Saturday, September 30, 2006

No blog on reenacting would be complete without..

...talkin' about the Porta potty! Here's a humorous article on the tipsey savior (or bane in hot weather) of many reenactors and spectators everywhere.

Jonah Begone offers survival and etiquette tips for porta potties.

Finally!

Got someone other than me to post -- now it doesn't feel like I'm talking to myself on the Hotbed forums! I'm going to see if I can drum up some interest in The Southern Loyalists site from some genealogical sites around some counties in NC and TN.

Also, I'm beginning to up my local advertising. In the process of designing a flyer and bulletin board hangars. Soon, I'm looking to pop an ad in the local paper. My philosphy is "slow but sure". I do have a couple people who have expressed interest in meeting, so patience is key.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 12

Unlike the other "fringe" groups I've covered in the past, this one is very controversial, so this post will be a work in progress as I find more information.

Reenacting American slavery through the Civil War has been a sensitive subject that a few intrepid individuals have done, but not enough to reflect it as common as it was in the South. It's painful history, but history we need to portray if we're to paint an accurate picture of slavery. Apart from making the news on rare occasion, we don't hear too much about it reenacted.

Stacy Roth has a great chapter in her book Past Into Present about a slave auction reenacted at Williamsburg - what though went into creating the scenario, what actually happened, the controversy that surrounded it, and the final outcome.

The San Jancinto reenactment in 2002 had a respectable contingent of slave reenactors, which makes me wonder if there are any organizations that do research and specialize in such impressions, or if it's one-time thing. The Somerset Place and Latta Plantation in NC have programs involving slaves that look interesting, and Sam Houston University has a presentation about Sam Houston's "unread" side that looks a bit humorous. On the serious side, Camp Cosby nearBirmingham, AL has a segment that gives 4th and 5th grade kids a taste of what it was to be a slave. I don't know if this is an entirely accurate take, but I'll allow anyone knows more about this program to make comment.

Mary Fears has written a book on reenacting slaves, Civil War and Living History Reenacting: About "People of Color" How to Begin, What to Wear, Why Reenact gives some practical viewpoints to consider when approaching slavery as a recreated part of the hobby. This article, copied from the from the LA Times about the living history program at Brattonsville, SC gives a picture of the pitfalls of presenting slavery in a "too positive" light, particularly if the historic place has a darker history in regards to slavery. Although Freetown's living history program takes place after the Civil War, their educational guide is something that is well worth looking through, anyone looking at doing living history presentations would benefit from it.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Sutler Spotlight

The Regimental Quartermaster is the granddaddy of current Civil War tent sutlers. I've bought a few things from them over the years, and they seem to be fine fellows to do business with.

The Regimental Quartermaster is a one-stop shop for reenacting stuff. They have a great selection of items, but you have to be careful about what you buy if you're gunning for an authentic impression. RQ appeals mainly to the mainstream crowd, but they have been doing a great job of offering campaigner stuff, including a selection of defarbed rifles. If RQ has a strength, it's that they sell a wide variety of things that other sutlers don't carry. Impress 'em with size!

Their site is nice and uses up-to-date design, something few vendors sites do, but should do. Makes life much easier for the shoppin' reenactor. They do need to work on some of the links on the Campaigner pages -- it's hard to get back to the Home page, and the bottom link doesn't work.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Open Thread - Marketing your group

How do you market your group to new members? This is an open thread, so your comments are welcome!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Ouch! It hurts when you get caught

Looks like the Camp Chase Gazette is in a bit of hot water with Civil War Historian Magazine. Flatly, the CCG reprinted an article from the CWH without consent from the original author, and furthermore, printed it under another name. More about this here and here.

I hope this gross lapse of judgment on the part of CCG will not mean the demise of a magazine with a long and gloried past within Civil War reenacting. Maybe too, it will mean that the editors and staff will get off their butts and produce a quality product, or face a house cleaning so these things can take place. Actually, the house cleaning should be a given considering the plagiarism.

CWH has set the standard high, although its become the WIG Journal as of late. The CCG needs some major over-hauling to come close to the new standard.

