Wednesday, May 31, 2006

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part V - Membership and Material Requirements

In this installment, I'll discuss setting up requirements for joining your OSORG group. Originally I planned to talk about material requirements, but I'll put that off until the next installment.

Before you use the information in Part V, you need to have the following on hand from the last installment:

  • Basic vision of what kind of group you want
  • Very basic group mission statement
  • Rough Drafts of the group's guiding, immediate and long-range goals

Keep these things close at hand, because they will affect what requirements the group will require for membership and uniform/kit.

And as always, keep a pen and paper (or it's moral equivalent) handy to capture all information.

When last we left TGNCC, we had a group vision, created a mission statement, and established some guiding, immediate and long-range goals. For right now, have your guiding goals ready for reference.

The first step after your group's goals are established is to create membership criteria for new members. You need to find the right people willing to join your group. As a general rule, the tighter you make your criteria, the smaller your "recruit" pool becomes, so be reasonable and don't overdo your group requirements.

First, we start out with a basic membership statement of what the group will ask of people who join. Use your guiding goals as the standard. As a rule of thumb, and probably the most important rule to follow, is never create a rule or standard that you or any charter member of the group is unwilling to follow. The second most important rule here is to never stray from your guiding goals, or you'll render them useless.

For TGNCC, we start out with this basic membership statement:

Since TGNCC is a reenacting group, the acquisition of quality uniform, gear, and arms is a primary requirement for membership. TGNCC has the basic philosophy that high quality begets high quality. If members collect high quality from the very beginning or make it a personal goal, then we all have the foundation of top-notch authenticity. Everyone in TGNCC will be a functional private, no exceptions apart from doing a civilian impression.

We now have the foundation of what you expect of members in harmony with your guiding goals. We want them 1) to be reenactors (of course!) 2) to have high standards of authenticity, and 3) to be equal at the very beginning. The first requirement is a given. The second requirement will cause some people to pause, because it also denotes a more devoted and therefore more expensive approach. You now have established a filtering criteria. The third requirement will cause some who have a penchant for wearing rank because it looks pretty to rethink why they want join your group. You now have a second filtering criteria.

You can add other things to your basic membership statement to make it more inclusive, such as making the group research, activity or education -oriented. If your group values certain behavior, you need to add that too, like drinking, behavior, and so on. A way to look at your basic membership statement is that you're putting "your cards on the table" and making it clear of what the group expects of all members.

Now you're ready to create your membership requirements. The TGNCC basic statement is simple and we can draw out these requirements:

  • All members are reenactors and will be expected to attend events
  • Everyone is expected to collect their own clothing and gear
  • Members are expected to start out as privates (except civilian members)

On second look, they may not be all that simple!

Each requirement seems to ask for more detail. Take the first one "All members are reenactors and will be expected to attend events". I could detail this statement further: "All members are reenactors and will be expected to attend at least six events a year." OK, now you could go further and ask "What's an event?". You'll do this several times until you come with a requirement that is specific enough to cover most questions about what the requirement entails. You'll do this with all your requirements.

We come up with this break down:

- All members are reenactors and will be expected to attend events

  • Six event minimum
  • Events are defined as any on-the-field
  • To count toward the required minimum, members must be dressed out

Continue until you have a basic set of membership requirements that spell out as much as possible about the culture and basic expectations of your group, short of uniform and gear. The more detail you can give about each, the better. These are the guidelines that everyone will follow to project a certain look and culture for your group.

Again, we're shooting for basic, don't be so sold on these requirements that you're unwilling to change them later. One of themost important aspects of OSORG is to roll with change.

This is the beginning of your groups' public face, which you'll use to market to new recruits, so be mindful of what impression you want to make on new recruits coming into your group.

NEXT: Part VI - Material Requirements

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


To satisfy my curiosity about who's coming to Seeing the Elephant (recreated), please answer the two or three questions on the Vote Caster to the left-hand side of this blog. No personal information will be gathered, and I'll post results every week.

As always, please feel free to leave a comment, too.

Mike's day at the Civil War

Mike over at Mike's Civil War Musings has an enthusiastic post about the Civil War event in Napierville.

He does pose the question:

Hmmm…. I wonder how I'd look in blue though I find myself partial to the Johnny Rebs.

My answer - you'd look just fine in blue!

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
Reenactor enjoys role educating the public
Fifth-graders recruited for Civil War
Service at Park Cemetery to recreate history, honor veterans
Battell Park Memorial Service honors the fallen
Civil War remembrance
Logistics Planner Living in the Past
Civil War era brought to life
Marshmallow bullets and tennis ball cannons

Other reenacting headlines:
The camels are coming to Bandera
Re-enactors ready for Jack Jouett's ride
Nimitz Museum reenacts World War II battle
140th anniversary of Battle of Ridgeway
They Made the Ultimate Sacrifice
Venture Inside a Stronghold Of History
U.S. history comes alive this summer
Just in joust: Higgins Armory Museum features Viking dueling ...
Re-enactors to highlight Dalton Days Wild West Fest

Monday, May 29, 2006

A Day to always remember

Memorial Day.

It's hard to imagine me reenacting and not stopping to give a day to appreciate and thank the veterans who actually spilled the blood to help keep our country free and our country's ideals alive.

