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Musing on Where (Or is it Wear?) to take my Impression

Discussion in 'Impressions of the Civil War' started by Western Reserve Volunteer, May 15, 2018.

  1. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    Basically at the moment I am contemplating whether to presume a cavalry or infantry impression. I have or am working on gaining a lot of the prerequisite skills for a cavalry impression, as I am a intermediate level rider and also am part of a historical fencing club and am trying to take up sabre (I can already use longsword\katana). I have most of a passable impression going for almost any branch (sack coats are really great in this regard), but don't own any weapons and have several other bits of misc. kit to pick up besides.

    While I do want to try and fall in with a bigger unit at some point, I suspect that any interactions with them I might have would be more akin to how I do conventions for my other hobbies, generally falling in only when going to reenactments and thus I will likely still be doing individual living history work for the most part.

    I know some people are hugely dismayed with dismounted cavalry, and I will concede that it is an over done, and poorly done by most. But seeing as I expect that in the long run I will at most only be able to rent a horse, or borrow others, I suppose I will have to be dismounted most of the time. Not that this was unheard of during the war, and I think I can do a better job than many, but I have already received a lot of back lash for merely contemplating getting into a cav impression on a-certain-forum-that-shant-be-named. At this point I am unsure wether it is wisest to pursue the infantry impression so many seem to do simply for sake of conformity, or to try and work on cavalry as I already have some of the skills it requires and also it corresponds to some of my other hobbies. I humbly seek everyone's sage advice.


    On a related note, a few quick questions:
    1. Did cavalry wear their haversack & canteen on them as in the infantry? I know they didn't have knapsacks as their saddlebags answered much of the same need, but I assume their equivalent of a "mess kit" was fairly uniform across branches?
    2. One of my favorite books for quick & detailed reference is Coggins' Arms & Equipment. Unfortunately, it was written during the centennial so sometimes what it says is suspect as scholarship marches on. I have noted that more recent sources often show the tin cup hung by the haversack closure as seen above. Coggins depicts it as commonly hung from the canteen cork chain. He dose however state sometimes the cup replaced the canteen entirely, so... Is Coggins depiction also correct for having both cup and canteen? Did soldiers actually discard the canteen later in the war as he suggests, perhaps explaining the wearing of them on the haversack closure? I did find in my "field test" in the latest event that the cup was something of a encumbrance if one merely wanted to retrieve a quick snack from their haversack, which has made me think Coggins was on to something. Or are Coggins thoughts on the matter merely influenced by reenactorisms of times long past?
     
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  3. Cpl. Smith

    Cpl. Smith Sergeant

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    While I'll give you a question; do you want/mind taking care of a horse all weekend?
    If yes do cav if not do infantry. Simple as that.
     
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  4. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    Then pick the unit FIRST so you don't waste countless hours and $$$$$ on what will turn out to be useless impedimentia!

    That's putting it mildly; what are you even considering such a pointless and fruitless move for in the first place since you say you "know" all this criticism?
     
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  5. Old Breck

    Old Breck Private

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    I'm not entirely sure what this means. Either you want to reenact or not. It's not really a thing you can do individually. Does "individual living history work" mean busking in a old-timey costume? Cause that's not really reenacting. I'm not sure what that is.

    If you really want to participate in the hobby, you need to join a group. Even the most mainstream group is a better starting point than an internet forum. I get that in this day and age, it can seem easier and less intimidating to ask the internet rather than, you know, talk to people, but the only way you can learn about participating in the hobby is to participate in the hobby

    Or you could do infantry

    I think the issue on Bob Szabo's cwreenactors forum was that you only expected people give you the answers you wanted.

    The bottom line is that you can do whatever it is you want to do, but to really participate in this hobby, you need to join a group and learn as you go. They may not be what you are looking for, and you'll learn that as you go. I've quit many different groups, and only attend the campaigner events now. I can't stand the local events. That's what works for me. Something might work different for you. But trying to do your own thing really isn't feasible to actually participate.

