I haven’t reenacted since the early 1990s. Old man with a failing memory, but I have been asked to take fingers to keyboard and put down some thoughts on the subject. I started reenacting on October 11, 1981 at Perryville. I was the fourth member of the 7th Kentucky Volunteer Infantry, US. I then also held membership in the “Mudsills” (5th Kentucky, US), the 5th New York Zouaves, the Camp Chase Fifes and Drums, and the 4th Kentucky, CS. Some identified me as a “Young Turk” for my insistence on research and questioning accepted norms of reenacting at that time. I developed a great number of “pet peeves”, and those were inspiration for most of my published articles. I also seemed to have an understanding of the tactics and even re-printed manuals myself. In 1982, the only reprinted tactics manual available was the first volume of Hardees. This only went as high as “School of the Company”. You could not even get a skirmish drill for home study. For those of you interested in ancient history, here is a list of articles that I wrote in “the before time” for the Camp Chase Gazette:
The Colors, Their Guard and Their Function
This was written as a response to what I call the “Gomer Pyle Color Guards” that were so prevalent in reenacting. Basically, modern parade color guards pretending to be representative of Civil War history.
Insignia of the Common Union Soldier
A salvo in the “Hat Brass Wars”
This was originally written for my local reenactment group newsletter, and it was “picked up” by the Camp Chase Gazette.
Shut Up, I Can't Hear the Battle
When I was on the set of “Killer Angels” (Later re-named “Gettysburg”), the directors and assistant directors of the “second unit” spent all day trying to get a crisp volley for a shot of the Union Army responding to Pickett’s Charge. Everybody with any rank insignia was screaming “ready, aim, fire” at the top of their lungs. Finely, after much urging on my part, I convinced the frustrated crew to tell the reenactors to shut up and just have one assistant director with a megaphone say the words “ready, aim, fire”. They got their shot. I started working on this article as soon as I got back from Pennsylvania.
How to Maneuver Large Battalions
This was the last article on tactics that I wrote. I was getting out of reenacting at the time and becoming ever more frustrated with the “interpretation” of Civil War era combat tactics at reenactments. On the set of Killer Angels/Gettysburg, I was asked to come along with the Western Battalion at the rank of Sergeant Major to be the “Drill Nazi”. More specifically, I was tasked with teaching a 500-man battalion how to do a 90o “Change Front forward on the First Company” at the double-quick, while firing. How could I turn that down? The reason for this was that we were going to portray a unit that swung out of line on the south of “the Angle” and poured a flank fire into Pickett’s Charge. That scene was cut, but that is neither here no there. When we got to the set, we realized that most of the battalion was off filming the CS side of “Pickett’s Charge”. Reenactors were told to bring both US and CS uniforms, if they had them. We could only muster two companies. We were able to get all the Captains, 1st Sergeants, and 2nd Sergeants from all ten companies. If these 30 individuals could be trained, then it didn’t matter how many privates were plugged in, the system would work. That was my theory, all that need to be done was put it into practice. We took out the two companies and plugged in the captains and sergeants. When the battalion was finely assembled, it worked! A 500-man battalion was executing a 90o Change front forward on the first company, at the double quick, while firing. How cool was that! The manoeuvre worked just as well if it contained 200 or 1,000 men, as long as the captains and guides know what to do. The change front forward is just one of many “successive formations” that follow the same rules and principles. This was the inspiration for this article. The plates for the article show the commencement of firing by file at the conclusion of the maneuvers. Either way is fine. Also, this article does not reference specific “chapter and verse” from the manuals like the earlier articles. The footnotes/references would have been longer that the article itself.