Rather than bore you with a clumsy post, I'll allow others to speak for me who can so more eloquently. Linked from Gutrumbles, the first blog I really made a habit of reading, is a great Memorial Day posting from another blogger, Delftsman.

While you're at it, check out some fine blogs from our vets and active duty soldiers: Blackfive, Mudville Gazette, Grey Eagle, Army Girl, Boots on the Ground. Check out their blogrolls, too. Say "Hello and thanks for all you do" while you're there.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The Columbia Rifles' Web site is the cool group site for this week. This group attracted my eye a long time ago, and you'll find members who are very prolific in posting to the Authentic Campaigner board such as Kevin O’Beirne. Their standards should be a model for all units wishing to pursue an authentic agenda.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Wargaming with miniatures

We all do things in the off-season to keep the interest going. I experimented with wargaming a couple years back. I really enjoyed it, but didn't really have the time to do it right.

My big dream was to do Burnside's North Carolina Expedition as a gaming campaign. Never got it off the ground, but here's a picture of my effort using Sash and Sabre miniatures that are produced by a fellow who is local to me.

Maybe one of these days I'll go back to it. In the meanwhile American Civil War Gaming & Reading has everything CW gaming-wise covered.

A piece of personal nostalgia

This photo was snapped at Cane Creek Park, in Union county, NC, in 1983.

My brother was in his 'photography stage' of his various hobby interests and caught the leading edge of the Confederate charge into the Federal breastworks. He snapped the photo at just the right time.

To me, this is what a charge at its apex really looks like. I've held this picture close to me ever since.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Finding Private Mason

This is a very interesting blog I gleaned from the Authentic Campaigner Web site. It tracks the exhuming of Isaac Mason, a Confederate cavalryman who was killed during the battle Shiloh. This blog keeps a record of the happenings around this event, and results from autopsies. Neat stuff!

We should learn from others

One thing is certain - the Internet opens up an entire world for reenactors. You find that there are other popular wars/periods that people from all over the world reenact. We can learn some major lessons from our European counterparts and apply them to the betterment of our own time period and hobby in general.

The picture above is of a UK-based group, the 95th (Rifle) Regiment of Foot. If you have watched or read any of the Sharpe's stories, this regiment should be familiar to you. The one thing that really struck me about this group and others I've seen across the "pond", is the completeness of the impressions presented. These guys are all on the same page. They look the part.

Currently, US-based Civil War reenactors can mostly agree on is that Civil War reenacting as a whole in the US is in a down-cycle. People are leaving the hobby or shifting time periods for various reasons, but simple disinterest seems to be one of the most common. When you do the hobby for long enough, battles start looking the same and interest shifts from love of the history to keeping up with reenacting buddies. The Espirit 'd Corps is missing. You don't see that with the European groups. You see up-to-date Web sites, great-looking groups that push the reenacting envelope, uniformity, and intense interest in doing it right. Not many farbs, no crappy artillery impressions.

One thing I do notice from most European groups is that they're research intensive. Take a look at the Lazy Jacks Mess Web site. It's one of the best in the CW portion hobby, and they're based in the UK, which to me makes it all that more impressive.

Here's an excerpt from the Lazy Jacks Mess site. This was one of the scenario recommendations for the group, in this case for rations to bring to the event:

Forage goods only, and what you could have possibly begged stolen or been given by the locals but remember they are in short supply as well, Seasonal fruit and veg for Sept,Cornmeal or flour, minimal coffee, mollasses rice barley and beans.Meat very very little - none.If you must bring meat bring bacon but rather you did'nt.

This isn't a jaded group - it's a group who wants to do things properly. They also engage their members on many levels so boredom doesn't quickly set in, preventing a "revolving door" effect with members.

We don't see much of this type attention to detail in the US any more, if ever. McDowell 2005 and Corinth 2005 were the only events I went to that did it right, and select few groups have outstanding impressions. But this is a minority of US-based events and groups. But to most Europe-based reenactors, it seems that every event counts, so they have to be good ones. Attention to detail seems to be paramount because interest remain high.

As we're beginning to realize in the US, gas is becoming and remaining more expensive, so we have to think through our reenacting jaunts and go to the events that interest us the most. We're reexamining what we get out this hobby. We should pay attention to the details. Our European counterparts already know this. I believe this turn in thinking will ultimately give reenacting in the US back to the hobbyists.

Quality, not quanity, is what we all should be striving for. This what will keep our hobby going well into the future.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

I remember way back in the mid-eighties that Robert Serio was the best brogan maker in the Civil War reenacting world. It was a goal of mine to own a pair of his shoes. But alas! Life got in the way, and I didn't get a chance to order.

Move the clock up nearly twenty years, and to my delight, Robert is still at it and has expanded his selection of goods. Oh happy days!

As circumstance would have it, I already had my shoes at the time, so I ordered accoutrements from him instead. Although I heard he was a bit slow in delivery, my order came in a decent amount of time. He made sure that he had the correct specs for my bayonet scabbard - something I didn't give a second thought to. You just don't find that kind of customer service anywhere. Needless to say I'm not going to give up my 'ccoutres.

Missouri Boot and Shoe should be a recommended vendor for most every group in the CW reenacting world. His products are top notch.

