Monday, July 30, 2007

My favorite Sutler of the week

Lost Battalions is one of the first vendors I knew that dealt mainly with WW2 reproductions for Allies, initially reproducing buckle boots and then on to HBTs and other pieces of uniform that were difficult to fit taller guys. Nowadays, they cater to both Allies and Axis but seem to specialize in German reproductions. It's a great site to do some surfing in, and the prices are very good for quality you get.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Improvements of Stone's River battlefield

A friend sent me this link on an editorial about the Stones River National Park. Looks like some great things are happening here. It's always good news when a park is given the funds to help draw people to location.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Impressions - German Army (Heer) - 1942

This was another impression taken at the Military Through the Ages event in Fayetteville.

This soldier is typical of the regular German Heer in Europe throughout the war, although is fellow's attire is probably more suited to the early portion of the war - he's still looking dapper. Although German Heer, this fellow is actually one of many Austrians "invited" to join the Heer. Too bad he didn't have the luck of the Von Trapp family - now he's in the stinkin' German army. :-)

As a rifleman, he's armed with the Mauser Karabiner 98k, a five-shot bolt-action weapon. Tucked into this belt is a Model 24 Stielhandgranate or "Stick" grenade for offensive action. He also would have had access to the Model 39 Eihandgranate, which was a defensive egg-shaped grenade. His kit is standard for a rifleman, consisting of a leather set of accoutrements. The components consist of the distinctive "Y" strap that holds up the equipment belt. The belt has four ammo pouches, bread bag, canteen, and an entrenching tool attached to it.

His uniform did not change much during the course of the war, except for minor modifications. He wears the M1939 tunic or "Feldbluse" of the common field gray (feldgrau) color. In the summer months he may have been issues the M1940 HBT uniform coat. His trousers (langhosen) are M1940 type of the same color. Prior to the war, Germany stockpiled great quanities of uniforms and some of the trouser stockpiles were of the M1936 type made from a stone gray (steingrau) colored wool. He also wears the M1934 Field Cap (feldmutze) and ankle boots and gaitors (gemaschen). Hanging from his belt is his M1935 helmet (stalhelm).

Friday, July 27, 2007

A Web site after my heart

I like the concept of Let's Play History - it appeals to reenacting as a whole. Unlike Reenactor.net, which is pretty much military oriented, LPH seems to take a broader look at reenacting in all its forms. The goal of the site's creator seems to be central hub for reenacting information in all its forms -- very ambitious.

Since this site does take paid memberships, I'd like to see what direction it takes in the long run before throwing my hat into the ring.

What I'm Reading Now

I'm about to dive into Battle Tactics of the Civil War. Hopefully, he'll have some new things to bring to light, but I'm going to keep a close eye on his references. As I thumbed through it, it seemed to have some great tid-bits, but a book is judged as a whole, so I'll see what Griffith brings to the table.

Gettin' back on the horse

OK, this week wasn't a great posting week, but I'm getting back on the horse to start again!

Just Arrived Today

Jack Absolute

ISBN: 0312374844

Another novel to plunge into so I can satisfy my military fiction guilty pleasure! I've thumbed through this book once, and it has some good promise. I've been a great fan of the Sharpe's, Hornblower and Aubrey-Maturin series of historical fiction, and this one seem to be a great addition. The only downside is that I'm a rather blue-blooded American, so reading from the "other side" might be somewhat disconcerting. But then again, if it's a crackin' good tale, I can make some allowances.

This book will be released in the States August 21.

Monday, July 23, 2007

My first reenactment protester... of sorts

I was up in my old stomping ground doing a drill weekend. It was a great weekend, but not without some excitement.

It seems that some fellow had a beef with what we were doing. But then again, no one really knew what the beef was about to begin with. I guess when one is drunk, then things simply don't come out of your mouth like you want them to. He bandied about some racist names, black and white. At least he embraced diversity, and was possibly being PC about the whole situation.

