Sunday, December 31, 2006

Last post of 2006

I wish everyone the best for 2007, and may it be a great year all the way 'round! I hope to see many of you readers on the field in the upcoming months. Just read the blog, and I'll tell you where I'll most likely be.

Santa heard my pleas

I'll be getting another wargame to add to my growing collection. This time it's Campaign Shiloh by HPS Simulations. I already have Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord and CM: Afrika Korps, and I'm looking at ordering Highway to the Reich fairly soon.

Still plugging along

My experiment, The Southern Loyalists, is going along well, albeit slowly. Haven't been able to spend much time with it lately. Come the first of the year, I do plan on spending a whole lot of time getting things going.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Slight course change

When I set up Seeing the Elephant (Recreated), I intended it to be a journal of my reenacting interests, which tend heavily toward the Civil War, but flowed in other periods, namely WW1 and WW2. Over the year it has been in existence, Seeing the Elephant has become identified as one of the growing list of Civil War blogs. A small amount of national exposure helped that identity along. Admittedly, I've enjoyed those perks.

But as I write this blog, there are more things militaria that interest me that I want to write about; like other periods in reenacting, wargaming and movies. So you'll see more posts on these subjects in the coming year. Be sure though, the Civil War period will predominate, as usual. It's one of my favorite periods, and I'm not going to desert it.

Another reason for the change is the fact that I don't want to exhaust the large amount of information that the ACW part of the hobby offers. I've discovered that if I constrain myself too much to the Civil War period, the online information well dries up or I burn out for awhile. I also have the desire to expose everyone to the different aspects of reenacting - a throwback to the time I subscribed to Living History Magazine years ago. That publication opened many wonderful periods to be explored. Maybe Seeing the Elephant will help spark additional interest in an oft-neglected era.

So, if you're a new reader you'll see some change, but not too much. If you've been reading awhile, then you're already used to the occasional departure from the Civil War, it'll be a little bit more than usual. That's it!

What I'm currently listening to

Here's a modern day compilation worth a listen. "Songs of the Civil War" is a nice set of songs as played by current artists. Don't expect period picking or singing, this qualifies only as an event psych-up CD. It does a great job of being just that, though. There is no slickness to the recordings, which kind of gives this CD a homey and quasi-authentic feel. The only gripe I have is the Ashokan Farewell -I love the song, but I just feel its way over-used.

After giving the once over, I recommend this one for the reenactor who needs a fresh CD for those long road trips.

Wartime Letters of George R. Stancil 1861-1864 Pt2

George R Stancil's letters to Emily Dupree continued...

Blue Sulfur Springs [VA?]
Ma the 27 1861

Dear Miss. I embrace this opportunity of writing you a few lines to let you no that I am yet in the land of the living. I am glad to say to you that my health is improving I am able to get around right well, but I think if I could see you, but we are a great many miles apart but you are present with me in mind. You are the last thing on my mind at night and the first when I wake. But I hope that we will meet again and then I hope that we will [word uncipherable] and hard to part. We moved I am glad to say to you that we are moving toward the Old North State. I expect to start tomorrow to Petersburg. [word uncipherable] and when we get there I hope I can get home.

I want you to write to me as soon as you get this for it affords me a great deal of pleasure to get a letter from you. When you write me again direct your letter to Petersburg. I will close my letter for my candle is dim and it dont give much light. My paper is bad and my ink is pale, My love for you will never fail. So good night my love nothing more at present only I remain your affectionate lover until death.

George R. Stancil

Friday, December 29, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 14

The Blackhawk Wars seem to be mentioned only in the context of President Abe Lincoln. But there's more to this part of history, and it's covered by reenactors.

A great first site to visit is the Blackhawk War interpretive history page of the Old Lead Region Historical Society's Web site. This particular group seems to concentrate on the Michigan militia from the period. Here's a quick description of the group and it's activities:

The smell of woodsmoke... the taste of a roast perfectly prepared in a "tin kitchen"... the crack of flintlock musketry... all this and so much more awaits you as a member of our militia company! Far from the so-called "popular" impression of "militia," our group carefully reproduces the clothing, equipage, and arms of typical citizen-soldiers circa 1827-1832. We drill in accordance with the actual militia manual in use during this time.

Another Black Hawk War era group is the Black Hawk War Society. They cover Captain William Highsmith's mounted volunteer company and the 5th US Infantry.

These two sites are worth a look if you have an interest in reeacting a period out of the ordinary.

More on wargaming reenactments

As I was cruising some sites today, I found a site that I stumbled across a few months ago. It's pretty interesting to read, even if its author is critical of periods outside of WW2. The reenacting preference aside, one can easily apply the concepts covered on the site to any period.

The only thing I don't like are the rules and leeway for snipers, which I think are useless in any arrangement that cannot effectively tally a "kill". It seems that some of the rules, although well written, were penned by a reenactor who does this impression. Do everyone a favor, return to the ranks and play on the team. Snipers are more problematic than useful.

Camp Chase Gazette forums, RIP

Seems that the best part of the current rendition of the Camp Chase Gazette has slid underneath the waves of the Ocean of Dumb Decisions.

I thought that the CCG's best hope for a comeback was to foster a sense of community on their forums. Get people talking. When I first jumped back into the hobby, that's what they did. I got to talking to great people who cared about the hobby, and in turn, they got me to take my first steps back into history.

Mr Gun, please shoot Mr Foot.

