Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Reenacting ACW in Belgium

Found another neat European ACW site - this time it in Belgium! A very cool site, and very nicely done up with a rousing cavalry song while you surf.

The 15th NY Cavalry seems to be pretty active, but I haven't been able to locate a listing of events for this group. I'm curious how the Eurpoean groups get together and do events. It's quite a thrill to know that the ACW is reenacted abroad.

The games keep on coming!

OK, I think I've gone past junkie status here. Ordered another wargame today - Campaign Gettysburg by HPS Simulations. I'm enjoying Campaign Shiloh, so I've decided on slowly collecting the series.

If anyone is willing to buy the games, I'm willing to play them with you over TCP/IP or by email. Just drop me a note and we'll start a game.

Also, I'd like to mention that Brett Schulte has a Web page devoted to the Campaign series games that is worth checking out.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Moving forward as a reenactor

There's a great thread on the CW Reenactor's forum about the reason to be progressive in terms of a reenacting impression. This has struck a familiar chord, and I'd like to have a say about it yet again.

So here's my take on the "why" of progressing your impression to the next level. Incidentally, "why" is a very good question, and hopefully my response will be worthy answer.

When I started out reenacting in 1982, I wasn't the paragon of authentic reenacting, even at the time when the standards weren't as high as they have been reached in recent years. In my first outing, I was part of a dismounted cavalry group, had polyester brown pants (at least the button holes for the converted fly were hand-sewn!), yellow elastic suspenders, a "show" kepi that seemed to fit like a turret on my head, dingo boots, and an Indian-made Enfield Carbine converted to fire blanks. Later, I added a "butternut" sackcoat trimmed in yellow. To the left is yours truly at a reenactment in early 1983. I don't know many reenactors who start out at the top of the authentic food chain, but early on is the time that determines what road we want to take as reenactors. At this time, my first "why?" was answered pretty quickly. By looking around at the more serious groups and reenactors, I knew if I wanted to go to better events, I needed to get a little more serious about the hobby. A no-brainer there.

I started to dig a little bit deeper on my chosen unit and branch of service. I questioned other reenactors about their uniforms, and in a series of hard lessons for my group, learned how it feels to be stiffed out of events because of impressions that didn't seem to be up to par. I quickly learned that I needed to drop the sackcoat in favor of a plain gray shell jacket, get cavalryman's accoutrements and bone up on proper drill. Soon the rewards came in the form of easy entry into the "good" events, invites to other events, a couple seconds of glory in a BBC TV series, and a little respect from our peers. Still had some of the remnants of the old impression, such as the boots. To the left is what I looked like in late 1984.

Early in 1985, some of the guys who had the means took the next natural step in their reenacting evolution - they bought saddles and got horses. This was a crossroads for me. I didn't have means to become mounted, so I had the choice to either stay where I was as dismounted cav (which despite the doors opened via better authenticity, didn't get me into all of the good events), or to progress in another direction (and have a chance to get into some primo events). I always wanted to try my hand at being an infantryman, and the leap wasn't too great. So I sold my cav gear and shed the hated Dingos, and then bought brogans, infantry gear, and borrowed a musket. This won me the ticket for some great experiences that I still carry in my memory today. I also made the step into doing a Federal impression (incidentally, I'm not a galvanizer -- I love the blue as much as the gray, and I only wear one uniform per event.)

From then on, it's been easy to get into the events I want to attend, I've helped to establish groups, and had loads of fun. I haven't always reenacted or have ventured off into other reenacting periods for short periods, but knowing if I could do better there will be a pay off has always guided me into being a better reenactor, no matter the era. Even today, I attend some great events that are top-notch. I have an eye for what's authentic and the willingness to do what I can do to benefit the hobby via my impression and knowledge.

I've always wondered, "what of the guys who stayed as dismounted cav?" I can say that the results were pretty predictable. Most of the guys who were in my group, or brigaded with my group either 1) (a couple) evolved and stayed with the hobby for a few years, 2) (most) lingered on and eventually dropped out, or 3) (one) became event party-horses and dropped from the reenacting part of the hobby and simply show up with camp gear and booze.

It all really amounts to knowing why you're in this hobby to begin with, and having a decent interest in the history to set the personal stage for being a progressive reenactor. I'm a military brat/history buff who was raised on reading Osprey books, reading biographies, and playing wargames. The hobby is an extension if that interest. I respect my fellow reenactor's efforts and points of view. I like getting out and be amongst the history of a place, and catching up with my reenacting friends. The combination of those things drives me to do better the next event.

I've noticed that the closer a reenactor is to the superficial fun, less interested he seems in the history, and the more interested in the purely social aspects of the hobby. Unfortunately, there seems to be several events that cater to that sort of reenactor, which ultimately causes their segment of the reenacting population to grow, which in turn doesn't benefit the hobby, and at times serves to degrade the efforts of more serious reenactors who get lumped into the same category. An event that caters only to numbers and has a festival-like backdrop enables farbery.

OK, I've wandered from the point - "why be progressive in reenacting?"

