Monday, July 31, 2006

What I Last Read

War At Every Door

ISBN: 080784988X

This was a very impressive book for me. War At Every Door combines much of what I know and delivers it in a way that those details are tied together and make more sense. For me, I read heavily about the war in western North Carolina and eastern Tennessee. It's part heritage and part curiosity in a part of the war not often written about that's the draw. I have relatives that served in the homeguard and in the 4th Tennessee Infantry, US, so this book touches close to home.

War At Every Door is a great top-level look at the war in eastern Tennessee and the politics that drove many of the actions of the area's prominent figures. Noel Fisher does a great job in guiding the reader through the beginning all the way through to the end of the war and beyond. He doesn't become too detailed, rather concentrating on the whole story. I was a little disappointed that a few interesting instances weren't covered, such as Unionist voting in the 1864 presidential election, but that's not really a mark against this book.

So far, this has been the best comprehensive book I've read on the wartime and political landscape of east Tennessee. War At Every Door is an easy read, doesn't get too bogged down with detail, but delivers enough to create an accurate vision of the place and time. This book is a recommended read.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Dead horse, re-beaten

"Let's try something new, but it has to be done like before."

It looks like the Battle of Selma is going to make a come-back. But the question remains, will this come-back be true or just another way of delaying doom? I've written on this before with passion, and I still very much stand behind that post.

Before I go on though, I want to make a point clear. I'm not against the existence of the reenacted battle of Selma. I do use it as an example of an event that has an unsteady foundation based on non-reenactors having decision-making power over an event that should cater to reenactors first and foremost. Selma is a parable that all reenactors should take heed of.

A couple a pargraphs down, the Selma Times News-Journal article covering the reemergence of Selma says:

Key to the future of the event is the appointment of a new Battle Chairman, Chuck Yeargan of Yeargan Construction in Selma. "We are excited Chuck has agreed to serve as Battle Chairman; it is vital to success of the event for someone from the community to run the show," said Dave Neel, president of the authority,

This is what inspired my initial quote at the beginning of the post. Since I'm not in a position to cast any judgements on Mr. Yeargan, I'll avoid any direct references to his abilities. But this is the same thing that the sponsors of the event did before; having a non-reenactor try to run the show.

Yeargan brings enthusiasm and a fresh perspective to the Battle, and he is committed to coordinating efforts to promote and prepare for the event, Neel said. "When the Battle was cancelled this spring, I realized that it was an important part of Selma, and I wanted to get involved to keep it going," Yeargan said.

OK, how fresh of a perspective can he bring? Mr. Yeargen should be all ears to the reenactors if he wants to make this event something that'll bring back good reenactors, and create a good event. The problem with Selma 1.0 is that the event sponsors opened the doors wide-open to anyone who wanted to attend. Big mistake. Selma 2.0 needs to cultivate attendance with authentic groups, create factual scenarios that don't always end in a Confederate win, and use some creativity to engage the spectators more. Create an event that good reenactors want to go to.

The Authority is planning numerous changes that it hopes will promote reenactor participation and spectator attendance alike. The standing date has been moved up a week, so that conflicts with Confederate Memorial Day (the Alabama State holiday falls on the fourth Monday in April) will be avoided in the future. "This addresses a long-standing problem for many reenacting units that are committed to participation in local memorial ceremonies, and should also prevent conflicts with NASCAR races at Talladega," Neel said.

BUT are they going to be mindful of other reenacting events that'll happen within that time also? It doesn't matter if you can't attract the reenactors first and foremost. If so, moving the dates around may not be such a bad move. Again, reenactors go to the good events, so Selma needs to overcome its previous reputation to be a draw.

A major effort will also be spearheaded by Yeargan to rebuild the earthworks at the event site. The passage of almost 20 years has taken its toll on the wooden backing of the fortifications, and complete replacement, rather than continued repair, is the logical option. Campsite relocation is also contemplated to lessen the impact of rain during the event or high waters on the river in the weeks prior to the Battle.

Yeargen is a construction contractor, so that's a plus to getting the battlefield back into shape, if that is really needed. Also, good reenactors can deal with the elements. I hate rain, but I can get through and enjoy an event while it's raining.

In real terms though, it's going to take a colossal effort to get the Battle of Selma back on track, including minimizing the influence of Selma's business community to make this event a cash-cow, rather than a quality event that'll have reenactor interest and a long life. The 33rd Alabama seems like a group that's progressively minded, so hopefully they'll be able to have the main say in how the event is presented and executed.