    You'll learn the "Specialty Impressions Area" of the event is the Black Hole of Calcutta in the living history community
     
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  6. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    What I meant by "individual living history work" is exactly that: giving presentations & doing both 1st and 3rd person interpretive work. While on fortunate occasion I am joined by others, the nature of my work as a local living history profession (aka historical societies with little funding for such events which usually precludes large group participation) usually means I work alone.

    While I do want to reenact, what I am saying is that it would not be the only context in which I would be using my impression, and that it is for that purpose primarily and reenacting secondarily my impression would be serving, so I don't necessarily want to be confined by particular units standards since I see my participation with as being more of an informal arrangement of mutual convenience than strictly full membership.

    I honestly fail to see how trying to incorporate my own pre-exisitng skills (horsemanship, swordsmanship), skills which I readily practice and am already practicing into my impression ought to be verboten. It simply seems to me to be a natural evolution of the skills I have acquired, and a natural growth of the kit I have already got. But since apparently it is, perhaps I shall simply borrow what infantry gear from whatever unit I fall in with, and perhaps pursue the cavalry impression outside of the reenacting hobby.
     
    Last edited: May 15, 2018
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  7. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    Ha! Corporal I am beginning to think the Horses will be more pleasant company!
     
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  8. Cpl. Smith

    Cpl. Smith Sergeant

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    There a lot if work and responsibility.
    Good luck buddy!
     
  9. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    No horse, no Cav. It's as simple as that. Hauling a horse requires the truck & trailer as well as fodder & if traveling between states often vets paperwork and insurance. Infantry is a LOT cheaper and as I'm lazy a lot less work.

    There were a lot more Infantry than Cav and it was the Infantry that did the fighting and dieing. Skill w/ a Katana does not really equate to skill w/a Cav sabre. A Katana was an infantry weapon. I'm quite skilled w/ a Yari but that in no way prepared me for ACW re-enacting or Living History.
     
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  10. captaindrew

    captaindrew 2nd Lieutenant Trivia Game Winner

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    With a good infantry impression you could attend any event at any place and find a home. Seems pretty simple to me. Some events don't even allow dismounted cavalry anymore.
     
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  11. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    I’m not sure how people got “skill with a katana = skill with a Sabre” out of my posts but that is not what I said at all. I am learning Sabre right now from people who are skilled in it, I only bring up my katana in reference to the fact I have a preexisting interest and ability in swords. Other than that they are very different weapons in terms of technique and learning Sabre requires more skill and strength. Both, it should be said require far more skill to wield than any polearm be they of the eastern or western persuasion.

    I have come to the conclusion that I will likely pursue an infantry impression for the moment, and simply rely upon loaner gear from other people/units, and any sword related equipment I buy will be strictly for my other hobby.
     
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  12. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    Excellent point! Acquiring a horse with accouterments for a weekend has to be an expensive and difficult proposition. It is not at all like renting a car. The horse must be cared for, cleaned, fed and watered.
    Unless one owns a horse, it is very difficult to reenact cavalry.
     
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  13. WJC

    WJC Moderator Moderator

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    As I understand it, a cavalryman carried virtually everything on his person or attached to his saddle, including a canteen, saddlebags, a rolled canvas feed & water bag, his pistol (or pistols), carbine, and saber.
    Perhaps some of our more knowledgeable members can give a better answer.
     
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  14. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    Thanks, that is some useful info. It makes sense that the cavalry would want to keep most of their equipment with their horses. From what I have seen from the videos put out by the excellent 11th OVC, cavalrymen seem to have been very encumbered with both their carbines and sabers to mess about with whilst mounting and dismounting so probably would not want mess kit jangling about on top of that.

    My plan, originally, was to try and act as a dismounted support to others with horses or borrow a horse on occasion from others whatever unit I fell in with. But suppose that for someone who has put in the great work to train their horse for combat, asking to use them even to learn the necessary skills is like asking to borrow someone’s wife.