I'll flatly say if you're looking for great leather gear at a decent price, just go to Robert.

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

**Welcome Civil War Books and Authors readers!**

Part IV - Goal Setting

Goal Setting is the next step in creating a group using OSORG. It requires that you already have these things accomplished as per the last installment:

  • Basic vision of what kind of group you want
  • Very basic group mission statement

To recap the last installment on pleminary planning, we established an example group, The Generic North Carolina Confederates or TGNCC for short. Here were my thoughts on the TGNCC:

What I imagine for the TGNCC is an authenticly-minded group who specializes in a North Carolina Confederate impression that spans from the beginning to the ending of the Civil War. The group would be company-sized so as to fit into any larger organization, but look reasonably filled out when doing a specialty impression. In order to maximize the fun for the group, we need to have the ability go Federal at some events, but with the same standard of authencity as the Confederate group.

From that vision, we established a mission statement that reads:

The Generic North Carolina Confederates is a group of reenactors devoted to promoting a devoted and authentic portrayal of North Carolina Confederate soldiers and civilians before and during the American Civil War.

The only change we made between the initial vision and mission statement was to allow for a civilian element in the organization.

We're ready to move to the next stop on the OSORG roadmap, Goal Setting.

OSORG Goal Setting has three aspects, guiding, immediate and long term.

  • Guiding goals are standards set for the group. These goals are what you need to refer to when setting your immediate and long-term goals.
  • Immediate goals are the steps to take your group where it is at now to move it to a predetermined vision in the near future.
  • Long-term goals are different visions that you plan for your group. By using immediate goal setting, you move from one long term goal to the next, within the context of the guiding goals.

Your guiding goals shape your group for the future. Everything your group will do revolves around what you have established in your guiding goals.

To set your guiding goals you'll need to have your basic vision and mission statement handy. The point will be to create guiding goals that reflect what you already see for the group. For TGNCC, we've come up with these guiding goals:

TGNCC have five guiding goals in mind:

  • Give an accurate, authentic, and devoted portrayal of confederate soldiers and civilians,
  • Create quality living history presentations that give a factual and balanced view of North Carolina in the Civil War,
  • Research and make accessible the history of North Carolina regiments and organizations to other reenactors and the general public,
  • Encourage the attendance of history-credible events and living history presentations that hold participants to a higher standard of authenticity, and
  • Help Civil War reenacting to become a hobby once again by de-empathsizing inter- and intra- group politics and introducing group organization and participation at the individual level.

OK, now to break down these goals.

The first two are along the lines of the mission statement and empathsize authenticity and focus on North Carolina, so nothing is questionable or out of line.

The third goal is not exact to the mission statement, but easy to reason. If you do this hobby, naturally you will need to do research. So although not mentioned in the mission statement, posting research for the public is definitely promoting awareness of the group's credibility as being authentic and devoted.

Though the fourth goal is not mentioned in the mission statement, events are another aspect that are easy to reason - they're part of the hobby and assumed. By applying the mission statement to this goal, the group is raising the standard for the events it attends. Since Civil War reenacting offers many events, this guiding goal specifies what type of event the group will attend, weeding out the ones that don't meet criteria.

The fifth goal is the sticky one. The reenacting hobby and its politics were not alluded to in the vision or the mission statement. It can be reasoned though, that the group by example is improving the quality and credibilty of the hobby, therefore enhancing its own quality and credibilty. Also, the goal itself is harmonious with the group's vision and mission statement. OK, a long shot reason, but plausible. It also establishes a guide for the internal workings of the group, which is important. This guiding goal stays in for now.

Now that the guiding goals are established, it's time to say something about immediate goals. As stated before, immediate goals are the detailed steps between the long-term goals. In the case of the ongoing example of TGNCC, the OSORG roadmap is an example of immediate goals setting. You're simply creating a roadmap - or a list logical steps - to arrive at a group vision. Make sure your steps are easily attainable by the group, but don't create so many that your roadmap looks like a bus-stop map! You'll use the guiding goals to prevent any sliding away from the group vision.

Lastly, it's time to set long-term goals. These goals map where your group is going years into the future. These goals detail group growth and activities, and gives group members something to look forward to. It also helps to prevent "been there, done that syndrome".

For TGNCC these long-term goals have been established:

TGNNC's long-term goals include:

  • Establish a functional group centered around OSORG,
  • Raise group membership to fifty active members, both military and civilian,
  • Establish state-wide group representation,
  • Introduce authentic, historically accurate, and consistent living history programs to many North Carolina civil war battlefield parks and historic areas, and
  • Raise money for North Carolina park maintenance, preservation, and restoration.

Although I won't go into detail about each goal, an important rule of thumb when setting long term goals is in most cases, each goal is dependent on the last. In the example above, you must have an organization to raise fifty active members, you must have enough members to be state-wide, you must be state-wide to introduce programs to the parks, and so on.

As always, commit your goals to paper!

NEXT: Part V - Membership and Material Requirements

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Change to our regularly scheduled programming...

Since I'm not going to be around the computer much today due to personal concerns, I'm moving "An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups" serial to tomorrow. Until then, I leave you to the Romans...

