Thursday, March 29, 2007
I'll make copious notes and comeback with a AAR for those interested. I hope it comes off a bit better than the Carolinas Campaign event last month.
Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Tuesday, March 27, 2007
World War 2:
Marchers take to the sand to honor veterans
Artillery demonstration a little too one-sided?
Deer Park Man Helps Restore Navy PBY Catalina; Saved by One in WWII
American Civil War:
Walking a mile in soldiers' shoes
Black Mountain to host Civil War scenes
Museum to hold Living History Day
Virginia celebrates USS Monitor
Ball transports Capitol to Civil War era
Caissons rolling along to Columbia
Texas War for Independence and Seminole Wars:
After the massacre
Florida history walks among us
'British' without flags for big day
Blogging the Battle of Guilford Courthouse
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Friday, March 23, 2007
Synopsis: The General is one of the last great silent films. The story is loosely based off of the actual hijacking of the "General" locomotive in 1862 during the Andrews Raid, which in turn gave in to the Great Locomotive Chase. The story of the movie centers around the (mis)adventures of the train's engineer to capture back his two great loves, Anabelle Lee and The General.
Overall opinion: In comparison to Birth of a Nation, this movie was easier to watch in many ways. Although it is loosely based on an actual event, it's really a light-hearted romantic comedy that's the length of a regular movie. It doesn't seek to make much social commentary, and is full of sight gags that are still pretty funny. It does play to sterotypes of the war, which might be interesting viewing for reenactors who deal with the public on frequent basis.
Good reenactor film?: The General is a worthy movie to watch, but you're not going to get much out of it authenticity-wise. A couple shots looked pretty nice though, and showed lines of infantry lugging hard packs and what looked to be convincing muskets. The trains were of the period, so that's one thing the movie definitely got right.
How does it stack up?: There's not too much I can say about this movie to recommend it, other than it's a novelity (for our day and age) comedy. It's funny and light-hearted, and from a historical standpoint, you'll see a lot of things that have been repeated in later slapstick comedy movies. But, it still is a silent film, so you have to make sure to get your mind right with that before you watch it.
If you want to see about more movies, check out my old blog, "War Moovies".
If you haven't already done so, here are a few reenactor blogs that are worth checking out:
Sarah's/Chauncey's Reenacting Blog
18thC Cuisine (Note - this blog is translated into French. Also, this blog has hit a nice stride, and I very much recommend it, especially if you're into recreating period dishes)
If you have a blog or know of a reenactor blog (any period) you'd like to share - put it in the comments and I'll add it to my commentary. The only thing I ask is to make sure it is active.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
If you invite the controversy, you better be willing to deal with the fall out.
To be honest, I don't find fault with the artist, John Sims. He's happened on a project that is interesting in the social circles that I assume he's used to dealing with. I do find some of his show's concepts interesting as a fellow artist-type, but other aspects of the show I don't agree with, are mildly offensive to me and ignorant of the history concerned. As a "socially aware" artist, he's done his job - he's managed to piss off both Southern Heritage advocates and the local NAACP with his exhibit. Best of all for Mr Sims, he doesn't have to live with it - he's from Detriot.
But there's a small problem for the museum - what would cause a small stir in, let's say in a fairly cosmopolitian area, may not go over so well in not-so-cosmopolitian and very Southern area like Tallahassee. Most people in New York City may see the flag as a symbol of racism, but a sizable number in FL and surrounding areas hold the flag in regard as a symbol of their heritage. Oil, meet water.
Talking to Stephen Majors of the AP, Chucha Barber, the museum's executive director says:
There's a balance between the nature of the art that we show and the outcome that we seek, which is to promote dialogue and conversation, and have you maybe think of something in a slightly different way.
I can only think that Ms Barber uses a gallon of gasoline to light her hibachi, too. The textbook explaination she uses doesn't wash with the reality she is facing, which is that she has foisted a certain viewpoint on a community who sees history differently. There's a difference between raising awareness via art and polarizing the community. Unfortunately for her, Sims gets the publicity, and Barber and the museum gets the ire.