Now it's gone. Even the decent-looking Web site is now been changed by what looks to be an amateur effort. The hobby deserves better.

Selma, the final word

I know I've kicked this subject around in lively rants, but I think it's only fitting to give those closest to the topic the last word. This is in reference to the history of the upcoming 2007 Battle of Selma.

Captain AW Redd of the 33rd Alabama has kindly added a bit more to the Selma issue that deserves to be posted for all to see. I appreciate his feedback:

In prior years, the local Selma Kiwanis Club had taken a major role in putting on this event...many of the Kiwanians were reenactors. After many years, the Kiwanians interest in putting on the event with many a Civic club project. Another difficulty was that the host unit, the 33rd Alabama, is scattered about the state with few members actually living in the Selma area. Mr. Yeargin provides the "boots on the ground" to handle the many, many details that must be dealt with in putting on a good event. The civilian side of the event has pretty well left the military side to the reenactors, save the logistics necessary to get things done. So, we are looking forward to Selma 2007 and having a fine, quality event. Selma has so very much to offer.

A.W. Redd
Capt. 33rd. Ala.Infantry

They came for the flags...

... now it looks like it's hunting season on the "Silent Sams" in select areas of the south, particularly on college campuses.

To be honest, I probably have a more "progressive" attitude about the appropriateness of flying the Confederate flag over present-day governmental buildings or blatantly incorporating it into the design of a state flag than most reenactors. BUT I still draw the line when it comes to completely erasing history because it "offends" certain people.

There's a lot of things historically-connected I personally find hard to swallow, like naming at least one street in every city in the country for Martin Luther King, Jr, but that's the beauty of these United States. It's history folks, for good or for bad, and we all look differently on it. But it doesn't mean we discard an old version for a new version of our shared history because it doesn't suit some current-day viewpoints.

Back to the statues.

They represent and honor historical figures or the common man. Take Robert E. Lee, for instance. Yes, he is the general most associated with the Confederacy in current times, but unfortunately, historical memory seems to grow very dim of what he stood for after the war. I feel that Lee was a good post war leader, even if some of what he advocated in the terms of race relationships seems to be an affront to people who look at history so superficially these days.

He wished the best for the then freed slaves, and only wanted good race relations. But he had very realistic views about how to to arrive at that point. A long hard look at history after the war only vindicates Lee's opinions.

So, why would we want to tear down the statue of an influential post-war leader who advocated peace and reconciliation for a divided nation?

It seems that the University of Texas needs to bone up on its history and find an answer to that question before kowtowing to the golden idol of political correctness.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Wartime Letters of George R. Stancil 1861-1864 Pt1

Rather than trying to recreate the wheel, I'm writing this serial verbatim from a well-cared for notebook passed on to my dearest from a relative she met while doing research on her family lines. Obviously, this isn't from a published work, and the relative recently passed.

These letters don't carry much information about troop movements, or what the soldiers wore or what they ate. Its a window to a soldier and his beloved in a time of war. So, without too much adieu, the wartime letters of George R. Stancil.

"Enclosed in this notebook is compilation of letters personally written by George Russell Stancil (Stancel, Stancill, Stancell) during the Civil Wars years of 1861 to 1864 to Miss Winiford Emily Dupree. The letters are arranged in chronological sequence (as can best be determined). Typewritten transcriptions of each letter have been placed behind each letter. These transcripts are subject to further verification.

"Though undated, I feel that the two notes shown below, and transcribed as follows, initiated the entire sequence of these priceless letters:
Miss Emily Dupree. I would be very glad to see you but as I cant I would be glad to hear from you. I expect to write soon and I hope to get an answer back. The Rose is red the viletes blue the Pinks are prety and so are you.

G.R. Stancill

I simply write you this to let you know that I am A going to write to you and that I want you to write me. You can find out how to back your letters from Sister.

I hope you will write soon.

Miss Emily Dupree

Sunday, December 03, 2006

An interesting photo

My great-grandfather served in the US Army at the turn of the 20th century. From what I could tell from the photo to the left, he was in the cavalry as judging from a crossed sabre collar pin that can't be clearly seen on the photo as posted here.

I've always been fascinated with the photo, and if anyone can add in any more details about the uniform or the service at this time, I'd be appreciative.

Turkey of a blogging month

Due to work demands, personal stuff, a holiday, and simple writer's block, I've been AWOL for the last couple of weeks. Not too much to say, and a temporary need to stand away from the computer kinda put my posting at nil for the month of November. But I'm back and rested.

An interesting note:

My dearest has more than generously lent me some of her genealogy research, which includes the wartime letters of George Russell Stancil of the 14th NCST, and later of the 24th NC Infantry regiment, which spent most its operational time in NC. I'll serialize these letters and provide scans where I can.

Monday, November 13, 2006

The Duty of Remembrance

One of the days we as reenactors should look forward to is Veteran's Day. This is the one day that actually defines who we are and what we do. We help people remember the people who were part of history who shouldn't be forgotten.

The thought for this post stemmed from a Veteran's Day parade that I marched in last weekend. Before I arrived, this was another gig - another chance to don the uniform for a good cause. Afterwards, my perspective changed a bit. Appreciation of the day changed into something deeper.

