you have mastered a background and civilian life for a
first person impression, you may want to do more with
that skill at a living history or event. Some of these
are quite simple, but always peak curiosity among the
public and other reenactors. Try them and I would love
any feedback or suggestions at email@example.com
HUNT FOR GRAY BACKS: Find a pard or two and remove
your blouse or frock coat. Sit down on a log or the ground
and look over your coat carefully. This was a common function
of the soldier as he de-louses his clothes (gray colored
louses commonly called Gray Backs by the soldiers. This
will always elicit a "What the heck ya doing?!"
PLAY A GAME OF CHANCE: Find 2 or more (I have held
games of 10-15 and it easy to do (split in two groups))
pard and grab a gum blanket. Chuck-A-Luck or "Sweat"
was a dice game that was very popular amongst the soldiers.
Many a man lost a chunk of his meager income at this game
(try it and you'll see)!. Of course, gambling for money
is illegal, but I suggest playing for a small gift or
choice of duties, etc. I have made copies of repro, postage
currency (called Shinplasters) for use as chips during
the game. Since this game is little known by most of the
public, it usually peaks curiosity and draws people closer
to see what everyone is milling around a gum blanket for.
Please refer a previous article I wrote on how to play
the game or email me and I'll get them to you. Also, a
pickup game of Poker is also similar in effect. Even on
those short reprieves while on the march, many a reenactor
is willing to play a few hands to kill the time while
he is all waiting for the march to resume.
DO SOME PERIOD COOKING: I haven't quite figured
out why this raises so much curiosity among visitors and
other reenactors is beyond me, but it usually does! Cook
up some rations (salt pork, bacon, potatoes beans, etc)
in a canteen half or skillet over an open fire. Layout
your food on a nearby gum blanket and people will inevitably
ask "what are ya cookin?" I will be writing
another article soon that will include some palatable
period recipes. Adding a period ration issue also adds
another element to your impression.
CHALLENGE STRANGERS ON PICKET DUTY: While on your
post during guard duty you can get bored. So, to make
it more interesting, why not actually guard!? This can
be difficult if you are on a main road as you will need
to yield most people through your post and not hold up
others as you engage in first person (don't block up the
road!). But, you can challenge both the public and other
reeanctors. As they approach, call out "Who comes
there!?". Most people won't know how to answer. In
many cases if they don't know the countersign or know
what to say to me, I'll call out, "Advance one with
the countersign!" and I'll waive one of them to me.
I'll whisper the countersign to them and thus it looks
as if they have given me the countersign. Then when they
pass again, they will know it. Of course, if you are in
a live tactical situation and need to keep integrity in
the picket line, then all bets are off and won't want
to reveal your countersign. Issuing passes to your unit
will also add more realism to your event.
MOCK PUNISHMENTS: Many of you have already engaged
in this and already seen the hilarity in it (maybe at
the expense of a good-natured pard). But, the public will
also find this equally hilarious and also inquire as to
what is going on. Of course be careful in the treatment
of your victim. Riding the wooden horse, buck and gag,
standing on a barrel or wearing a placard, marching a
beat with a log or pack full of rocks is also effective.
Provide a guard to supervise the activity to add more
realism. Be careful and have fun with this one.
EXCHANGES WITH THE ENEMY: If you've reenacted even
a short time, you will probably know a few people in the
enemy's camp. Pre-arrange a time and place to meet (preferable
where the public will see if at a living history or reenactment
that is for the public). Federals bring coffee or some
other ration and Confederates bring Tobacco to exchange.
This can raise some curiosity as to why enemies are engaged
in such a manner.
PAROLE PRISONERS: In a similar vain as #6, you
will need a couple of friends from the enemy camp. Arrange
a meeting place outside of both camps or just after a
battle is good. Have your enemy pards remove all their
leathers and have them unarmed. At fixed bayonet, march
prisoners to your camp. Have an officer interrogate them
briefly and then have them sign an Oath of Allegiance
form and parole them out. This is not only a lot of fun,
but also interests both reenactors and the public. It
is something we don't see happen a lot and we probably
should do more.I have various forms I would be happy to
provide you a copy of or you can purchase kits from Sullivan
Press at http://members.aol.com/sullpress/
WRITE A LETTER: While in camp search around for
a scrap of paper (a cartridge wrapper, scrap of newspaper,
etc). Then hunt up a pencil and write a letter. The process
of hunting up a scrap piece of paper and writing on a
scrap will also illicit some questions and interest. I
also recommend making copies of some repro stamps and
carry them in your period wallet for your letters. Fold
it up and seal with some wax. address and stamp it. You
could even give it to a spectator.
MAIL CALL: This activity takes more preparation
or participation than most, but it can be very rewarding
and fun. Prior to the event, contact others in your unit
and ask them to write a period letter on period paper.
Many of the malls have stationary stores that carry various
styles of writing size paper. If you're ambitious, you
can organize the mail call yourself. If you are willing
to write each letter with quill and ink then that is great,
but if time is not on your side, here is a good option:
If you have a computer that has a word processor with
various fonts, then you can very closely reproduce period
writing. Compose several letters on your PC and print
them on your period paper. Write as many as you have energy
to write. You can even use the same letter twice by changing
the name and sending it to someone else in the unit (try
not to do this very much as most reenactors will share
their letters). Then fold the paper twice from the ends
and seal it with wax. If you have a wax seal then can
use it as well. Glue on a period, repro or copy stamp.
Stack and tie up the letters with some hemp or cotton
twine. Have the 1st Srgt call "Mail Call" and
have him issue the letters. If we are to reenact this
properly, we should show great excitement at Mail Call
as this was so very important to the soldiers.
USE SLANG: Slang changes with the times and most
people are not familiar with the slang of the 1860's.
By using period slang you will enhance your first person
impression greatly! If it seems a bit juvenile, then you
need to consider the average age of the Civil War soldier.
Rather than list a dictionary of terms, I refer you to
an article on the subject of Slang at: http://www.authentic-campaigner.com
. Look under Articles and then Articles on First Person.
Aside from the slang article, this site is GREAT!
am sure that you will come up with other new ideas. I
hope the ideas I have listed will inspire you with some
new ones. These activities have varying amounts of required
preparation, but the one requirement is participation.
I encourage everyone to participate and join in the fun
of a variety of activities.
Butler of the Huckleberry Mess