Then Mr Drunk Protester of Who-Knows-What kicks the situation up a notch. He decides the confused message isn't quite getting through to our Captain, and resorts to threats. (To this point, the Captain had been good about not feeding this guy's confused rage, and asked him to leave a few times) First, Mr Protester is going to call the cops on us, then he starts alluding to something more physical. At this point, it's easy enough to say this guy could have been easily bludgeoned like Beetle Bailey when he gets on Sarge's nerves.

We had a much better tactic in mind. Captain quit talking, and ordered us to 'shoulder arms'. Then quietly, we marched by him and began drilling. A bucket of cold water.

Mr Drunk Protester, without audience and IDed via "wireless telegraph" to the police while he was 'a spewing , muttered more pointless garbage and quickly fled the scene, not to be heard from again.

This was my first reenactment protester. What a disappointment.

Work and Vacation

Hello everybody! I haven't dropped off the face of the earth, but a heavy workload, vacation planning, and a weekend drill with my group maxed out my writing time last week. This week should be much better to get some posts into the queue.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

What I Last Read

The Thirty-Seventh North Carolina Troops

ISBN: 0786415436

This is one of the best regimental histories written recently. And not because I'm biased on this regiment - I'll say up front that I have a few of descendants who served in the 37th NCT. If anything, I have a more critical eye for any writings that concern my kin-folk.

The research is solid, and plenty is taken from soldier's letters, from the 37th and with the units in the same brigade. Also, author Michael Hardy takes writing from the Federal soldiers that fought against the 37th giving some well-rounded details to make this a very compelling read.

The only weaknesses this book really has is the author's propensity to fill in some detail gaps with speculation of the details. These assumptions don't harm the regiment history as a whole, which I feel is very solid, but it flavors the book's narrative with some minor misconceptions. One example is that of the first issue uniforms for the regiment. The photo of Luther Penley in the book gives a better picture of what the 37th was issued, rather than the regulation NC uniforms mentioned in the book.

But, if this is the book's greatest sin, then its greatest virtue is to keep interest and the knowledge of the 37th NCT alive and well, which is something that all regimental histories should aspire to.. No book is going to be 100% on the mark, but this one comes close. Hey, gotta throw the reenactors a bone every so often.

What I'm currently listening to

Got this yesterday at Old Salem, and it's a very polished production by the American Brass Quintet Brass Band called Cheer, Boys, Cheer! Music of the 26th N.C. Regimental Band, CSA. I gave it a listen on my way back home, and I was very pleased with my newest purchase.

This is period music played in a period way, so it's a great addition to any Civil War music collection.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Group Spotlight

From the Civil War, we jump into WW2 with the Green Devils of Carentan, a group from the UK. This is a great site -- very nice and clean; uncomplicated. The photos are consistent and really illustrate the pages that they are part of. A site to check out if you're a WW2 para fan.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Headed for some more history

Seems that this summer has been full of going to some nice historical sights.

This weekend will be Old Salem, and I'm really looking forward to this trip. I've always felt that Old Salem has underutilized potential for living history, and since I haven't seen the revamped version, I'm curious to see if they have beefed up their programs.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

It's here!

The North State Rifles have their uniform studies online. And boy howdy -- it's well worth an extended visit. Very impressive effort and great photos. More groups should be doing this. Also, it's forensic reenacting in action. Very nicely researched items. Just click on the Impressions button!

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Wartime Letters of George R. Stancil 1861-1864 Pt3

After a lengthy intermission, I'm posting George Stancil's wartime letters here again, picking up with a letter written in August 1861. (Click image to see a larger version)

Weldon, NC

August 3rd, 1861

Dear Miss Emily,

I enjoy much pleasure in having the opportunity of writing you a few lines. Which leaves me well and I sincerely hope finds you with the enjoyment of the same great blessen It is beyond the power of paper and ink to describe the pleasure I realize in recieving your sentimental note yesterday. Dear Miss, I hope that Providence will so shape my lot that I will again be permitted to see you and enjoy the pleasure of your sweet company, but we are divided from each other by many miles and rivers and hills and dales between us lie but let not all of this our love and friendship chill. If I never see you gain, remember that one brave boy died on the battle field with warm esteem for one that left behind. I send you my argaretype. I want you to write me whether you get it or not.