My real concern is with the current good part of the CCG - the forums on their Website, which to me, are a great source for information. Hopefully things can go on as before, after the fall-out is settled.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Group Spotlight

In the Spotlight this week is the 14th Alabama Infantry. This unit is uncommon in the fact that it was initially raised as an honorary unit for holidays and other occasions. They term themselves as mainstream/progressive, with a contingent of campaigners in the ranks too.

Looking at this site, I forgot to detail how I'm going to look at group Web pages. When I look at sites, I judge them by DIGM; Design, Information, Graphics and Maintenance.

Looking at this site, the 14th Alabama seems to have their DIGM down pat in most areas. It has a wealth of information on the 14th Alabama, but its greatest strength is the photo section with the original Daguerreotypes and original item photos. These are fine original sources for unit research, especially if you want to see good examples of "commutation"-style shell jackets. One fellow also seems to have a Richmond II-style shell jacket. These photos should provide a valuable guide to point 14th members toward what their early-mid war impressions should look like. More units should adopt doing this -- providing an important "proof book" for the unit. The photo research section is also a great idea for other reenactors sites to consider.

I also appreciate the explianation of the name "Hilliby" (not "hillbilly") origins and usage, it provides a little of light fare for this site.

The only things I can suggest for this site are to make sure all pages up are functional, check the photos on the regular HTML pages to make sure they are resolving properly, and see if the Coppermine photo hosting package has custom color controls to match those pages up with the rest of the site. I'd also would love to know about the Possum Skinner mess, which would be a draw to reenactors who are into campaigner-style events. Narrowing the focus of the original item photos as they pertain to the unit would be a tweek to consider, too. I think this would make a great idea even better for the group as a whole.

Always a huge plus in my book is maintenance, and it seems the Webmaster has been top of things at least on the front page, which I found very useful.

Just on its usefulness alone, this site is deserving of a bookmark and an occasional re-visit.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Basic Reenactors Craft - Cleaning your rifle

I've posted a similiar write-up on creating a cleaning kit, but not how to clean your rifle, which is very important not only to insuring your rifle functions properly, but to its safe operation also. This article describes how to really clean your rifle in order to store it for the winter. Great article by Bill Rodman from the Camp Chase Gazette forums.

Detail Cleaning Your Rifle Musket
By Bill Rodman

You have been a Reenactor for a year or two, and have finally figured out how to pass the daily weapons inspections. This means your “shooting iron” won’t blow up in your face, and the exterior looks pretty good. Well, the Season is almost over, and it’s time to give your weapon a real cleaning. A complete cleaning, and inspection, will protect your investment, and reduce the mechanical problems that can ruin a weekend. Next spring you might even get a smile from the Ordnance Sergeant

First, you will need the proper tools and equipment. The most important tools, you will need, are screwdrivers that fit the screws on your rifle. The blade of the screwdriver must exactly fit the slot in the screw. In some cases, you will have to file down a screwdriver to fit a specific screw on your rifle. Trust me, it is worth the trouble.

You will also need a nipple wrench, a cleaning rod (not the rod that comes with your rifle, that’s a ramrod), a bore brush, a cleaning jag, #0000 steel wool, 600 grit wet or dry sandpaper, a wood or plastic dowel and bore patches. You will also need cleaning products such as WD-40, gun grease, or the some of the non-petroleum products that are on the market. A bore light is also very helpful for inspecting the rifle’s bore.

Read the rest here, under Uniforms and Gear.
I cordially everyone to take a peek at The Southern Loyalist messageboards and drop a note. I heard from a couple people who have an interest in the unionist cause in the south, and you're the people I'd like to see post what you know.

Or at least let me know I'm not talking to myself! :-)

Friday, September 22, 2006

Safe afterall?

Looks like CCI musket caps may not be the reenacting bug-a-boo as previously thought. The concern was that these caps had a tendency to fire hot and scatter hot pieces of cap when busted, creating a potential hazard, not to mention being painful to other reenactors in close proximity.

A poster in the CCG forums says the problem has to do with proper musket maintenance rather than the cap itself. The trick is to be sure the hammer hits the cone squarely.

