"Quality has suffered to a great degree, both in terms of tactics and how the soldiers are portrayed," he said. "It's become a reason to go out and drink with the boys."
Owens, who lives in Silver Spring, Md., said re-enactors have a term for re-enactments that sacrifice realism for size: FARB - Far be it from authentic.
John Lowry, 44, first sergeant for the 53rd Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, said he was drawn to the hobby by the re-enactments. Now, however, he said he prefers smaller living history demonstrations like last weekend's Gathland Park event.
Lowry and about five other re-enactors pitched tents and camped off Gapland Road Saturday and Sunday. Visitors over the two days saw how Union soldiers lived between battles, what they ate and the tools they worked with.
Re-enactors also re-created a 19th-century field hospital. Civil War medicine was crude: Bullet wounds often resulted in amputated limbs and the instruments of choice were knives and saws, Lowry said.
Still Lowry, who lives in Ephrata, Pa., said all re-enactors should experience battle re-creations to get a feel for the life of a Civil War soldier.
"We've had days where we've woken up and there's snow on the ground and our canteens are frozen solid," he said.
Living history programs give re-enactors more opportunity to interact with spectators, some said.
"You get to talk to the public about what you do," said Andy Beaver, 18, who has been participating in re-enactments for the last six months.
Owens said he also enjoys re-enacting scenarios that history has given short shrift. The Gathland program, for instance, was inspired by the Battle of South Mountain.
"This battlefield is pretty much a forgotten battlefield - all of South Mountain," he said. "The idea (of the small re-enactment) was quality over quantity."