I progressed simply because I was seeking a more realistic experience, and improving my impression enabled me to do that. There has to be a motivating factor. Some other factors can be to honor a relative or heritage, to collect, to challenge one's self physically, and etc.

In my mind, event quality is the key for reenactor progression. It's almost like the free market -- if there is quality available and attainable, people want it. Once you get the mix of quality event and a demand, then you have progressive reenactors coming out of the wood work.

The CW Reenactors board has discussion about some reenactors getting irate about not being able to get into good events because of a poor impression. That kind of experience makes or breaks reenactors. Bonafide farbs never learn the lesson, and from my experience, eventually quit the hobby when all events begin blur into the same party. Then they gripe about how they were "run off" by the authentic reenactors. The true progressives get pissed, but understand the point and do something about it.

The other thing that kept and still keeps me going is a sense of achievement or satisfaction. I didn't put a finger on that reason until someone posted it on the Authentic Campaigner forums. But it was an accurate observation. That defines the other part of why I'm progressive -- I feel that I'm doing things right, and I get a good feeling about it.

There's probably a plethoria of different reasons to be a progressive reenactor, but I was driven by a couple reasons that keep me doing as good as I can. Those reasons have been good enough to keep me going through 24 years of reenacting.

Reenacting links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:

World War 2:
Baumholder re-enactment photo gallery

Civil War:
Civil War Re-Enactors Specialize in Surgery
Re-enactors rise again for festival
Stockard column: Bryant was anything but black and white
No Civil War souvenirs here
Union troops were met with little resistance
Civil War group will re-create 1862 trek

Revolutionary War:
Actor makes history fun for kids
Morgan, a.k.a. Fields, leads march to mark anniversary of historic battle

Ancient:
Downtown Mobile To Host Roman Legions

Monday, January 29, 2007

It's here!

Much like a kid with a new Christmas present, I'm a sucker for a new wargaming experience. Highway to the Reich has come knocking at my door, and I intend to give it mucho play this year. Hopefully it won't put my eye out. ;-)

Sunday, January 28, 2007

'Zine on the table this week

The Civil War Historian for January/February is on my coffee table this week. The articles that make this issue are on soldier's rations, such as Salt Pork and Desiccated (desecrated) Vegetables - the article is "Looks Worse than it Tastes". The other article that caught my eye was on Charlie Herbst's frock coat, which is a worthwhile read in itself.

Movie Review: Joyeux Noel

Period: Christmas 1914 - WW1 - Western Front

Synopsis: The movie is based on a true story of a mass fraternization between the French, German, and Scottish soldiers at Christmas time in 1914. It's unusual in the fact that it covers the three sides involved in the happenings with equal thought. There are no real bad guys in this movie.

Overall opinion: I really liked this movie, despite a handful of distracting flaws. It starts out interestingly enough, with school children reciting nationalistic poems that demonize each one's enemies in WW1. I thought that really did well to set the overall tone of the movie. I do warn any would be watchers that this movie doesn't have tons of bloody action, but when you get to the end, you'll be glad that it doesn't. It does have the European "indy" sheen, but I personally don't find that a bad thing.

The distracting flaws in the movie aren't major, but they didn't add anything either. The biggest one is the Anna Sorensen/Pvt. Sprink storyline, but my only real complaint is that it slowed the movie down, and interrupted the steady pace of the main story. The characters were good for the story, but they could have been cast a bit more thoughtfully. There is a small sex scene, but it's not too overdone but it gives this movie a "French" PG-13 rating.

Other than that, the movie is a good watch for a evening.

Good reenactor film?: This movies does cover a period of WW1 that isn't portrayed very much. That makes this movie a bit rare, considering WW1 doesn't get much play at all. The uniforms are all pretty much suspect, but they're at least representative of the period of the war. Except for the Germans. I think their uniforms were more mid-war looking, and I'd be willing to extend the same thought to the Scots, but I can't be too sure. The uniforms don't add to the movie, but they don't take away, either.

How does it stack up?: The movie is solid, with a very meaningful storyline that has been covered in many ways, in many movies, but not with any WW1 flick I've seen. It does have some cliches, but these are well manageable for a forgiving viewer. It does make the point that there is (or could be) humanity in war, and that everyone is similar despite our backgrounds. It's a good movie deserving of a place in any war movie collection.

If you want to see about more movies, check out my old blog, "War Moovies".

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Drill Day Redeux

Not too much to say this week, but I did attend our company drill today at Alamance Battlefield (I know it's pre-Rev War, but any period living history is a shot in the arm for this deserving site). I always enjoy the chance to reconnect and recharge with the pards before hopping into the next reenacting season. I've been working pretty hard in the real world, so this drill was also a nice way to catch a bit of peace.

As I become older (and wiser) I'm not as resilient as I used to be. I took a skip on camping out in the freezing weather last night, although some brave souls decided to stay out an extra night tonight. But it won't be as cold.