Cool group site of the week

When I first started looking for the cool group sites, I weighed my judgement on what information it held and the way it looked. This week's cool group site isn't a graphical marvel, BUT it is a site that everyone should bookmark. For what the Hard Case Boys site lacks in looks, it makes it up in friendly look 'n feel and a sincerity that keeps you coming back. These guys really like doing things right, and this desire shows on their site. It's certainly a place I refer to when I need to look into events that don't readily show up on the usual radars.

Incidently, the organization of the Hard Case Boys heavily influenced OSORG - this the way to create and maintain a group; use the mess system, keep rank and ego low. Hats off and thanks for the common sense approach.

Although this isn't a favorite sutler plug (yet), and is part of the Hard Case Boys site, Farb No More Clothiers looks like a vendor I'd like to do some business with. They have a Federal bent, but they seem to have an eye on the authentic, and their prices are great for their hand-stitched products. As a side note, Timothy Arnold is an Iraqi War vet, and I'm all for supporting the guys who really put it all on the line in their endeavors, great and small.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

New CW Reenactor blog

Found a reenactor blog today for the 57th NC. Looks like he's just got a start on it, so it might be worth a visit every so often. Bear in mind though, comments are only limited to the 57th NC blogging team members.

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part XI - Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

Better late than never, I say!

This is the last stop on the OSORG path, the remaining articles will deal with issues that touch on any group, OSORG or no.

Although the main goal of your group is to portray a particular impression, there will be times that members may want to pursue other Civil War reenacting interests that may have a limited appeal to the organization as a whole. If this is the case, a member can opt to create a Special Interest Group or SIG.

A SIG can be considered an informal mess that includes a SIG coordinator, and has very specific objectives. Unlike a mess coordinator, the SIG coordinator does not have the representative rights that an actual mess coordinator possesses.

For example, the State of North Carolina has built a replica of the CSS Neuse. It is docked at a preservation area for public view. Group member John Doe thinks it would be great to crew the Neuse a couple times a year and present in-depth living history weekends. John makes the appropriate contacts with the State and then puts out the word to the group. He quickly gathers committments from five other members from the organization as a whole. John has successfully created a SIG and is now the SIG coordinator.

SIGs are fairly automatous, and set their own authenticity standards within the general guidelines set by the organization. The group provides overall infrastructure support for the SIG.

When a SIG is created, the SIG Coordinator must complete these activities as quickly as possible:

  • Gather research on the subject,
  • Draw up a mission and standards for the SIG,
  • Create minimum requirements for joining the SIG, (Note: all impression-based SIGs should include the group's basic uniform and equipage requirements)
  • Create a roster of interested members, and
  • Set an event schedule, if possible. (Note: SIG events cannot conflict with established events)

Once all information is written and collected, then it needs to be sent to all the group coordinators for review and approval. This can be done via phone call or email, although email would be the preferred method. The coordinators need only ensure that the SIG fits within the scope of the organization, and it should be judged on these established points:

  • Topical to the American Civil War,
  • Directly related to the reenacting hobby,
  • Does not conflict with the primary group goals,
  • Incorporates group requirements for joining, and
  • Has two or more members.

The mess coordinators have one full week to respond with approvals or objections via phone call or email. SIG approval or rejection uses these guidelines:

  • Only responses that are sent in on time are counted toward approval or rejection,
  • A total no-response will be considered an approval,
  • All rejections must have reasons, and the reasons must be related to the established points.

If a SIG is rejected, then the SIG coordinator can re-adjust the SIG to address the objections and resubmit to the mess coordinators.

Once a SIG is accepted then it can operate freely within the organization, as long as it conforms to its mission and has more than two members.

If a SIG does not conform to its mission, it can either be placed on probation until it conforms to the agreed mission and requirements within a set time frame, or revoked if it fails to do so, or is abandoned by the SIG coordinator.

SIGs should not be confined to the realm of reenacting. Other possible SIGs can include: reading, wargaming, crafts, non-event travel, event planning, and so on.

NEXT: Part XII - Using the Internet to your best advantage

Friday, July 28, 2006

Versammlung um die Fahne-Jungen....

American Civil War reenacting is all over the world! Found another site in Austria that is devoted to the ACW. Not anything like Lazy Jack's Mess, Austrian Grey and Blue does have information to get Austrian reenactors on the right foot as far as the American Civil War.

I thought the home page graphic was pretty interesting! Also, take a look at the photo gallery - some of these guys look sharp.