With that said, I travel back to my favorite historical stomping ground of southern Unionism with Disloyalty in the Confederacy. I'm not particularly enamored with the title, especially from what I've read on my first skimming. Looking at the content, the title may be the only thing I have a problem with, the rest of the book looks to be an answer to a wish I had a while back. I wanted to find a book that gave a good high-level overview of Unionism and unionist activities state by state. And guess what?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
World War 2:
Stephenson living W.W.II history lesson
Vintage bombers to land in College Station
A chance to live history as WWII fight re-enacted
Museum offers living history show
American Civil War:
Shiloh 145th events planned
Ball gown competition returns to Civil War Re-enactment
Civil War events set
African American Civil War Conference in Raleigh, NC for the Symposium on the United States Colored Troops, March 23-25
Beyond the call of duty
Early Frontier & Rendezvous:
Boat crew welcomes public
Living History Farm celebrates True Texas Women
Conner Prairie seeks more money, community support
Living history lesson
History comes alive at Camp Floyd
Mountain men are moving in
Theft hurts more than the museum
Launching a new 'Revolution' at CW
Time for Hands-On Preservation with Park Day 2007
The Civil War Preservation Trust and the History Channel are once again sponsoring our 11th Annual Park Day! On Saturday, April 7, 2007, volunteers throughout the country will work together to clean and repair the grounds at over 100 Civil War sites. Last year, approximately 4,000 volunteers played a vital role in sustaining these parks, providing more than 12,000 hours of service.
Helping hands are needed everywhere for a wide variety of short and long term projects, providing interesting and rewarding volunteer opportunities for individuals, couples, schools, families, corporations, citizen groups and service organizations. Clubs and organizations can help with specific park improvements: trail renovation, tree planting, stream restoration, litter cleanup, minor repairs and more. The event is also perfect for Scout troop service projects or corporate team-building efforts.
Without the help of volunteers, trash accumulates in these natural areas, harming wildlife, polluting lakes and rivers, and detracting from the beauty of your community. This event is a fun and effective way to improve the natural environment in your local community. Thanks to your donated time and skills, your favorite state park can see improvements now instead of sometime in the future.
At each site, volunteers will get a free t-shirt and have the opportunity to hear historians tell them about the land they are helping to preserve. Plan to join fellow preservationists on Saturday, April 7, 2007 at a site near you for a day of history and hard work.
Cut and paste the url above for contact info for your state.
Click on "Park Day" on the right hand side of the webpage
Then scroll down to the bottom and click on the link to take you to the info for each state.
Monday, March 19, 2007
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The research increasingly shows that slavery, Jim Crow and racism were not, as once thought, confined to the South.
Huh? I had to read the article a couple more times to see if I had missed something. Who once thought these things were confined to the South? Mr Potato Head? I must be ahead of the times -- I knew this pearl of absolute knowledge in High School history.
American Civil War:
Civil War park comes alive
My Life So Far: ‘The coolest thing about this hobby is learning’
Weekend of living history in Pea Ridge
Group ends efforts to buy Civil War battlefield
Road Trip: A historic ship docks again in Virginia
Cedar Creek, Petersburg among endangered Civil War sites
New Ridgewood Exhibit Brings Civil War To Life
CW: Locals invited to Rev City rehearsals
The CWPT has also unveiled its list of endangered parks. This issue really cut to the core of our hobby, and is worthy of all our interest.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
Wednesday, March 07, 2007
I've decided to put some ideas and observations on the table. Maybe they'll be helpful to some event planner looking at doing something different. These ideas aren't wholly mine, but are mainly observations from my past experiences. This series of posts came from thinking along the lines of the What I think makes a great reenactment post from a couple days ago. Feel free to make comment or add to the posts.
I aim to layout a possible scenario that can be used, including sample maps and such. I might be able to pull something helpful off, or I may flop and have my failure displayed on the OKTB forums. Can't fault me for trying though! I'll start simple, and then work my way up. Chances are that I'll hit on something done before, but that matters not. What matters is that it's recorded and available to anyone who reads the blog. The subject will be the American Civil War, unless I specify differently. Lastly, if anyone puts these ideas to use, please use the Comments to discuss the results.