*******
Next event on the slate is "The Carolinas Campaign" at the end of February, which will be fought at Averasboro (or Averasborough) battlefield. I'll be doing this as Federal, and I'll try to do and present some impression research on this.
*******

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

If you want to play a historical game

I'm not talking about wargames here, but actual games from the historical past, other than checkers, chess or tic-tac-toe.

MacGregor Historic Games is worth checking out if you want to add a little bit more to your historical impression, or if you want to experience a quaint pleasure from the past. They have some true games from antiquity, and more modern games with a historical touch.

If you prefer simpler games that can be played with a handy deck of cards or dice, here are some rules for various period games that can be played from the knapsack. In a similar vein, here's a site that has a few historical British games that were played via board, die or card. Another site describes Revolutionary War period games.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Impressions - Pre/Early WW2, Philippines - US Army, 1941

Another couple of shots from the "Jeeps to Jitterbugs" display put on by the Raleigh City museum 12 years ago. At the display, the Old Hickory Association had a variety of uniforms and kit from WW2, showing everything from early to late war, vehicles and the such

The reenactor wearing this gear represents what the pre or early wartime US infantryman would have looked like. Everything he has on is actual uniform and kit, no reproductions.

Slung over the shoulder is the battle-tested M1903 Springfield rifle. He's wearing the Class "C" uniform which was comfortably light for the tropics, but didn't last very long in combat use. The cartridge belt is the early khaki variety, and helmet is the M1917A, which sported an updated aluminium brace for the leather webbing inside.

This uniform quickly gave way to the cotton herringbone twill (better known as "HBTs") uniforms that were used later in in war, and were popular with soldiers serving in the Pacific theatre of the war.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

German-marked WW2 Russian tank found

Here's a cool story of a Russian model T34/76A tank that was found at the bottom of a lake in Estonia. Plenty of pictures and YouTube videos to go along with the story.

Washington Post article on RE Lee

This is an insight about how RE Lee, and to a certain extent Southern Heritage, is being continually marginalized in present-day culture. It's interesting to note this paragraph:

And when the Virginia General Assembly created a special commission last year to plan a year of events to commemorate the Lee bicentennial, the panel wanted Lee license plates and more lessons about Lee in the public schools. Instead, after intensely emotional debate -- one African American delegate said Lee's likeness reduced him to tears -- all that was given was a $5,000 grant to publish a tourist brochure on Lee-related events in the state.

Seems that said thin-skinned African-American delegate hasn't read much history either. In reality, Lee only joined with the Confederacy when Virginia threw its support south. If Virginia stayed neutral, then he would have taken command of the Union armies, defeated the rebellion, and then been hailed a hero by the same blacks that lament his image now. When Lee was president of Washington College, he expelled students who harassed the local blacks, was one of the ex-Confederate generals who spoke of reconciliation with the Union, and sincerely wished well of the freed slaves. If you're going to cry over a ex-Confederate General, cry over NB Forrest. It's a sad statement when one cannot be bothered to look any deeper to see the true character of a man, but yet have say in how he is remembered.

Read the rest of the sad story here. If you're a CW reenactor who involved with doing school and other public presentations, this article should be recommended reading.

Counterpoint to The Flag

Joshua Blair of the Civil War Power Tour wrote a great counterpoint to my post on The Flag. It's recommended reading, and poses some nicely put counter-arguments to what I've written on the subject of the Confederate Flag.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Ack! He got my tank!

I've been playing several games of Combat Mission: Beyond Overlord, and they've all been a blast. No pun intended.

These days, wargaming is pretty downright cool, with real time action and very realistic results. One game I've been playing is a later-war scenario called Reichwald Redoubt. The Germans have to hold up a rather constant attack from a Canadian battalion. In thi battle, I've been able to defeat the Canadian infantry, but he managed to bop one of my few tanks. It was the Hetzer, which tend to go pretty early on anyway. Now my Wespe is trying to get itself killed too. But hey, they'll make great roadblocks!

I've also ordered another game, Highway to the Reich. If you want to order a wargame, I suggest doing so through Amazon, you'll find some great deals. This one was $30 off the retail price, and Campaign Shiloh was about $20.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Reenactor Blog to take a look at

Although this one isn't a fancy one, this post well qualifies Nate's blog as one of note.

Monday, January 15, 2007

A gem in the rough

Took off on my last tour of the San Francisco area, but this time we went south to Monterey. While we were picking out what sites to see, I stumbled upon a brochure for the Presidio at Monterey. It included a museum that was close by, so we decided to take a look.

It was a relative hop, skip 'n and a jump, so the museum was pretty easy to find. From the outside it wasn't too much to see, but inside was a small surprise. A volunteer was manning the place, a WW2 and Korea vet by the name of Richard Maxey. You could tell this place doesn't get very many hits, and Mr. Maxey was a great source of history information. He was the only fellow I ever talked to who participated in the Louisiana Maneuvers in 1941. Mr. Maxey was a pretty good hand at the history of the Monterey Presidio, so I was privileged to get a personalized tour of the small museum.

