Annoying Reenacting Types (Part II)
By Jeff Hendershott
Several years ago (September 1993 to be exact), Camp Chase Gazette columnist Jonah Begone wrote an article entitled "Seven Annoying Reenacting Types." Jonah is one of my favorite contributors to the CCG, and although I don't know him personally but have communicated with him via mail, we seem to share the same sardonic sense of humor common among many participants in the hobby.
So, having come across this article while going through some old CCG's, I thought I would add to and update his list of Annoying Reenacting Types. Indeed, these types may only represent a small minority of reenactors. Civil War reenacting has come a long way (even since 1993), and continues to see its participants hone their authenticity.
Yet nothing is perfect, and if you have not already, you probably will run across at least a few Annoying Reenacting Types in this list. And if I offend anyone, write all the hate mail you want. As a teacher who is insulted and threatened on a daily basis, I'm pretty much immune to it.
THE HAPPY CARAVAN - No accident this is at the top of my list. This is the car, truck or van-load of reenactors who inevitably show up to an event way after midnight hootin' and a hollerin' and at the top of their lungs yelling "Anyone know where the 24th such and such is set up?" Headlights beaming on high, they just HAVE to park next to the closest tent. The awakened reenactor can expect to hear the "Gettysburg" soundtrack blasting, tent and other gear clanging and crashing, farts and giggles, stale and unfunny jokes delivered by the company cut-up resulting in loud "haw haws" from this happy bunch. Some of these iron men pull an all-nighter, caring less for us weaklings who need at least a couple hours of sleep. There ought to be an ENFORCEABLE BAN on this!
THE SUPRISE ATTACKERS - Usually a small leaderless band of no-lifes who think charging into the enemy camp at supper time or worse, at night, is a potential "magic moment." They are typically greeted with sharp vulgarity or simply ignored. After demanding "What's wrong? Dont ya' all wanna play?" they collect themselves and walk away crestfallen, not seeming to know they just made fools of themselves.
WEEKEND COOK-OFF REGIMENTS - Occasionally you'll find a whole unit of "Tubby Bearded Guys" who are VERY serious about Victorian Era cooking (or simply cooking in general, period or not). They cook, sweat and eat, cook, sweat and eat, fall in for battle and take an early hit so they can jiggle back to camp so they can get back to cooking, sweating and eating. I've seen this, I swear!
"WE'RE DOING IT JUST LIKE THEY DID IT" TYPES - The press seems to find this type on an all too frequent basis. They preach to the press and/or spectators "By God and Mary, we cook like they cooked, sleep like they sleep, march like they marched and drill like they drilled." Yeah, right! I am personally thankful that we don't get shot like they got shot, get sick like they got sick, etc. You usually find these "spokesmen for the hobby" set up in modern camp or a local motel.
THE "HERE'S MY ANCESTOR'S STORY" TYPE - These can be interesting, you know, but in small doses. Nothing worse than listening to an hour-long blow-by-blow account of "Pvt. What's His Names" story delivered by his reenacting descendant who has to embellish it, making it sound like he won the war (or campaign, if a Reb) by himself. I mean, most of us are proud of our Civil War ancestors, and rightfully so. It's simply the blowhard who does not know when to quit that gets tedious. (NOTE: Beware of spectators...they can be worse!).
THE REENACTOR WITHOUT A PURPOSE - Usually characterized by a high ranking uniform out of the scope of the event, these are the obscure flakes who drift around an event puffing on a cigar or pipe seemingly attached to no unit. They probably hope someone will be impressed and elevate them to some sort of high "command" for the weekend. Some wear exotic garb, an eclectic mix of anything military spanning the whole of American history.
THE MARTYR - These types can be as visible as the ego-driven soldier making a lone death charge at the enemy works, going down in a "blaze of glory," or as sad as the private who volunteers for every crummy detail. I've seen some sit exposed in a driving rainstorm, tent be damned! I like to think our Civil War ancestors had enough sense to come in out of the muddy trench or rain when they could. History shows they did!
