Sometimes it's hard to know where to begin, or what to say about an event. The Carolinas Campaign is one of those events. The event had heart, and was well-intentioned, but it could have been much, much better. I compare this event to Wyse Fork last year - the two are almost identical, and so are my feelings about the event. Maybe too much so.
One caveat I throw out is that I do know what it takes to run an event, and I know from experience any event isn't a minor thing. And the problems do grow exponentially the larger an event becomes. Rather than hatcheting an event with great intentions, I would rather suggest what could be done to make it a better event, with the hope someone with influence with the event reads this and maybe implements some of the ideas I present the next time it's run. Doing a constructive critique is particularly important for me, since this is an event in my home state.
The heart of this event comes from the local Sons of Confederate Veterans Camp (216) who have a deep interest in historical preservation. The event itself was well run on the logistics side. I wasted very little time to register and get on to camp, which was easy to find in the dark, and I quickly linked up with my bros who were enjoying a nice warm fire. By the way, I was doing Federal this weekend.
According to the event brochure, this event represented two separate scenarios from two separate battles, Bentonville and Wyse Fork. The Bentonville scenario was the initial Federal Assault of Slocum's XX Corps, and the Wyse Fork scenario was the Final Confederate Assault.
Suffice it to say, the scenarios were too ambitious for the amount of troops at the event, as well as the amount of event battleground. The battle, how it was fought, had too much of a 'fairground' quality to it, and lacked a bit on the realistic side. Rule of thumb - if the opposing artillery is less than a couple hundred yards apart, then it's way too close.
OK, now for the critique.
What were the good points to this event? I have to admit the after-battle festivities are a strong suit to most events in North Carolina. They're a guilty pleasure for me. The Carolinas Campaign event was no exception. The food was great, the entertainment was wonderful, and even the biscuit-making contest was a grand thing to behold. As a matter of fact, it was fun. Who would have guessed that biscuit-making could be a spectator sport? With the right kind of humor, it can be. The event was fun on the basis of entertainment, and it also had a good sutler turn-out.
Now for the tough part - where was this event weak?
I think every event planner has the ambition bug. Host the event, and they will come. But this line of thinking doesn't apply in CW reenacting. Now that the hobby is going into a cycle-down mode, many reenactors are being a bit picky about the events they attend. To compound this problem on the event level, the Carolinas Campaign wasn't well marketed among the reenacting populous. As a matter of fact, the only play it seemed to get was within the realm of the ANV reenacting organization, and maybe this was by choice. But whatever the intended choice, this crippled the event in terms of manpower right off the bat. The Federal side was hurting especially hard. In my opinion, the solution is to cap the Confederate numbers and give Federal reenactors incentives for showing, like free ammo and caps or reduced/free event registration. When the Rebs outnumber the Yanks by 3 to 1, you have some serious problems that really need creative solutions.
The second problem this event had was area utilization. The amount and type of ground the event was held on had a lot of potential for an extended late war clash. Unlike the Wyse Fork event last year, which was constricted by a limited amount of land, the Carolinas Campaign had the potential to be an awesome tactical. Instead, the event designers had the event fought in an open field, in front of a stand of spectators. My solution is to take a hard look at the land you have to use and maximize it for the reenactors. This land had been used in the past for reenacting, and still had trenches cut from the last event. This would have been great for a limited amount of Federals to have to hold from a superior force of Rebels. A little imagination could have went for miles at this event.
Another problem kinda related to the manpower issue is the allotment of assets to each side. I think with events this size, if one side has artillery, the other side should get the cavalry. As it turned out, it was a Confederate legion vs a company of Feds and their single artillery piece.
Lastly, everything I wrote about Wyse Fork, goes for the Carolinas Campaign, too. The two events almost mirrored each other in terms of logistics and battle. The one thing that hurts this hobby is the 'cookie cutter' feel to many events. Change is good - most of the time - and maybe the event planners to these events can shake it up next time around.
The next event is Cold Harbor, March 31 - April 1.