I did some exploration on the SCA a few years ago. I was interested in seeing if they offered anything exciting, but easier on my aging body. Although I decided that the SCA wasn't my cup of tea reenacting-wise, I did stumble on reenactors who do the various Roman periods. I do love ancient history, and I like watching SCA events, so the Roman reenactors have a special interest for me.

What shocked me was the number and size of the groups who do this. While not as large as Civil War reenacting, Roman reenacting does have a healthy representation. Also suprising was the attention to detail and authenticity many of these groups focus on. It's amazing.

A couple of great groups to look at in the US are Legio VI Victrix and Legio IX Hispana. Both groups seem to really empathsize authenticity and have very interesting sites. BUT the best site I seen was from Legio II Augusta in the UK, which almost makes doing Roman reenacting an attractive lifestyle, involving civilian reenactors to a high degree. A great site to look in to if you have an interest in the period.

Monday, May 22, 2006

What I Last Read

**Welcome Civil War Bookshelf readers!**

"Rebel Private: Front and Rear" by William Fletcher
ISBN: 0452011574

I enjoyed this book, although I had to get back into the knack of careful reading. Fletcher was a veteran of the 5th Texas Infantry, and later, the 8th Texas Cavalry, better known as Terry's Texas Rangers.

This book, in my opinion, is one of the more honest veteran recountings of the war. Surprisingly, very little time is spent on describing battles, more time is spent on Fletcher's adventures in the aftermath. Even with the chapters telling which battle, it's hard to discern what part of the battle he's actually talking about. This gives his narrative a nod to the genuine. Soldiers didn't know the name of the battlefield until well after the fact, let alone the smaller actions, like Little Round Top.

Fletcher paints himself in a very modest and human light, exposing his own faults in a sometimes seeming self-depreciating manner, whereas many who wrote their memoirs at the same time tended to gloss over those details, or use a watered-down version of them to accentuate their next feat of daring-do, like with "The Thrilling Adventures of Daniel Ellis, Union Scout". He also insists that he never held any rank, although records do have mention his promotion to sergeant, which underscores his modest approach.

Much like "Company Aytch", "Rebel Private" doesn't expose much material detail for the reenactor. Fletcher's mind is on his experiences, and he spends little time on the details, which were probably becoming fuzzy at the time he wrote his memoirs. You won't find much information on arms or uniforms, but you will find plenty on the thought processes of the mind of a Southern soldier. Be warned, though, this book is not a polished work, and the paragraphs are long and winding. You need to read carefully to get the jist of the book.

This is a book very worthy of a place on any Civil War readers' shelf. I know that it'll get some repeated readings from me.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

What I'm reading now

**Welcome Civil Warriors readers!**

"Attack and Die" by Grady McWhitney and Perry Jamieson seemed to challenge me to read it from the bookstore shelf. To be honest, I'm a little skeptical of the book's premise of "Civil War military tactics and the Southern Heritage", but that was the point that probably attracted me the most. After reading "Was Jefferson Davis Right?", I tend to be leery of the books that somehow point to Southern heritage as an excuse for indulgences of the era. "Attack and Die" seems to smack of the myth of Southern militarism being a born trait.

OK, I do admit a little skeptics' bias in the subject area, and I'm a born Southerner with a large Civil War pedigree to boot. But hey, I'm game to the argument that this book will put forward.

Cool group site of the week

I've already linked to The Sykes Regulars site, but I think it's well worth noting it again. So far, it is the best group site out there, combining graphic beauty, information distribution and all-around usefulness to the reenactor.

This site has been kicking around for quite some time too, and had me hooked in wanting to do a Regular Army impression for quite some time. I can say that some of my present thinking has been shaped from what information I have read from the Sykes Regulars site. I hope these guys keep up the great work into the future.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

A whole wide world for reenactors

I knew that the site existed, but it didn't really occur to me to point it out and link it until this morning. It's a nice starting place to discover all eras of reenacting, and you can spend days looking at its contents. Keep this site near and dear to your internet browser.

The shootin' part of the hobby

I heard of the North-South Skirmish Association years before I took up reenacting. I thought it was funny that grown men would dress up like Civil War soldiers just to go shooting. Now, I'd like to be one of those guys!

I shot my old '63 Springfield a few times in the past, but I couldn't hit anything with it. The bore was too far gone to be accurate by repeated firings from blanks throughout the years.

It's my firm belief that you don't really respect your piece until you actually load and fire it. That's when you know you need to treat the musket in your hands with all due consideration. I think all reenactors should at least shoot live once or twice just to know how it feels to load and then feel the kick of your musket as your fire a round.

Here's the obligatory safety statement: if you shoot your weapon, please worm out the barrel *real* good, or preferably purchase another barrel to use for live shooting. Pieces of lead from your minie ball will shed inside your barrel. A simple cleaning just doesn't get it, you need to use the worm to be assured your musket is cleared.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Basic Reenactor's Craft - Creating a period musket cleaning kit

The Syke's Regulars site is one of the best Civil War reenacting sites that I've seen, bottom line. It's a treasure trove of information that all reenactors can use to improve their impressions. The one item I'll pick for Basic Reenactor's Craft is creating a period cleaning kit for your piece. Keeping the musket clean is one of the most important tasks for a reenactor, it greatly contributes to safety on the field.

