10 Steps for a more Enjoyable Weekend
In order for each of you to make the most of the weekend, and to help create the aura of the time period, I have listed steps to help you in this. These are not required to participate in the event, but will make the event more enjoyable for you.
- Research the units portrayed at the event, and actions they were in prior to the event, and try to put yourself in their mindset, and act as they would have. This is unit and event specific, and may take a little time, but even if you just pull up the basic information on the Web, it is better than just stumbling out there for a typical shoot them up! This does require work, but the benefits are immense! It also helps you truly act like the original soldiers did.
- Act like you are under fire. Don’t stand there like iron men, in perfect ranks while being shot at. It’s that simple, duck and dodge huddle together tightly. This is how troops really acted in combat, not the usual two straight battle lines firing at each other at 40 yards. This is just plain wrong. Act the reenacting part!
- Keep at longer combat distances! Most CW combat took place at 200 yards plus. We cannot do this at most events do to the public (sigh), but we can keep the distance to around 70 yards or so. The 40-yard duck shooting is just plain silly. And if you are to be forced back, don’t walk to the rear, run as if your life depended on it, and then rally around your flag at least 70 plus yards to the rear. Reform, look confused and go back in! A lot of Reenactors get caught in the old”well we are the 500th San Francisco, and WE never run!” How historically inaccurate and egotistic that is! What that is saying is that the reenactors are better than the original soldiers that did, and we all know that to be a lie.
- Carry full kits. By this I mean a blanket roll or a knapsack. It gives you a more realistic feel of what being a soldier is about. And when you go into battle you have two choices, some units carried theirs in (seen among veteran units) because they did not want to lose the valuable equipment, or you can drop knapsacks by order, and leave a guard with them. It just adds to the feeling of truly being a soldier. If you do decide to use a blanket roll, do not use twine to tie it up, but rather a leather strap with a buckle, and twist the blanket like a twist of tobacco to make it ride high and tight against you, thus staying out of the way.
- Hike up your traps. Canteens and haversacks should be worn with the top of the item at the elbow, when the arm is fully extended at the side. An examination of period photos of veteran soldiers depict this, and it is for one simple reason; equipment worn high rides better, and does not beat you to death when you run. Also haversacks should be worn outside the belt, so it is easy to grab a bite to eat, once again seen in period photos.
- Cigarettes and beer. Most events do not allow alcohol, so this doesn’t apply to too many events, but for those events who do not ban it, be sure to bring your drink of choice in a period container. It is just wrong to sit around with a can of beer in camp. This gives reenactors a poor public image, and is historically wrong. As to cigarettes, cigarettes did not exist in any documented numbers in the US during the War Years. They were invented in France in the 1850’s, and were meant for women. The habit did no get much notice on this side of the Atlantic till after the War, and then it was mostly women who started using them. What all this means is, if you are going to smoke a cigarette do NOT do it in camp, in front of other reenactors or the public.
- Camp lighter than usual. I do not mean all campaign, but put yourself in the soldier’s shoes. He probably just marched 30 miles or more the previous week, and would have carried less than when he was in stationary camp. Pull out all your gear, and determine what is NEEDED to live for 3 days. They had to do it for weeks on end. Plus sleeping in the trenches/on porches make for great team building and overall experiences. And after that last battle when you are worn out and can barely drag yourself off the field, it means less work to get home to the shower!
- You can live without a cooler. Believe it or not, since I stated eating period foods, I eat much better at events than ever before. And I don’t mean just hardtack and salted pork. Plain long grain brown rice is easy cook, and it goes great with sliced fried red potatoes and onions. For meat go to your butcher shop and pick up salt and sugar slab bacon, pick up 2 lb. or so. Be sure to boil the meat in your period cup to get rid of the extra salt, then fry it on your tin frying pan or plate, using the grease left over to then cook your veggies. Beans were issued a lot, they are the dried white beans, but they need to be soaked overnight to cook well. Soft white bread was issued to some regiments, so bring a loaf of unsliced bread or corn bread. As a treat bring coffee beans for your morning coffee, green or browned, they were issued both ways.
- Wear nothing modern. This makes you feel more like a soldier, and not a modern guy dressed up with boxers underneath.
- Remember you are an educator, and in everything you do be sure the public is getting a proper presentation of the sacrifices of those great men and patriots of the 1860’s.