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 11

I knew there were Native American reenactors -- in Germany, that is.

I was unfortunately ignorant of these reenactors in the US, until I watched a dance demo by some reenactor (and actual) Cherokees at an event in Maggie Valley, NC. Not the fancy feathered-up Cherokees that every area tourist sees, but the real, researched McCoy. They based their impression on the tribe as it existed in the late 1700's, and it was a treat to watch them. Authentic from head to toe, these guys not only looked intimidating, they knew their impressions.

When I was doing my research, the first site that popped up (via Reenator.net) was the Woodland Confederacy. They are based in the northeast, and have a great site to check out. Their time period seems to be the French and Indian Wars, give or take a decade around those years. The Gallery is one of the first places to look at. These guys looks great, and have done the research to insure the integrity of their impressions.

Another site that is interesting is the Eastern Woodland Trekkers. I'm not really sure if they do any historical events, or if they keep within their own group, but I think I need to join their mailing list to find out! Wingeohkwet the Webmaster also has an interesting fictional account of his persona. The Eastern Woodland Trekkers are part of a larger organization, The Coalition of Historical Trekkers, that seems to be an authenticity-based derivitive of mountain man reenacting or "buckskinning".

Mahkemakwa is an individual reenactor who does the same tribe as Wingeohkwet; the Lenape tribe of the colonial northeast. Although spartan, like the other site, it does have some character and soothing native instrumental music. Link to Mahkemakwa.

This type of reenacting has a strong appeal to many people, including myself. Events aren't always centered around a battle or historical event, but probably more hands-on than most other periods.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Sutler Spotlight

I'll kick off the new vendor column with one of the few opticians that do period glasses, The Grand Spectacle.

At time I write this, I think the Grand Spectacle is the only vendor that specializes in period glasses. The owner, Richard Buchanan, mostly does frames from the 1800's, but some of his frames can probably be used for WW1 reenacting too. I've heard a ton of great things about The Grand Spectacle, so it seems that he's a good solid vendor to deal with. Besides that, he's mentioned on almost every comprehensive vendor list on the various reenacting sites I've surfed.

The Web site is catchy, but a little confusing as far as navigation. Be very careful as you surf the site, or you'll miss some nice mouse-overs that show close-ups of his products. A nice addition to this site would be some education on how to find and choose appropriate frames for reenacting. I know it's a subject I could stand to know about.

It's Alive!!!!!

Seems that the Authentic Campaigner forums have finally been resurrected! I was beginning to wonder if they were out for the count - but apparently not. But I'll take having to re-register over not having an important site down and out.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Enfields vs everything else

There's a nice discussion going around about muskets on the Camp Chase Gazette site. It initially started out as an opinion gathering post on Loyalist Arms' Lorenz reproduction musket. Now it seems that the discussion is about to lapse into the over commonality of Enfield RMs on the reenacting field, especially in comparison to historically more common arms like the Springfield Muskets and RMs.

This is an important discussion, because it reveals a flaw in reenacting - the over use of certain items. As with many things today, some reenacting purchases is driven partly by two factors 1) Uniqueness or 2) Expense . These two factors lead to the over representation of some items on the reenacting field today.

Uniqueness is akin the "trendiness" in the hobby. Hey, I event fell for it too. A fine example is the Fork/Spoon/Knife combos that seems to have flooded the market. Probably not often seen in the historical ranks, it's now a common item in the hands of today's reenactors. The reproduction is dead-on accurate, but its use probably is a bit too inflated in the ranks of reenactors.

More applicable to this post though is the Enfield issue, which is about expense. Long arms are usually the single most expensive purchase in a reenactor's kit, and one that isn't likely to be duplicated by most reenactors. The Enfield reproductions are less expensive and more user-friendly than the historically more common '61 Springfield repros, and thus the over representation in the hobby. I personally love Enfields. A snap to clean and bit more durable than the Springfields seem to be, the Enfield is a good consumer choice. BUT the typical soldier was stuck with what he had, trading up when the opportunity arose. The trade-up would have been in all likelyhood the Springfield. So what to do?