Stone Age reenacting

Well, stone, copper, bronze and iron age reenacting. The group who does this is a professional reenacting troupe called Time Travellers. They do living histories, museum displays, and movie consultation in these eras.

Sounds like all the historical bases are covered!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

The Haversack Depot is this week's favorite Sutler of the week. Besides the great product, my Federal Haversack patterned from the from the example in the Quartermaster Museum, the customer service was great.

Phil Cavanaugh kept me up to date on my haversack purchase, and was great about keeping up with my email questions. Customer service and quality go a long way with me, and The Haversack Depot hit the bullseye. Tentage will be my next purchase from the 'Depot.

What I'm currently listening to

"More Songs and Music from Gettysburg" is of the first CDs I listened to coming out of my "reenacting" retirement. It's a great blend of the military and popular tunes of the period.

My dearest bought this for me to keep my reenacting interest going when I was "retired", but I really didn't give it a complete listen to for a couple of years. One day, I popped it into my car's CD player on yet another musical whim, and I was very pleased at what I heard. Gave it repeat playings for the week. Great stuff, and I really recommend the CD for the electic selection of tracks it has. I particularly like the brass band tunes, they're played very lively and crisp.

My only complaint with "More Songs and Music from Gettysburg" is that it seems too short. Just as I'm getting into the CD, it ends with the Gettysburg address. Otherwise, it's one of my favorite CDs.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part III - Preliminary Planning and Goal Setting

**Note: Due to the length of this article, Goal Setting will be the next installment.**

Last week's installment was the summary of my idea for an Open Source Organization for Reeacting Groups, or OSORG. The thought was to create a long-term template for groups to use when forming or reorganizing their groups for the future.

This installent will be my ideas about how to create a plan for your group that'll last for the long term.

When a reenactor or a group of reenactors set out to create a group, they usually have in their mind a notion of what the new group should be like. This notion usually comes from a desire to be more organized than the group that they recently belonged to, to represent a particular historical unit, to have high authenticity standards, and so on. This notion is an end result, or a vision. What some group-founders lack to make this notion a reality is a roadmap. Not many reenactors consider very basic concept this when they form a unit. Success, in most instances, depends on a clear roadmap of some sort. You can't expect to get where you're going without a clear plan of how you're getting there in the first place.

In this article, it's assumed that you and others founding the group are experienced reenactors, have researched the unit or unit type you want to portray, and have an understanding of what standard of authenticity you want to attain. If not, then it's highly suggested that you wait till you read the last installment of this series, "Back to Square One", before acting on any of this information. In "Back to Square One", I'll also cover the concept of over-hauling your current group to fit the OSORG template.

Before you sell the concept of your group to other reenactors, you need to map out how your group is going to move from initial formation to functioning unit. You've imagined your group, now what steps are you going to take to get you there? How many members will need to be in this group? What will this group need to learn? What will members need to buy? What will make this group special? Bear in mind, most of these questions will be answered in full later on in this series.

So, the first step to creating a group is establishing the roadmap.

A roadmap should not be too complex at first. As a running example for this series, I'll establish my own example group, The Generic North Carolina Confederates or TGNCC for short. Here's my thoughts on the TGNCC:

What I imagine for the TGNCC is an authenticly-minded group who specializes in a North Carolina Confederate impression that spans from the beginning to the ending of the Civil War. The group would be company-sized so as to fit into any larger organization, but look reasonably filled out when doing a specialty impression. In order to maximize the fun for the group, we need to have the ability go Federal at some events, but with the same standard of authencity as the Confederate group.

These ideas should be committed to paper, but don't fuss with the details. Those will come later on when the group is more firmly established. The high-level overview for the TGNCC has been written. The vision and roadmap destination of the group is now defined.

If I were founding this group with other reenactors, it is essential that a consensus is made on any initial decisions and vision. Buy-in from all founding members is important. It's a slower process, but it's the glue that will keep the group bound together on the same vision. Suprisingly, this where many groups start to unravel.

If I were a sole founder, but had members come to the group early in this process, then they should be treated as charter members, and should have a say on further changes to the group. Make sure you allow for group ownership rather than membership at this point.

Now that the group vision has been established, you need to map out the paths you'll use to get it there. Again, commit to paper all processes used and decided on and share with everyone involved. The paths we are talking about are the various processes and tasks that need to be established and completed to organize the group. If a path is set to tackle each process and task in logical order, you will arrive at your destination and vision much more efficiently.

We'll establish a path for TGNCC . This will be the roadmap you'll follow using OSORG:

1) Develop a Mission Statement. Although you have a vision, you need a purpose too. The mission statement will be the group guide for most decisions that affect the group as a whole. Make sure to base your mission statement around your group vision, and any time the vision changes, the mission statement needs to change to match. Also, allow for some expansion in the early stages. For example, a couple members wives wish to be involved, but as civilians. As long as this change doesn't clash with the initial group vision, allow for the adjustment. I'll apply this to my TGNCC example.

The initial mission statement for TGNCC goes like this:

The Generic North Carolina Confederates is a group of reenactors devoted to promoting a devoted and authentic portrayal of North Carolina Confederate soldiers and civilians before and during the American Civil War.