THE CAMPFIRE DRIFTER - A variation of the "Reenactor Without a Purpose." This reenactor drifts from campfire to campfire at night hoping to find a group who will welcome him with open arms. After a few moments of dispelling his wisdom and insights about some weird ancestor or philosophy about the hobby and getting only some grunts as a response, he is least wise enough to see that no one is interested, and so he shuffles off to the next rejection.
BELLIGERENT ANTI-GALVANIZERS - No color of uniform holds a monopoly here, for Yanks and Rebs can both be heard declaring "By God, my ancestor would roll in his grave if I put on the other uniform!" I admire loyalty, and I don't particularly like to galvanize either. It's the ones who make a spectacle over it that gets annoying, as if they are asked to do it at every event - as if their ancestors would approve of 5-1 odds.
THE OUT OF PLACE FEMALE (CAN'T LET WOMEN OFF THE HOOK!) - This is the female reenactor who insists there is documentation that wives, daughters, whatever, were allowed into military camp at will. They become indignant when someone tries to tell them otherwise, so they threaten to "see the event sponsor about this!" Some units even have women spend the day in military camp to cook (of course!), sew, and rewrite history in general. I've seen many a woman crawl out of dog tents in military camp in the morning. Go figure!
THE CRUSADER - This type will talk to whomever will listen and pontificate about things like Second Amendment rights, how Clinton is lurking in the shadows ready to disarm us all, or sometimes passing out literature about this cause or that. The less harmless but equally annoying Crusader will "solemnly invite your unit" to attend "His Event" in Hicksville to honor their hometown hero Col. Doogleflopper who succumbed to scurvy during the Red River Campaign.
THE QUASI-PERIOD SCENARIO - Another huge peeve of mine. This is anywhere from two to a group of reenactors who, when the public is near, try to put on a period scenario. Sometimes these work. However, too often they degenerate into a farce when they can't restrain themselves from cutting-up at how cute they are, lapse into modern language and mannerisms, and turn the whole thing into something akin to a Laurel and Hardy skit in period garb. And we wonder why most academic historians don't take us seriously!
THE SELF-PROMOTER - Perhaps another variation of the "Reenactor Without a Purpose," but with a bigger ego and a need to really throw his weight around (pun intended). This is the type that becomes at least a captain with the swipe of a Visa card in the sutler tent, yet never served in the ranks and is too smart to have to read "Casey's." They form new units and "lead" troops. The upside is that they and "their unit" usually do not last long.
NOSTALGIC 125th REENACTORS - I'm
really working without a net here, for this is sacred territory. These are
the reenactors who can't get enough of telling everyone that they participated
in the 125th Anniversary reenactments, especially Gettysburg, when "heaven
fell to earth." If I had a dime for every one of these mantras I've
heard, I could outfit a whole company. At first you admire them and become
extremely jealous. After awhile, you realize that it's their intent to
make you jealous. So while you sit there sacrificing a whole weekend of
your life sweating at the "Candy Apple Days" event, you come to terms
with the notion that NOTHING you can do as a reenactor will ever match or
surpass the time when "heaven fell to earth."
Jeff Hendershott is a private and occasional Hospital Steward from Ashland, Ohio who, because of this article, is looking into Reenactor's Liability Insurance with extreme prejudice.
NOTE FROM JONAH: Yikes! Are we 125th anniversary (back then we called it the “quasquicentennial”) reenactors beginning to be regarded as the Elder Statesmen of Reenacting? I’m too young to be an Elder Statesman! Well, I find Jeff’s characterization of Nostalgic 125th Reenactors as annoying to be a useful wake-up call. Henceforth, while in the company of other reenactors, I shall refrain from self-righteously yakking on about how wonderful The Hobby was in the mid-Eighties. And, let’s face it, all of us have or will have our own memories, opinions and preferences. Why, just last night at the ballet (!) I was talking to a fellow who had the mega 135th Antietam event as his first. I have no doubt in another five or ten years he, too, will take on the trappings of Elder Statesman of Reenacting. (By the way, the Revolutionary War reenacting counterpart to the 125th anniversary reenactors are those who took part in the Bicentennial. “Yeah, but you shoulda been there for Trenton and Monmouth ’76 - those were really big!” Yakkkkk yakkk yak yak.)