George R. Stancil

To Miss Emily Dupree

Notes:

This note was written at Weldon, NC, a concentration of Confederate camps, railroads, and depots during much of the war. Several North Carolina regiments formed at Weldon, including the 14th North Carolina Volunteers (later designated 24th North Carolina Troops), which was George Stancil's regiment. I assume that the camps at Weldon were also schools of instruction for soldiers.

Here's a snippet of regimental history of this time in George Stancil's career as a Confederate private in Company A:

This regiment was organized under the command of Colonel William J. Clarke at Weldon in July, 1861; it was then mustered in for twelve months service and designated the 14th Regiment N.C. Volunteers. The regiment was composed originally of nine companies (designated A, B, C, E, F, G, H, I, and K) but was assigned a tenth company (Company D) in May, 1862. The regiment remained at Weldon until August 18, 1861 when it moved by rail to Richmond, Virginia.

When George Stancil was mustered in, he would have been likely issued with the NC regulation uniform and armed with a musket taken from one of the arsenals in the state.

Monday, July 09, 2007

My favorite Sutler of the week

As a former WW2 reenactor, I appreciate a well stocked vendor. Back in my time, there were hardly any decent reproductions, mainly because originals were relatively easy to come by. Amazingly, "my time" was only about 10 years ago, and now originals sell at a premium. What Price Glory is a great vendor, with much to offer, and one of the best rounded selections of WW2 American and British stuff you can get. Both original and reproductions are to be had here - the repros look great.

What makes this site attractive to me is that it has alot of items, and it's well designed, with a simple way of navigating around. As a note - the shoe/boot selection is tremendous. I wish this place was around when I was doing WW2, I could've used a decent pair of boots! What qualifies the WW1 tag are the US M1904 Marching Shoes, which are a nice snag for the WW1 reenactor.

As with any sutler I haven't personally bought from in the past, I can't personally vouch for the quality of the items that What Price Glory sells. So, as with any sutler, I would collect some recommendations before ordering. Many group sites do recommend WPG as a primary sutler.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

'Zine on the table this week

This week's magazine is one that isn't typical for this series, but it directly issues that can find application in ACW reenacting. Family Tree Magazine is focuses on researching Civil War ancestors, and can easily be applied to researching soldiers for living history purposes. The FTM Web extra has directions for researching ACW naval records.

Interesting groups on the reenacting fringe, Pt 20

When I was looking for manufacturers of model weapons, the same makers were typically churning out replicas that were capable of firing a large plastic BB - known as Airsoft. The idea of exact models shooting out some sort of projectile isn't new. I remember my older brothers having the toy Johnny Hawk pistols and rifles that could actually shoot. As the younger brother, I was a handy target! OK, times have changed and I'm relatively unscarred by my upbringing.

Airsoft can be best described as an alternative to paintball, without the mess. Since there is no mess, then one can could go out in the field with a nice replica uniform without the worry of messing it up. This is where Airsoft satisfies a segment of the reenacting population who are into the actual moving tactics of their chosen period. The popular time periods seem to be WW2 and Vietnam. Also since these replica weapons are rated as non-firearms, fully automatic weapons are within a reasonable price and without the sticky laws and regulations you have to deal with when you possess the real deal. Here is a great discussion on reacting vs paintball.

One of the first reenactor Airsoft sites I surfed was the Airsoft Reenactors Group in CA. This is a Vietnam group that seems to do other more modern periods on occasion. The site itself is a great starting point to find out more about Airsoft reenacting, it includes impressions and event/action rules. The Gallerys are great also, and well worth some time to crawl around for a look-see.

