Thursday, August 31, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

North State Haberdashery was a vendor that I had forgotten in my previous postings. Although I love my NC Depot jacket and trowsers that I ordered from them last year, I'd taken them for granted.

When I wrote my previous post on the Basic Eastern Confederate impression, I realized I haven't said anything about North State Haberdashery, who has very good customer service and great products. Rex Hovey is the proprietor of NSH, and a nice guy to talk to. I recommend giving him a visit if he's aound.

Product-wise, his jackets and kepis are his strong suit; they're well made, affordable, and fit easily into a progressive/authentic impression. It may do well to quiz him about this other products, because he does sell other vendor's products too.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A simple matter of attendance

The Camp Chase Gazette forums never cease to inspire me to post some neat topics for discussion. The latest topic is on event attendance, and it's receiving some interesting responses.

The basic question started off like this:

Can we have a reasonable discussion on why people don't show up at events they've registered for and why people leave early from they do attend? And, more important, what can be done to reduce these problems?

From this, I knew the topic was bound to touch some hot buttons with other reenactors. But it's an important subject, because CW reenacting obviously depends on participants being at the events. The more participants, the merrier the event.

But, what is the best way of encouraging attendance?

A good start would be to understand the desires of individual members of your group. What is the main thing they want to get out of an event; Historical immersion? Comradere? Camp out? Drill? Get away from home? A small survey wouldn't be too far out of the question.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

My NEW favorite Sutler!

My hat's off to Stony Brook Company! Chris Sullivan knows customer service well, and I had a great buying experience, as well as a top-notch product.

What made this a great buying experience was the fact that he confirmed receiving my order and gave me a ship date, and then slipped in a hand written note ensuring my satisfaction with the product. All this was done in a matter of a week and a half - from money order mailed to receiving trowsers in the mail. Can't get too much better than that!

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
Civil War reenactment planned in Millis
MADISON COUNTY: Living history at Battle of Richmond reenactment
Soldiers on the march prove fayre attraction
300 acres purchased for Madison battle park
History converges

Other reenacting headlines:
History sleuths walk N.J. road to nationhood
Suffrage spectacular
Georgetown tips its hat to cowboy days
War Reenactments Can Continue, Despite Noise Complaints
Live History Firsthand as a Reenactor
Vandals hit historic museum
French craftsmen build medieval-style castle
Lively spirits from the past tell their story
Ghost town is suspended in time
Group's leader brings history to life
Revolution on the frontier
Travel back in time this weekend at country fair
Re-enactor recovers nicely
Much of her world is more than two centuries old

Monday, August 28, 2006

Let's dance!

Since Civil War period balls are held at some events and have a high degree of popularity with a goodly number of groups, I decided to give the activity a look-see. I'm amazed at how deeply you can involve yourself with aspect of the hobby. Actually, it's a hobby unto itself.

The Victorian Dance Ensemble is a very well put together group of Civil War period dance enthusiasts. They're heavily involved in preservation efforts and host a ball for that purpose. They also do demostrations and give dance lessons throughout Maryland and Pennsylvania areas. They sound like a bunch of fun!

In the same vein, the Commonweath Vintage Dancers are a group based out of Rhode Island and Massachusetts areas. This site is very well written and has a great overview of dance and dances during the Victorian period. They not only Civil War, this group dances in a variety of periods. Their favorite period appears to be the later 19th century.

Another worthy mention for the information contained on their site, which hasn't been updated in some time, is the Vintage Dance Society.

If you would like some personal lessons in the fine art of Civil War period dnace, then Our Wedding Dance, Inc. can teach you how to be light on your feet. If you look closely, one of the Bohemian Brigade, James Allen Davis, is apparently is cultivating his own style.

This post would not be complete with mentioning the 21st NC Infantry, who also does a bit 'o dancin' and was my inspiration for this post.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Cool group site of the week

Another graphically pleasing site comes from the Third New Jersey Regiment. This group is large and seems to focus much of its energy on the wonderful task of preservation.