Since the museum is so small, so I didn't expect too much, but Mr. Maxey explained that all the uniforms and most of the artifacts were loaned by citizens of Monterey. I thought that was impressive - citizens caring enough to showcase their own pieces of their collection to a local museum that needs it. He also pointed out that the museum itself was once part of the Presidio's arsenal. He also had an interest in the generals of the Presidio who later made names for themselves in the Mexican and Civil Wars. He may have shared too much in that category, but it was still pretty interesting history.

The first display was a Spanish helmet, cannon ball, and model ship of the conquistador era. Not too much, but enough to start gathering an idea of the history of the local area. This is also overlooked history, which is just as military and dramatic as the Civil War or any other larger conflict.

The next display was a US infantryman's uniform and musket of the Mexican War period. I'm undecided on the uniform, it's not US standard, and the plaque at the base did not go into detail. I think it's either an abstraction of a regulation uniform, or styled after a militia knock-off. The musket was definitely period, and looked to be a Springfield '42 flintlock. Not shown was a fine example of a Grimsley saddle, which was the regulation tree in the Mexican war.

Reenacting on the West Coast

Unlike reenacting on the east coast, west coast CW reenacting has its own flavor. Most WC groups belong to a umbrella group that cover both sides of the conflict, plus ancillary groups. It's a concept that is used in east coast WW2 reenacting.

One such group is the Washington Civil War Association. Their mission statement is as follows:

The Washington Civil War Association is committed to honoring our ancestors, both North and South, who fought in or lived during the American Civil War. To this end the WCWA will sponsor Living History Encampments, Battle Reenactments, School Programs and Recruiting drives throughout the State of Washington.
Had a great time today, but I didn't go to the Marin Headlands as initially planned, but I seen other stuff that was wonderous, but just not reenacting/history related. History can wait for the next time.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Did a little bit touring Saturday

Seen some places on Saturday, and hope to have photos posted when I get back.

Took a bus tour of the city, and found some pretty interesting tidbits on the Civil War history of the San Francisco area. One of the top CW highlights was Fort Point, which is located right under the Golden Gate Bridge. The tour guide mentioned that the fort was modeled after Fort Sumter, but wasn't completed at the end of the war. There seems to be a group that does living history there, but I don't know if they had a program going on.

The tour guide was a pretty good hand at CW era history, and gave me a quick run-down of Alcatraz Island's military history.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I've arrived!

I'm on western side of the US and I'm connected! I'll see what historical living history sites I can find here in San Francisco. I'm looking at a visit to the Marin Headlands, and the WW2-era artillery/AA emplacements there.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Wargaming the Battle of Mill Springs

Looks like the Federals are getting the short end of the stick in the opening skirimish in a game pitting a reenacting pard and myself against his friend who is an avid wargamer. My HSP Simulations Campaign Shiloh game has been a load of fun so far, and I look forward to playing many more scenarios. Playing the TCP option makes it feel like board game, except automated in the right ways.

By the way, "R" means routed, and the yanks have taken to leg. This time.

Going on the road

I'll be out of town for the next few days, but I do hope to have a computer handy to continue blogging. Maybe I'll see some neat military things and report back. But then again, it's San Francisco, so there's no telling what I'll see. :-)

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Flag.

I could rant on this subject, but I won't. It's not specifically about reenacting, but it does touch and affect our hobby in profound ways. The Confederate flag has become quite the lightening rod in recent years, and it never fails to rouse passions on either side of the issue.

Since I'm on a roll, this will be long post, so beware.

I've mentally tossed around on this issue for some time. I've seen things that I've agreed with as a good citizen of our United States, and also seen and disagreed with as a good Southerner and descendant of quite a few Confederate vets. Now is as good of a time as any to unload my opinions into a public forum.

This ball started rolling innocently enough when I did my weekly check on Civil War Interactive, where they feature the active CW blogs floating around in the blogosphere. The blog featured was Civil War Power Tour. An interesting concept to be sure, but what interested me the most was his take on some incidents where he lives that involved an actual or images of the Confederate flag. His take is most interesting, and worth a read. I found that I agreed with some of his observations, disagreed with others.

I'll start out with some personal caveats before going into the meat of the subject:

  1. The term "politically correct". I feel this term is overly-used to stifle opinions and ultimately clouds any honest discussion on the issue concerning the flag. For the purpose of the discussion, we'll stick with good 'ole Merriam-Webster, who defines it as: conforming to a belief that language and practices which could offend political sensibilities (as in matters of sex or race) should be eliminated.
  2. I reenact for the purpose of feeding an interest in things military, not to specifically honor the Civil War dead. I'm as comfortable in Union blue, or in WW1 or WW2 uniforms as I am in Confederate gray.
  3. I don't belong to any organization outside of reenacting and work that has an opinion one way or the other on the flag issue.
  4. I am a descendant of Confederate soldiers, but I'm also a descendant of their pro-Unionist neighbors, so my family stories are filled with Confederate heroes as well as homeguard villains.
  5. And yes, I did read "Confederates in the Attic" by Tony Horowitz, and found it 1) mildly humorous 2) a tad bit ignorant and greatly focused on the exceptions of the South, rather than the mainstream.