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 4

Last week, we covered a Civil War reenacting fringe group, now we travel to a "fringe period", the Spanish-American War. In looking at the groups and period as a whole, it seems that interest is growing fast. The Spanish American War Centennial Website has almost everything you need to know about SpanAm reenacting, overlooking the fact the SpanAm centennial has come and gone. Although the site is simple and a little too linked on the home page to navigate quickly on the first visit, it has tons of information on reenacting. In many ways, it reminds me of the Great War Association, which is the umbrella to WW1 reenacting in the eastern US.

The groups referred on the site seem to offer alot of authenticity, and amazingly, the Spanish reenactors have a sizable representation. To the left is a picture of a formation of the SpanAm group, The Boys and Girls of '98. I gather that the groups within the Spanish American Centennial site are still active and living history-heavy. Another interesting SpanAm group is the Living History Crew of the USFS Olympia. According to their page, they're currently very active.

My favorite Sutler of the week

Here's another sutler who comes from an enthusiastic recommendation and my knowledge of his reputation within the Civil War reenacting community. As of this writing, I've officially covered all the sutlers that I've had dealings with, or know their reputations well enough to blog them.

Tim Bender (or TP&H Trading Company) has a great reputation in the Civil War part of the hobby for making great headgear, and I consider him one of the "big three" of hat makers, next to Dirty Billy and Greg Starbuck. Although he does limit his selection to the 19th Century, he does have a considerable selection. Arguably, for the price, TP&H Co.'s hats are the best quality you can find, and it has been told to me that he is the source for accurate Hardee-style hats.

Please bear in mind his selection seems to be exclusively brimmed or "slouch" hats.

If you know of sutlers or vendors that hold to a high standard of quality and sell great goods, please drop me a comment, and I'll blog them based off your recommendation.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Experiencing a little Workus Interuptus

Hello faithful readers! Sorry for the light posting, but that necessary thing called work has beckoned me for the past couple of days. It has also kept me away from making any considerable posts, especially yesterday, when I was mysteriously quiet.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Fayetteville Arsenal nifty tidbit

Here's a nice article in the local news about Fayetteville Arsenal and what historians are finding out. This is a neat read, especially if you do a Confederate impression.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The 32nd Missisippi Infantry site is a great example of a smaller, minimalist site used to good effect. It looks great graphically, but it doesn't overwhelm with too much information or flash. Many sites need to look to this example if you don't have too much to say, but want to make sure everyone has access to unit information via the Internet. Many group simply try to put too much fluff on their sites to bolster size. If you don't have much to say, don't say it!

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Nothing new this week

This has been a light posting week for me. Life has temporarily gone into overdrive. Not much going on The Southern Loyalists front either -- didn't have much time to work on it. Will have something next week.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 3

The CW Signal Corps reenactors have always been an enigma to me. At McDowell '05, they became more of an enigma by building their signal tower in the Confederate camp. I always thought the various detachments were an attached group to a regular unit, much like most civilian groups seem to be.

Apparently I was wrong! These guys are an organization unto themselves, and what they do has an appeal, especially if reenacting without the marching and mess and doing something outside the envelope is your thing. The Signal Corps Reenactor's Division (SCARD) seems to be the governing body of the various signal corps groups, and they live by this mission:

The Signal Corps Reenactor's Division (SCARD) provides and manages communications and information systems support for the command and control of combined Federal and Confederate forces during staged reenactment battle senerios and living history encampments.

Their site is impressive and has a ton of information in it, making it a worthwhile stop. Talking of stops, this site is nice for picking up on some nice period signal corps pictures from Harper's Weekly.

If there is an interesting reenacting period, group or activity "on the fringe" that you know of, please shoot me an email or leave a comment, and I'll blog it!

Thursday, July 20, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

One vendor I've been forgetting for awhile is Mattimore Harness or CivilWarBoots.com. I take their product for granted, since I wear them every time I go on the field. That product being their high-quality footwear. I've been very happy with my Jefferson booties - simply great quality, and nice compliments.

Going through their site is a treat. They make many military boots through many eras. When I was doing WW1 reenacting, I surely would have loved to known this place. It has ton of shoes. Simply amazing. If you don't want to wait for Mattimore Harness to make your shoe, you can order them from Orchard Hill Sutlery.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Ammo boxes galore!

In reenacting, the details count. One detail that seems to get the gloss-over are correctly made ammo boxes.

The Yellowhammer Rifles have an in-depth look at a .69 caliber box at the Civil War Maritime Museum in Columbus, GA. Another site has instructions for building ammunition packing boxes.