I also consider this site a "lure"; nice looking but doesn't have too much information up front about recruiting and such. You have to email someone to obtain further information about the group. This is a good tactic, as long as you have something that is enticing on the front end, and the Third NJ seems to have a great understanding of the concept. More reenactor sites should consider such marketing strategies when designing their sites.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Impressions - Basic Eastern Confederate, 1863-64

As promised earlier this week, here's my basic Confederate uniform impression. Although it'll get me into most events, I'm not really satisfied with it. This occasional serial will cover my efforts to take my impression the next step up, and make it something that fits the event bill as good as possible.

Generally, this impression is a bit of a flight of fantasy set in the Eastern Theatre in the early '63 to early '64 timeframe. If you look close enough, it's really standard Federal gear and a Confederate uniform. Confederal is probably a good term for it. But I aim to change it up a bit in the future.

The shell jacket is of the North Carolina Depot variety, and the trowsers are a civilian design. Both are from North State Haberdashery. Rex Hovey did a great job on both pieces, and I see them spending a long time in my collection. He uses material produced by Ben Tart, so I'm at least comfortable I have authentic reproductions.

The 1861 Model Springfield is a defarbed ArmiSport, and the bayonet is the same.

Missouri Boot and Shoe made my accoutrements, which consist of a black roller buckle belt, a US standard style cap pouch, US 1861 model cartridge box and shoulder strap, and a two rivit bayonet scabbard. The Haversack Depot made the US issue tarred haversack.

Orchard Hill Sutlery provided the canteen, brogans and blanket, as well as other personal items such as eating utensils, cups, and the such.

The slouch hat was a purchase from another reenactor - OK call me lazy - I wanted a nicely used hat.

I'm very comfortable and happy with the quality and accuracy of the items above, I took a good amount of time to research what was a good deal from the viewpoint of cost and authenticity. To be honest, I'm not going to pay a considerable amount of money solely for the satisfaction factor.

Right now I'm looking at going to Perryville and converting this into a 1862 Western impression, unit unknown. If you're a reader with some good ideas on what to get to accurately and authentically convert the impression (I've a $300 budget to do this), please make a comment and I'll look into your suggestion. I also take any handy no-cost tips that would improve my impression too. I'll post the final result like I did above, before I trek to Perryville.

ps: Pvt. Mntineer also knows that he looks if he's had too much time with the Quartermaster and Commissary Departments, and he's working to remedy that situation. :-) Just consider me a fresh fish soldier for now, and see what the Perryville impression brings.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Great personal Web site for CW reenacting

If you need a great online recruiting tool, or some great writing to get you back into the reenacting groove, then Our Hearts Were Touched With Fire is a great site to look refer to. It's not a group site, but rather, it's a personal site that has a bit of a romantic flare to it. Unfortunately, this site hasn't been updated in some time, so you need to bear that in mind when going through the pages.

The couple that put the site together look at Civil War reenacting from their perspective, rather than the perspective of a group. It's not a blog, although the concept is ideally suited to a blog format, the site also addresses the hobby in general, including answering the "why?" of becoming a reenactor. There's some nice material that would do a new recruit good to look at. One of the best features of this site is the product review section, which in itself is worth surfing this site.

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 8

Another "fringe period" are the Seminole Wars. This reenacting area really covers two periods, the First and Second Seminole Wars. The First Seminole War is an offshoot of the War of 1812 period, and shares the same style of uniform and clothing. The Second Seminole War is pretty much a style period all to its own, starting 10 years prior to the Mexican War.

The reenactors who do the Seminole Wars are almost exclusive to Florida, but they do a respectable living history program. For right now, there are a small handful of sites that are devoted to these reenactors, but they are certainly worth checking out. Florida Military Historians is an overview of the period and a portal site to the other sites that deal directly with the reenacting groups. There are also links here to individual reenacting groups for the period. The other two sites are Yahoo! Group sites and require moderator permission for complete access. The Southeastern Culture group covers the native American side of the Seminole War equation, while SemWar is geared toward the US side of the conflict.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

Seems like Dog River Glassworks has stormed into the reenacting world - and none too soon! They offer the whole gamut of period glassware, eliminating the need for locating original, and probably now, rare and expensive glass.