The parade was in a small town in the northwestern corner of NC - West Jefferson. In my youth, it was one of my stomping grounds; a place that wasn't my hometown, Boone. A casual observer might note that it has a rural naiveness. Being of the area, I know better. The area has given more than its share of blood in every conflict, and the purpose of America seems to be clearer in eyes of the people, than it is in more urban areas. Looking at the line of floats, Veteran's Day isn't just another day here. It's not an inconvenience. It's a day to appreciate, honor and remember.

What really got me to really thinking and remembering Veteran's Day were the floats with the WW2 vets and the empty one for the soldiers - veterans - of the Iraqi War. I imagined the WW2 vet's float being a bit fuller in years past, and wondered when the last WW1 vet's float was pulled through town. I even wondered if there was ever a float for the Spanish-American War vets, and when it eventually saw its last parade, or what the Vietnam War float will look like in ten or so years. Being nostalgic and sappy has its comfort. But the reality is much more harsh. We only see the survivors - the guys who made it through the conflict.

So, I come back to the role of reenactors. We are only representations of the soldiers who have passed on long ago. We only help people to visualize, remember and hopefully appreciate the history that our forebears lived in. As I marched in the parade, I realized that in order fulfill my purpose that day, there also must be a receptive audience who also appreciates the meaning of Veteran's Day. Hats off to the people of West Jefferson and Ashe County. They still know the duty of remembrance, something that is all too easily trod on or forgotten these days.

UPDATE: Check out Disappearing history about the eventual passing of our veterans. An intersting article to read along with this post.

I'm back in the ranks

Thanks for hanging in there with me for the last week or so while I attended to my off-blog business. But it doesn't mean I've totally been on blog-vacation! Stay tuned today for some built-up posts that didn't quite make it to Seeing the Elephant (recreated).

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quick note

Hello all -

I've had to attend to some personal business this week and haven't been able to find the time to write meaningful posts. I expect to be back posting by this Sunday, so hold tight.

Thanks for visiting Seeing the Elephant (recreated) and explore the archives!

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wargaming Reenactments, Part 2

In Part 1, I wrote about my experiences with a refereed reenactment, Loudon Heights. In this post, I'll write about the pros and cons of doing events like this, and hopefully suggest things to do better the next time around.

To start off, I thought very well of my experiences at the Loudon Heights event. It was very worthy and different experience, especially in the light of the typical scripted events that predominate the hobby (which isn't a bad thing, just a little too common). The hosts did many things right, and for the type of event, it seemed to flow smoothly from a participant's aspect. To me, no part of the event went so wrong that I felt it must be discarded for me to enjoy. So, I'll point out what can be improved on as a "wargame" and what would be nice additions.

The list of improvements are short, but I feel important considerations for any kind of "gamed" event.
  1. Handling "wounded" and "dead" soldiers. One of the biggest problems with Loudon Heights was a reasonable method of cycling casualties out and then back into the scenario. If you were judged a casualty, especially walking wounded, you had to hike back your camp to be recycled. In all scenarios, that walk usually meant going through the enemy lines. Additionally, the walk was a good 10-15 minutes with tired feet. So by the time you arrived at camp, you were already cycled through. A better way of handling this situation is to assign a non-combat "medic" to serve as a roving rally point behind the appropriate units. The "medic" would keep track of blocks of time to keep and release casualties.
  2. Better rules for incorporating mounted cavalry and artillery into the scenario. Loudon Heights was blessed with an abundance of artillery and cavalry, but handling them in the context of a refereed event is problematic. In one instance, Federal cavalry slipped behind the Confederate infantry in what would have been a horrible cost to the horsemen in reality. But this is reenacting, and sometimes common sense is bent, and not in all good ways. With artillery, such is a grave matter of safety. You simply can't rush a loaded piece, let alone being in front of it at a distance.
  3. Make sure everyone is on the same page as quickly as possible. This suggestion can really apply to any reenactment, but with this sort of event, it's cruical. The catch to this event is that no one knew the exact rules, just what they were able to piece together from published event information and word-of-mouth. So there were questions on what the latest decision was to handle captures or how the event was going to be divided up scenario-wise.

I've become a gaming junkie, again.

OK, not Civil War oriented, but something that definitely has my attention. Went and bought a computer wargame last night. Already played a half-dozen games of Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord - the same scenario. The tutorial. Just couldn't leave it alone till I won. I'm such a junkie. My dearest fears that I have terminal geekiness.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wargaming Reenactments, Part 1

While I'm on my wargaming kick for this week, I'll throw in my couple cents on using reenactments as a wargaming medium. I've touched on ths subject before while discussing event scenario design and the use of fate cards. This is a type of event we really need to see more of in the hobby.

My only experience with a reenactment as an officiated (I prefer to use "gamed") event was Loudon Heights in 2005. The event was tough, but it did leave a lasting impression on me. It's well enough to know proper commands and drill to get you to a predetermined place at an event, but putting that knowledge to practical use for something as chaotic as a unscripted and fluid battle event is another thing all together. Loudon Heights proved that to be true many times over. It was the first event where I got lost and fell in with another unit in order to find my own was something (good) to be remembered.

I went to this event with another fellow, and our first impression was that we had to be mobile for the event - just carry what you could pack with you. Unfortunately, this was discarded in favor of semi-permanent camps because of the hotter than expected weather. This also adjusted the event hosts' plans for constant camp vigils, although you could still be captured being somewhere you're not supposed to be, like in the enemy camp or during a battle. Still, it was to be one of the tougher events that I had attended, apart from Saylor's Creek '84-'86.

