Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Become a Reenactor Part 1

Everything written here are my sole opinions and observations and do not represent the opinions or observations of anyone else or any organization

With the reenacting season now over, I thought it a good idea to find something to keep this blog going for the off-season.  Here and there I've been asked the question, "How do I become a reenactor?"

I've thought about answering the question with humor.  After all, most of us are a bit nuts.  On overly hot days--say in the nineties--we'll don wool trousers over cotton drawers, followed by a wool vest and wool jacket, a hat, a large leather belt with a cartridge box, percussion cap box, and bayonet hanging from it, a canteen full of water (a half gallon for those fully prepared), and a haversack full of various food items.  For the excessively zealous, we'll also wear a 30-pound knapsack on our backs, or a quilted bedroll around our neck.  And of course, there's the 5 to 10 pound musket on our shoulder.

And on wet days we'll add a poncho to keep our gear dry while the rest of us gets soaked to the bone (remember it's wool?) with mud up to our thighs.

And with all that on, in the heat of the day, we'll gather around the campfire with the smoke stinging our eyes just to add a bit of reenactor perfume to our countenance.

And on overly cold days we'll add a heavy greatcoat (a wool winter coat) to the mix along with fingerless gloves so that only our fingers, ears, and noses get frostbit.  The smart ones protect their ears by flapping the greatcoat's cape over their head, but then any chance of seeing is gone.

When night falls, the daring will sleep on the ground between some tar-painted canvas and a rubberized poncho beside the campfire with a stack of logs--waking every so often during the night to throw another log of the fire, hoping they don't turn in their sleep and end up in the fire.

On the really cold nights, we sleep in our clothes, with a greatcoat or two on top of a ton of blankets to keep warm by, only to be immobilized by the weight of the blankets, yet still shiver from the cold.

Sound like fun?

I think it's a blast.

Of course, the height of the weekend is the battle, with only rain being the only show-stopper for the thrill (powder does not burn too well when wet).  But even if it does rain, it's got to be a hurricane-level downpour to put a stop to our battles and our fun.

But there's also the time spent with friends who also share an interest in reenacting.  We are all sorts of people--some are doctors, some work maintenance, some are architects, others police officers.  Others, like me, are computer programmers, while still others are engineers.  There are janitors and assembly-line workers among us.  One I know is a city attorney who plays in a rock band.  Heck, we've even got a comedian.  As disparate our lives are, we all share one thing in common--Civil War reenacting.

So, now that I've sold you on all the perks, how does one become a reenactor?

Every reenactor has a different story as to how they got into the hobby.  A few in the 1st Tennessee started as kids, even before they were old enough to carry a musket (16 is the minimum age to carry a musket on the field for the 1st Tennessee and for most companies).  Others got into it late in life, stumbling on a reenactment, and offered a taste of the experience.  When you find a good unit, they usually have enough spare gear to outfit you until you can get your own stuff, so you shouldn't have to dump a bunch of money down right away to get started--but you certainly can get the bug quick.

I'll start by telling my story, and finish by giving some tips as to how to get into the hobby, and how you might select a unit to join with.   I'd love it if you found the 1st Tennessee Company B and join with us--but there are plenty of good companies out there--and some may be more suited to you than others.

Some time in the early 2000s, when I was still in my thirties, my wife dragged me to a Revolutionary War reenactment.

"Rev War?" you might ask.  "I thought we were talking Civil War."  Yeah--I'm getting to that.

To be continued...

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