    I am seriously considering doing an artilery impression now as there is a local unit, the 19th OVLA, that I am going to try an fall in with, and I have both knowledge and interest in artillery. Contemplating specifically being either a guidon bearer or driver for the artillery team... any idea what these guys would be doing while the cannon was unlimbered? Looking after horses, assisting with handing ammo to the gunners?

    I do sort of wish there was a unit focused on portraying the Ohio Volunteer Millita/Ohio National Guard as those units had a longer term presence in the Western Reserve and I find their history fascinating (the prescence of oddities and antiques in term of equipment is part of my interest in it, I confess, however. The NUG crowd would have an anuresim just looking at the returns of the state arsenal in ‘65).
     
  15. sammyba83

    sammyba83 Private

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    I don't pretend to know how every unit does things, but I doubt you'll have much success joining an artillery unit specifically and only as a driver or bearer. Unless the unit you'd join actually has the horseflesh to haul and position their gun and caisson, chances are there won't be need for a driver and, if the unit does have the thousands and thousands of dollars worth of horse and carriage, they might not be willing to have anyone but the owner of the horses handle the team, or at least someone with more experience and time with the unit. You may have better luck though. If interested in joining a section or battery, would you be willing to serve the gun? That would likely be your best bet to A) contribute to the unit, and B) have an authentic impression. There are many others here more knowledgeable about artillery drill and procedures than me, but I've always been under the impression all members of a given section or battery were trained and expected to be able to serve where needed in action due to attrition and casualties.

    I understand where you are coming from, I think. But I'd recommend trying to be a bit more open-minded about your impression and what your role will be in any given unit. From my relatively limited experience, this would be helpful in any arm of the service within the hobby of reenacting. The "NUG crowd" don't hold their opinions to stifle anyone's creativity or enjoyment. They (and I) hold these opinions because it results in the most accurate, workable impression for everyone, from the members of your unit to the spectators.

    I think you will find that once you've joined a unit, shown yourself to have a great attitude, a desire to learn, a dedication to authenticity and (most importantly) a focus on safety, you will be able to develop the nuances and specifics of your individual first-person a bit more. By that I mean, if you join an artillery group, don't show up for your first event telling everyone that your first-person is a master swordsman who is fluent in Japanese and, because of your Quaker faith, can only bear the colors or mind the horses during the battle. Instead, show up with the best kit you can, listen to suggestions, and focus on blending in well to the unit as a whole. Then, once you're an official dues-paying member and have contributed reliably to the unit's impression, you can start to personalize what you're doing within reason. Does this mean being the only #3 on the crew that also engages the enemy at saber point? No. But a reasonable individual touch to your uniform, or a well-researched bit of background for your first-person, can add a lot for you and the public.

    The thing is really this, in my opinion: reenacting the American Civil War in a military role should not and realistically cannot be an individual endeavor, or a time to "stand-out." Un less you are the spitting-image of McClellan, Burnside or some other major figure AND (he emphasized) you are actually INVITED to portray that person at events, you need to come to terms with being, as the original men were, lost in the crowd. My opinion. Good luck!
     
  16. unicornforge

    unicornforge First Sergeant

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    I guess it depends. .... When Charlie Tarbox had a mounted artillery unit with single cannon in Gettysburg, he was looking for people who would ride and take care of the horses, and nothing else because the horses had to be attended at all times, including/especially when the cannoneers were firing the cannon.

    If what you wish is to take care of horses, then your best bet is to see what mounted artillery or cav is near you and talk to them. That said, I borrowed a horse when I was invited to a cavalry training weekend over 20 years ago.... had an accident, went to the emergency room, and my leg took a good seven years or so to finish healing. Two nice gentlemen took me to the emergency room, but after that I went home rather than sleep in the my tent-half in March with ice-cold water seeping out of the swamp we were camping in and into my blanket. They wanted to wait till they were finished with the weekend before helping me get home.. Not every group is safety minded. If it were my horse that I was going to ride, I would have turned around and gone home as soon as I saw the marshy ground they were going to practice on, and not endangered my horse or myself. But as a beginner rider, and on a borrowed horse and tack .... well my wife would never let me go near those people again.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2018
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  17. johan_steele

    johan_steele Colonel Retired Moderator

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    I've known a lot of gents with horses over the years and I don't know a one who would let a stranger use his horse. There aren't that many fully mounted guns out there and those that are have a LOT of money invested in them. An enthusiastic amateur can do some very expensive damage if they aren't careful enough. There aren't a lot of real Cav units out there either. Letting a complete stranger on the back of their horse is an invitation to have a horses ear thumped or someone discharge a pistol between their ears.