The next day, we were all given a high-level description of the battle rules. It was going be a simple thing - referees dressed as civilians would be trailing the major formations. As the fighting progressed, one of the refs would give you a wound/death card (which is unlike a "fate" card) and just follow the directions. You could either be walking wounded, wound and immobile or dead.

The event started out at a run, and probably gave one the best view of how a battle really unfolded, along with the organized chaos, as opposed to a scripted event, where everything is nice, neat, and on time. During the first scenario, I pulled guard duty for the colonel and didn't get to see too much unfold. But I did manage to jump in with another unit who was assaulting from the heights overlooking the main battle area. The battle looked great. The battlelines engaged fell apart quickly as wounded melted away from the fight, as would be expected from the ranges engaged.

In the second scenario, my ticket came up quickly, as I my "nose" was shot off from a nearby artillery unit packing canister shot. The rest of the day involved some hard marching and skirimishing, as with Sunday morning to finish the event.

Continued in Part 2

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Hit a milestone today

Thanks everyone for coming over and reading Seeing the Elephant (recreated)! We've just hit 5000 visits today - counting from October 2005 (and starting again last April). It's been fun, and I'll continue to write some interesting commentary along the way -- or at least try to make it interesting!

A BIG "Thank you" to Civil War Interactive

Seeing the Elephant (recreated) and many other Civil War blogs have made it to the big time, thanks to Civil War Interactive's tireless coverage. North&South Magazine has featured Civil War blogs in its latest issue.

If you're a North&South Magazine reader, welcome to the wonderful world of Civil War blogging. I hope you'll stay a spell, or visit often. I'll take you either way! Also, check out my blogroll to the left - you'll find the best CW blogs there.

I see dead people...

...or so I say! They're usually at New Market or any larger battlefield that sports large numbers of men dressed in gray. The scarier ones are dressed in dark blue!

As long as I've been in the hobby, there have been loads of ghost stories tied to events. Not just Civil War ghosts, but ones that seem to go along with the reenactment. Being the skeptic that I am, I suspect where you have loads of reenactors roaming around a battleground at all hours of the night, you'll have the ghost stories to match.

Jonah Begone, who has an inexhaustible vault of Civil War stories and opinions, has a couple of "watered-down" ghost stories on his site. Another fellow relates his experiences at a WW2 reenactment in Virginia, a story that is typical of most reenacting ghost stories I hear. A poster at Civil War Talk adds into the discussion about the strange and supernatural. Gettysburg seems to be a magnet for non-reenacting Civil War ghost hunters according to the poster on this forum.

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
Blue, Gray renew their fray in Shenandoah Valley
Reenactors will bring the War Between the States to life
Rotary prepares for battle of Blue and Gray

Other reenacting headlines:
Fun on the farm: Old Baker Farm welcomes classes, families
Plimoth Plantation brings 17th-century New England to life
French And Indian War Commemoration Cited As A 'Top 100 Event'
Fort Fanning Historical Park dedicated
The Sentinel

Monday, October 30, 2006

Group Spotlight

I hit the motherload when I was surfing the 'net for group sites to spotlight. This time, I didn't want to do jsut any group, I was looking for a standout. The 102nd USCT Co. B fit the ticket nicely.

I don't see many black reenactment groups kicking around, so it's refreshing to see a group devoted to one of the many USCT regiments that fought in the war. The the 102nd's mission statement is clear:

The 102nd USCT/BHG fosters and preserves the history of the American Civil War (1861 - 1865) by enhancing the public's understanding of Michigan's African American contributions in the conflict through historically accurate reenactments, camp demonstrations, military drills, parades, memorial ceremonies, and civilian activities.

This is a group that's also been around awhile - it was founded in 1986. Maybe one of these days, they'll come a bit further south and share in some of the larger events. I'd certainly welcome that.

Wargaming the Civil War

The reenacting season is about to wind down - what to do to keep yourself in the groove? Sure books and holiday parties are great, but what does one do if that isn't enough?


This is one the realms of American Civil War Gaming & Reading, but I'll cover my experience and goals with wargaming here anyway. I'll leave the reviews and game analysis to the pros at ACW Gaming & Reading. I've already touched on wargaming before, but my gap of experience of gaming on computer is massive. A good long going-to-reenactment discussion peaked my curiosity quite a bit. To the point where I'd like to give it a twirl, actually. The game series my friend plays is John Tiller's series of Civil War campaigns by HPS Simulations.

As an "old-skool" gamer, I learned to appreciate stacks of counters on the mapboard. Also learned that a cat isn't your best friend while gaming, either. But I played several games, Avalon Hill's Gettysburg, Yaquinto Games' Murfreesboro, and the ultimate SPI's Terrible Swift Sword and Pea Ridge. Got beaten into the dirt many times (I just recently discovered the reason why, too), but I always had a blast. Some of my fondest memories of being a teen were the epic battles fought all over the world, and throughout many periods. If you want to really learn military history, wargame.

But my friend sold me on gaming via computer. What swayed me was the "fog of war" functions, which I thought was the single biggest flaw in most board games. So what if I can't touch the pieces? At least my opponent can't see my hidden stuff, read my face, then proceed to knock the stuffin's out of me. I like that.

So hopefully, I'll be blogging here about some battles in the future. Not that I'll trumpet victory mind you, but it's a passion I want to revive and share.

