Share your "bad history" questions from events or reenactments

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General Casey

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I always loved the "Is that a real fire?" question. I would usually respond with, "Well, why don't you stick your hand in and find out"

Another one I got asked frequently was where were the thousands of black Confederates.

In the early 2000s a book was released the hypothesized that Lincoln was gay so we had a lot of questions about that.

Another spectator insisted that Lincoln owned slaves because, as she put it, "Mary Lincoln, as a woman, was Lincoln's property and is therefore equal to slaves since she had no rights."

And then there was the one who insisted that all slaves were happy and wanted to be slaves and that's why they had rebellions because they wanted to stay enslaved and were told they were going to be freed.
 
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leftyhunter

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Anybody have examples of “bad history” questions asked of reenactors at living history events or reenactments?

I do not mean questions like, “Is that a real fire?” or "Are you hot in that?" Although those are fun, I mean questions that show a lack of education about history in general and the Civil War era in particular.

Here are some I’ve been asked:
  • At a Civil War living history event, I had a teenager ask me if the Civil War occurred before or after WWII. I thought he was joking, but then realized he was serious--he really didn't know!
  • While waiting to step off in the New York City St. Patrick's Day parade, I was standing next to a stack of arms consisting of Springfield muzzleloaders, and a youngster from the drill team next to us asked, "Are you guys supposed to be from WWII or something?"
  • Onboard the USS Constellation, which is a US Navy sloop of war, a young woman asked me, "So, where did they keep the slaves?" She really thought they had a former slave ship docked in Baltimore's Inner Harbor as a tourist attraction.
  • At a Civil War living history event, a young woman strode up to me, pointed at my V Corps badge and asked, "Why are you wearing Nazi insignia?"
  • At Ft. McHenry, we were having a Civil War weekend, and a woman stopped me in my Union uniform, pointed at a Union Zouave reenactor from NY walking by and asked, “So, he’s British and you’re...an American?”
  • At the Remembrance Day Parade, I was wearing my Civil War era Marine Corps musician's dress uniform, and a spectator asked, "Are you from France?"
  • Finally, not from an event, but when in middle school, one of my kids (who was reenacting with me at the time) sat through a presentation by a student teacher on the Buffalo Soldiers and their role in the Civil War, which included the song "Buffalo Soldier" by Bob Marley. This was from a teacher, no less.
Please share any you've encountered!
While "Buffalo Soldier" is of course not contemptuous of the time of 9th and 10th Cavalry it nonetheless is a good song to set the Mo for a Buffalo Soldier presentation.
Leftyhunter
 

Crazy Delawares

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I had taught for 38 years (recently retired) and the last time I performed a living historical impression for a 10th grade US History class, a young lady in the back of the class wanted to know if it was real water that I was drinking from my canteen. I responded, "Actually no! I do have to add a drop of water to the mixture and it turns to water right away though." That satisfied her curiosity while her classmates and teacher looked at her rather incredulously.
 
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byron ed

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I had taught for 38 years (recently retired) and the last time I performed a living historical impression for a 10th grade US History class, a young lady in the back of the class wanted to know if it was real water that I was drinking from my canteen. I responded, "Actually no! I do have to add a drop of water to the mixture and it turns to water right away though." That satisfied her curiosity while her classmates and teacher looked at her rather incredulously.
I don't actually subscribe to belittling a kid in front of their peers. A kid's not going to ask a question as a more experienced adult would. You should respect that as a teacher. It was her honest if a bit naive way of asking what was in the canteen -- a fair question -- since it probably wasn't creek water as it would have been back in the day, right? The kid deserved that explanation.

An adult would have been a different matter.
 
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Joshism

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I'm an 8th grade history teacher, covering American history from 1607 to 1877, obviously including the Civil War. I can assure you that MY students are being taught history just fine.
When I was in school (grade school and university too), it always seemed the history teacher was nearly always behind schedule by the end of the semester/year and the last part got rushed as a result. Given how often it happened I have to think it was common. So lots of students get a very abbreviated history of Civil War and Reconstruction.
 
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JeffBrooks

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When I was in school (grade school and university too), it always seemed the history teacher was nearly always behind schedule by the end of the semester/year and the last part got rushed as a result. Given how often it happened I have to think it was common. So lots of students get a very abbreviated history of Civil War and Reconstruction.
The standardized testing regime has changed this. Anything in the state standards can be on the test, so teachers don't have to luxury to miss anything. The drawback is that several weeks before the test have to be devoted to reviewing for the test. In my case, for example, the test is taken in mid-May, but the colonial era might feature heavily on the test and the students had covered it all the way back in September. So I have to finish up the content on the Civil War and Reconstruction by late April at the latest, so that I can review for the test with my students and give them the best chance of passing.

Adding insult to injury, there are still a few weeks of the school year left after the test is over, during which time the state doesn't really care what we do with the students.

This means, in effect, that the test robs test robs teachers of perhaps an entire month of serious content instruction.
 

Rusk County Avengers

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Just this. What the heck is it.
View attachment 295478
Talk about farb-tastic! I'm not gonna lie, I've always liked that color and material for uniforms, but it didn't exist, at all. Butternut uniforms may have come in a similar color, but not in an all wool, always in a jean or satinette, and so forth.