With the caveats out of the way, I'll divide up my post into three parts: the way I see the flag as a public symbol, the way it as a political/social statement, and lastly as a historical symbol.

The flag as a public symbol

When the national news goes on about another confrontation about the Confederate flag, it's typically in this realm. When the SC flag issue came to a head, I couldn't muster up any feeling to keep it flying above the capitol building, even when Jesse Jackson getting the TV time. Although I do feel that Jesse Jackson is a political hack and an all-around clownshoe, I think there was a decent point about taking it down. The same goes for changing the Georgia state flag. Does it involve political correctness? Nope. It does involve history and the current state of our nation.

The way I look at this issue is simple. We live in the United States of America, and current symbology (flags) should be inclusive as possible of the people it represents, particularly when attached to institutions representative of the public as a whole. For example, we add a star to the US flag when a state is added to the Union. Most state flags are pretty unassuming, using a state seal and a Latin motto, a letter, flora or fauna, or something else to capture the general essence or historical heritage of the state. As the make-up of our nation and states change, so should our symbology, like it has since the colonization of America.

Coming back to the flag issue. The Confederate SC capitol flag was first flown in 1962, I assume to commemorate the Civil War Centennial (and probably as a deke on Federal government, too). The unassuming (but vaguely Confederate) Georgia flag was changed in the '50's for whatever reason to a more Confederate-looking symbol. But, neither one really had any deep significance past the Confederate history that it represented on the surface. They both were put up by a legislative vote - in other words, by politicians who probably wanted to curry favor with their public. In 40 years time, things have changed, and the real reasons these flags were flown became lost in favor of the heritage they reflected.

The Mississippi state flag is more problematic. It was adopted in 1892 to commemorate the Confederate war dead in a time when it would have meant something deep to actual living veterans, so it does have a significance that goes deeper than the SC and GA flags. Although the proposed flag to replace it has some symbolic significance, it also kinda looks like an old Federal battle flag. I'd be very content leave it to the people of MS to decide on their flag, and honor it as it is.

The flag as a political/social statement

If the flag as a public symbol is what garners the attention of the US as a whole, then the flag as a political statement is what we see locally, and what really drives the current preception of the flag as we see now. It's what has caused the most damage to the way the public perceives the Confederate flag and what it stood for.

The Confederate flag has had a rugged history in the hands of people who understand less about history than they do about symbolism. I'm not just talking about the KKK and their ilk, I'm also talking about the good 'ole boy politicians and 'redneck' high school students. Unfortunately, these are the people who really shape the way we and others perceive the flag, and ultimately, the history of the Confederacy.

The most damning association the flag has is with white supremacist groups, who actually have little or absolutely nothing to do with the history of the Confederacy as a whole. But, they have the strongest message, a little actual historical association, and the willingness to show the flag as a symbol of what they feel as a kindred cause. Thus people make the association. This has always created a challenge for Confederate CW reenactors, and there's nothing that can really change that.

Sycophant politicians gladly continue to add to a controversy that really shouldn't be. They're the ones who voted on changes to the Georgia state flag, and continued to allow the flag to be flown above the SC capitol. Then when the times changed, they're the ones who happily step on the flag to further their own agendas. I have a vote come election time, and I use it as a tool to get rid of toadying politicians.

Lastly there are the 'rednecks' who fly the flag as a symbol of something that is a fantasy within a factual context. Joshua Blair rails on this on Civil War Power Tour, and while I agree with some of what he says, I don't think he totally gets the southern angle to this. For the past couple decades, teens have grown up associating with icons and symbols. Back when I was growing up it was the KISS logo, or the Izod alligator. Nowadays politics are chic, so the leftward kids wear the hammer & sickle or the image of Che Guevara. What do the rightward kids associate with? The Confederate flag, of course. It's something homegrown, somewhat socially taboo, smacks of being a rebel, and is annoying to the right audience (apparently collaterial annoyance is good too). The bad thing is that these kids either 1) do not know the history of the flag they wear/fly, or worse, 2) know some radicalized fantasy version where seemingly the Confederacy is the Last Great Alliance, and the Yankees are orcs from the bowels of a cold and overly urbanized Mordor. It's "Us vs them", or "Us vs the people who'll never understand my heritage the way I understand it."

The flag as a historical symbol

I wanted to write this part last, because the flag and its issues needed perspective outside mere heritage. This part is what the 'honest folk' (historians, reenactors, etc...) are left with trying to explain the flag and its history to lay people who have been bombarded with what they see on TV and read in the local newspapers. It's a challenge to say the least.

In my opinion, the flag naturally does carry an element of controversy. It did represent a segment of the nation that wanted to maintain slavery, who in turn, wrapped the issue within the state's rights blanket. But we all must realize that we live in the current times, and our attitudes are worlds apart from the typical 19th century person. What we feel as bad or evil about slavery now, wasn't so much back then. The nation was waking up to these out-moded and morally obtuse practices. We are the beneficiaries 145 or so years of social change that eventually admitted that slavery is bad/evil and diametrically opposed to the liberties this country was founded on.

