Friday, January 10, 2014

How to Become a Reenactor Part 3

It was a sunny day in September, sometime around 2003 or 2004.

My wife outfitted me in some borrowed clothes to make me look like I belonged to the 1860s--or at least make me think I looked like I belonged to the 1860s.  I wore a borrowed bowler, a borrowed civilian coat falling apart at the seams, my modern dress pants and modern shoes.

Yeah--I hadn't yet learned about the term, "Farbie".   I was wearing an outfit I wouldn't be caught dead in today.

We went to Pioneer Village, Caesar's Creek in Waynesville Ohio, only about an hour from home, where, according to my wife, they were holding a Civil War reenactment.  As we pulled up, we saw a sign charging $5 per car, so drove down the street and parked in an out-of-the-way location and slipped in the back entrance.

We wandered around a bit, looking over the old pioneer-style homes.  Eventually we wandered into a row of tents that looked much like the Rev War tents I was used to seeing.  A guy in all dark blue and bars on his shoulder came out of a tent and started talking to us a bit about the Civil War.  He was Shawn Farkus, captain of the 4th Ohio Company B.

It didn't take long before he asked me, "Hey, you wanna join us for the battle?"

Black powder, musket--my response was, "Uh, okay..."

He was able to scrounge together some sky-blue trousers and a coat.  He sold me on the acceptability of my bowler, and slipped some tarred gaiters around my ankles to hide the modern shoes.  He handed me a musket and went through some basic drills.

From that weekend, my wife and I did other Civil War events along with our Revolutionary War reenacting, falling in with the 4th OVI.  Some time the following year Capt Shawn Farkus disappeared off the face of the earth, with Vern Woodruff taking his place.  I found myself liking Civil War better than Rev War, probably because there seemed little for a civilian male reenactor to do--so if my wife was to have me join her to the Civil War reenacting, it required me to join as a soldier.  In my Rev War reenacting, I primarily did civilian reenacting--and I always felt a bit out of place.

The following summer my wife and I found ourselves downtown Columbus, Ohio for their annual Independence Day celebration, and ran into a Confederate reenacting group--the 1st Tennessee Co B.

They were there for the parade, and had rented a hotel room in the short north.  My wife--knowing no stranger--managed to get an invite back to their hotel room, and I tagged along.

Now, it hadn't really sunk in with me yet that the uniform color really only mattered (in general) on the battlefield.  Out of view of the public, a reenactor (in general) is just someone else in the hobby.  I got to that hotel room, feeling a bit awkward.  Do I tell these guys that I wear blue?  Are they just waiting to gang up on me?

The hotel room was packed.  In one corner I found a small group playing cards.  I found out they were playing Euchre.

That changed everything.

In high school, Euchre was a required course--they called it "Study Hall".  I played a lot of Euchre.  But since getting married I didn't have anyone to play.  So when I saw that game in that hotel room, I couldn't help but ask if I could join in while my wife wandered the room, making sure there were no strangers there.

We continued with both Civil War and Rev War reenacting for several years, falling in sometimes with the 4th OVI, and sometimes with the 1st TN, depending on the event and who we ran into first. My wife gave me a Federal uniform for Christmas, and the 1st TN's 1st Sergeant outfitted me with Confederate gear.  I still had to borrow a musket, but I was joining in.

Eventually, my wife started following a different direction than me, pursuing a 1st person experience with a specific character, while I stuck to the soldier experience.  Up to this point we always drove home Saturday night to return late Sunday morning, or stayed in a hotel if too far from home.  We started doing different events, and I was freed camp with the rest of the unit.

By now, this was 2009 or so.  I hadn't yet decided to dedicate to a particular unit.  At Reynoldsburg that year, I showed up with my Federal gear and camped with the 4th Ohio.  It was a one-day event at that time, where Sunday was to have a morning tactical, then end.  I discovered the 1st Tennessee was there, so on Friday night, in my Federal gear, I made my way to the 1st TN camp to play Euchre all night long.

I spent Saturday with the 4th OVI, but that night the younger crowd of the 4th ran off to the local pub--something I wasn't into--while the older folk took to bed early.  That left me with no choice but to wander back to the 1st TN camp and play more Euchre.

Needless to say, it was that event that sold me to the 1st Tennessee--and things haven't been the same since.

Am I a slave to a deck of cards?  It's funny--that first year after that we played Euchre every chance we had.  This past year, we played maybe three games the entire season.

Since that time both the 4th OVI and 1st Tennessee have changed into completely different units.  Had the 4th been what I have found them to be today, I probably would have stayed with them all those years ago.  But because of the directions that were taken, I am now a part of bringing both these units together to work together in the field.

The only constant is change.

Next time--tips to get into the hobby, and recruiting tips for units.