactical Event is held on what used to be the real Tigerland training ground at Fort Polk, which is now part of Kisatchie National Forest. The weekend features a tour and battle re-enactment spotlighting Vietnam War-era equipment, weaponry, and vehicles. This is no event for wimps, though. Cell phone service is iffy, and the event is held on rocky, hilly terrain. And the summer heat of Louisiana lends that authentic tropical feel that demands that visitors keep their water bottle handy. Ancestry is now letting people access military records for free.

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Gettysburg Civil War Battle Re-enactment

Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1–3, 2017)

Civil War buffs can immerse themselves in the War Between the States any day of the year. But the re-enactment—held on the same weekend of the actual battle—is an annual highlight. The three-day event marks the 154th anniversary of the clash, as the armies recreate all the battles within the battle: the Ambush at Hunterstown, Seminary Ridge, the Wheatfield, Pickett’s Charge, and more. Gettysburg was the turning point of the Civil War, and this event recognizes its importance in colorful style. Visitors should arrive two hours before each battle, and perhaps most important, bring sunscreen for the hot summer weekend.

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canonJose Gil/Shutterstock

Civil War Days

Duncan Mills, California (July 15–16, 2017)

Sure, the Civil War never got as far as California, but the Golden State hosts this vivid staging of elements of 1860s warfare: the cannon‘s roar, the drums beating, the musket fire, and the sounds of battle. It’s like a living history lesson—participants also give lectures on their equipment and the characters they play. For spectators, there are bleachers and hay bales, plus a hot dog shack for refueling. These are the military phrases all battle buffs should know.

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Redcoats and Rebels

Old Sturbridge Village, Massachusetts (August 5—6, 2017)

This one is a real all-star game. New England’s largest military re-enactment features almost 1,000 soldiers portraying British, Irish, Spanish, Scottish, French, and colonial troops. Along with mock battles, you can tour a military hospital of the era, play a game of 18th century baseball, and learn some of the dances of the day. For the up close and personal touch, visitors can mingle with the participants themselves on Saturday evening to learn about the daily life of soldiers of the American Revolution.

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soldierKevin M. McCarthy/Shutterstock

D-Day Conneaut

Conneaut, Ohio (August 17–19, 2017)

For one weekend in August, this town of just under 13,000 turns Conneaut Township Park into Normandy on June 6, 1944. This is one of the most realistic and educational D-Day re-enactments going, and it’s free! The town’s 250-yard beach serves as a stage for the Allied landings, while other parts of the park present scenes of the inland skirmishes between the occupying German soldiers, French resistance fighters, and Allied parachute and glider infantry. There are also encampments of the Allied and German soldiers to provide a glimpse of infantry life in the ’40s.

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Rockford, Illinois (September 20–24, 2017)

This five-day living history event is an expansive re-enactment with an educational element. The three-day camp setup culminates in a free dinner for all students participating in the school tours. Those tours give an up-close look at the equipment and history of the armies, with access to an on-site military museum. On Saturday, soldiers taking part in the day’s skirmishes can unwind at a USO dance. Sunday features a program of vignettes and skits, plus a briefing by a modern-day General George S. Patton at which he discusses the strategy and thinking behind the day’s battles.

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Remembering WWII

Linden, Tennessee (September 22–23, 2017)

If you’ve seen Saving Private Ryan or The Longest Day, you know that much of the fighting in World War II took place with troops going house to house in small towns. For this colorful two-day celebration, the West Tennessee town of Linden goes back in time, turning the downtown into a living portrait of wartime life, with an authentic recreation of the 1940s Cafe de Normandie, vintage cars, and even a live USO show. Visitors can tour American, German, British, and French Resistance army camps. And the battle scenes take place right in town, transforming tranquil Linden into an urban battlefield.

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Mississinewa 1812

Mississinewa Battlefield, La Fontaine, Indiana (October 13–15, 2017)

And let’s not forget the War of 1812. This re-enactment commemorates the Battle of Mississinewa on December 1812, the first offensive victory for the United States, which was still an upstart nation at the time. The weekend’s attractions boast the battle itself, and in addition, there are realistic military encampments and a super cool Native American village (featuring an authentic long house that has existed since 1752).