Charlie's Boatworks is an interesting site, even though he's not an official 'favorite' sutler. He sells ammo and hardtack boxes with the correct specs and materials. These have the correct stenciling and box color for the type caliber. It would be nice if he'd do a box for blanks, too.

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Because of some pressing work matters, I'm declaring this a "bye" week for An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups. I'll have the next installment out next week!

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Monday, July 17, 2006

Speak out!

Over my vacation, a interesting series of IMs popped up via Yahoo! Messenger. A reader doing a CW signal corps impression "signalled" me to put a link on Seeing the Elephant's list of links. I chuckled at that, and made my reply. Incidently, it gave me an inside on the next "Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe" post.

As a blogger, I faithfully "blogroll" other CW blogs that mention Seeing the Elephant on their blogs, so my links for the time being are limited just for that use. If I linked all CW groups or related sites, I would have so many links that adding more would eventually just be "going through the motions" of creating links without the utility. Such is the impressive depth of our hobby. I would much rather post about things I think that bring out the best in our hobby, interesting things I happen to see, or issues that we all can learn from. If readers can point out more out there, like the Signal Corps stuff, then I'll be more than happy to post it.

I do deeply appreciate input from readers. It makes my effort more rewarding and more fun. Although I may not go along with everything suggested, I do take what my readers have to say to heart. So do me a favor - comment, email, or IM me with ideas and suggestions. I'll do my best to blog them.

Thanks for reading Seeing the Elephant (recreated)!

Cool group site of the week

This group happened to catch my eye while I was surfing another site called Reenactorstuff.com. Although I don't buy my stuff from any auction sites, this site had a pretty comprehensive list of sites for WW2 reenacting, and dribs and dabs from other periods. This is where the Missouri Irish Brigade site caught my eye. I spotlighted the 69th NYSV site last week, so looking at the Western equivalent seemed to a great comparison.

This site is very well designed, and easy to navigate. It has the period "look and feel" which I personally like in a site. Call me a sucker for fluff, but with this site, it isn't fluff at all. Call it nice 'accents'. The only thing I would change is hosting via Geocities, which always comes with ads and strings attached. Apart from Geocities though, this is a site that surfers can come back to repeatedly. It also has some nice Irish pipes background music.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Growing and growing

Although I'm still in the very early stages of my OSORG/ The Southern Loyalists project, the site is growing here and there. Added a few more pages, and hope to get the Research pages in within this week.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Takin' a weekend break

***Welcome Civil War Women readers!***
***Welcome Mike Antonucci readers!***

Heading toward the beach this weekend, will be back here Sunday... or Monday. Depends on how much I need the getaway.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 2

Seems that all the "fringe" groups seem to be of WW2 extraction so far, but that'll end next week with CW's version of a "fringe" group. Here's another "fringe" that looks pretty interesting to the low-key reenactor - flight crew reenacting. I've actually knew this was something some reenactors did, but what I didn't know is that it was organized. There are several groups to choose from, both Allied and Axis.

On the Allied side, Army Air Corps is probably the best group in terms of Web site presentation. They have both men and women reenactors, and they all look very authentic. As a matter of fact, it's a Web site I would recommend CW webmasters look at -- very well put together and has some simple, but interesting features to make it much more inviting to casual surfers.

601 Squadron is the RAF version of the flightcrew groups, and is a bit more lighthearted and not as in-depth, but still has an authentic approach in its presentation. The pictures in the gallery are top-notch and 601 Squadron looks every bit the part of the actual flightcrew.

Another neat-looking group comes from the Axis side, and they have very interesting approach to not having real planes the "crew". The Luftwaffe Aircrew Reenactors Association simply use full-scale mock-ups instead. This site is the benchmark for German flightcrew reenactors - it's beautifully presented and organized. Even has music to go along with the site, so I would turn down the speakers before linking here.

My favorite Sutler of the week

This weeks' favorite sutler comes from a recommendation from my pards over at American Civil War History. Bailey, Bennett & Scott has been around for awhile. When I pondered a return to reenacting a few years ago, I had their site bookmarked and was very close to ordering a Richmond Type II shell from them. If you visit, bear in mind they also go under the name of 'Confederate Tailor', so they have no Federal clothing to sell.

My philosophy at the time, and still is now, I'll only buy excellent quality and not go cheap. So far this strategy has probably saved me a few dollars. Bailey, Bennett & Scott was within a mouse-click or so of receiving my order. The only thing that stopped me was a second thought about going into reenacting at the time. Their reputation in the hobby is excellent, running up there with Ben Tart.