The best course of action in my opinion is to encourage the use of other, historically abundant weapons. Although more expensive, the Springfield RM is not that much more, usually no more than $20. The musket version is somewhat more than that. This where Loyalist Arms products would be a nice alternative. The price of their 1842 musket is on par with a new ArmiSport Enfield, and a bit more authentic. They also offer a nice 1840 model flintlock to percussion conversion for a great price.

I like Loyalist Arms' spirit - they're trying to offer more than just what Euroarms and Armisport have to offer and without too much modification to make them authentic. Many reenactors aren't too keen on them, but I think they merit a second look and some support. They produce common arms at decent prices, and make the possibilty of buying a second long arm a distinct possibility, and expanding possible impressions immensely.

I think one day I'll bite the bullet and buy one of their musket creations to have another common arm in the Mntineer Arsenal.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Group Spotlight

The Western Independent Grays (WIGs) have been in my scope for as long as I've been running this blog. Within the hobby, they're one of the premier groups. They find their way into Civil War Historian nearly every month, and they seem to have participation in many of the top-notch events in the hobby. They were part of the Confederate battalion at Corinth, and did a good job there from what I could tell being on the opposite wing.

Looking at the Web site, they're a very active group devoted to authencity, which always strikes a high note with me. Passionate reenactors make push the hobby forward in many ways. The site has all the essentials, and is simple to navigate around in. It definitely follows the "KISS" principle - it's a very simple site that is completely functional and well-maintained. I surf it quite often.

The only critique I can give the WIG site is that it follows KISS too closely. It can be spiffed up a bit and not loose the simpicity. This site needs a little bit of color. BUT I don't suggest the usual backgrounds you find on many reenactor sites, particularly Confederate ones. A bit of color would lend some friendliness. But other than that -- it's a great site that deserves a bookmark.

Small changes

Decided to give the 'ole brain a rest Sunday, so I'm back on track today.

I've done some critical thinking in regards to this blog, and I decided to make some small changes. Usually, when you see something like this, you think, "Sounds like he's about to quit". Let me assure everyone it's just the opposite - this blog is going to keep going strong, but with some changes I've been dwelling on for the past couple months.

So far, I've managed to keep a positive tone, and that's one thing that won't change. I do think that I'm going to give some of my entries more of a critical eye. I feel that I've done a little too much cheerleading and not enough constructive criticism in some of my posts. I certainly won't be another Watchdog, but I think there is a lot of room for improvement Web-wise for groups and vendors alike.

And anyway, reading cheerleader posts becomes boring after awhile. A little spice is good for the soul.

If the hobby wants quality, it needs to practice the same. So far, I've pointed out what I think were the best examples of group sites and vendors. Now, these sites are becoming more elusive. Now, it's to the nitty-gritty of what is offered in the hobby. What are the pros and cons? Recommended or not recommended? A diamond in the rough?

My opinion awaits - as well as those of my commentors. Anyone can comment as long as they're not personal attacks or provocations on people in the hobby, other commentors, or myself.

So in the future, Cool Group site of the Week becomes Group Site Spotlight, and My favorite Sutler of the Week becomes Sutler Spotlight. OK, not the most catchy of titles, but it's the entry and title that counts!

Now on to the Big Show....

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 10

Coming way back from ancient Greece is another "fringe" period that is actually better known to everyone than, lets say, the Spanish American War. This is the Texas Revolution or the Texas War for Independence.

I didn't find too much on this time period, other than some battles, like the Battle of San Jacinto, and the Battle of Coleto Creek. I think this is a cross-over period, with few groups dedicated to the Texas Revolution, but the bulk coming from reenactors from the Mexican and Civil War periods. The largest group is the Texas Army, which seems to be the major umbrella group to this time period.

The Red Rovers from Alabama are an exception to this. This group is one after my own heart. They are a little known piece of history outside of Alabama, and portrayed by reenactors who want to make sure this little-known slice of Texas Revolution history is represented correctly.

The Texas Revolution also has its own forum, The Alamo, which is also a repository for many things reenacting and Texas.