Another site for the WW2 buff is the 2nd Rangers WW2 Airsoft Combat Team. Like the ARG site, this one is pack full with information about Airsoft and picture gallerys. The Links page is a great resource here, and it everything you'd need to hook up with a group. Unknowingly, I think a picture on this site does underscore a downside to the Airsoft hobby -- it does entail a little bit of pain. One guy looks to have a small welt on the side of his face from getting hit with an Airsoft BB. All the sites I've seen make it mandatory to wear goggles with a ballistic rating.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Group Spotlight

The George H Thomas' Invincibles (GHTI) are an interesting concept in the world of Civil War reenacting. This group is actually a confederation (no pun intended!) of several smaller "mess" organizations with a similar mission.

The site itself is rather simple, and very easy to navigate. It acts much like a portal to the other individual group sites, plus it covers the GHTI as a whole.

The idea of GHTI is very appealing to me, since it seems to be a successful cooperative effort to pull together like-minded groups. I really enjoy the Events page - every event seems to almost a travel ad. Makes it look very appealing -- something groups need to do help members decide on what they wish to attend. It also specifies the impression that the groups are aiming for.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

ACW in Norge

The Civil crops up in alot of unexpected places around the world! We've seen Belgium, Austria, Australia, Canada and the UK. Now, we have Norway. The Waco Guards are based country-wide and affiliate with several European and US groups.

Current Rumor: Will blackpowder supplies dry up?

Looks like OSHA is forwarding some legislation to place safety controls on the shipment of explosives and small arms ammo, which I imagine includes blackpowder and caps. Although I'm not certain what that does as far as blackpowder sales, it merits a look-see. Many reenactors are up in arms, as well as other organizations who advocate shooting.

The docket number is OSHA-2007-0032 and you can look this up on the Federal Regulations site and decide for yourself if this is a real threat to the hobby.

If anything, be proactive and write your Congressman and tell him what you think. Just don't start your letter/email with "Dear Miserable Little Worm".

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Impressions - 29th Alabama Infantry Regiment - July 1864

This soldier is from the 29th Alabama regiment, which served in the Army of Tennessee in the later stages of the war. Here's a quick history of the 29th Alabama to the timeframe of this photo, edited from the Alabama State Archives page:

This regiment was organized at Pensacola in February, 1862. The regiment remained at Pensacola till it was evacuated, suffering much from diseases that usually afflict raw troops. It then lay between Pollard and Pensacola for over a year, when it was ordered to Mobile, and there remained from July 1863 to April 1864.

The regiment then joined the Army of Tennessee at Resaca, in time to initiate the Atlanta-Dalton campaign, and was brigaded with the First, Seventeenth, and Twenty-sixth of Alabama, and Thirty-seventh of Mississippi regiments, commanded at different intervals by Col. Murphey of Montgomery, Gen. O'Neal of Lauderdale, and Gen. Shelley of Talladega.

The Twenty-ninth was engaged at the battle of Resaca with a loss of about 100 killed and wounded, out of 1100 men engaged. At New Hope the loss was very heavy, and at Peach-tree Creek the regiment was cut to pieces. Again, July 28, near Atlanta, half of the regiment was killed and wounded in the fierce and protracted assault on the enemy's line.

The most notable feature on this soldier is the frock coat, which by 1864 were probably quickly becoming non-existent in the Confederate army as a whole. Looking at the regimental history, it would make sense that the 29th Alabama soldiers would have frock coats this late in the war, being that this was the first campaign the regiment was involved in. The frock coat shown is modeled after the "Peachtree Creek" frock coat that belonged to John E. Johnson the time he died at the Battle of Peachtree Creek. Although it's a frock, like many uniforms manufactured in the Confederacy, it shows signs that material was becoming scarce. One sleeve shows that left-over scraps of material were used to fill out construction.

