Skirmishing is a unique sport. The heart of skirmishing is company competition with individual firearms; in effect, a contest to determine which group of eight competitors can eliminate a set of breakable targets faster than all other groups of eight. It is marksmanship against a stopwatch. Skirmishing also is unique because of its historical basis. The American Civil War is a subject that fascinates tens of thousands of our citizens. Skirmishers enjoy re-creating that history through competition with the firearms of that war. Each of our member organizations takes its name and uniform from a historically documented unit that served during the war years. In this way, we commemorate the heroism of soldiers and civilians of both the Union and the Confederacy who took part in the epic struggle of 1861-65.

The North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) was formed in 1950 to commemorate the heroism of the men, of both sides, who fought in the American Civil War. The N-SSA promotes the safe and competitive shooting of Civil War firearms and artillery while wearing Civil War uniforms. There are currently over 3,500 members composing over 200 units (teams). An N-SSA unit must represent an actual unit that existed during the Civil War, so you'll see units from all over the Union and Confederacy, competing in a friendly and family oriented atmosphere. You can view our regions here.


Skirmishing is a family activity - a pastime in which a person is respected for their shooting skill and their companionship rather than their station in life. Members come from all social classes, and both men and women compete - what brings them together is a common interest in our national heritage and the love of black powder shooting. We enjoy competitive shooting of muskets, carbines, smoothbore rifles, repeating rifles and pistols. And then we get out the artillery where both mortars and cannons have a proud place in our activities, and our artillery competition is the only kind like it in the world.

You can get more information on our shooting events here:  

(both original and replica)

We don't stop with shooting...we also have a lively interest in Civil War era clothing and display of artifacts. At Fort Shenandoah we house a varied collection of Civil War era memorabilia and artifacts (both extant and replica) that is constantly growing. We also house our own history, that of the N-SSA going back to our roots in 1950. Each of our National events (held twice a year) also features costuming events for men, women and children, displaying and judging the talents of those to create Civil War era correct clothing.

Planned activities for a typical skirmish weekend include childrens programs (including organized and supervised BB gun matches for kids under 15), dances, cook-outs, concerts and trips to 'Sutlers Row', where vendors display and sell Civil War firearms (including originals and replicas), accoutrements, clothing, jewelry, art and many other items.


In 1949, the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club, in Berwyn, Maryland was dedicated. An article depicting the event was carried in a Washington, D.C. newspaper and two pictures accompanying the article showed a young man dressed as a Union soldier firing a rifled musket and wearing a kepi and cartridge box. The pictures caught the eye of John (Jack) L. Rawls, a "Reb" who had been shooting a musket around Norfolk, Virginia for a few years. Jack struck up a conversation with the depicted "Yank", Ernest (Ernie) W. Peterkin. An invitation was issued to compmete in a musket team "shoot" at the Berwyn Rod and Gun Club on May 28, 1950. The competition was between Peterkin's "Berwyn Bluebellies" and Rawl's "Norfolk Gray Blacks". From this and other small scale competitions, organized by Jack Rawls and Ernie Peterkin, the N-SSA can claim its humble start.

At that time, it was the opinion of the members that it would be presumptuous for present-day skirmishers to use the names of units which actually participated in the war. Over the years this opinion has changed, and today all N-SSA regiments (teams) use the names of actual units, striving to enhance their memory through participation in skirmishing and research into their unique and rich histories.