Helpful Hints for Carefree Campaigning

by Jonah Begone

I found this hunting around on my hard disk one day. I wrote it around 1988 and never got it published anywhere. I had forgotten all about it. It's not bad, if my own opinion about what I write matters for much. Some of the hints got incorporated into my safety article. - Jonah

Yes, along with the sheer joy of slaying Rebel Traitors there is a degree of discomfort and bother experienced by the Federal foot soldier while on the march and in the battle. To a great extent these hardships can be lessened by the observation of a few simple rules, learned by the grizzled veteran during the course of many hard-fought campaigns. Here they are, for your consideration:

1. Blisters hurt, and it's tough keeping that war-like attitude when your feet are in constant pain. You'll find that on the events with prolonged marches, your best friends are Dr. Scholls and an extra pair of socks. The good Doctor's foot pads come highly recommended either with or without the extra socks. (By the way, when you get home prick and drain cleansed blisters with a sterilized needle, and apply a bandage. Unless you want to experience Andersonville, there's no need to have infection to be authentic!)

2. Always, always, fill your canteen with water as often as possible (or better yet, get someone to do it for you). You need the water, and you'll never know when some "fresh fish" knucklehead next to you wants to mooch. Of course you could let him succumb to heat prostration, but that might be considered ungallant. And remember, only a moron drinks alcohol when his body needs water.

3. Leave that nice new lined frock coat at home during hot events and wear your sack coat instead. Your sweat glands will thank you.

4. In any case, this rule applies at a hot event: Do What You Need To Do To Keep Going (unbutton top button, remove sack coat, roll up pants, etc.), and When You Can't Keep Going, Find Some Shade.

5. In the field, never march when you can stand still, and never stand when you can sit.

6. Your blanks ought to consist of about 60 grains of FFg or FFFg black powder. Nobody is able to distinguish magnum loads in company volley fire, and with big loads you're taking a chance of injuring somebody (maybe just yourself, if you're considerate).

7. When firing from the back rank in company front, align yourself so that your file partner's head is between the second and third bands of your rifle. This way he doesn't get the blast from the cap or the barrel. It's no fun to get a butt stroke in the sternum from a resentful soldier in the front rank.

8. Have a problem with caps falling off the nipple when half-cocked, primed and on the go? Crimp them a little with your teeth before seating them.

9. When at "right shoulder shift," keep the stock of your musket well into your shoulder. If you don't, the guy behind you stands a good chance of getting hit with your musket barrel (and he may hit back).

10. And last but not least: Don't Try To Capture A Confederate Flag. Those people confuse sectional allegiance with patriotism for country, and are as fond of their flags as we are of ours. What's more, don't enter a Confederate line, and avoid fighting hand-to-hand. Reenactors are not trained stuntmen performing choreographed motions - somebody could get a bayonet in the leg or something!