Review your mission statement frequently (once every six months is good), and of course, make sure you have everyone's input before making changes.

2) Set group goals for both short and long term. I'll cover this and the rest of this list in following installements to this series. But this and the following will be the sequence you'll use to build your group using OSORG.

3) Establish the requirements for membership

4) Create the administrative organization

5) Create the military organization

6) Create Special Interest Groups

7) Market your group to new members

8) Review and improve

This will be your roadmap for creating your group through OSORG. Once you write your mission statement, you'll have reached the first landmark on your roadmap. The next landmark you'll come to will be covered in the next installment.

NEXT: Part IV - Goal Setting

Monday, May 15, 2006

Some unique reading

** Welcome A. Lincoln Blog readers!**

A fictional reenactment mystery!

The description goes like this: A wandering spirit from the civil war posesses the bodies of the living. A modern Civil-War mystery that strays into the paranormal.

I Hate Group Politics

Last week, I had another grim reminder of the darker side of reenacting and the human dynamic - group politics.

I know there must be politics in almost any human endeavor. It's the way we are. But reenacting politics are an exercise in frustration. The hobby is naturally suited for competition on many levels. You compete to lead your group; you compete to make your group a leader, you compete to use your research, and so on. Competition begets politics.

I just hate it when no one is willing to sit and come to the bottom of an issue, and the let politics get out of hand. It happened with my group. But I've decided to not let it get to my enjoyment of my hobby. In '88 I quit the hobby because of the rampant group politics at the time. Not this time.

OK, I'm through ranting. For now.

"Why can't we all just get along?"

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The Stonewall Brigade is one of those groups that has been around forever. They were around when I first 'jined up in Civil War reenacting, and they are still going strong. They head up some of the more authentic events in the hobby, and have been one of the catalysts for the hobby's continuing bent toward authenticity.

Their site is great and has a rare period flavor that I like to see in reenacting Web sites.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Movie Review: Black and White in Color

Period: 1915-1918 - WW1 - Colonial Africa

Synopsis: When WW1 breaks out, two backwater French and German African colonies go to war with each other.

Overall opinion: This movie won an Oscar for Best Foreign film of 1976, but I really wondered how it won it in the first place. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't an awful movie, but not an Oscar-winning standout. It was paced rather slowly, and empathsized more of the bumbling antics of the French townspeople, and the pragmatism of the native people who are stuck fighting a European conflict in Africa. This is definitely a movie to be viewed for content rather than action, which is sparse in this film. "Black and White in Color", despite my critisim here, does have a lot going for it. Light humor, jabs at European custom and hypocrisy, and an overall lightheartedness made this movie watchable to me.

Good reenactor film?: "Black and White in Color" isn't what I'd term a great reenactor flick. It doesn't really touch heavily on war, or even on events in the war, just the folibles of man within a microcosm of a larger conflict. Some scenes of training the natives to become French soldiers are funny, but that's about as far as this movie goes to being appealing to reenactors. The authenticity is questionable, but because of my lack of knowledge about this area of the WW1 conflict, but most European movies are a pleasant surprise in this category. Of particular interest are the French African Zouaves.

How does it stack up? I'd recommend this movie to people who like deep, thoughtful foreign offerings. I personally liked the movie on this level. I don't recommend it to the action hounds or history geeks. What makes the movie different is setting and message, and not any adherence to historical detail.

For more war movie reviews, check out my other blog, War Moovies.

Friday, May 12, 2006

What I'm reading now

I deserve a quick read after "Ashe County's Civil War". I've peeked into "Rebel Private: Front and Rear" and it reminds me of "Company Aytch". I haven't heard too much about this book, but it does seem to wind up in quite a few group reading lists.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

Richmond Depot is the first sutler to make it on my favorites list that I haven't bought an item from. I do know Richmond Depot from reputation, so it makes my favorites list. Looking at the wares on their Web site, the quality seems to be top-notch, and the descriptions enticing. I love cruising this site and wishing.

What I Last Read

"Ashe County's Civil War"
ISBN: 0813920345

"Ashe County's Civil War" isn't just anyone's read. It's a very thorough study of Ashe county's society before, during and after the Civil War. The first two chapters are rather thick, and not size-wise. It'll take you some time time to sift through the detail that author Martin Crawford presents.

BUT, if you want to know in detail how society functioned in the mountains of North Carolina, this is a great book to read. I do not recommend this book until you have read a more general book on Civil War Appalachia, like Gordon McKinney and John Inscoe's "The Heart of Confederate Appalachia".

Crawford seems to be on the mark with most of his facts, and his conclusions fit nicely with other authors' works on the subject, sometimes clarifying certain issues raised in those works. On a couple occaisions, though, Crawford has some factual lapses, like referring to Taylorsville, TN by it's modern name, Mountain City, and disregarding the lack of women's sufferage in that particular time. But these are very minor transgressions.

The bottom line is that this book would be great for reenactors who are doing first person impressions of mountaineers in the 58th, 37th, and 26th NC regiments. It is of limited military historical value, with most of that information being taken from other works.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

I thought I'd seen it all

Whoa. "Lord of the Rings" reenactors! I wonder if anyone whines if they have to galvanize as orcs. "I wanted to be a Ranger this weekend! Now I have to be a stinkin' orc!"

