About the Group

mose The Daybreak B'hoys and Hot Corn G'hals is a living history organization dedicated to telling the story of these people whom history would probably rather forget. The object is not to glorify their deeds, but rather to teach people about New York City's past, of which, sadly, few are fully aware.

While not a Civil War re-enactment unit per se, the Daybreak B'hoys can portray a generic Federal infantry unit hailing from New York City. It was common for small cliques, known as messes, to form within a regiment, sometimes based on pre-war friendships. Thus, when portraying soldiers, we are known as the "Daybreak B'hoys Mess." Members are encouraged to bring representations of their "home" units when appropriate, as our focus is not to take people away from their current affiliations, but rather to consolidate those portraying the rough and raw New Yorkers who shouldered a weapon during the war. Besides generic infantry, specialty impressions such as the 11th New York "First Fire Zouaves", 73rd New York "Second Fire Zouaves," 6th NYVI, 17th NYVVI, and others with their roots in the tenements of lower Manhattan are welcome.

What makes the Daybreak B'hoys different from most other Civil War groups is that our members are primarily encouraged to develop a civilian impression, to portray the members of the Bowery, Five Points, and waterfront gangs in the late 1850s and early 1860s. Since there are not (yet...) reenactments of the fights that raged on the battlefields of New York's streets, we place emphasis on interactive public demonstrations with some "first person" accounts. Some living historians find first person interpretation to be restrictive, so it is not a requirement for every scenario, as we are concerned about disseminating accurate historical information while remaining coherent at the same time, something not easily done when using the slang of the period! However, learning a few period phrases and terms is highly encouraged.

In December, 2002, director Martin Scorsese will be releasing Gangs of New York , based on the book of the same name by Herbert Asbury . In the past, theatrical releases of historical films have sparked unprecedented surges of interest in the topics depicted, and it is hoped that interest in New York's street gangs will be sufficient enough to make living history demonstrations and talks by the Daybreak B'hoys a popular request. The 140th anniversary of the Draft Riots in 2003 may present many opportunities to bring the common citizens of New York to life.

Because the emphasis of our group is on living history and getting "up close and personal" with an audience, our material standards are considerably high, something which we feel greatly benefits an accurate historical portrayal. Naturally, one is not expected to have every item obtained at once, so we are willing to be lenient to a certain degree. Remember, as it has been said many times, accuracy is a journey, not a destination.

girl The women affiliated with the gangs were quite active "front line participants," and were sometimes feared as much as the men. "Non-combatants," if you will, were likely to work as hot corn sellers, oyster peddlers, rag pickers, street sweepers, barmaids, or, of course, ladies of the evening.

We are based in New York City, but welcome members from anywhere with a desire to learn more about the gangs. There are no membership dues, but it is recommended that all members affiliate with CW-Reenactors, Inc. , a non-profit umbrealla organization which represents civilian reenactors. Membership is only $2.00 and will help us become an "affiliated" unit of the organization. It is hoped that they will soon be offering insurance to its members.

We also ask that our members or other interested parties join our e-group by entering their e-mail address into the box below. The group is our forum for event updates and the sharing of research.

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Page updated: Oct. 5, 2002