Another notable feature is what looks to be a bedroll and backpack combination. In fact, the "bedroll" is a light cotton fabric that was a common item with AoT soldiers. Rather for sleeping, this cotton sheet was used to create shade and shield soldiers from the sun during the hot summers in the Deep South. The roll made it handy for the soldier to quickly set up a lean-to or place over a trench.

The soldier is geared up with items typical of a soldier on the march, including a tin drum canteen, Mexican War pattern haversack, and Confederate-made accoutrements. The haversack would have been light-colored at one time, but by the time the soldier had gone on the march, it would be stained with meat grease and dirt - putrid would probably be a good term for it. The common reenactor practice of putting personal gear in a haversack would have been a bad idea in a historical context. Also, captured Federal items would be uncommon with AoT troops in 1864, since they were in a constant state of retreat and did not have the opportunity to collect Federal equipment from the field.

Happy Birthday America!

Have a happy 4th of July!

Also -- this is my 500th post on Seeing the Elephant(recreated)!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Just Arrived Today

Battle Tactics of the Civil War

ISBN: 0300084617

Hmmm... by the looks of the reviews on Amazon.com, this book is going to have to rise up to the occasion. I try not to let public access reviews sway me too much, since you have to question the background and knowledge of the reviewer. But I have to admit one view had a pretty good hand on what he was talking about, although it did smack of a personal grind.

The book did look interesting, but it introduced some things I never heard of, like the "Zouave Rush". Hopefully, the Amazon reviewer wasn't completely right about this guy, but I have my sneaky feelings about this one.

Forensic reenacting

As a reenactor, I appreciate reenacting on a higher level than what I actually do. The first-person interpretation at Appomattox is a great example of this for me. Part of the reason for this appreciation is that I'm a goal-oriented person. As I'm putting together my basic kit, I'm also thinking of what I'll be doing next, or what I can do to improve or push my impression further. With Civil War reenacting, I find it hard to think past a basic level; there are many paths to travel and no single focus.

On the event side, I've many times wished that event hosts would become more specific about what they envision, or simply have a vision in the first place. Do the research and then present it. But then again, I imagine it's difficult to find reenactors up to the challenge of matching in-depth research impression-wise. Realities aside, I've always wished better, and as I progress up the improvement path, I find that I tolerate some things less and less. When I've posted in the past, I find I've been none too subtle about what constitutes a good event in my ever-so-humble opinion.

But, some goals are realistic and I think will be the future salvation of this hobby. One concept I'll name, but probably has been kicked around awhile, is forensic reenacting. Although I can't imagine this concept being used for the larger events, but it is something that should be strived for on a smaller scale on historical sites. It entails researching a historical event and applying all usable research to recreate a well-rounded scenario and impressions. Research would be continuous, and application to the event scenarios and impressions theoretically would be on-going. The event would express all new findings from one year to the next.

One could argue that this happens in the hobby already. I do agree, but not very widely, and those events that have gone down this path seem have had to make certain concessions to attract the correct numbers of reenactors. Rich Mountain was one of these events, but despite concessions, it pushed the concept on a larger scale and seemed to been very successful. But what if more information was found and could be applied? Maybe the next time the impressions or the scenario could be further refined, and the authenticity bar raised. Civil War Historian magazine has been hitting a groove lately covering events that would have potential, or already engage in a form of forensic reenacting.

The concept of forensic reenacting could go as deep as one could possibly take it. As professional and amateur historians, this is what we should be doing anyway - creating a benchmark to strive for. Reenacting has always been for the most part too sloppy. In most battle reenactments, early mid- and late- war impressions look the same. No mind is paid to what everyone is wearing, and no real research is done. Battle tactics? The same. Camping? The same. No mind taken to what people actually did.