I also have the motto of the First Shire Regiment:
First at Gondor,
Farthest at the Pelennor Fields,
Last at Mordor.

If anything, this shows the diversity of our hobby, and that if it can be recreated, it will be recreated. This actually looks like fun - check out the site.

UPDATE 12/28/2008: Here is the new website.

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part I - Introduction

A couple of days ago, I wrote an article that was yet another rant on the state of the hobby. After giving it some thought, I figured that anyone can rant, but few seem to act. I've decided to act in my own way - by throwing out my ideas to the reenacting world.

A couple months ago, I wrote out what I thought would be a better type of organization for a reenacting group. Nothing overly-complex, but more than your usual reenacting group. I took what knowledge I have of the hobby, and added in a bit of wishful thinking to come up with I thought was a viable reenacting organization. I was pleasantly surprised with the end product - a group that would catch and hold my interest for the long-term. But I quickly realized that I'd probably wouldn't have the time to implement it. So, I've decided to just put it out to the people who read this blog as an open source idea.

If anyone decides to use the Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups (OSORG), all I ask is to email me and tell me how you're using it and if it works in your own situation. I'll publish results and suggest alternative solutions, keeping things in the spirit of 'open source'.

Part II - Overview
Reenacting groups are typically organized with a sole purpose; to gather like-minded reenactors together to attend events. Some groups live a long and fruitful life, some rise and fall, and some never get off the ground. The main factors for longetivity seem to be based on how well the group is organized, how hard members work to keep the group going, and how many members are engaged in group activities on and off the reenacting field.

Most groups are of the "rise and fall" kind, they have a defined life cycle that can last from a couple of weeks to years. They usually have an initial organizational period followed by multiple or sustained periods of growth. Eventually, recruits become harder to come by, some members begin to drop out, growth begins to stagnate and eventually membership slides downward. Depending on group organization and the hard work of members, this period can stretch out to years. But eventually the downward slide comes. Members quit because of many reasons, including ill-health or personality conflicts, but the most common reasons seem to be waning or changing interest, change in group vision or goals, financial difficulty, or family obligation. Then finally, the group disbands when the effort is no longer worth the time invested.

Since most reenacting groups are centered around the premise of getting member reenactors to events, they're ill-equipped to offer anything more to members who become bored with the group or the hobby, have a change in financial status, or must divert more time to family matters. To keep these members, groups will sometimes make compromises that undermine their initial goals, sometimes creating friction with other members who can dedicate the time and effort. Sometimes a group will strike on an idea that keeps a few of these members in the fold, but these solutions seem to serve to delay, but not prevent, their exit.

A problem that goes hand-in-hand with member retention is over-dependence on a few members willing to do necessary work within the group. Most groups have members who are the 'drivers'. They take executive or leadership positions like president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, or chair group committees. More often than not, the 'drivers' almost have an exclusive hand in these positions - not through ambition - but through member complacency. The 'drivers' tend to be the only ones willing to do what needs to be done to keep the group going. In some cases, this eventually leads to resentment or burn-out on the part of the 'drivers'. Often, this resentment or burn-out is the beginning of the end for some groups. Many have disbanded because the members willing to do the work dropped out, and no one else was willing to step in to take up the slack.

A prevalent problem that is usually a cause of retention problems and member over-dependence is a changing or vague group vision and goals. Reenacting groups usually form with an idea of what side they want to portray, what regiment they want to represent, what level of authenticity they wish to achieve, and what events they want to attend. Then things change. The group can't get into desired events, not everyone shares the same vision about authenticity, some members play politics within the group, new ideas emerge, and so on. At some point, some members come to the conclusion that the group no longer is going in the direction they want, because there are no goals, or no provision to adjust goals with changes in the hobby. This point soon becomes a critical juncture for the group. This is where new groups are made, where old groups fall apart, and where the well-organized groups stick to their guns.

The most important issue that is problematic to a reenacting group is recruiting. This usually begins when the members decide that growth will help the group sustain itself. In some cases, some groups eschew recruiting altogether, depending only on the core membership for consistent event turn out. Usually this is done word-of-mouth or in some instances advertised online or via publication. When a recruit comes into a typical group, a rough form of mentorship comes into play. If one member or group is well-equipped or well-connected, the recruit can borrow his extra gear, or can negotiate with a friendly unit to lend gear. Some groups have a similar, but more elaborate ways of inducting new members. All this is done with an eye of getting the new recruit on the field as fast as possible. But from induction, the new recruit is expected to put things together and collect an impression. Most groups do publish guidelines; some even give the new recruits time estimates on when they should have their gear together. Sometimes, there is no real reasoning why a recruit should have particular accoutrement, it's simply on the list. This is a make it or break-it time for the new recruit. Depending on the experience new members receive from their new group, the recruit will come back, or throw in the towel.

OSORG is my attempt to improve on existing methods that groups use to form, organize, recruit, and retain members for the long-term. The result is a concerted effort that engages more members, allows participation on many levels, and introduces flexibility for diverse interests. OSORG addresses the concerns I mentioned, hopefully introduces a new and more effective type of organization that group can use from the very beginning. I'll get into the nuts and bolts of OSORG starting next week.