Not only does Dog River sell glass, they sell china, crockery, lighting and other home accessories, as well as medical accessories. According to their site, they have furnished many museums and movies - including Cold Mountain and Gods and Generals.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Places for Civil War reenactors to talk

Although I've posted something like this before, I'll do it again. With my frustration of not being able to visit the Authentic Campaigner Website, which is down for repair, here is a listing of places to visit and talk to other reenactors.

One of my favs is the Camp Chase Gazette forums. This is a very user friendly forum, although getting to it is slightly frustrating. You have to link into an interior page before you see it actually listed on the lefthand side navigation. The guys here are great, and have a knack with mentoring reenacting newbies and not-so-newbies such as myself.

Arguably the premier "every reenactor" forum is CW Reenactors. This is actually a great site to talk about Civil War reenacting in general, and for new reenactors to fill in the gaps in their knowledge. You typically run into all reenactor types, from "mainstreamer" to "campaigner". It has the largest reenactor pull of any of the forums, and if you post a "group wanted" ad, you'll get responses for weeks on end.

Definitely considered the most controversial and highest quality messageboard is the Authentic Campaigner forums. This site caters to the "campaigner" type of reenactor - the ones who push the envelope has far as authenticity. But beware, this site is not newbie friendly, or at least not lazy newbie friendly. It is highly recommended that you "lurk" on this site for a few weeks before actually posting anything. Also use the "search" function and try to answer any question for yourself before posting. This site is one of reenacting's best sources of information, but do not take everything mentioned on the forum (as with any forum) as gospel truth.

Another one I just found tonight is the West Coast Campaigner. The quality of the conversation is good and it's set up similar to the Authentic Campaigner, except not as feature rich or graphical. But it still conveys a good amount of info for any reenactor, and has a friendly look and feel to it. Worth checking out.

If you've 'jined the cavalry, then you may want to join The Civil War Cavalry Forum. Discussion here is about... you guessed it, the cavalry. Very useful site to find out about proper equipment and cav-friendly events. Discussion also covers horse-drawn artillery and wagons, which we really need to see more of in the Eastern part of the hobby.

A low-volume forum is the sub-topic messageboards in Civil War Talk. Not too much happening here, but the posts are current, with posts on par with CW Reenactors. Be forewarned that these boards are well-moderated and the mods take no guff from surly bros who want to pick a fight on a small forum.

A neat little forum geared toward reenactor teens is Teen Reenactors and Historians. Conversation cuts across anything Civil or reenacting related on this forum, but from a uniquely teen perspective. A site deserving of some exposure and contribution.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back on track

Well, the living history at Gettysburg would have put me on track, but fate interceded. My fall back event is Perryville, KY.

Starting with Perryville, I'm going to try something new for this blog - add to my basic/generic impression and see if I can come up with an event-specific impression that is somehow unique for each event. I'll post a photo of my basic impression sometime this week, and before each event, I'll post another photo and point out what I've done to change it up. This should be a fun (hopefully not bank-breakingly expensive) thing to do.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The Chesapeake Volunteer Guards site is a good example of a well-maintained, low-tech (in Web terms) site. Plenty of pictures, color and good layout, but a straight-up site. If you lack a Webmaster that can devote tons of time to your site, a design like this would be great. Everything is laid out within a single mouse-click, and navigation is fairly simple.

There are plenty of reenactor pictures and information to make this site surfable and "affable". The only thing I would take off though is the mention of another group that the CVG were affiliated with and apparently are no longer so. I you can't mention the name on the Website, then it looks like a legal problem, and no one wants to step in one of those. My opinion - don't mention any association with the group at all. Group politics shouldn't surface on a site that also serves as your group's "public" face. Afterall, first impressions do count!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 7

No Civil War living history can be absolutely complete without the surgery tent. And to my surprise, there is an organization that is devoted to those old sawbones - The Society of Civil War Surgeons.