At times I wish I had clicked that mouse.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part X - Recruiting and Marketing

This week's OSORG comes from the heart. Part of my current-day career has been based in marketing, but many groups are painfully under-equipped to market, therefore, recruit up their groups. By now, you've traveled far on the OSORG road, and now you have an operational framework for your organization. Now comes the part that many of us dread - getting more people or "recruits" to join up.

But this doesn't have to be so difficult.

Most every hobby is better suited to market itself than any normal household product for sale. Why? Realize that any time we're at a reenactment, we're walking advertisements. We're the eye-candy, we're the source of attention. People come miles to see us. We have an interested audience. Even when we're vying for attention at a fair or similar event, we get a considerable audience. But rarely do we take advantage of the situation.

I remember going to an event recently where there were some CW reenactors doing drill and an encampment. Being the person I am, I indicated I would be interested in the group. They beat around a couple tents and haversacks to find information on the group. Not too impressive, but all too common. No outreach, no information tent, no follow-through.

You must market effectively before you recruit effectively.

Marketing

Marketing lays the groundwork for any recruiting you wish to do. It's as simple as that. At its very core, marketing is getting your name, service, and the answer to the question "why do you need this?" out to the public in the most positive light as possible. Marketing creates a desire of the product, and tell you how to get or use it. Most of these principles can be used with reenacting.

The first mistake most reenacting groups make is not making print information readily available. Make no mistake, word-of-mouth is great, but we as reenactors have already said all needs to be said, and probably more than that! People need something tangable to take home, to reference at their leisure. The best weapon in your marketing arsenal is a business card. A well-designed card has all the pertient information someone needs to find out more. Many groups do a basic card that any member can use - they just fill in the personal contact information on the back. All group-specific information goes on the front, including Web URL or group-wide email.

This leads to one of the first rules of marketing - don't go cheap on any of your marketing material (or 'collateral'). I advise against cheap-o cards, cut-rate printing houses, laser printer card sheets. On the otherhand, don't go overboard at a pricey printer, either. A local printer can be your best friend here, and what you need is a solid design at a decent price.

After your business card, you probably need to make sure you have some sort of Web site up and running. Again, take care of your appearance. While Angelfire and Geocities are decent free hosts, they do bombard any users with ads. I suggest plunking down the money and using GoDaddy, they're the least expensive and most user-friendly service I can recommend. Your Web site needs to be designed well - not necessarily flashy - but in a way that it's easy to navigate. I don't recommend a non-graphic type person attempting to design it - hire a student or creative spouse to design and manage. I do suggest as many group members become familiar with Web design too. I'll return to Web sites later in this series.

Even if you have a Web site up and running, you'll need to create a general-information flyers for those people who don't have Internet access, like hand-outs to write on, or simply don't like using computers. Remember this: Don't Cram Too Much Into Your Flyer. Personally, I think it's a good idea to use a flyer in conjuction with your Web site. A flyer should have the following information:

  • Contact information
  • Mission statement
  • Brief unit or historical overview
  • Brief overview of the hobby
  • Request for the reader to contact group (never forget this)

Always follow the KISS (keep it simple, stupid) principle when approaching any material for the public. Break it up into quickly read chunks. Draw interest, don't try to teach a detailed class.

Lastly, it's always a good idea, wherever possible, to set up an information tent and staff it with group members dressed in period garb. Take turns, or allow the salesperson of the group do the talking. And always have plenty of business cards and flyers. Make sure if someone wants information, all the group members know where to send the public.

Recruiting

One event one these days, your marketing efforts will pay off. Someone will contact you to look further into our great hobby. This is where many groups stumble yet again, because there is no infrastructure in place to process a new member.

This is a vital time to sway someone into the hobby, but many times, follow-through is lacking. It may consist of the new guy making calls to various members, mailing/emailing materials but rarely is there a formal indoctrination of the member into the group. It's my firm belief that this part is as vital as marketing your group. First impressions count, and if the first impression a new members gets is some convoluted runaround, then the prospects of keeping the recruit is diminished.

Remember, you're still marketing your group at this point.

Rather than allow the new member to left his/her devices, you need to assign a mentor to help them out. The mentor should be able to guide them through the new recruit process, including insuring that the recruit fills out all paperwork and has all membership materials on hand.

Once the new member is officially processed, marketing and recruitment end, and the task of retention begins.