I can only imagine the bad history answers this fellow has given, that is if he isn't dressing up that way for grins and actually knows his stuff, after all never judge a book by its cover.
 
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byron ed

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...I can only imagine the bad history answers this fellow has given, that is if he isn't dressing up that way for grins and actually knows his stuff, after all never judge a book by its cover.
It's a pretty good bet what he'd been talking about: "the war wasn't about slavery, y'know"

(never book a judge under cover)
 

Crazy Delawares

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I don't actually subscribe to belittling a kid in front of their peers. A kid's not going to ask a question as a more experienced adult would. You should respect that as a teacher. It was her honest if a bit naive way of asking what was in the canteen -- a fair question -- since it probably wasn't creek water as it would have been back in the day, right? The kid deserved that explanation.

An adult would have been a different matter.
Lighten up, BE!!! I taught at that school, knew the student and even she didn't mind the GENTLE teasing I gave her. Why? Because she knew me and the respect that passed between us every day was palpable and a two way street! SHEESH!
If a teacher cannot have a little fun, then they are no teacher at all! And the students know this and appreciate it!
 

Nathanb1

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I don't have too many experiences of people asking questions showing a horrible lack of education at reenactments on that level, but there have been a few.
1. At one event I remember someone asking us, we were Confederate, "Where are your MP-40's and Panzers?" I think the gray uniforms combined with a lack of education made the teenager think we were WW2 Germans.
2. Someone asked me about where the Confederate concentration camps for Indians were at during the War. (That one really incensed me, as my Confederate GG-Grandfather married my Cherokee GG-Grandmother after Appomattox)
3. One of favorites, I heard a teenager ask his parents "When are the Huey's gonna come and drop in troops?"
4. Another favorite, still get asked from time to time, "How many rounds do muskets hold?" or "Where does the magazine go on your rifle?"



I got a story or two related to that, in High School I used to get in trouble with the history teacher when I'd contradict her, and I'd get sent to the principle, who knew I wasn't gonna be silenced, she'd just tell me to go to the local Dairy Queen and get lunch. It was the history teacher's fault, I couldn't let her statements about how "George Washington started concentration camps for Native Americans." and "The Confederacy oppressed the Mormon people in the 1850's forcing them to immigrate to Utah." stand. There are some serious things wrong with the education system, thankfully the principle found a way to get the teacher to pass me, as otherwise I'd failed her class. I really ticked her off for being "racist" because a photo of some soldier from the USCT who had been hanged in the CW for rape she labeled it as "lynching in the 1920's" and I told her how she was wrong, and after that I wasn't let back in that classroom. Fun times.
You'd have loved my class. Seriously. I took my job seriously as a historian--and it kills me to think what those kids in my old classroom are being taught.
 
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Virginia Dave

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From what I understand about this impression. He is not a re-enactor, but just shows up and walks around with the civilians at events. I hope he doesn't answer questions. LOL Parallel Universe perhaps.
 

byron ed

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From what I understand about this impression. He is not a re-enactor, but just shows up and walks around with the civilians at events. I hope he doesn't answer questions. LOL Parallel Universe perhaps.
...what some us call a "walk-on" then. Somebody without any affiliation with a reenacting unit or the venue.

At ww1 and ww2 events where I am venue staff, it's more of a concern because "walk-ons" can attempt to bring in essentially useable brass shell firearms of 1890s - 1945 vintage (even if reproduction they are functional). Their weapons have not been vetted by the designated reenactment armorer.

At the gates we can tell who's between properly vetted because all reenactors get a wristband and the armed ones get a special card. If an adult attempts a walk-in we know it because they are in full uniform yet have no wristband or pass.

The sticky issues are (a) reenactors who first arrive after the event has opened to the public so don't have wristbands yet; and (b) children who come in full uniform. For (a) we require them to buy a public ticket then walk in and register, after which we refund them.* For (b) if the kids are obviously under 12 yrs old or so they pass. If they look older they have to leave at least half of their uniform behind before they can pass, just as with adult walk-ons.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* those late reenactors think that procedure is unreasonable and get really mad about it. I'd like your opinion, or an alternate method if you have one.
 
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Nathanb1

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Lighten up, BE!!! I taught at that school, knew the student and even she didn't mind the GENTLE teasing I gave her. Why? Because she knew me and the respect that passed between us every day was palpable and a two way street! SHEESH!
If a teacher cannot have a little fun, then they are no teacher at all! And the students know this and appreciate it!
I gotcha. Probably why my "boys" -- some of whom are in their thirties now -- adored me enough to bring breakfast burritos and offer to steal the possible step-stone from my GGgrandfather's house....while they were at a wedding. :D
 

Nathanb1

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The standardized testing regime has changed this. Anything in the state standards can be on the test, so teachers don't have to luxury to miss anything. The drawback is that several weeks before the test have to be devoted to reviewing for the test. In my case, for example, the test is taken in mid-May, but the colonial era might feature heavily on the test and the students had covered it all the way back in September. So I have to finish up the content on the Civil War and Reconstruction by late April at the latest, so that I can review for the test with my students and give them the best chance of passing.

Adding insult to injury, there are still a few weeks of the school year left after the test is over, during which time the state doesn't really care what we do with the students.

This means, in effect, that the test robs test robs teachers of perhaps an entire month of serious content instruction.
I hope you were at the Capitol today. I am dodging storms to the west.
 
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