This organization is very impressive to say the least, especially for such a limited segment of the hobby. It's been around for 26 years, has a yearly convention, and Web site is nice and easy to navigate, with a goodly amount of information covering Civil War era surgery. To me, I'm in awe mainly because I thought most reenactor surgeons were older fellas with a secret desire to be drenched in fake blood, with a saw in hand and a vict...I mean patient... on the table.

For those comtemplating an impression should go to the National Museum of Civil War Medicine, or at least visit the site. Nice photos of the exhibits plus a plethoria of information on medical practice of the era.

Another great resource for those wanting to go into the CW medical impressions is this site. It has a bunch of info on CW era medicine. I like how this site begins:

For the Unfortunate Civil War soldier...

You got that right!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The authenticity ceiling

I've ranted on this subject before, but on a higher level. This time, I'll mellow out a bit with a discussion about what is the line between acceptable material authenticity and personal satisfaction.

What started me off on this line of thought was the research on the Stony Brook Company, and some other things that I've read on the various messageboards. To set the stage for this post, Chris Sullivan makes no bones that his material has some synthetic content. But he also explains what he's looking for is appropriate weave, color and weight. Since you can't see or even feel the synthetic content, then it satisfies most of the "qualifications" for acceptable authenticity. Chris also has a nice following of happy customers who are willing to talk him up on the boards. But when the subject of "synthetic content" arose, the naysayers came out of the woodwork to blast the simple fact that the material Chris used had a small amount of modern non-wool fiber.

So a question popped up in my mind: where's the boundary of what's acceptable and what's personal satisfaction? Where's the acceptable authenticity ceiling?

One could easily argue that this or any hobby is all about self-satisfaction in a general sense. But we're talking in more detail, most generalities aside. This post is pushing toward the campaigner end of the spectrum where all-around authenticity is everything. But where is that demarcation line between material authenticity and self-satisfaction in a campaigner sense?

Looking at Chris' work, he makes his trowsers exact. The museum-grade trowsers are hand-sewn. Stacked against originals, they're ringers. The material is dead-on as far as weight, weave and color. Does it matter that they're not 100% wool? In my opinion, no. I say this from a couple of recent posts that helped shape my current thought on the matter.

A post I read recently helped put the issue of authenticity in perspective. It seems that the event at Rich Mountain was a bit difficult, and of course, some of the guys there started talking and said this:

Someone remarked that he would have a hard time ever convincing anyone that we were doing this for fun. I responded that this wasn't 'fun', we're not doing this for fun, but for satisfaction.

I thought this was a true statement, but I took it a little bit differently than probably intended. It made me think that there's a point where authenticity becomes a point of personal satisfaction, which some reenactors seem to confuse with absolute authenticity. Sure, you can buy a cartridge box that is precisely sewn with the absolutely right type of leather and stamps, but what does that extra $50 or so buy you? Personal satisfaction, but not necessarily absolute authenticity, which is in my mind a reenacting holy grail. Face it, no one is really going to inspect your kit so closely as to give you crap about how and with what materials its made. You (and possibly your mess-mates) are probably the only one that knows and cares. Someone may put you on the spot about general construction of an item they can see, but not about the number of stitches and grade of leather. If that ever happened to me, I'd ask, "who cares, and why?"

Someone may say "OK, if you're going to settle, what makes your impression so different from a mainstream reenactor?" You have to look at what basically defines a "mainstreamer" and a "campaigner" impression. A handy analogy for reenacting is likening it to using binoculars. When you see something aways off with the naked eye, you see basic shapes and colors, but little discernible detail. Same way with mainstream reenacting - if your kit and uniform look OK from a distance, then you're usually passable. The very basic authenticity goal of a mainstream impression is what looks accurate from a reasonable distance. When you use binoculars, then you see more detail, and things not seen with the naked eye suddenly comes into focus. Colors and detail are much sharper, you see nuances that you've not seen before. What looked OK from a distance could be a distraction or not look as good through binoculars. That's the basic essense of authentic reenacting - what looks accurate up close.