But we as reenactors have a hard time conveying that message effectively. We Southerners tend to be defensive about our heritage, and at times refuse to see that it has the typical warts that all other societies wear. At the same time, we are bombarded by people who think like Tony Horowitz and seem to only see the extremes of the South without giving much play to what's the norm. Goofy, strange people make for better stories.

My opinion has been formed by trying to look at all angles of the issue. I believe the South has nothing to apologize for, the Civil War was fought and lost 143 years ago amongst people who had different views and values than we do now. It was also a time that further defined a great nation that I love deeply. The old South is history and not representative of the present day, but it's nothing to be ashamed of - like the rest of the country, it wasn't perfect and had the warts to prove it. Many southerners today have recent northern (as well as everywhere else in the nation and abroad) roots, so nowadays, the Confederate flag isn't representative of the current south.

The flag represents the South of long ago. But, like many other symbols it has a place in the nation's history, if not exactly honored - it should be respected - for the lives sacrificed in defense of their homes and states during a time of uncertainty and upheaval; the racists, politicians and rednecks notwithstanding.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Reenactor blog to take a look at

The Outsider's Perspective is another reenactor blog I found recently. It's not a military blog, but it's main focus seems to be on the civilian side of Civil War reenacting. At times, he does touch on the military side when reviewing events.

This blog is worth surfing for the photos and the writing, both of which are excellent. Check it out and give a fellow CW reenactor blogger some encouragement to keep on posting.

Researching reenacting for a PhD

Here is an interesting story from San Francisco State University Magazine Online about a doctorial student doing her dissertation (and later, book Wargames: Inside the World of 20th Century War Reenactors) on reenactors and reenacting in general. Jenny Thompson actually dressed the part and reenacted in WW1 and WW2 events. A very nice story, which is very revealing about reenactors and the reasons why we reenact.

Reenacting links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:

American Civil War:
Bringing history to life
Civil War hospital to be restored
Saving the dead Donnie Willey battles nature to rescue graves

Native American & Old West:
Carving their place in history
Pioneer Living History Village preserves the Old West

Revolutionary War:
Extras open call set for HBO's Adams mini-series

Monday, January 08, 2007

CW reenacting on TV: "Being Lincoln - Men with Hats"

Here's the video that I threatened to put on in last post. This is a pretty humorous piece worth the watch. Maybe the A. Lincoln blog can hold a poll for the best Lincoln impersonator!

CW reenacting on TV: "Civil Warriors"



Here's a nicely done piece on Civil War reenacting, entitled "Civil Warriors". The authenticity is mainstream, but it's an interesting piece nonetheless. I seen another one on Lincoln impersonators which I'll put up in a few minutes.

All I have to say is: if you're in front of the camera, make sure to put period specs on.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Impressions - WW2 Europe - US Army, 1944

A few years back, I took some shots of guys out of my WW2 group, The Old Hickory Association, when we had a display up for the "Jeeps and Jitterbugs" event for the Raleigh City Museum. Everyone had a diversity of uniforms and equipment.

One of our members had a rare camo uniform used in Northern Europe for a very short while. This was the M1942 camouflage two-piece uniform.

The story that I'm familiar with was that it was issued to some soldiers in the 30th Division, who shed them after a short while because they were being mistaken for Waffen SS by allied troops. We later discovered that there was no recollection by any 30th Division vets that this uniform was issued.

An Osprey book, "The US Army in WWII (3); Northwest Europe" points out that the 30th Division and the 41st Armored Infantry Regt of the 2nd Armored were issued the uniforms. It might be that the 2nd armored was the sole beneficiary of the issue. Either way, it failed to be adopted because of the confusion it created.

The uniform was worn most notably during Operation Cobra in July 1944. The reenactor who is modeling it is dressed and equipped as a member of the 41st/2nd would have been in 1944. The soldier would have stowed unnecessary gear in his halftrack in order to keep as light as possible. All he's packing is his M1 Garand, M1 helmet with Normandy-style netting, cartridge belt and suspenders, a bandoleer of extra rounds, early model e-tool fastened to his belt, canteen, and first aid pouch.

As far as I know, this is all original stuff. Up to a few years ago, reproductions were few and far between, because good WW2 surplus was reasonably inexpensive.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Gone to a reenactor meeting

The 4th Regiment of the ANV held their meeting today at the historic Hillsborough courthouse. I love places like this courthouse -- there's a ton of history that is well cared for and preserved.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Interesting Reenacting Groups and Periods, Pt 1

As an evolution for Interesting Groups on the Reenacting Fringe, I'm going to look at the major periods of history that are reenacted. So, in essence, I'm looking inward from the fringe to the meat and potatoes of the reenacting world. Occasionally though, I'll feature a fringe group that doesn't run along the normal boundaries for reenactors within their period.

So to start off, I'll look at the Early Settlements of the 16th Century...