Man your stations!
Event Type: Small Display; Resources: 5 -15 Reenactors
Small displays are usually discounted because they don't involve lots of people shooting lots of weapons. But these displays are vital to get close to spectators and to do some recruiting. These events are also a great chance to show spectators the passive side of the hobby and allow them to get your full attention as a reenactor. But how to do this in an organized fashion that appeals to all age groups? You want to avoid the "convention booth" - where the reenactors essentially stand in front of displyed and make a sales spiel to prospects. What's more attractive is putting the history into the spectator's hands. Here's what you need to do:
Get a estimate on reenactors who are attending, and of course, plan for any AWOLs. You'll need at least five active participants doing the following:
- Display guide
Pick a time frame you want to represent - but whatever you do, be faithful. Don't set up wedge tents and say the timeframe is on campaign in 1865. Also this is a great time to research your unit and represent it faithfully for the time period you choose. The focus of your research would be what the soldiers knew or did to cope with life at that time.
Once a time frame is established, then pick the participants who will be the designated "demonstrators". They should be out-going enough to engage the spectators on a first-person level. This is important because of any of the participants, these guys have to know what they're doing, and keep up an impression at the same time, all the time. The twist here is to engage the public as much and as closely as possible, rather than keeping them at arm's length. Each demonstrator should have a "station", and the displays should first cover the military aspects, then entertainment, and then social commentary. If you can build a fire pit, then cooking demos are always good.
After your demonstrators are settled, then the next people to choose are your "display guides". What many displays lack is someone who can walk the spectators through the camp, interact with the demonstrators on a first-person level, and lend some context.
This guy is a Roman period reenactor - but - "Gallio Velius Marsallas" does other periods not of this world. Star Wars anyone? Or how about a Cylon? Stargate?
Nevertheless, he looks like he's having a blast doing various impressions, and makes it all look like a load of fun. Maybe we all can learn from Gallio's example. That makes him a "Reenactor extraordinare".
Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Warning - the site has music files on several pages. I also wonder at the music selection, but I'll go with it.
American Civil War & Indian Wars:
Re-enactment draws thousands
Civil War Reenactment in Tallahassee
Past inspires vows for Civil War enthusiasts
Lincoln reenactor provides update on Civil War
Battlefield symposium March 31
Museum visitors meet Buffalo Soldiers
Historic Lode foundry to become a living museum
Investor wants to restore Old Mill Museum
Tea talk takes on 19th-century women's issues
Texas War for Independence & Rendezvous:
Alamo Plaza, AP Photos: 1, 2, 3
Mountain men coming to Wise River
The miniature redcoats are coming
Monday, March 05, 2007
If you like to play wargames, I very much recommend joining up with the Blitzkrieg Wargame club. Great place to find opponents for Combat Mission or any of the John Tiller Civil War games.
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Please enlighten us non re-enacting folks. What is the ideal re-enactment?
OK, fair's fair. It's one thing to chirp about an event on a blog, but it's quite another to define the ideal reenactment to non-reenactors. So, my mind has been thinking on this one for the past few days. Here's what I've come up with.
Let me provide a few caveats before I launch into this post:
- We're only talking about events with spectators watching,
- The event as a whole doesn't have to be scripted, and
- Of course it's my opinion based on my personal experiences.
One thing I've come to grips with in recent times is that both reenactors and the general public know more of the Civil War now than they did 20 years ago. This is not to say that knowledge has grown by leaps and bounds, but people are certainly more aware. The reenactor side has grown in knowledge several-fold. Everything I wished for as a reenactor 20 years ago has pretty much transpired. Better uniforms, gear, and printed material are available and more affordable. And with that, the people who come out to watch our events have become more knowledgable - hopefully partly as a product of reenactors making history available to the public.
With this is in mind, sooner or later, someone is bound to say this:
This out of a high school student who went to see the Carolina Campaign event. His reaction afterwards? The Fayetteville Observer further quotes:
If Christie was overwhelmed by the realism, teen history buff John Townsend had spotted some flaws. Although the Confederates were all clad in the distinctive gray uniforms, Townsend said that by the end of the war — when this battle took place — they were low on supplies, including uniforms.