But there are limits. Even if you have powerful set of binoculars, you're only going to see all detail on the outside. I believe that is the ceiling of acceptable authenticity. Past that, you cross into the realm of personal satisfaction. Not that personal satisfaction as far as material authenticity is a bad thing, either. I personally have items that are completely hand-stitched, but that is what gets me into the groove of an event. I simply don't feel as authentic without those details, but like I said, that's my personal feeling. Obviously, no one is going to notice what they can't see. The unseen details are for you alone.

Going back to Chris Sullivan - does it really matter to other reenactors that his material isn't 100% wool? Not really. Unless something is seen, it really doesn't matter to anyone but you.

My favorite Sutler of the week

Stony Brook Company is a new vendor for me - I've just sent off an order for their William Deering museum-grade trowsers. They're the only vendor I know that seems to totally specialize in Federal trowsers. Even for museum-grade construction, the prices are pretty decent for authentic stuff.

The one thing that strikes me (and sold me) on Stony Brook is that the owner, Chris Sullivan is honest and up front about materials. He uses Woolrich material that matches up with the original cloth very closely. The only rub is that it's an 85/15% blend, but he has some great reasoning for using the material. I've read that his contruction is as close as it gets to an original pair, and a few avid reenactors on the Authentic Campaigner forums give his stuff a thumbs up. I say, if you can't tell from even a close inspection, then it's kosher. I can't wait for my pair of trowsers, and I'll post my opinion on them later on.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Depression is...

... missing a great event because fate gets in the way! Just got this email from my group leader:

We have been invited by the NPS, ANYTIME. Ranger Tom said that he wished we would come every weekend. Our drill was as good as it gets. Praise by spectators and rangers alike. Ranger Tom has asked us to pick a weekend next year and that we will be would be their "Guests of Honor." Pards, we really impressed the powers to be. It was a great moment in our history of reenactors.

Then again, there will be a next time, and like that old Doritos commercial says, "They'll make more!"

Congrats to my pards for helping to make this a very worthy event for the NPS and visitors to Gettysburg National Park. Great things happen when you put enough heart in it, and my group is all heart.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Batter up!

Baseball games at reenactments seems to be the trend these days, especially that correct bats and balls are available from vendors, such as Orchard Hill Sutlery.

There are quite a few sites that describe the game as played back in the 1850s and 60s.

Fort Ward Museum has an excellent history and run-down of the sport. I always thought of baseball as being a "yankee" thing in that particular period, but not so. This article is another great history with a list of documented games at the bottom of the page.

If you take your "base balling" a little more seriously, there are leagues devoted to the early form of the sport, such as the Vintage Base Ball Association. From the looks of the group picture, they look authentic and ready to play ball. This site links to several vendors who recreate uniforms, base balls, bats, gloves and other game related items.

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UPDATE 8/24/2006: News article on the Vintage Base Ball Federation: Former pitcher revives 'deadball era' with new league
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Reenacting and Religion

As always, while searching around the Internet for interesting tid-bits, I came across a nice Website for Christian reenactors. It's quaint and seems to be well-maintained, drawing a fairly large readership judging from their "virtual battalion" roster.

I couldn't find anything similiar for Jewish reenactors, but there is a site that does highlight the soldiers and offers a database of those who served in the Civil War. It's very interesting! Maybe someone will step up and do a site devoted to Jewish reenactors.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Cool group site of the week

If you want to see an impressive Website introduction, look no further than the Third Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry site. It'll wow you from the get-go.

Although it's a visually stunning site - I consider it on par with my favorite, Syke's Regulars - bear in mind that it's new and a work in progress. I found the navigation to be a little confusing. The site that I linked here is apparently a portal to other aspects of the site. If you look on the left under "Directory", you'll see "Living History Site", and that's where you need to navigate to for the reenacting stuff.

The reenacting portion has a good amount of information, plus a few sutlers I haven't heard about. The navigation is still a bit tricky, but don't let that stop you in enjoying a great site.