Period: English, Spanish, Dutch Settlements in North America in 16th and 17th Centuries

I've found that this is a very widely portrayed time period, especially by state parks. I'll start off with one of the best known sites, Jamestown in Virginia. The Jamestown Settlement is celebrating 400 years, and is a great place to visit. Since the park also addresses the Battle of Yorktown, I'll keep the post in the context of the 17th century only. Historically, Jamestown was founded in 1607, had lots of hardship, became a smallish, if not important hub of the new colonies during that time, then slowly petered out once Williamsburg rose to prominence.

The part that I didn't see were the extensive living history programs that play here. But I did get to see the park's major attractions, the ships and the museum. The living history here seems to be very hands-on for sight-seers, but not dumbed-down or caricaturized in order to 'enhance' the learning experience. The only reenacting rub with Jamestown is that they don't seem attract an amateur reenacting interest.

Plimoth Plantation is another reenacted English colony. Founded in 1620, the recreated Plimoth strives to bust some of the myths and misconceptions around the pilgrims, Thanksgiving and the natives of the area. This place gives you the real dirt on the pilgrims and how they actually looked and lived. There are several components to the site including an English village, a native American village, and the Mayflower II. I'm impressed with the site alone, which is a fine resource of information. The reenacted site seems to be the place to visit, not only for the reenactors, but for the period livestock and plants that the curators take the care in raising on site. Like Jamestown, the reenactors there are professionals, and the site doesn't seem to attract an amateur reenacting interest.

Going south to Florida brings you into Spanish territory and DeSoto National Memorial. Here is Camp Uzita, a model camp set in 1539 during DeSoto's time in the New World. The site describes the program:

The Living History interpreters provide formal and informal presentations, including demonstrations of the crossbow and firing the arquebus in a unique 16th century setting from mid-December to early April.

Like Jamestown and Plimoth, this one is manned by the pros, this time National Service Park Rangers. The camp's setup look pretty interesting. So if you're in the great state of FL, and are in the Tampa Bay area, this living history seems to be worth your time.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

A great Civil War novel online

Maggie from Civil War Women has written an online novel, Tennessee Twilight, that's worth a sit down and read. It starts off in one of my favorite wartime places, eastern Tennessee. I haven't read it all, but if Daniel Ellis makes a show, then it'll gain the highest marks from me! :-)

It's Woawah!

Just got my copy of Shiloh today,and I'm itching for a fight. Maybe I'll go over to American Civil War Gaming and Reading and start a war. Then, again, I better not -- they're experienced at these games, and I'm but a greenhorn.

Sutler Spotlight

Need to reload your cartridge box? Powder, Inc. can help you with that small problem. Needless to say, I'm impressed with this company. It offers a wide selection of blackpowder at reasonable prices, and seems to provide reenactor-friendly service.

It is recommended that you use Powder, Inc. for batch orders -- small orders are expensive because of an attached hazardous materials fee in addition to the normal shipping fees. Orders become price effective 25 pounds and over. The automated order section on the site is a great tool to find out what an order would cost ahead of time. They offer a wide spectrum of powders, from Skirimish brand to trusty Goex. Great site -- check it out when your group needs more powder.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Reenactor blogs to take a look at

Just found another American Civil War reenactor's blog, The Adjutant's Blog by Tony Zusman of Longstreet's Corps. He has a nice writing style that makes this blog fun to read. He also seems to point out a lot of what's involved in being a reenactor. His post on reeacting burnout is humorous, but right on the mark.

Sarah's/Chauncey's Reenacting Blog is a nice window into the world of 18th Century reenacting. Like I do on this blog, she focuses on the French & Indian and Revolutionary Wars. There's an occasional picture here and there, but the site is worth a looksee and read through.

Stay away from EBay?

When I jumped back into the Civil War hobby, one of the first places I turned to for equipment was Ebay. It took me about five minutes of research to realize that it was mostly junk, particularly the uniforms. But did I give the 'Bay a real chance? It appears that others have similar concerns:

Serious Civil War reenactors avoid buying clothing from ebay as if it were infested with the Plague. There is a valid reason for this situation. The number of sellers passing off old prom dresses as Civil War far outweighs the number of sellers who actually have done their research and are providing quality, well researched goods for the living history genre.

But does this make Ebay bad? On the contrary, no. Some great deals on WW2 stuff can be had on Ebay, and I've sold some great stuff too. So what's up?

Before dismissing Ebay completely, you have to look at what is being sold to pass fair judgement.

Reproduction work is something that's a product of trust. You trust that the vendor, sutler, or whoever has done their homework to create a worthy product. These products aren't cheap, and that's where the lure of Ebay kicks in. They offer the cheap stuff, and to a new recruit who wants to get on the field ASAP, it seems to be just the ticket. But what Ebay (or accurately, an Ebay-only vendor) lacks is intimate trust. Anyone can put a less-than-acceptable product on Ebay, be pretty honest about it, and sell it for a decent price - on both sides. Later, when the new recruit finds out that their uniform or accoutrements are a problem at an event, then it's too late. Moral of the story? Only go to a trusted source for reproduction work.

