Friday, May 25, 2007

The Irreverent Guide to Civil War Reenacting, Pt3

We have established the backdrop and inner workings of a typical event. In this installment, we add the players - the people you see at an event.

The Players
Obviously, soldiers are a requirement for any Civil War battle event. Typically, you'll see a couple of the three major branches - infantry, cavalry and artillery. Of the three, artillery isn't a stand-alone branch. An artillery-only event would get mighty boring very quickly. At most mainstream or living history events you'll also see people dressed up in civilian clothing of the period. Occasionally, you'll see a specialist military group, such as a surgeon or the signal corps. Everyone combines to create an atmosphere for the event. This posts will cover their roles within a typical event.

Infantry
You can easily say that the infantry is the backbone to 99% of CW events held. Without the infantry, there's no massed battle, no rattle of musketry, no real event.

Many event hosts tend to ambitious about the numbers of infantry that arrive at an event, hoping for as many infantry to show up as possible. The hosts work with the "officers" commanding the largest groups or hand pick them by ability to organize the forces. This is where the nasty specter of reenacting politics rares its head in the larger battle events. If you're "in" the groups that fall under the control of the commanders, then you get the plum camping and battle assignments.

Things are organized by company and then accordingly, down to the less favored groups who are all banded together. Sometimes, good things happen with the "black sheep" company that typically doesn't get the attention or the best direction from the top commander, but is ably lead by someone who has a penchant for adventure.

There has been a move lately in the campaigner events to have all officer and NCO slots pre-filled, and simply fill in the needed companys as numbers permit.

Within a living history, as with all other participants, the infantryman is a player within the story, serving to pull guard duty or harass the locals.

Cavalry
Although not as ubiquitous as infantry, cavalry in one form or another appear at most events. The cav usually consists of either the mounted or dismounted variety. Of course the mounted version is what makes the visual impact, and useful if in a large field reenactment, particularly in tacticals or campaigner events.

The somewhat maligned sibling of the mounted cav is the dismounted variety. Many times, this disdain is earned. A dismounted impression is somewhat cheaper to gather, seems to avoid much of the disiplined movement on the field that the infantry is usually confined to, and is almost expected to have sub-par authenticity. In reality, dismounted cav is a better choice in a small field reenactments, where the cavalry did fight off of the horse, and where a mounted presence looks more like a rodeo, and the hard ground makes it easier to slip on horse cookies.

Within the scope of a living history, the cavalryman is like the infantryman, except that there's a large four-legged prop tied-up on site.

Artillery
Although artillery has a rather limited use most of the time, it is one of the big draws for spectators, who usually don't get to see large artillery being fired. But there is a trade-off.

Most artillery seems to be focused on the gun rather than on the impressions that surround the gun. So therefore, one tends to see an overabundance of red, when in fact, they were probably no different than the infantry. On the other hand, most artillery groups I've seen are well drilled, and use best safety practices.

Since these units are static, big and noisey, they are attractive to spectators who like the big booms and smoke. Therefore they get the lion's share of the visits from spectators. Unfortunately, as a rule their impressions tend to be less than good. Sometimes they downright suck. I could go on about the red trim and 3/4 pieces, but I won't. As a spectator, you want to seek these guys out when they are doing a drill. I'll hand it to most good artillery groups, they can put on a loading drill like nobody's business.

Within a living history, their job is almost identical to a typical event. Drill and fire. In a campaign setting, the artillery has a tougher time. Very few artillery units can truely perform the light artillery role, since the expense is great and it typically takes a huge chunk of land to operate in.

Next: Minor Players

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