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Update: Use this link to navigate to the 3rd WI's related groups.
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Saturday, August 12, 2006

I have actually done some work on The Southern Loyalists site! I've added a Library section, and I'm beginning to add book titles to it. I'll end up having to divide this page in to separate book, document and photo sections at one point in the future. There's a great body of work on unionists in east Tennessee, and somewhat so for North Carolina.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 6

One reenacting period/type that seems right at home on the fringe is "pirate" reenacting. It really doesn't fit in any single category, but is something that would attract all sorts of scurvy dogs from the reenacting world.

The best site I've seen yet is Gentlemen of Fortune. It's not too detail packed, but it does link the would-be pirate to a treasure trove of resources. As a non-expert in the period and about pirates in general, Gentlemen of Fortune was an interesting site to surf, and it helped to correct some misconceptions I have about piracy and pirates during the French and Indian and Seven Years' War periods. This site has almost all the links you need to start as a reenactor or to find a group.

The Port Royal Privateers have an interesting introduction in doing a correct and accurate impression.

Although I'm not sure if actually using firearms is part of pirate reenacting, A Squared Armory does have a collection of non-firing period weapons that would top off an impression nicely.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

Wambaugh, White & Company strikes me as one of those non-commercial vendors that has to be sought out in order to purchase their wares. In a way, they're a "cult" sutler that authentic reenactors go to. They appear on many group vendors lists, and although a little on the plain side, their Website describes how they make their garments.

WW&C seems to be best known for their Federal garments, and have two selections, JT Martin and Schuylkill Arsenal, to choose from. They do have a Conferate selection consisting of Richmond Depot pattern garments, as well as drawers and civilian shirts. Be mindful that WW&C create their items as per original size requirements, so if you're a larger person, they may not have your size.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Run away! Run away!

As I was writing my last post, a thought popped into my mind in regards to taking a dive or running for cover as part of fulfilling a fate card's result. I've always thought that "skedaddling" or "going over the hill" is very under-done in the hobby. Nobody bolts. Lines hardly break. Why?

In my experience, there is a stigma attached with reenacting cowardence or as I like to refer to as - 'self-preservation'. Even though running away was common during an actual battle, group commanders seem to have little tolerance with it in reenacting. I've seen event commanders going as far as threatening to kick reenactors out of an event for running for the rear. Not a good way of handling the situation. But to throw a bone to the other side, sometimes reenacted "skedaddling" isn't done with the purest of intentions, either. Especially if the commander is a jerk or incompetent to the point of misery.

Unfortunately, much of the aversion to running away is largely due to group pride and a fear of dishonoring the soldiers represented. Many reenactors are on the field to honor the soldiers they represent, and it's hard to conceive the thought of "skedaddling". It seems to be a slap in the face of the concept of honor. Many reenacted (or reactivated) units are usually units with a honorable service record, and thus have some pride attached to the unit's accomplishments. In truth, though, most units have had their time of weakness, and we represent men who had their faults.

So, how do we reenact a broken unit without making it feel like we're "sticking it" to a commander who everyone actually likes?

This is the point while writing about fate cards, the thought of running away came to mind. It seems while we research the people within a unit, we don't look at the overall performance of a unit in a particular battle. Part of my history buff background includes hours and hours of wargaming experience. (If you have never played a wargame, board or computer, this would be a great time to start.) In the better wargames, these units are usually divided into grades - elite, crack, average or green, or something very similar. The grade of unit usually determines offensive/defensive strength and morale level. The better the unit the better it fares in battle, and the less likely it is to "break" or lose cohesiveness in battle if it is beaten or driven back. In other words, less likely to run away.

If an event sponsor is willing to research who was in the unit, in a particular battle, then it wouldn't be a far stretch to estimate unit performance in a battle and apply a grade to it. This way, reenactors from commander down know how the unit should fare morale-wise in a historical sense. If you're in a green unit, and you're about to be overwhelmed, wouldn't it make more sense to "run away", rather than stay in ranks and blast away to the death? Knowing that your unit was not historically battle tested would make that a viable option, from the unit commander down.

In order to make skedaddling a viable option, we also need to work on dropping its stigma on the reenacting field. It happened, it happened often, and on both sides. Event sponsors should instruct commanders and reenactors on the proper way of "running away" and when it's an appropriate time to do so.