NEXT: Part XI - Special Interest Groups (SIGs)

Monday, July 10, 2006

Why I'll never do cavalry

If a Mongolian rider can have an accident, then that's a sure sign that I'll keep my two feet on the ground.

Muskets, where art thou? Part Deux

When I wrote Muskets, where art thou? a few days ago, I only mentioned musket manufacturers. What I didn't mention were the defarbing services or "customizers" in business today.

A commenter to this column mentioned James River Armory. Not familiar with the business, I took a look at the link he provided. Boy, what a place - it's authentic reenactor heaven. JRA is both a manufacturer that produces a variety of rifles and rifled muskets, and a "customizer". JRA manufactures both "standard" and "best" quality firearms, a unique combination. The pricing was good - a little bit more than a straight-up Euroarms or Armisport, but much less than a Navy Arms or Pedersoli arm.

Also mentioned as a defarber was the Regimental Quartermaster. I also noticed their wares through the Civil War Historian magazine, and what I seen looked great, but I haven't read commentary from anyone who has bought one of their defarbed muskets. The Regimental Quartermaster has been around a long time though, and has a good name in the CW reenacting community.

One fellow that has been in the defarbing business awhile is John Zimmerman. I've heard that he's one of the best for defarbing services, although some on the Authentic Campaigner forums claim that his quality is a bit spotty. I've heard much more good than bad about his work, but I haven't seen his work up close.

Although I consider this site a bit confusing, Lodgewood Manufacturing seems to cater to reenactors who want to defarb their rifles themselves, but does offer some defarbing services. They also have original and replacement parts.

The Company Quartermaster seems to specialize in Enfield defarbing, and I've heard some great things about their services through reenactor group Web sites.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Cool group site of the week

In doing the Cool group site of the week, I've come across some great sites. To be honest, each time I come across what I think is a winner of a site, I find another one that is just as good, and just as deserving of high praise. The 69th NYSV Historical Association site is one of those sites. A gem to behold both in information and graphics. The 69th also has arguably the best looking flag in the war too. I'm a sucker for green.

This site is one of the easiest to navigate that I've seen yet, and very simple in construction, making it easy to use. It has a lot of reserach and linked information that is clearly written or pointed to. This is a very good site to do some uniform regulations and vendor research, so I recommend that you bookmark it.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Up and running

I've got The Southern Loyalists site up and running at a temporary (but privately owned - no pop-ups!) domain. I've a couple sections up, but it's still far from ready to go to the general reenacting public. If you have a chance, pay it a visit and drop off any suggestions.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 1

As I've been writing this blog, I've discovered the diversity of our hobby in all its aspects. I have to admit that they're are some groups out there that I had no idea existed - but they do and they flourish.

The first couple groups I'd like to point to are WW2 women's groups. These aren't "hanger-on" groups like you find with ACW reenacting, but independent groups that are dedicated to reenactors who do WAVE, WASP, WAC and other military organizations based around women.

The first of these groups I ran across was the US Military Women Historical Impressions organization. Beautiful site that is well organized, and some of the picture captions lead me to believe that they're also Vietnam reenactors also. This small blurb from the Web site describes USMWHI very well:

In our experiences, we saw a need for a female group that had at it's core, a deep commitment to authenticity, but also to openness and enjoyment. We wanted to honor all our veterans, but especially the women who have served their country in peace and in war. We want to tell their stories that are often lost or overlooked. We realized that military drill and ceremonies are often the missing part of units, so the founders agreed to maintain a drill unit.

The next organization I checked out was The Paper Dolls. The main era for this group seems to be WW2, but they cover both American and British impressions. Another beautiful site that is worth exploring. Here is their small mission statement:

We are a group of women historians who are serious about our impression. All of the photos posted on the site are those of members of the unit that have been digitally aged to perfection.

Both these sites are well worth the look, and seem to reflect the first-class nature of these groups. It's nice to see new things that aren't really new.

Muskets, where art thou?

One of the more difficult things to do when jumping into the Civil War reenacting hobby is to find the best quality item at the best prices. This is especially true for firearms. My search so far has lead me to many sources. So far, the only thing I've posted is an "ouch" about Navy Arms prices, but as I'm discovering, it's the quality you pay for... I think.

In asking around, reading forums, and just plain surfing, I've found there seems to be three tiers of quality - good, standard, and best.

