I am now a raging farb, and disavow all of this. This article is provided merely for the sake of historical interest. My now-more-knowing comments are enclosed in brackets. - Jonah
A New Type of Reenactment Group
by Jonah Begone
This document describes a hypothetical Civil War reenactment unit. It is characterized and would be governed by the statements below, which if fully followed describe no other reenactment group presently in the field. It is assumed that breaking away from or sapping members away from any present group would only be advisable if something unique and enjoyable would result. Hence the rather extreme and inflexible nature of these statements.
What makes this group different? To begin with, the kind of events it attends. Heavy emphasis on tacticals and battle reenactments (in that order), with a very occasional laid-back living history event as a sort of social relaxation. By design, this would be a "rough-and-tumble" late or middle war field infantry unit with the sort of people that don't mind sleeping out uncomfortably, plodding through rivers and brush and just generally getting dirty. It is recognized that tacticals and battle reenactments are rarely, if ever, paid events. This leads us to
Budgetary concerns. This is really no concern since there is no budget and no annual dues. Members are expected to pay their own pre-registration fees (through a unit secretary to keep the event sponsors from becoming confused), food, powder and percussion cap expenses.
What would it be named? Since the unit would be memorializing the common private soldier, the historical regiment selected should be of the "common" variety: that is, one that is generally overlooked in the pages of history. One guideline is that the "famous" regiments - the 1st Minnesota, 5th New York, 5th New Hampshire, 20th Maine, etc. - are left to other reenactment groups. This group would have no particular reputation to live up to, be it superhuman or dishonored, and therefore the members would be expected to merely act human, as the historical soldiers behaved. The phrase "Quiet in the Ranks!" would have no meaning here.
How about camp equipment, flags, wall and A-tents, etc.? We'd have none of that: big tents cost money and are a pain for individual members to store and lug to events. Every man carries all his own food, cookware and shelter on his person. No flags to insist upon carrying to the irritation of event sponsors.
Uniform regs? There are none. However, since it is expected that form would follow function in a group of this sort, comfort would be the deciding factor in clothing. This means that slouch hats, horse-collars, tucked-in trousers and sack coats would be preferred to forage caps, knapsacks, gaiters and frock coats. Any combination of these items is acceptable, however. No "alternate" infantry impressions - Zouave articles, sharpshooter greens, dark blue trousers, havelocks, etc. - would be permitted. Corps badges and hat brass within reason is okay (perhaps to be interpreted by vote). Springfield or Enfield rifles, and all items to be of an authentic "Jarnagin" standard. [This was obviously before Jarnagin was derided by the hardcores for being a farb sutler!]
How about rank structure? The basic philosophy here is that a "top-heavy" unit would be avoided at all costs. One Corporal per 5-6 men, one Sergeant per 10-12 men, one Second Lieutenant per 20-25 men, with the provision that all members be able to do a Private's impression if fewer than 5 or 6 men show up at an event. All ranks over Private are voted upon. The only other position in the group other than military rank ones would be secretary. As far as voting at meetings goes, all full members have an equal say in all matters, and nothing in the way of "privileged information" is kept from anyone. Also, meetings are kept to a minimum number: the emphasis is on what we're organized for, not the organization itself. [Eternal words. Still a problem.]
Who can join? Any male over the age of 18. It is intended that all members be riflemen: no sutlers, cooks, pioneers, engineers, surgeons, hospital stewards, vivandieres, washerwomen, camp followers, women assuming male impressions or musicians allowed. A probationary period would separate the "recruits" from the full members. This is provided so that if the rather arduous nature of this group's involvement doesn't suit someone, he may back out of membership with no feeling of guilt from unmet commitments.
Obesity is only a problem if a member finds that he cannot keep up on the march or endangers his fellow reenactors by failing to keep his loaded musket away from the faces of the men in the back row. Members with habitual safety problems will be asked to leave the unit.
Event Schedule: Voted upon event-by-event by the members, even if only one event in the season is designated as a unit event. Since participation in a group of this sort would have to be strictly voluntary, there are no "maximum effort events." Also, the group would not expect exclusive membership - there are many events that are suited to other reenactment groups that members might want to do outside of this group. It is hoped, however, that the sense of camaraderie and esprit de corps that would naturally develop in a unit this unique would influence its members to do the tacticals and battle reenactments with the group.
Unit cohesiveness above all: All members (including the officers) sleep outdoors - no motels, campers or modern camps. All members eat together in camp: no "in-town" dining. As far as possible, all members march and fight shoulder-to-shoulder together in the company formation by special request from the unit NCO or officer in charge to the company officer. These measures will further along the member interdependency and friendship structure that will set this group apart from all others.
Recruiting: Obviously, this unit isn't for everyone, and this should be taken into account by its members. It is probable that the maximum turnout for any event will be comparatively small. That's okay - it doesn't take many reenactors to have a good event, and a unit of 5 or 6 like-minded friends may be better than a unit fielding 15 or 20 men of opposing philosophies. To steal a quote from the U.S. Marines, we would be looking for "a few good men."
Recruiting will be difficult, and probably shouldn't be emphasized as a unit activity. It is anticipated that those who are attracted to this type of unit will come forth as members from other units, hearing about it by word of mouth. Since this unit is designed to be strictly "part-time" (without a full event schedule) this shouldn't be a problem. It's hard to believe that any other unit would be so autocratic as to have an argument with another unit that is 100% voluntary! [Ha! How naive! Units have arguments with other units over nothing!]
Liability insurance: someone in the unit could accidentally injure someone else at an event and that person could choose to sue. Since nobody wants to have all of his possessions taken away from him, some sort of insurance is probably advisable. This costs money, which, ideally, the unit doesn't collectively have. Would the unit's non-incorporated status protect the other members from the actions of a single member?
Involvement in National Regiment/Warren's Brigade/Cumberland Guard/etc. events. On the face of it, if the unit were to attend an event sponsored by one of these big groups, it would have to attend as an "Unattached Other." ["U.O.'s" now known as, I believe, "the Second Corps."] This may not be preferable. On the other hand, membership in these big groups requires adherence to their uniform regs, dues, etc. which is not in keeping with the spirit of this regiment. How is this resolved?
Reenactor burn-out: a phenomenon of "hard-core" reenactment groups. Guys get older, married, tired, etc. and weary of "the same old thing" at tacticals and battle reenactments. How do we keep a stable membership? [Require lobotomies.]
Too much democracy: if members are allowed to vote on all issues (including altering this constitution, thereby changing the unique nature of the group), there is a possibility that nothing will get done, members will leave, etc. However, this is more in keeping with the spirit of this group than rule by an autocracy.
One last point: this group is not meant to be an affront to female reenactors or reenactors with back problems or health problems that require them to sleep in cots or motels, etc. It is merely an alternative. [Nowadays I don't care about insulting female musketmen. Back then I did.]
It is obvious that, despite the problems inherent in a unit of this type, it has a lot to offer. Communication is probably more important than hard work in getting such a group started, and if given enough time the unit will undoubtedly grow and flourish. [Perhaps there are some groups like this out there...]