UPDATE: I downloaded the demo to Combat Mission: Barbarossa to Berlin. It was great, but the time certainly goes away fast when you're having fun! And yes, I was thoroughly trounced by the computer. Russian KV1s are wicked and btw, you can't kill them very well via head-on shots. I should have known that playing 88 by Yaquinto Games.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Blogger changes

So you won't be too freaked out, Seeing the Elephant (recreated) went ahead and bit the Blogger Beta bullet. Things are a little bit different, but I do have to admit it's easier to administer on my side of things.

What I'm reading now

Bloody Roads South has been sitting on my bookshelf forever - but it has beckoned me for a read. This book is outside my usual realm, but I'm excited about reading what information it has to offer. I started on it awhile back, but didn't get too deep with it. This time I'm going to finish it.

What I Last Read

The South Vs. The South

ISBN: 0195156293

The South Vs. The South is a short but worthy read. But be careful of what to expect within its covers. As I've said in the past, my point of interest is southern Unionism, and obviously, this book seemed to address the subject. After reading it, I can say not quite.

The book is very high-level - general - about loyal southerner's role in the ultimate downfall of the Confederacy, and the part played by slaves and slavery to that end. The South Vs The South is roughly divided in half by these two topics. It's very shy on any real information about southern Unionism, but it does cover the dilemma of the border states very well. It explains the role of these states and delivers an effective comparison between the border and the deep south states. For this overview, the book is worth the read.

The second half of the book is spent explaining the effect of the drainage of slaves away from the Confederacy. This was a nice discussion, and for me, it filled in some holes in my knowledge. In some parts the author seemed to become overly absorbed in subjects related, but not really connected with what he should have been discussing. A good example of this is the critique of the Shaw monument. As nice as it was, it could have been easily edited out. Just the facts, just give me the facts.

Good book, a worthy pick up for anyone who needs a short read about the border states or the impact of slavery during the war, but if you already know the topic, it's not going to shed any new light on the subject.

A little bit of writer's block

Suffering a little bit writer's block. I think life and blogging hot and heavy for the last few months has left me a bit drained for good material to write. But I'm about to get back on the horse and charge forward once again.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Takin' Hits

We all (eventually) bow to the necessity of taking hits during a reenactment. Some us are hams and can look very convincing, and some of us a not-so-convincing.

I'm like a lot of guys who've been in the hobby - I'm more willing to take hits now, mainly because I don't want to spend the time cleaning my rifle. I'm not quite to the realm of "one-shot wonders", but I'm getting there.

There are few interesting articles on the art and humor of hit taking. Paul Calloway (of Authentic Campaigner fame) gives a great overview of various hit takers. Linneus Ahern of the 9th Virginia gives his views about taking a hit as realistically as possible - off a horse. Maybe you won't go through a rough ride like this guy.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Moving a grand old museum

One of my favorite museums is the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond. I was dismayed to find out it needs to move to further accomodate the ever-growing Virginia Commonwealth University's medical center. Maybe it's for the better - if a new place can be found. Hopefully it won't fall victim to the prevailing politically correct atmosphere of the current times and disappear.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Battle for Loomis Heights - Perryville 2006

Discovered blogging with YouTube, which incidently, has a ton of video captures from Perryville. A search on "Perryville" will net all the videos I could find on this year's reenactment.

Group Spotlight

I caught this group site while surfing for group sites state-by-state. The 16th Louisiana site was the most intriguing one I found over a short search. All in all it's a fairly well-designed site that meets my DIGM criteria. It's easy to navigate, has a simple structure that delivers a good amount of information without becoming too clotted up, has nicely-done graphics, and is fairly up-to-date.

The part of I liked about this site was the Articles section. Those are very well worth reading, and in particular the advice from the Mexican War veteran who had tips for the "new" crop of soldiers who would fight in the Civil War. It's a worthy group site to check out and surf.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Enough already!

Seems that Civil War Historian magazine is content with steadily beating the dead horse. Last month I posted on the Camp Chase Gazette's huge error of ethics, judgement and common sense by republishing a CWH article under another writer's name.

A Very Stupid® move.

Now the lawyers are on the case, and no doubt CCG will be paying a steep price via a pound of monetary flesh. This should be a given by CCG, who are hopefully undergoing a house-cleaning, or better yet, looking at selling to a group of buyers who really give a damn about the hobby and the publication.

I recently received my latest issue of CHW, and what do I see? A full page spread of condemnation of CCG with Pat Ertel's grim countenance imposed on a third of the page. OK, Mr. Ertel is the publisher/owner, and has a right editorialize so. But as a paying subscriber, I really don't want to be party to a pissing contest in a hobby that sees too much of this garbage in the first place. On this blog, I try to keep things as up beat as possible, which in my mind is an easy task. I love the hobby, as with most reenactors. I would only hope that other blogs and publications would do the same.

When you print any publication that has a widespread readership, people naturally recognize you as a representative or a leader in the hobby. Articles are written by seasoned and well-known reenactors. CWH certainly has earned and deserves kudos for the articles and wonderful research. CWH certainly won't be damaged by this row with CCG, which instead, will bolster its image in the reenacting community.

My problem is when said publication indulges in bringing business out to the public realm. Then I have to wonder "why?".

