Re-enacting is a great hobby, if you are prepared to abide by the rules. Ask yourself a few questions before you commit yourself ?
1. Are you prepared to 'live' 150 years in the past for a few days?
2. Are you and your family prepared to dress in period costume?
3. Are your children prepared to leave all their 21st century toys behind?
4. Will you participate in ALL aspects of camp life?
5. Will you abide by ALL the Society and Health & Safety rules?
If the answer to all these questions is yes, then you will make a good re-enactor. So lets go through each point in turn and explain what we mean.
1. 'Living in the past' means switching off your mobile phones, and leaving radios, CD players, portable TV's and hand held computer games at home, or in your tent or caravan on the Family Camp. The American Civil War was fought in the mid nineteenth century before many of the inventions we take for granted today i.e. wrist watches and anything made of plastic. As the ACWS strive for authenticity at all times members keep all modern conveniences out of sight. We eat from metal plates and bowls and drink from metal cups. If the children want a drink of pop or juice, pour it into one of these cups. Crisps are, believe it or not, authentic, but not so the foil packets they come in today, so put them in a bowl. Tinned food was available in the 1860's and can be seen around camp, but remember to take the label off.
2. Soldiers whether Union or Confederate wear authentic uniforms. These can be bought from around £70 and consist of:-
a pair of trousers, a jacket, a kepi and a leather belt
Black leather boots must be worn. The ladies wear long skirts or dresses and ankle boots or shoes with a low or flat heel are best as the ground can be very uneven. Boots can have elasticated sides buttons or laces, but no zips.
Charity Shops and Car Boot Sales are a good source for acquiring colarless shirts (not too garish in colour or pattern please). Or dresses that can be altered and adapted i.e. bridesmaids dresses.
Other items such as paraffin lamps, jugs and kettles can be picked up for a few pounds, or you can buy them from the various Sutlers who attend events.
3. Children are very welcome on camp. You will find that they do not miss their Barbie Dolls or computer games as they make new friends and enjoy the freedom of being outside in the fresh air all day. It has been known for children to ask to go to bed because they are so tired. We encourage the older children to look after and play with the younger ones. Baseball games are always popular with children of all ages (and adults). Another activity children enjoy is learning to play the fife and drum. John Fairfield, the Society Drum Major, is a great favourite with the children and he holds regular band practices for them. When they are old enough they lead the troops out onto the field before a battle, leaving the field before the start of the battle. This helps give them a sense of belonging to the society.
4. Roll Call is the first activity of the day and everyone must be present on camp by 8.30am, even the youngest member. Those taking the field, should also take part in Company and Battalion Drill, unless you have other duties such as making up rounds or guarding the gate or powder tent. There are other duties that you will be expected to carry out. The ladies of the regiment usually do the cooking, the men being asked to cooperate by keeping the wood and water in good supply. All cooking is done over an open fire. Each member of the regiment is asked to keep the fire going throughout the day. Wood is our only fuel, it needs to be brought from the woodpile and stacked and chopped. Water is also a very necessary commodity, this too has to be brought to the camp. Everyone is asked that if you use water from a kettle, that you refill it and make sure that if you empty a water carrier that you see that it is refilled from the standpipe.
Be prepared to take part in small scenarios e.g. Mail Call, Pay Parade or a Court Marshall. These provide entertainment for the visiting public, as well as being a lot of fun for those taking part.
5. Rules and Regulations always seem a bore, but they do serve a purpose and should always be obeyed, as they are there for you and your family's benefit.
Roll Call is not only the first military activity of the day, it also provides a comprehensive list of members at the event incase of a serious accident such as a fire. On the subject of fire, regular Fire Drills take place so that even the youngest members of the society know what to do should a fire break out.
Training in the use and handling of a musket is given to all new recruits who intend to take the field, before they are allowed to take part in a battle.
Be prepared to listen to those members who have been re-enacting for many years, as their knowledge is invaluable to new members.
Once the public have gone, re-enactors enjoy a good social life. Many sit around the campfire for a few drinks and a chat or a sing song, others organise games such as baseball. Inter-regimental games are not unknown. Although there is a midnight curfew on drinking and singing, the evening does not necessarily cease at that time, as long as the noise is kept to a minimum.
Not all activities take place on the field at ACWS events. Many regiments organise social events and visit each other thoughout the year. The society also holds an Annual Dance in November or December and this is a good chance to catch up with friends during the closed season.
We hope that this gives you some help and advice on how to become a re-enactor and enjoy re-enacting.
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