Ebay is at its best when original items are up for bid. Although there's always room for some chicanery, most items are for real. Only only drawback is that if you bid on a popular product, then expect to pay the price. As a seller, I found that the best bids came in at the very last. If you do Civil War reenacting, Ebay won't be too much use to you.

Good used American Civil War reproduction work can be sold and bought on Ebay, but a seller must be very good about describing the item and attributing it to a worthy sutler. The buyer must beware, and be patient to wade through all the garbage. I don't recommend Ebay for beginner reenactors. Here's a small checklist of what you need to look for or avoid on the 'Bay:

  • Do some research on decent vendors. Seeing the Elephant (recreated) and reenactor group sites are recommended as places to use. Look and see what sutlers (vendors) are recommended. Keep a list of vendor and item prices handy.
  • Using your list, find the items with makers that match what you're looking for. This will take time. Note the description, and look closely at any provided photos.
  • Ask the seller questions. A good seller will be quick to answer, and even post the answers on their Ebay listing.
  • Avoid any new item sellers who do not have a verifiable reputation within the hobby (Ebay reps are worthless in this situation), or who seem hesitant about giving you a good answer to your questions. If you see a seller who seems to have nice products, use the Civil War Reenactor's forum or better yet, the Authentic Campaigner forums and see if they have a good rep within the hobby. If you can't get a positive response, then avoid.
  • Always be aware of the cost of the product new. Never bid more than what it costs new, unless its new to begin with. Always factor in shipping costs.

Follow this list and use some common sense, and you might find a great deal on Ebay.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A Reenactor's convention!

Seems that Reenactor Fest last year was successful, and Reenactor Fest II is in the works for 2007.

This Convention cuts across many periods, drawing many reenactors. The site describes the convention like this:

What is Reenactor Fest? It is a convention for people interested in military history, as well as historical reenactors of all time periods, spanning from the days of the Roman Empire through WWII. It will be completely unique in this regard... a celebration of the hobby of historical reenacting as a whole. A chance to learn about other time periods, as well as your own!

I recommend going to this site, giving it a good look over. As a matter of fact, it might be worth a trip to the Windy City. I also recommend a trip to the site's Photo Gallery. Lots of neat stuff.

Belated and non-topical --- but I'll do it anyway

Two Football Championships in a row!! WooHooo!!!!!!! A nice Holiday gift from my alma mater, Appalachian State University. Maybe next year we can be historical by making it three in row.

Reenacting links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:

Civil War:
Confederate soldier honored
Forgotten soldiers ~~ New stones mark graves of Union pair in Bosque Bello
As house museums sell, history becomes private
143 years after he fought, soldier gets his Iron Cross
History comes alive; a labor of love is displayed

Old West & Buckskinner:
Injured Wild West actor moves on to rehabilitation
Annual River Rendezvous Planned
Early expedition being re-enacted
American Indian museum on hold

Revolutionary War, War of 1812 & Seminole Wars:
Living history
Join Park Rangers, Volunteers to Observe Battle of New Orleans
Reenacting historic river crossing a family affair
Battle of Trenton, AP Photos: 1
Patriots' Week Kicks Off in Trenton
Colonial soldier brings past present
Seminoles win again

Medieval, Renaissance & Pirates:
Actors, crew volunteers needed
Battling the cold
Avast Ye! Pirates invade Hilton Head Island
Living history camp to open

Monday, January 01, 2007

Movie Review: Flags of Our Fathers

Period: 1945 - WW2 - Pacific Theatre - Battle of Iwo Jima

Synopsis: The movie follows the wartime lives of the surviving soldiers who raised the American flag over Mount Suribachi, which was snapped by a photographer and instantly immortalized in the American press of the time. The movie uses flashbacks to the battle, mixed with the homefront experiences of the flag rasiers who had to be the face of war heroes to keep America going in the war effort, and their inner conflicts about doing this.

Overall opinion: I thought this was a very thoughtful movie that had a great story to tell. It's a different point of view than you would find in Saving Private Ryan or Band of Brothers. I have wonder why the Pacific Theatre movies seem to be more cerebral than other types of WW2 movies. The Thin Red Line was the same way -- good, but very thoughtful. The movie has enough combat to satisfy the action hounds, so it's good all the way 'round. The only twtwo critisms of the movies I can offer are the imposition of current sensibilities on the WW2 era, which seems to be a fairly consistent trap that many filmmakers doing historical flicks fall into, and the slow pacing of the story.

Good reenactor film?: The authenticity of Flags of Our Fathers is great, and for the most part, everything seems to be correct. I'd put it up there in material quality to SPR or BoB, the only thing the movie really lacks is the 'Spielberg touch' that we're all used to seeing. A collector or a real uniform and equipment buff could call what pieces weren't quite right, but for the average reenactor like myself, it looks great.

How does it stack up? Flags of Our Fathers is a worthy movie, and is worth the money to see it on the big screen. Not as loud and violent as Saving Private Ryan, it still conveys the horror of war, and the effect on its survivors. Unlike SPR, it has a fairly well integrated plot that smoothly carries you from the modern day to Iwo Jima to the American homefront during the war.