Good leadership, in my mind, is looking at what is good for the hobby, not what is good for your publication in the short term. A good leader leads with integrity and a bit of humility, which seems to be the same as the words "with class". OK, CHW has a definite one-up on the competition, but to publish a in-your-face one page condemnation is over the top. I have to ask whether this is a true expression of indignation, or simply taking advantage of a very stupid mistake by CCG to drum up more biz? CCG will surely pay, but is this a cheap attempt at delivering a coup d'grace to a publication that has, in the past, served the interests of CW reenactors for many years? Is this leading with class? I don't think so.

What is good for the hobby is not to introduce any more division than is necessary. Full page editorals on the sins of the CCG do not help. I beseech the CHW to treat this situation with class.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 13

Most reenactors seem to like period music, whether it be brass 'n drums or banjo. To me it was an acquired taste - I was a metal head back in my wilder days. So I had to make the shift to more earthy or marching band music. At first it was a change - I didn't really like bluegrass music, but I did have an affinity for Celtic music, which allowed me to ease in the more earthy Civil War music. I was surprised how easy I was able to enjoy period music - and now I can say I can enjoy bluegrass too!

It's not hard to imagine that there's a sub-set of reenactors who focus on the music of the Civil War period. When I went out of the hobby, the regimental bands were beginning to make a meaningful splash in the Civil War community. When I came back, there was a decent selection of researched and recreated music to choose from.

The smallest groups that do events and other period-appropriate events are the soloists, duos and trios that have a simple set-up of stringed instruments and accompaniment such as a harmonica, flute or similiar. A great example of such a "group" is the Battlefield Balladeers, a duo with none other than David Corbett, a favorite commenter on Seeing the Elephant (recreated). It's a sincere regret that I missed him at Perryville -- could have used some great music that weekend. Earlier this year I also blogged about a couple of artists who play at some events, but their mark was made through their recordings, Martin Liebschner, Jr. and Carson Hudson, Jr.

The next step up are larger string and small instrument bands. One that comes to mind is the 2nd South Carolina String Band. This group is still very active in reenacting circles and has a respectable longevity. Their bio looks like this:

The 2nd South Carolina String Band was formed in August of 1989 by five riflemen of Co.I, 2nd SC Volunteer Infantry, a unit of Civil War reenactors that was very active during the five years of events celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the Civil War - and for many years to follow. After the battles, drills and inspections, the boys who had instruments played and sang around the campfire while members of the unit would often join in and sing along. This was the beginning of the 2nd South Carolina String Band.

A very nice beginning indeed!

Brass Bands are the ones that are most associated with military music of the period. Many groups emulate these groups. The in doing a little it of research, the first I was able to find was the colorful Excelsior Cornet Band. Although they play almost exclusively in New York state, they seem to have a very busy schedule. Maybe they'll come southward for a performance or two. Another region-bound, but sizeable band is the Band of the California Battalion. They seem have a fairly busy schedule, although they have no schedule up to see. They're considerable gathering, with several representative instruments.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Sutler Spotlight

James Country Mercantile wasn't a sutler I expected to do business with, but they came through for me at Perryville. They had a nice tapestry haversack I wanted (desired) for a decent price and it served me well that weekend.

This sutler does offer a good selection, but the overall quality is more suited to the mainstream reenacting world, which James Country seems to cater to. Their event setup was great - everything was easy to find and the selection was great - that is if you're a mainstream reenactor. But there are some good products that a progressive would find fitting, like my haversack. James Country is a nice stop to look for on sutler row.

Their site is nice and easy to navigate, but I find the lack of product photos a little disconcerning. I like to see what I'm about the buy. Also, another suggestion - bite the bullet on the prices for the muskets and list them. I tend to relate "Call for Price" to a restaurant offering that is so pricey they don't want to tell you how much it costs on the menu. Personally, I don't even bother asking. The plus to this site is the generous selection of patterns for clothing, which I found to be nice. I'm not a tailor, but I know a couple that would do some good work for me if I had a good pattern.

This is a worthy site to check out, as long as you know the target audience. The owners are super nice, and they made my buying experience at Perryville very pleasant. Check 'em out.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

What I'm reading now

The South Vs. The South looks be a nice basic introduction to the southern Unionist's struggle with the Confederacy, and the border states' desire to be accepted as loyal elements in the greater United States. I've read into the first section, and I like what I see so far.

The Amazon reviews to this book are worth reading, too. They're some interesting perspectives and a couple that are downright amusing. One that stuck out was this:

First, the states of the Upper South were definately NOT Anti-Confederate! Anyone who claims as much has lacked the historical studies to pass a history class, let alone have a book published which some will take seriously!

Hmmmm .... can you say eastern Tennessee and West Virginia?

The reviewer seems to think that "Confederacy-sympathetic" Kentucky was only "liberated" from the Union for a short while. Did he ever hear of the Orphan Brigade - it was orphaned because Kentucky was considered a neutral state! Lincoln arrested all the secessionists in Maryland to prevent it from seceding - so I guess 20k men who went to the Confederacy from M'land trumps the 50k M'land Union troops. Hey, the Confederate flag had 13 stars! If you sew it to your flag, they're yours.... I still can't hold a straight face while reading this review. It may even produce a rant on this blog. Maybe he needs to sit down and read some history past the usual Was Jefferson Davis Right? fare.

