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Living historians honor York’s 87th Pennsylvania: Part 3

Dominish Marie Miller (left, submitted)

The 87th Pennsylvania living historians will be kicking off their 2018 campaign soon, with a schedule full of parades, living history appearances, and encampments. As we continue our series of interviews with members of this longstanding York County organization, we chat today with Dominish “Domi” Marie Miller.

Name: Dominish Marie Miller

  • When you were a kid, do you ever play army or dress up in any way as a soldier, cowboy, Indian, pirate, or some other historical character? Please give any examples.

Yes. My brother and I would play soldiers and pirates when we were children.

  • What was your favorite military toy as a kid? Please describe it and how you enjoyed it.

My dad made us wooden swords to play with when we were kids. We would play in the backyard with them.

  • What or who do you now portray? What is your personal connection to that organization or person?

I portray a private in the 87th PA Volunteer Infantry, Company C. I am a women, disguised as a male solider. My 3rd great grandfather was in the Civil War and that inspired me to start reenacting. I choose to join the 87th PA because I was born and raised in York County, PA, where they are historically from.

  • In your opinion, are you more of a reenactor (sham battles) or a living historian, or both? Which do you prefer?

I am more of a living historian. I enjoy educating the public about the Civil War and American history. It’s fun to immerse yourself in the daily life of a solider and experience how they lived. That being said, I still enjoy getting to experience a battle and the tactical component of reenacting.

  • How did you get started in the hobby?

I’ve always had a passion for history, particularly the Civil War. After graduating from grad school I finally had the time and the money to devote to the hobby. My cousin and I decided that we would like to reenact together, so we researched groups until we found the 87th PA.

  • How much does it cost to be a reenactor or living historian? Please give some examples of the typical costs for various pieces of equipment, uniform parts, civilian attire, etc.

The price of the hobby depends on how accurate you would like your impression to be. If you are buying high quality, hand stitched items, you will be spending a few thousand dollars just to get started. To portray a Union solider you will need a cotton shirt, sack coat, foot trousers, forage hat or kepi, suspenders, leather belt, belt plate, cap box, cartridge box, cartridge box sling, box plate, breast plate, canteen, bayonet, scabbard, haversack, brogans and rifle. You can decide to wear modern undergarments, or historical ones. Accessories are also important. If you wear glasses, you will need period correct frames. Modern watches should be traded for pocket watches, and modern jewelry should be taken off.

A Model 1861 Springfield rifled musket can run you $800 +

A Federal Sack Coat can cost $60.00 – $110.00 + depending on the sutler.

A pair of U.S. Enlisted Foot Trousers can cost $60.00- $110.00+ depending on the sutler.

Don’t let the price scare you. If you can’t afford something new, there are plenty of places that you can buy used gear. There are also groups that let new recruits borrow uniforms and gear until they can buy their own.

  • What is your most memorable event in which you participated, and why?

I have only been reenacting for one year. So far, the 2017 Remembrance Day parade has been my most memorable event. It started raining at 9am and didn’t let up all day. There was a terroristic threat made against the parade, so there were blockades and State Police everywhere. It made for a very interesting day.

  • Have you ever stopped at a gas station, grocery store, etc. while in full attire? What was the reaction of onlookers?

I’ve gotten a lot of stares when in full uniform outside of Gettysburg. People at gas stations and restaurants mainly stare. A few people have asked questions. I usually hear a joke about time machines, or I get asked why I’m dressed like solider and not a woman in a skirt.

  • What is the strangest or funniest thing that you remember from one of your events?

Some of the questions that people ask during living history events makes you scratch your head. People ask if we really sleep in our tents (we do), if we actually eat food that was cooked over the fire (we do) and if our wool uniforms are hot in the summer (they are).

One man asked us what we were eating while at a living history event in Gettysburg. My cousin jokingly told him that we were eating chicken that we stole from a local farm. The man believed him and asked if that was legal.

  • A lot of people talk about the friendships and sense of community that you get while participating in living history events or reenactments. Please give some personal examples of how the hobby has impacted you.

The 87th welcomed my cousin and I with open arms. We got very lucky, and found a group that is friendly and doesn’t take themselves too seriously. They were more than willing to teach us the ropes and explain anything that we didn’t understand. When you spend multiple weekends camped out in tents with no modern amenities or electronics, you form strong bonds. This hobby has given me the opportunity to meet people from all across the country and the world that share the same interests.

  • What advice would you give a newcomer to the hobby?

My advice would be to research your impression. Read books, look at blogs and observe fellow reenactors. If you’re not sure about something, ask questions. The nice thing about the hobby is that everyone loves to talk about history and the Civil War.

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