A couple days ago, I read about a manufacturer (via the Civil War Reenactors forum) who seemed to put out good muskets, creating the "Good" quality tier. These are passable quality, with limited prospects of being upgraded. Loyalist Arms creates some interesting pieces at affordable prices, if you don't mind having a smoothbore "rifle". They also stock other manufacturers, especially Pedersoli and Euroarms.

The next tier are the arms you most commonly see out on the field, and are considered the hobby standard, so I've labeled them "Standard" quality. The two most common are Euroarms, which has been around for a while, and ArmiSport, which seems to be the choice between the two.

Oddly, the next tier probably has the most selection, but you must be willing to pay for it. The most popular, and a former hobby standard is Navy Arms. I'm still baffled at the expense, but I imagine NA is popular among the North-South Skirmish Association. Another admitted headscratcher is Dixie Gun Works. I never really took them to be any sort of standard, but they are up with NA in price. I'm assuming maybe the quality traveled up there too. Another note - some of their items are Italian-made. Speaking of Italian-made, Pedersoli is another name that is associated with quality nowadays. One of the readers of Seeing the Elephant, 'the Knight', tipped me off to another small-scale gun maker who specializes in the Lorenz-type muskets, The Rifle Shoppe.

Are there any more manufacturers out there?

Thursday, July 06, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

I'm taking another jump into the realm of reputation by making Dirty Billy my favorite sutler of the week.

I feel pretty comfortable with my choice, though. Dirty Billy has been a hobby standard for many years, and his name has been most often associated with quality headgear. His prices are good for what he sells. Checking out his Web site is a treat, too. He does many periods, and his selection of ante and post-bellum hats is a sight to behold.

What I Last Read

The Orphan Brigade

ISBN: 0807110779

I've finally wound up my reading on "The Orphan Brigade". I enjoyed reading it immensely, although more for the information rather than the writing style. This time around, William Davis seemed a bit slow in getting the story picked up and moving. Once he did, then the book became very enjoyable to read.

As a reference, the "The Orphan Brigade" is regarded as the book of choice for this unit, although numerous soldiers' diaries do exist. Davis incorporated information from several of these diaries, which greatly enhanced the integrity of narration and gave the book more than the "unit-was-here-and-here" treatment. Davis did great job in giving the various battles that the Orphans fought the detail needed to understand why this unit was renowned within the Army of Tennessee.

If you're looking for information for reenacting purposes, this book is a gold mine. It gives the reader a good idea of how well The Orphan Brigade was supplied, what they looked like, and how they behaved in battle. You couldn't ask for much more.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What I'm reading now

I'm about to finish up "The Orphan Brigade" by William C. Davis and go back into familiar historical waters by jumping into "War At Every Door" by Noel Fisher. This book was recommended to me by a fellow reenactor who had read it on a whim. I need a good read on the area after reading the rather thick (but interesting to me) "Ashe County's Civil War".

An Open Source Organization for Reenacting Groups

Part IX - Military Organization

In the past installment, we've established the foundation that operates the group in the background. Now we need to establish what the reenactors and ultimately, the public, see in the foreground - the military aspect.

Basic Organization

The basic unit in OSORG is the mess. Additional messes will build on a growing military organization beginning at the squad level and continuing to battalion or possibly regimental level. The overall military organization will be generic, not taking on any specific regimental designation.

Organization of multiple messes into a military structure

OSORG messes form into larger military units depending on current need. The first organization will be a squad (a single 4-8 man mess), then will progress into a platoon (9-16 man mess or two messes that equal or surpass that number up to 24 men), then a company (three or more messes that equal at least 25 men). When a company meets the minimum number of members, then it can elect a lieutenant and an orderly sergeant.

See the "Rank" section for more details of the selection and election of NCOs and officers.

Once enough reenactors have joined to accomodate two minimal companies (at least 50 men), then the mess coordinators will meet and decide on the organization's future growth and what geographic areas the current and future companies will be able to draw their members from. With each new company, geographic boundaries need to redrawn. The process is repeating until a minimal regimental and brigade strength is decided.

Rank

Each mess acts as its own military organization and follows the rank guidelines established by your group. An OSORG mess does not host company/regimental-level rank. Company/regimental-level rank should be determined per average number of active reenactors in the group.