    Now having someone volunteer to care for the horse is another thing altogether that is hugely appreciated and helps that person gain familiarization with the horse or horses and lets the unit decide whether trust is warranted. So before borrowing a horse there will be a good amount of familiarization; or there should be. A lot of research will also be expected, or it should be.

    A willingness to be flexible is a requirement for a quality unit. Any new member arrives with the realization they are the fresh fish or the new guy with a lot to learn. When they show that willingness they can go far in a unit and contribute a lot becoming a valued member of the organization.

    NUG & PEC standards and attitudes allow a large degree of versatility in presentation. The idea being that from a base a unit can easily transition from an early to late war impression. It also keeps leopard skin trousers and such at bay. But it does require some coin and some discipline to create such. Honestly though I believe approaching the hobby w/ a PEC/NUG attitude when making purchases can save money in the long run.
     
  18. James Brenner

    James Brenner Private

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    You've gotten some great advice and I can't add too much more to it. I would recommend, though, that you research actual infantry/cavalry/artillery units originally from the NE Ohio area - I assume that's where you live. It's a cheap (Google books, Interlibrary Loan, Archive.org, etc.) and easy way to help you figure what it is you want to do in reenacting. The only other thing to add is an admonition to remember that when talking to a unit - just like a job interview - you are evaluating them just as they are evaluating you. If it ain't a good fit, save yourself some time, money, and heartache and keep looking.

    Okay. I fibbed. One more thing: Wikipedia is not research.
     
  19. James N.

    James N. Major Forum Host Civil War Photo Contest
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    I've mentioned this incident before, so to summarize it, at the 125th Anniversary Reenactment of First Manassas back in 1986, a friend of mine who was the lieutenant colonel of a Confederate infantry regiment borrowed a mount from another friend who owned his own 10-pounder Parrott and team. One would think the horse would have been acclimated to gunfire, BUT...

    The regiment marched off, down a hill into a swale below several cannon; when they fired a salvo, the borrowed mount reared and toppled backward atop its rider, grinding him into the ground with the saddle and separating his pelvis! The meat wagon soon arrived and he was carried off the field on a body board to it and whisked to the nearest hospital where he spent the next several weeks in traction. I had a similar close call while working on Glory, but fortunately no injury. So much for borrowed horses!
     
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  20. Western Reserve Volunteer

    Western Reserve Volunteer Private

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    I am currently looking at joining up with the 16th Ohio Light Artillery, who I finally managed to meet on Monday. To my knowledge, and others feel free to correct me, they and the Statehouse Battery (1st OVLA Batry A) are the only artillery groups in the state. We don't have much in the way of battlefields here and it is bloody expensive hobby, neither state being conducive to the hobby. Wherever they choose to stick me (if they choose to take me) is where I will gladly go... people seem to not get though that I am really trying to have two impressions, one for reenacting and one for living history, that utilize the same gear more or less.

    I consider myself an intermediate rider, and since I do not own a horse, but rather pay for lessons technically I am always riding a borrowed horse (for paid levels of borrowing!). That said if I were riding another horse, I would take time to get used to them in training first before mucking about on the field. I have dealt with cantankerous horses before, and impaired horses for that matter (it used to be a stable joke that myself and Quarry Lane, the horse I used to ride, were "Team Special Needs" as we had one working pancreas, and one good eye between the two of us!) so I am probably more confident than most with horses, rightly or wrongly. I have also mucked around a bit with driving carriages with some success, though I am certainly a beginner in that case.
     
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