What I Last Read

North Carolina Civil War Documentary

ISBN: 0807853585

So long since I've reported on my reading, this seems like the beginning of a new weekly post. North Carolina Civil War Documentary isn't a huge book, but one I don't recommend as a cover-to-cover read either. Don't mistake me, it's a great resource - original materials that have been cleaned up a categorized, but too inconsistent to read through as a stand alone work. If you do research on war-time North Carolina this is the book to go to first. If you want a crackin' good read, then you may want to opt for another book.

Although I had a time slugging through this book (or more accurately compilation), I was able to uncover some gems for my own research. In all honesty, the book only purports to be a resource, not a crackin' good tale. The chapters are laid out by topic of the materials, be it letters, diary entries or pages from lost memoirs. The book is topic-driven so the materials tend to jump around the Civil War period, not going in the typically linear fashion that makes it easy on a reader's mind. But the organization is great for doing research.

My only real critisim of North Carolina Civil War Documentary is actually in the chapter narratives written by John Barrett and Buck Yearns . I'm familiar with Barrett's great book, The Civil War in North Carolina , a comprehensive must-read for NC CW buffs. This time though, I found myself not wanting to be told what I need to get out of these original materials, and a couple times disagreeing with the narrative's findings. I want to come to my own conclusions about what the authors meant, not to be guided into thinking what someone else's interpretation is. Afterall, this book is a resource best left up to interpretation.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
'Battle Of Blue Springs’: Education Day At Reenactment Teaches Lessons On Civil War
Taking a 'step back in time'
Confederate monument funding, encampment in focus during weekend
Civil War reenactment brings history to life
Rebels Best Yankees Again In Battle Of Ballast Point

Other reenacting headlines:
Mountain Man Rendezvous brings past to life
American Village reopens showcases improvements
Wild West actor's family wants answers
Early trapper camp reenactment to be part of Ridgefest
Battle of Hastings, Reuters Photos, 1
Battle of Jena-Auerstaedt, AFP Photos, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Lifeus Interuptus and Post Perryville Decompression

Hey everyone -- I'm still here! Having to take care of matters outside the realm of this blog, so I haven't skedaddled. :-) In the meantime, I'm recharging the batteries!

Also, I have a question to pick up some commentary from readers -- After you attend an event, particularly a large one, do you feel pumped up to attend another, or do you go through a decompression stage where you've gotten your fill for awhile?

Also as a side note, Seeing the Elephant (recreated) turned one year old last Monday! I blogged the Corinth event then. It was a blast, much like Perryville this year.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Reflections of Perryville - Day 3

Sunday was a bit tougher going for me. My knee kept me up for most of the night, as well as the usual hip pain. And it was cold. Colder than the night before. I've had similar nights, so I just sucked it up and soldiered on. Daylight was slow to come, but it did arrive.

The good news was that there was no drill for the morning. We did however, indulge in a bit of practice hand-to-hand combat, which was part of the scenario we were in. The neat thinf too wa that we were H Company, and Sunday, our regiment to portray was none other than the First Tennessee. We were all Sam Watkins that day.

The Sunday battle started out as a heck of a march from camp to the base of Open Knob. Mike of Mike's Civil War Musings (Hat tips to Civil War Interactive and reader David Corbett) has a few shots of the Confederates on this march, these shots are of units behind mine. Some of the marching was due to a detour around a horse that had died of a heart attack. Then we did some more marching in the quickly rising tempartures. By the time we were in position, I was becoming a bit drug out, but I did well considering.

After a nice break in the shade, we formed up for the assault on Open Knob. We were the last to go up the hill, being the ones who were to engage in the hand-to-hand fighting. Mike has some awesome picts of the Confederates coming up to Open Knob. His shots are of units behind (I think) my position on the field. The series of photos also show the Feds on top of the knob prior to the Confederate assault.

I have to admit one thing, the going got tough for my out-of-shape body going up to the knob. We were driving the Feds before us, with quite a few confused volleys from us. We would have been cut to ribbons at this point. The battleline was in confusion, with more of the same jostling going around. This time we were spread out to the spectators on the left of us, and we had trouble fitting all companies into the space provided. By the time we pushed the Feds back into a small cornfield, I was pretty played out by the tug o'war between my company and an add-on company that again wasn't on the same page. This will be a rant for another time.

Went we emerged from the cornfield, we got hit hard by some dismounted cavalry who emptied their pistols on us at short range. I took a hit then and managed to drag myself to a fence just past the cornfield. It turned out to be a great vantage point to watch the battle unfold. Another "moment" of being there. I looked down the fence row and saw the brigade form up along it. I read of similar scenes in books, but now it was right in front of me. The brigade moved up to the knob in seeming piece-meal fashion, and was repulsed a few times. It all seemed a bit anti-climatic to me after seeing the brigade formed on the fence, but we all have our own bits of time to remember.

Now that I've been, I consider Perryville 2006 one of the better events of my reenacting career. I put it on par with Corinth. There was probably more to Perryville, though. I didn't take advantage of all the sights and sounds the event had to offer, but I wish I had the time to do so. There was so much to see, just not enough time. I would only hope any group with asperations of doing an event takes note of the Perryville example.

Despite the field organization problems within my own unit, they were actually very minor and part of the functioning of any group. The 9th Texas is a Grade A group of guys that I want to fall in with time and time again. Sometimes though, groups like the 9th are "asked" to accomodate other smaller units so they have equal time on the field. Sometimes they're more than willing to work out, sometimes they want to do their own thing. Thus my many urges to rant about this when these groups want to do their own thing.