Company-level rank includes:

- 1st (Orderly) Sergeant- Captain

NCOs and officers are determined by:

  • Measured and qualified ability,
  • Mess vote, and then
  • Group seniority

Rank progression per mess follows this guideline:

- 1 corporal per four men (3 privates, 1 corporal)- 1 sergeant per nine men (6 privates, 2 corporals, 1 sergeant)

Rank progression per platoon follows this guideline:

- 1 2nd Lieutenant per 16 men (12 privates, 3 corporals, 1 sergeant, 1 2nd Lieutenant)

Rank progression per company follows this guideline:

- 1 1st Lieutenant (promoted from one platoon-level 2nd Lieutenant) and 1 First sergeant per 25 men (15 privates, 5 corporals, 2 sergeants, 1 First sergeant, 1 2nd Lieutenant, 1 1st Lieutenant)

- 1 Captain per 35 men (21 privates, 7 corporals, 3 sergeants, 1 First sergeant, 1 2nd Lieutenant, 1 1st Lieutenant, 1 captain)

Always err on the side of having too many "enlisted" reenactors than to make your organization too top-heavy once you head into the battalion and regimental levels.

NEXT: Part X - Recruiting and Marketing

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
In Civil War battle near Okolona, stirred-up honeybees won the day
History comes alive!
Submitted to The Times-Journal
The Battle of Gettysburg postponed
Emergency Surgery At Port Columbus
Confederate soldiers return to Bentonville
In Petersburg, Va., They're in the Army Now
Reenactment blasts Brooks
The Civil War wages on in Port Gamble
Hundreds Watch History in Action
Lake Villa Civil War ball set for Sept. 30

Other reenacting headlines:
Frolic at Arches takes its visitors back in time
July 4 Celebrations
USVI celebrates 158th anniversary of emancipation
Isles gets ready to celebrate Fourth
Southeast Indiana Trails to Freedom driving tour kicks-off with ...
Marines Face Expanded Duties at Bangor
Renaissance Fun Returns To East Texas
Re-enactors eager to preserve, share the region's past
Festival beckons, ye pirate fans
Conservationists, Re-enactors to Commemorate 225th Anniversary of ...
Living history at Fort Langley
Spangled Salute
Knights out: Renaissance alive and well in Bullhead City
Fort Moultrie battle was 1st Revolutionary War victory
Commemeration of the Battle of the Somme, Reuters photos, 1, 2, 3, 4

For more Civil War news, check out Strike The Tent's Civil War News Roundup.

Have a memoriable Independence Day

Remember that freedom doesn't come without a cost.

Have a happy and safe 4th, and remember our troops deployed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other places away from home.

Also remember those who made sacrifices in wars past, that we honorably represent them in our living histories and reenactments. Let's always strive to do our best.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Neat looking event

As I was surfing around the other night, I came upon the "Prelude to Chickamauga". It looks like the Western theatre events are stepping up to be the premiere events to go to these days. If Corinth ast year is any example, then this event and Perryville should be the western events to attend.

Basic Reenactor's Craft - Making Hardtack

Hardtack has always been an enigma with me. I've tried to make it in the far-flung past, but all I came up with was an unedible hunk of dried-out flour that I couldn't been break up easily with the butt of my musket. I know the stuff was hard, but this was too hard.

Here's a great site with all you'll ever need to know about hardtack. The NPS has a kid's site with a recipe that's probably better on the teeth and stomach. Wikipedia has some more information on the nature of hardtack, and lastly, a Washington Post reporter takes a turn making it.

If you have unsatisfactory results making hardtack, you can always order from the GH Bent Company.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Cool group site of the week

If you ever wanted to be a Zouave, the 5th New York's site would be the first place to check. Perhaps not the simplest site to navigate, it has all you need to know to start research on a variety of zouave-type units of the American Civil War. It is very academic in nature - as should all living history sites strive to be - and you need to read through it to get at the good information. The writing is very good, probably the best of any Web site, so reading the information on this a pleasure.

The 5th NY was also the group of the late Brian Pohanka, who is considered in most hobby circles as the "patron saint" of Civil War reenacting. He was the driving force behind much of the hobby's current visibility. I recommend reading the memorial page.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Coming Soon

Here is the future test bed of OSORG. The Southern Loyalists was designed to cater to reenactors, historians, and genealogists who have an interest in the southerners who served the Unionist cause during the Civil War.

I hoped to start this last year, and I had a false start in November when I had to drop out for personal concerns. Since everything seems to be hunky-dory now, so I'm working on it again. If you're interested in finding out, sharing, or reenacting the Unionist cause in the South, and have something to add, please email me at mntineer1988@yahoo.com . A temporary forum is up also at http://mntineer.proboards7.com/ . Only the 'Parlor' section is accessible until I can organize and gauge interest.

I'll blog the developments of my efforts most every Saturday.