My favorite Sutler of the week

I had a busy Thursday and Friday, so My favorite Sutler is coming to you today!

If you're looking for a great price on an authentic shelter half, then Heywood Shelters might be just the ticket. I'm not sure of their status, but they might be worth contacting. According to the site, their product was reviewed well in the Watchdog, and is a reenactor-made item.

They make both the 1862 and 1864 model shelter halves, although the late model seems to be the default. They also offer the shelter half in two cloth weights 10 and 8oz, both of which seem to be authentic choices.

Picking up steam

The site is growing and I'm getting some local interest in the concept, so it looks like the possible beginning of The Southern Loyalists. The site is growing very well, and it needs more than just me. Also, it's time to implement OSORG.

If you're intersted in lending some of your ideas and expert knowledge to TSL, I'd be more than happy to see some supporting members come on board. I'd really like to see some good conversation on the Hot Bed forums, too. Some areas don't require registration to post -- but please follow the house rules.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Drats, foiled again!

I was all pumped about doing the Perryville makeover, and BANG! It's a no go. Bigger issues have arisen so I had to shunt off moneys to deal with them. OK, it's time for Plan B - pimpin' for P-ville on a small budget! Any suggestions?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Thoughts on Event Scenario Design

Much can be said of reenactments throughout the years, but I've always thought of two questions - did I enjoy the event? what would have made it better? I would imagine many, if not most other reenactors think the same way.

Since the topic of hosting an event from inception to execution has already been covered in spectacular fashion in Civil War Historian magazine in Volume 2, Issue 2 (incidently, they also have a messageboard), so I'm not going to touch on that. Rather, I am going to touch on a piece of the puzzle; designing the scenario.

We typically marvel at the well-executed event, or remember the battle that had a uniqueness that isn't duplicated anywhere else. I can name a few of those events, but they're in the minority of events I've attended over the years.

When I think of designing an event, I mean not just trotting out all the reenactors to do battle on the field for the spectators to see in an hour or so, but having them do relevant things as part of a continuous (or semi-continuous) and integrated activity. School of the Soldier events that I've attended in the past were the only events that done this consistently, but that's only because the days are filled up with learning how to be CW soldiers.

One event I remember well was Brattonsville, SC way back in the mid-eighties. Not a horribly authentic affair, but it did things that more reenacting event designers should take note of.

The event was designed around a "rolling scenario". In the context of the event, all of the reenactors were in the scenario, which started from 9:00 in the morning and stopped around 6:00 in the evening. Between those times, a dozen things were happening at once, but in concert with each other.

Another event at Carnifex Ferry, WV utilized a "confidence course" approach - its uniqueness still strikes me. Platoon-sized groups were sent down the course to interact with the civilians, who had pieces of information that would allow the unit to find and engage the enemy. Every group was graded on its first-person impression, its ability to authentically interact with the civilians, and lastly, on its officer's success at piecing together the information. It's the only event where I've seen civilians so well integrated in the battle scenario in any appreciable extent.

My own group in the past as put on progressive viginettes that allow spectators to observe many aspects of the same historical event. It's an undertaking in planning, but it makes for a most interesting event.

Some events have caught on to the "whole event" approach. The Payne's Farm event described in Civil War Historian is a good example. But other smaller events like the Battle of Wyse Fork could use a good scenario overhaul, as well as any event that only puts on "show" battles. Creating events that are interesting, true as possible to history, and don't follow the same old formula are key to the future growth and longevity of the hobby.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Cool group site of the week

The Third Regiment, US Volunteers is a good example of a generic type reenacting unit. Although they are composed of several named regiments, they all have formed together to form a unit that readily portrays what an event specifies.

One point of interst with this site is the School of the Clerk that centers around the reenactors who have taken the task of for their groups. Both whimiscal and useful!

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Coming along nicely

I'm adding bit and pieces to The Southern Loyalists site, and it's coming along quite nicely. The Research sub-site is what I'm concentrating on, and all it needs is books read and some research and we're off to the races. If you're interested, please go to the Hotbed of Unionist Sympathy forum and introduce yourself. You don't even have to register, and it'll make me feel like I'm not talking to myself!