“They’d have been wearing jeans or whatever they could find,” he said.
He's right - and a type of observation that was probably not missed by some other spectators. This leads me to...
Point #1: An ideal reenactment has to demand material accuracy of the participants. Give Mr. Townsend a couple more years and I can imagine he could be pointing out the over- abundance of Richmond Depot II shell jackets at a western theatre event. I think it's essential that the event sponsor define the impressions. Although reenactors can bone-up on the events portrayed, the sponsor should have some special insights and develop guidelines for what they feel appropriate for the event. The McDowell event sponsors did a great job of defining the desired impression on their site. Failure to do so might find some sharp-eyed teen's observations displayed in the local newspaper.
Point #2: An ideal reenactment must have a realistic scenario that's pertinent to the historical event reenacted. OK, here's the reenactor translation - don't do a generic fairground meat-slapping contest and pass it off for a recreation of an actual event. At the time of the Carolinas Campaign was fought, the nature of combat had changed, not least of which were how small unit actions were carried out. But yet, both forces were packing two-ranked battlelines, rather than the reinforced skirimish lines found late in the war. Attack and Die is a great book that explains these changes - and event designers should read it and take note. The Carolinas Campaign not only suffered from sameness and a generic treatment of the events, but the battle tactics weren't representative of that point in the war.
Point #3: An ideal reenactment has a reasonable balance of forces. You can't have the yanks outnumbered 2 or 3 to 1, outgunned, with cavalry breathing down their necks, trot them on the field and then expect a realistic event to blossom. Ain't going to happen. I'm actually a big fan of capping numbers to certain forces. Down in the south, it's access to the Confederates and their artillery. Capping has the effect of promoting a bit of competition for the limited spots, and allows the other necessary forces not to be overwhelmed, if not allow them to grow from the ranks of the reenactors who have a dual impression. I'm also a big proponent of using incentives to attract the necessary manpower - a couple of packs of free ammo and a supply hardtack would go a long way to attract needed Federals.
Point #4: An ideal reenactment uses innovation or a twist to add its own 'flavor' to the event. One of the things that a reenactor who was on the cusp of burn-out told me was that "most events have become the same, and that's why I'm thinking of quitting." Unfortunately, that's not an uncommon refrain these days. Most events have become a little too much the same. The only difference is where they are fought.
I think most event designers are too focused on how a battle unfolds in a scripted fight to pay mind to the things that really attract good reenactors, and make a believable reenactment for spectators. One battle that sticks in my mind is an event that was once held at Carnifex Ferry, WV. I wrote about this event before, along with my thoughts on event design. Innovation is the key that keeps reenactors in the hobby, and is also the past subject of a post. Rich Mountain seems to be another event that had a twist - so there's plenty of ideas out there to make an event an experience rather than a chore.
Hopefully I've addressed Josh's question to satisfaction - I feel like I've got out a thing or two that's been brewing for a while. In my opinion, the better mechanics of a reenactment, of course the better the reenactors enjoy it, which in turn makes it a great event for someone spectating it. Something can be said for energy and a sense catharsis.
They're are two great battle reviews, Perryville and Rich Mountain. In particular, the Rich Mountain event seems to be the most revealing about what we are made of as reenactors.
The other articles deal with loading a cannon, using the correct finish for a rifle stock, reaching a first-person persona, and a bit about the Lee family.
Saturday, March 03, 2007
Served in WWI. Landed in LeHarve, France. Have copy of certificate of military service certifying that he was in the Army from July 22, 1918 until May 15, 1919. He received an honorable discharge as a Private. Served for 10 months.
Also have copy of final pay roll indicating that he was with Company B, Conv. Cr. Tr. Cr. at Camp Lee, Virginia. Upon discharge, he received $1273.38 which included travel pay of $6.90. He also received a war risk allotment of $7.50. At some point during his service, he received a pay check for $74.40.