Reenactors: America's Strength in Reserve!
by Mal Stylo,
Former Prominent Veteran Civil War Reenactor
During my first days in Civil War reenacting I once lightly remarked to the leader of my former unit that in a national emergency the Government should mobilize reenactors, Ha ha. He replied, in complete deadpan, that the Governor of our beloved state might indeed do so if the National Guard and Reserve were overseas fighting the enemies of freedom (there were still some back then). I laughed; he did not.
In the ensuing years after reading many bloodthirsty articles in the Camp Chase Gazette featuring quotes like "...and now we returned to the grim business of Irishman killing Irishman," and others implying what a jolly time World War I must have been ("What a Great War!"), I at last see the wisdom in this idea. Yes, America has an untapped pool, a "Big Reserve" if you will, of wanna-be warriors who seem positively eager to experience battle. We buy our own uniforms and equipment, feed ourselves and pay to get into the fray. Making use of this fact, there is a way to make some history and help our country too!
A recent incident has convinced me that the time to federalize reenactors has indeed arrived (my apologies to our Confederate brethren and sisteren for using the "F-word"). According to the January 2, 1992 Washington Post, sometime in December 1991 merchants and tourists clashed with the National Park Service over a horse drawn carriage on a particular street of Harpers Ferry, WV (part of which runs through the national park). The NPS was against it and built a barricade. The merchants were for it, and, pulling the carriage themselves (the horse wisely declined to get involved) they stormed the barricade in one gallant rush. They were followed by unruly shoppers and tourists who seemed to have negative opinions about the imperiousness of the NPS. Obviously, the wave of New World Order freedom that swept Eastern Europe had come to West Virginia!
The nearest (live) Federal troops were miles away and the local police were reported to be in sympathy with the rebels. (A familiar story from Harpers Ferry's past, is it not?) But who could have been there to protect the historic nature of the streets of Harpers Ferry from potential violation by merchants' feet and horses' hooves? Reenactors, of course! (Incidentally, I don't know why automobiles are allowed on the street in question and horses are not. Possibly it is because historic interpreters like rangers and reenactors refuse to see anomalous objects like cars, trucks or diesel locomotives.)
A permanent detachment of Civil War reenactors at Harpers Ferry, and of later period reenactors near other possible trouble spots around the globe, could act as a poor man's forward deployed force or Reenactor Emergency Mobile Force (REMF). These days, what other kind can the country afford? And consider how nicely it validates the Second Amendment (you know, the one about the importance of a well-regulated militia and keeping and bearing arms and stuff)!
I propose the Government register all reenactors (except me and Jonah Begone) to deploy them for military service in times of crisis, with as much advance notice as possible to allow units to "preregister" and notify their members. Reenactors will flock to the colors like the Boys of '61, I'm certain. (I'm sure of this because some reenactors I know urged others to join the service during the Gulf War or lamented that if only they were younger they too would go!)
The federalized reenactor's physical condition should not be a factor in employing their services, and certainly he (or she) should not be subject to the modern military's weight and physical fitness guidelines. I know reenactors will gladly pay to go to "an event" as we did in the old Quasquicentennial days. Contracts to sell special commemorative event medals to the mobilized force could be given to sutlers with the sales revenue being turned over to the Government for the defense budget. (For instance, if they could sell 75 million "veteran's bars" the Government could afford a B-1 bomber!)
Based on the experiences of my youth that featured registration for the draft, service classification, etc. I suggest the following classes of REMF's:
1-A World War II reenactors: These folks have tanks, armored vehicles, machine guns and reasonably modern military uniforms. They can get high quality US-made M-1 rifles from the Government at less than half the cost of reproduction Civil War era percussion muskets. These people will be deployed overseas. I also heard of someone who was a Warsaw Pact reenactor (honest!); I don't believe it, but if he's out there he deploys with this bunch.
2-A World War I reenactors: Not as well armed as the WWII guys but useful for holding the ground captured by their more modern comrades.
2-B Indian War reenactors: Better have them patrol the West, just in case.
1-C Civil War reenactors: Still fit for combat but used in their respective states as a home guard or National Parks Defense Force. (Groups used in the first role could be called "National Regiments" and those in the latter would be designated as elite "Ranger Units.")
4-F The Revolutionary War reenactors and the dozen or so 1812'ers, French and Indian War folks and the English Civil War people: Their duties will be to guard the White House and other key Government buildings, the authentic women's camps and the concentration camps containing the Medieval reenactors who are too weird to be let loose in a crisis. Revy War guys don't do anything for free and must be paid; this is not a problem because they can be paid from the fees collected from the much more numerous Civil War guys.
1-Y People getting into "the Hobby" who haven't bought all their stuff yet: Possibly patriotic sutlers and reproduction equipment manufacturers will offer group discounts to them as part of the emergency effort.
There you have it: a plan to keep the strength of the US Armed Forces at its current level and make money doing it. When they dedicate (and future reenactor reenactors rededicate) a monument to me for thinking up this one I hope the Government will be in sound enough fiscal shape to let the reenactor honor guard in for free!