Maybe we as reenactors, in the pursuit of accuracy, need to give running away a little more honor. This begs another article - "How to be an Effective Coward".

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Your fate is....

There's an interesting discussion on the use of "fate cards" on the Camp Chase Gazette's forums. This practice has been bandied around for many years to give a more realistic "feel" to the represented unit and to the event in general. I'll throw in my two cents of opinion in the use of fate cards.

First off, I like the concept of "fate cards" - they seem to allow a reenactor to fit into the historical skin of an actual participant of the battle. Everyone I've talked to have also liked the concept for similar reasons. Personally, though I've had questions about their true usefulness on the field, used as I understand.

Except for those rare instances of prophetic intuition, soldiers obviously had no way of knowing whether or not they would meet their maker in a particular battle. In a reenacting sense, fate cards give reenactors a little bit of insight to an actual soldier who participated in the historical battle, as well as his ultimate fate. In short, it gives everyone prophetic intuition. Does this add or take away from the purpose of fate cards?

Most reenactors are asked not to devulge their fate, but they do anyway. In my opinion, that's only natural. To be realistic, you'll have guys who are on board with what the event is trying to achieve and others are not. That's the first big rub about using them - it requires a subject willing to keep hush about what happens to make them a device that places you in the period groove. The second rub quickly comes next - following the directions, which again depends on the motivation of the reenactors. In essense, for fate cards to be effective, you must find a lot of like-minded reenactors.

Even if you have a event with like-minded reenactors, then there are other hurdles. One poster on the CCG site said he was in a position where he felt he had to take a hit to make the result look realistic, but he found himself not doing so because the fate card had his "alter ego" coming out of the battle unharmed. This where you have to think quickly on your feet and compromise. Many times has a soldier cheated death by sheer luck. But cheating death doesn't necessarily come without a price. Soldiers have been knocked to the ground stunned, given themselves to instinct and dived at the last second, simply hesitated and hid, been knocked silly, or simply ran. Not the best options in the world, but realistic ones.

One thought that came to mind recently is the fact that most battle reenactments are imperfect affairs to begin with. The best we can hope for is a close approximation of the opposing forces' movements within the battle. If that is the case, then fate cards should be approximate too. Face it, luck is luck. In normal circumstances, the blast of grapeshot described above would have killed everything in its path. No real way of getting around it. So rather than play the luck card, simply succumb to the reality of the situation.

Fate cards should be looked at as tools to guide reenactors, but not absolutes, especially in the face of common sense.

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
TIME TRAVEL TO THE 1860s
Jefferson College hosts Civil War camp for children
Living history
Military artifacts from blacks are coming here
Recalling Culpeper's bloodiest day ever
Heritage Day to shine in Fayette
Did Gilbert Van Camp Sell Beans to Union Army?
37th Tennessee Regiment At Point Park Saturday, Sunday

Other reenacting headlines:
French And Indian War 250th Commemoration Battle Reenactment Event At Fort Ontario
Early prospectors focus of living history
Fort Lincoln goes back in time
Living History Day at the Boothbay Railway Village
Living History Program gets lifeblood
Mountain man rendezvous in West Yellowstone
Godspeed ship tour drew 456,000 visitors

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The Terrell's 37th Texas Cavalry site should be labeled the "curious group site of the week" -- there is no other site that takes the same direction as this one does.

It is by no means a modest site as evidenced by this paragraph in their introduction:

With more than 100 pages and 2000+ visitors per month this site remains the largest, most visited War for Southern Independence reenactor web site. Receipt of 117 Web Awards for content, contribution to the Internet community, design, and ease of use also makes our site the most honored site about the War for Southern Independence on the Internet.

But there is something that can be said for confidence! The Terrell's site can back it up, too. It's one of the best constructed sites in the hobby, and it very graphically pleasing as well being very well organized and maintained. Group site maintenance is a big problem within the hobby, and has excluded some good but very out-of-date (or defunct) sites from Cool Group site recognition.