Ultimately, we're setting the hobby up for failure by leaning too heavily battle reenactments, and not paying mind to really researching and reenacting the smaller events in detail. On the whole, we don't create new reenacting frontiers, or are too quick to try and dispose. By doing this, we take away any freshness the hobby can have. Reenactors get bored. Has anyone tried to research and reenact prewar militia drill musters?

Part of the problem is that most battle reenactments take on a sameness, and reenactors on the whole settle for that. We look for other things to enjoy other than the battle reenactment, like reconnecting with comrades. Even that eventually becomes a reenacting dead-end when comrades start dropping out of the hobby. Deeply researching the history of an event creates value and freshness. Presenting an event as historically accurate as far as it is researched should be a point of value. Being able to come up with new research to apply creates freshness.

It's time to push the envelope.

Reenacting links of the week

Here are some reenacting links for this week:

World War 2:
WWII vet gets a lift from vintage warplane
WWII-era B-17 flying high again: EAA's own Flying Fortress makes stop in area

Early 20th Century:
Children taking part in OTR reenactment

Civil War:
Civil War re-enactors honor memory of Watauga veterans
Morgan's Raiders back in town for Battle of Corydon reenactment
Local Reenactment Groups Try to Keep It Real
Union and Confederates will battle in Groton, July 13-15
Reliving America's history
Re-enactors to portray infantry in encampment
Much more than just fireworks

War of 1812 & Early Frontier:
Cooler temperatures prevail for 3rd Indiana Territory Festival
Mountain rendezvous

Revolutionary War:
Battle replay marks Colonials' win
Living history: North of Boston residents' passion is recreating life during the American Revolution

Monday, July 02, 2007

Good weekend for Civil War touring

Not a Power Tour by any stretch of the imagination, but my visit to Lynchburg and Appomattox was good. My honey and I went exploring around yesterday, and found Lynchburg to be a lovely town. Then we pushed on to Appomattox Courthouse.

I've been to Appomattox a couple times before, but never with enough time to really check out the buildings as thoroughly as I would have liked. I've always loved the fact that everything is reconstructed as closely as possible to Appomattox CH at the time of the surrender. This greatly appeals to the reenactor inside of me, who can visualize a town center with tattered citizens and former Confederate soldiers going about their day, and Federal soldiers keeping the peace.

As a matter of fact, there were reenactors doing some interpretations that day. One was a Federal provost, and the other was a former Confederate. We managed to catch the talk with the former Confederate, who did a great job making the place come alive. I wish I had time for the Federal soldier, but I didn't want push my dear heart's patience and our schedule for coming home. Then again, it's another excuse for coming back!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Visited Lynchburg, would like to move there!

Just got settled in after a quick trip to Lynchburg, VA to attend a wedding for one of my wife's cousins. Although the city is better known these days for Jerry Falwell and Liberty University, it has a considerable richness as far as Civil War history goes. Back in the day, Lynchburg was known as a railroad hub and for its tobacco warehouses. (If you ever heard the lyics to "Jonny Boker", then you know). In the Civil War, the warehouses became hospitals, and the railroads and depots became prime military targets. So it was only a matter of time until the Federal army made an attempt to disrupt or destroy Lynchburg's military value.

Union forces under Gen David Hunter made such an attempt in June of 1864, but were thwarted by Gen Jubal Early and a lack of supplies.

Lynchburg itself had an outer and inner series of defenses. The outer defenses guarded the byways into Lynchburg, the inner defences guarded the city center. The battle never pushed much past the outer defenses, and eventually petered out.

My trip to the relatives' wedding strangely enough included a reception held at the Fort Early museum(?). Fort Early was one of the earthen forts that made up the outer defenses, along with Fort McCausland and a couple others. Of course, I disappeared for a few moments to prowl the earthworks catch some fresh air. I thought it humorous that this had to be the ultimate Southern wedding - it was being held at a Confederate fort and a portrait of Robert E Lee hung over the fireplace mantel in the reception area.

I have a very positive impression of Lynchburg, and we're heading back to take in more of the historical sights.