NEXT: Part III - Preliminary Planning and Goal Setting

Monday, May 08, 2006

When is a time period too recent to reenact?

**Welcome Strike The Tent readers!**
**Welcome American Civil War Gaming & Reading readers!**
**Welcome Mike's Civil War Musings readers!**

A couple years ago, I was aquainted with a guy who, with me, was in a group that played miniatures-based wargames. His path and mine crossed a time or two before in the WW2 reenacting world. But eventually he and I both dropped out and went our separate ways. That is until we met playing wargames. As most reenactors tend to do, we swapped tales of the hobby and reconnected.

Eventually, the topic of conversation drifted toward "are you reenacting now?" I said no, and at the time I was out of the hobby, but thinking I might eventually return. But the guy said he was doing something that I have mixed feelings about - Vietnam reenacting.

Photo on left is from the Washington Post article Vietnam Buffs Bring Jungle to Va.

In the scheme of things, I suppose any time period is up for grabs as far as reenacting is concerned. But I admit that my mind clicked into "that's too recent!" mode when the guy mention Vietnam.

Even as time has passed, I find that I'm still foggy about what is too recent to reenact. WW2 is a big reenactor era, but I thought at one time it was too new for me. But when I got into doing it, I really had no trouble with the WW2 era. As a matter of fact, one of the most validating moments I had in reenacting was at Camp Butner, when the Old Hickory Association did a display for the vets of the US 35th Division. It was worth every minute to see the look on the vet's faces and to hear the stories that they told.

But then again, we won WW2 and most of the previous wars that tend to draw large crowds of reenactors. I wonder how would a Vietnam vet feel to see the Vietnam era recreated? Would it be wonderment or bitterness? North Carolina has a couple of 'Military Through The Ages'-type events. That would be an interesting question to ask and blog about.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Cool group site of the week

This week's cool group site goes to the Sixth Ohio Volunteer Infantry. This is a great site, and one that other groups should look to emulate. It's attractive and easy to navigate, with plenty of pictures. Makes me want to jump in and fight the rebel foes!! I AM the rebel foe - doh!

As a side note, two of the Sixth Ohio members are very visible in the hobby - Eric Tipton is a regular contributor to Civil War Historian Magazine and to the Camp Chase Gazette messageboards, and Ken Cornett is one of the moderators on the Camp Chase Gazette messageboards. I they do much for the hobby, and I for one, am very grateful to them.

Drill Day

I've been away for a couple days to recharge and participate in my favorite hobby. This latest wasn't a huge affair, but it's always a fun time for me, even if I'm not exactly in the mood to go.

Some background is in order here. I'm a member of the 37th NC, but we form up with the 18th, 33rd and 51st NC to create Company B, of the 4th Regiment in the Army of Northern Virginia organization. As a company, we're a pretty tight group.

Company B's typical meeting place is Alamance Battleground -- an early Revolutionary War site, strangely enough. The curator is great fellow, and always welcomes us, so Alamance has become our central drill area, since Company B is scattered throughout the state.

One can't say too much about drill, it's one of those things you do in order to learn and hone your abilities as a reenactor, and learn and unlearn things you've picked up studing manuals and the such. We try to emulate Hardee's Revised Manual as closely as possible, discarding the reenactorisms that creep up. I think we do a great job, although we do debate the finer points from time to time. The thing I noticed is that our drill was good, even the new guys seemed to be getting it right of the bat. I suprised myself by how much I was able to retain and actually do. I was a Stack Arms incompetent, but now, I can do it pretty well and without a hitch.

Some of my pards maximize their time at these drills, improving camping techniques and doing some experimentation. We also have some musical talent! Two members of the Huckleberry Brothers gave us a sample of their tunes between drill sessions.

The day ended early for me, I had to go and to attend to home matters, but I'm glad I went. Can't wait till the next one. That'll be an invitation-only living history at Carlysle, PA in June.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

This week's honors go to the Jersey Skillet Licker. I'm not sure what a skillet licker is, but my mind does conjure up a rather painful act. This skillet licker has some great wares, some of the best in the hobby. My Federal forage cap is a thing of beauty.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Basic Reenactor's Craft - Making cartridges

Once you get into the hobby, one of the first things a reenactor should master is making authentic musket cartridges. The Lazy Jacks site has a great article about how to properly make .58 and .69 cal. cartridges, blanks and live.

Monday, May 01, 2006

What I'm currently listening to

I bought this CD on a whim -- just something to give me more of a taste of the period. When I first heard the tracks, I noticed that it didn't have the production values of "Forgotten Times Forgotten Music". I'd admit a little initial disappointment. I kinda listened to it the next week, and it struck me one day that the perfection of this CD is actually in it's imperfection. After that revelation, it quickly became one of my favorite period CDs.

Although "I Come From Old Virginny" isn't as recording studio-smooth as "Forgotten Times Forgotten Music", it sounds just like someone who had good command of the banjo would have played it live. Not perfect, but realistic. To me, this is more period than any CD I've heard yet. Most of all, I like the small backstory at the end with Bill doing his Smokehouse dance at the shad bake. I hope that Mr. Hudson will cut another CD and continue the adventures! I'd be one of the first to buy it.