To me this is what needs to go up first, so here's to a bright future!

Friday, September 08, 2006

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 9

I'm going way back in time for this "fringe" period - the Ancient Greeks. Although not as seemingly popular as the Romans, the Greek reenactors still hold their own. The Hoplite seems to be portal of choice when it comes to this period. This site gives the reader a high-level overview of reenacting the Ancient Greeks, but also provides author information on some recent books of the period.

Another site of note is Matthew Amt's Greek Hoplite Page. Not as professional looking as The Hoplite, it does contain more information pertient to reenacting the period.

Although not Greek, but comtemporary to the Ancient Greek period, is the Hallstatt period reenactor's page, or Hallstattzeit. This is a German site with no English translation - but don't let that stop you from surfing it. Has plenty of great photos of a little-known sub-period.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My favorite Sutler of the week

S&S Firearms is a vendor that is known throughout the hobby on reputation alone. Their forte is firearms - complete arms, kits and parts. The prices on firearms is on the hobby average, but S&S has everything you'd need short of powder and caps to maintain your firearm. You'll need to be patient for the catalog to download - it's broken into sections, but it's still pretty "heavy" and needs time to be downloaded.

As a testament to this vendor, most authentic groups have S&S listed on their sites. BUT do not confuse S&S Firearms with S&S Sutler in Gettysburg.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Enter at your own risk

Ever want to jump into a forum that isn't afraid to call a farb a farb? There is such a forum - but I don't recommend it to everyone - especially if you're pretty sensitive about such things. Known as the OTB forum (stands for Off Topic Boys, but also goes under the alias of Oklahoma Tourism Bureau), it tackles many CW reenacting issues without the problem of tact getting in the way. Think of it as the Authentic Campaigner's evil twin brother.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Dumb Klan never learns

The KKK never seems to realize their disconnect between the present and the past. Surely, they do not represent the spirit of the South now or then. I guess you have to do something not to look "impotent" (yuk, yuk, yuk!), like the KKK, so showing up at Gettysburg makes about as much sense. This news story covers the "event" a Gettysburg, and to the left is a photo of some intrepid counter-protesters from the 37th Texas at a similar event in Biloxi, MS. Their after-action report is worth a thorough read.

CW links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:
South prevails after bullet-less bedlam
Antebellum Ball promises a fun filled evening
Living History Weekend will be packed with events
Nevada City resident to be honored Saturday

Other reenacting headlines:
Rain cancels Revolutionary War reenactment parade
Cowtown has shoot-'em-up fun
Reenactors trace steps of French and American troops
Volunteers needed for historical reenactment
Revolution made real
Suffrage movement honored locally
Group stops in Millstone on way to Yorktown, Va
WW1 event near Bucharest, Bulgaria, Reuters photos, 1, 2
PLAYING AT WAR

Monday, September 04, 2006

Cool group site of the week

Here's an authentic/campaigner type Web site that should be bookmarked. The Liberty Rifles are based in the south for the most part, using a mess-style/company-based generic organization. The Liberty Rifles tend to have an active forum representation with several posting members.

The best utility from this site for the viewing public is the excellent research document on cartridge boxes describing the different models from 1839 to 1864. A nice buying/impression guide.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

On vacation!

Glad my B&B is wired! Anyway, I'll be away from the good 'ole conmputer for a couple days, so no new postings. I promise some interesting content when I get back - up in lovely Virginia for a much-needed break with my Honey.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Need a Civil War blogger round-up?

Need a quick round-up of Civil War blogger action? Civil War Interactive's "A Comprehensive Guide to Civil War Blogs" is the perfect place to start. I also have it blogrolled because of its special value to the connected Civil War historian and blogger. It's a site that I constantly check.

Once you connect to the site be sure to read the run down of current blogs, then link to "This Week in Blogs". This is what's currently being discussed in the blogs. It is updated weekly and faithfully, so you're getting an up-to-date record of activity on all the blogs. A recommended bookmark.