The curious part of this site is that it concentrates heavily on black American participation in the Confederacy. It has a ton of information, particularly in relation to Andrew and Silas Chandler and other information on the integration of blacks in the Confederate army. I think the site has to be surfed in order to get all the information. It's interesting whether you agree with its conclusions or not. I personally like this site, and find myself going back to it on occasion to see what else they have uncovered.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 5

This weeks "fringe" is not a group or period, but rather, a category of reenactor who represent the correspondents in the American Civil War corner of the hobby. I've always looked at these guys as a mix between civilian and military, and are always colorful in nature.

The most colorful correspondent I found was James Allen Davis (or Torin Finney in real life) He has a great Web site that's fun to surf around. He has a well-developed persona and by the looks of his attire, he seems to be very flamboyant. His impression is great, and his field drawings seem to have a period flair to them.

Another interesting correspondent comes in the person of Tom R. Grandy. His site makes me wonder if the home "papers" of the correspondents could be organized much like the recreated regiments on the military side of the hobby. Mentions a move from the Richmond Dispatch to Harper's Weekly. That would be very cool if you had competing "papers" out on the field getting "the story".

Update: Although I haven't found an obit, there's a memorial section for Tom Grandy on the Bohemian Brigade Website, linked below. I'll keep this entry on the post since his site is still up and is very relevant to this subject. If anyone has any further information on Tom, please email me.

I have to admit I have a favorite reenacted correspondent. Junius Henri Browne, was an actual reporter for the New York Tribune, but is reenacted by David Foote. I can say that he looks the part! My partialness comes from the fact Browne was an actual historic figure (as far as war correspondents go) and Mr. Foote has the impression nailed down and very convincing. The site is very cool by any standard and his writing style is very smooth and easy to read off the computer.

If you desire to reenact a correspondent, then here's a great article on the subject. I didn't catch this site before I wrote the above, but the Alfred R. Waud and the Bohemian Brigade Website is totally devoted to reenacting Civil War correspondents. It's a great site, and has bios and examples from each correspondent who is a member.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

LD Haning is the Cadillac of Civil War accoutrement. While other makers closely match materials, LD Haning strives to come as close as possible to known examples found in battlefield museums and private collections. The end product is something that is probably as good as it gets in the hobby - and exact, indisputable copy of an original.

Be warned though - this is the top line, so expect to pay the price. But what you get is a fine product that carries with it the research and effort to make it stand above the rest.

What I'm reading now

North Carolina Civil War Documentary comes from an enthusiastic reader recommendation. A reenacting pard who lives close by recommended this book to me, and promised it would be a good, eye-opening read. I'm all for that!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Basic Reenactor's Craft - First Person Impressions

There comes a time in most reenactors' careers where the urge to try a first person impression comes to the surface. Some of these impressions turn out great, but it's not done as much as it could or should be.

Fortunately for us, there are a ton of resources to instruct reenactors in the fine art of personality impressions. It only takes time, temperment, motivation and development to pull off a quality impression.

Reminds me of an old reenacting buddy named Bill, who had a great Irish brogue. He used it constantly, and for a long time I didn't know he had any other accent. That is, until one night he drank one too many and allowed his "Carolina" accent to slip through. But to keep it up to the point of fooling others is impressive, but it takes time and dedication.

The first and best place you should go is Past Into Present. I've blogged about this book before as a current read, but that was just before the 'gap' in this blog, so I didn't do a post mortiem review. Stacy Roth does a primo job in laying out living history impressions from A to Z. Although she specializes in F&IW, Rev War and War of 1812, what she has to say just as easily impacts Civil War impressions. I consider it the "bible" of building living history impressions and programs.

There are a great many site pages related to first person impressions. A couple of the best ones are Ladies of Reenacting, which covers several time periods based on British ruling family, and the Columbia Rifles has a article about doing an Irish impression correctly.

There is even a first-person impression workbook available for download that may prove useful to someone building an impression. This discussion on the Authentic Campaigner Web site is great for someone looking to pimp-up the wearable side of their impression. The Stonewall Brigade has a great article on how to deport yourself properly as a soldier.