Lastly, I certainly recommend anyone who wants more out this hobby to exercise regularly. Even though I was close to the end of my rope, I was able to enjoy all of the event without feeling like I was hit by a bus. The day afterward I felt great - none of the usual aches, pains and stiffness I had before.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
Sheriff’s Deputy Injured During Historical Reenactment
Battle recalled 144 years later
Town festival features Civil War re-enactors
Civil War reenactment adopts new game plan
Thanks to those who made Civil War Days reenactment possible

Other reenacting headlines:
Re-live camp life during War of 1812
Bank “robbery” reenactment a colorful part of celebration
Colonial skills passed from generation to generation
Mountain Man Rendezvous brings past to life
Celebrations of our past

Reflections of Perryville - Day 2

The one thing I don't do well on the first night is get lots of sleep. This time was almost an exception to the rule. It was cold, but I decided to take some advice written in the Authentic Campaigner about how to tide over a cold evening in relative comfort. I didn't get cold, but man, do my hips hurt by morning time!

My group happily opted out of the dawn battle to gather numbers for the next battle in the afternoon. Instead, we drilled. And drilled. And drilled. I can't gripe about the drill, I was rusty and it was nice to be able to learn many new things, including participating in battalion-level maneuvers. By the time it ended though, I felt a bit spent. Soon the drums were sounding the call to battle.

It's nice to be in a group where everyone has fun, but remains focused on the event. The first part of the battle wasn't a battle at all, but a grand review in front of the "Governor of Kentucky" - if you're a private, it's called "extra marchin' ". It was awesome to see the Confederates at this point. Everyone seemed to be spot-on with their impressions, and the Hardee-style flags were a great touch. I felt in the moment. Of course there was the usual hurry-up-and-wait, but I was content with stacking arms and catching a couple winks on the soft grass. Soon enough, the drums were calling us out to do battle.

Our unit was the last in line, and the last to be committed to Saturday's battle. The Federals were on the ridge above us, known as Loomis Heights. They had artillery placed and firing, and the supporting infantry companies shook out their skirmishers. I'm always impressed with how the Federals look and how they operate -- the oncoming skirmish line elicited a bit of excitment in the ranks. Our paltry flankers were the opposition, but I wish they were more convincing. In the historical battle, the Confederates flanked the Feds on top of Loomis Heights, and the battle scenario followed that fairly well.

We had a tough climb up the heights - there were a ton of Confederates, and my company was having a problem getting into position. It turned into a jostling match with an add-on company who apparently wasn't with the battalion program. Oh well, such confusion happened then, too.

My battalion finally got to the top after a couple volleys and some quick movement. It was here I decided to take a hit and watch the battle unfold on the other side of the heights. I have to say it was well worth it. The Feds made an awesome sight as their US and state flags waved in the stiff breeze. It was quite a view - one of those times that I really got lost in the moment.

The remainder of my time was spent watching the battle, and then returning to camp to go back over the battle and discuss how it unfolded for our guys.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Reflections of Perryville - Day 1

I'm back from the Kentucky Campaign and The fight over at Perryville. Tired, but in great spirits even though my side could have won but didn't. At least according to history.

This entry doesn't start out with the battle though. In the reenacting world, sometimes the getting there is a part of the fun. With my guys, the "getting there" is always fun.

My part of the trip started out on Thursday night by a four-hour trip to Mom's house in the countryside of NW NC. The plan was to rendezvous in Trade, TN early Friday morning and go on to Perryville via the Cumberland Gap - a place I've read about many, many times. Now I was going to see it up close and personal. Mom is a seasoned reenactor mother - she supplied some nice treats for the trip and the event, two pound cake halves and some sourdough bread. All were the real item -- no store-bought goodies for us.

I have to admit the trip to the Cumberland Gap park was long, but we took our time touring once we arrived, and I was able to snap some great picts of Forts McCook and Lyon and the Gap itself. No one could have asked for a better day to do some sight seeing around the Cumberland Gap. The scenery was grand, and my comrades in arms made invaluable guides, pointing out things that I never would have caught.

As a backgrounder, the Cumberland Gap is on the border of east Tennessee and southeast Kentucky. In the time of the Civil War is was the best pass that either side had to move men and material through. The Gap was constantly occupied by either side, and a series of small forts were dug in strategic places on either side of the Gap. To get the cannons up to the mountains on either side of the Gap was a miracle of period engineering. You can still see the holes worn into the sides of the rocks going up one side of the mountain, or places cut out to make the braces for the corduroy road to the various emplacements. Impressive!

After the visit to the Gap, we were along our way. I have to say that it was a long trip - a bit longer than anyone anticipated. About 8 hours from Trade, TN along some simple roads. In other words, there's no fast way of getting to Perryville from where were at. We pulled into Perryville Battlefield Park around 3:30pm, and I have to say that my first impression of the park was very good. It was one of the nicer, but not-so-overly-manicured parks I've seen yet.

Not too much went on that evening other than hooking up with the Red River Battalion, with whom we fall in with at western events, and catching up with old friends. This is one of the many things I love about reenacting. We were camped in the authentic camping area on top of the ridge overlooking the mixed camping. The event seemed to be very well attended.

Next: Day 2

(Note to readers - my camera (I used my phone for the Gap photos) was broken down for this event, so I won't have any pictures of the battles. If you did go and would like to share, I'll gladly post them with proper credit given)