Monday, November 13, 2006

The Duty of Remembrance

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

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

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

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

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

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

I'm back in the ranks

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

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Quick note

Hello all -

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

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

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wargaming Reenactments, Part 2

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

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

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

I've become a gaming junkie, again.

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

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Wargaming Reenactments, Part 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continued in Part 2