Rouzerville 1986 - An Editorial

by Jonah Begone

In line with our sergeant's request to hear any praise or gripes we may have on the subject of reenactments, I'm going to tell you exactly what I thought of the Rouzerville, Pennsylvania event this year, and of the 1986 reenactment season in general.

I attended Rouzerville in place of our Bristol event mainly because of distance. I'd much rather drive an hour and a half to get to a "no set camps" tactical than to drive three hours to attend a short living history event. As it turned out, I should have gone to Bristol (or Ball's Bluff, or stayed home and mulched my plants for that matter!)

Rouzerville was an unqualified disappointment, and after much thought I still don't know who or what to blame. I know that the cold weather, even though it made sleeping Saturday night impossible, was not the problem. You accept bad weather in this hobby and make do with what you get. The problem with Rouzerville this year was a more subtle one.

It could have been the fact that the Confederate reenactors we fought this year didn't seem to be the same ones we had last year. We Yanks pushed this year's bunch back for a mile or so looking for a fight, and when we managed to get around their flank and rout them (a matter of chance and not of superior tactical skill) to the point where they would hold still in a woodline, they taunted us with not-very-authentic cries of "Come and get us, you chickens!" Sort of like the pot calling the kettle black.

Anyway, we quickly got tired of seeing howling and impetuous Southern break-and-run charges. One less-than-awesome charge took place directly across my company's front: we were posted on the other side of an impassable thorny line of brush and we poured an enfilade fire into them that won us the day from the judges. I suppose it's some consolation that we won a judged tactical, but it was so obvious that we outclassed the opposition no other result was possible! (It probably also helped that the judge was a Yank reenactor.)

Another problem I noticed was the absence of the traditional flair and professionalism that Warren's Brigade brings to events like this. The 5th New York was present only in token numbers (in itself notable), and the only others of the brigade present was the 3rd Maryland, with whom I fell in. Both units performed credibly at the event but it wasn't enough. Somehow it seems that the best qualities of Warren's Brigade didn't get incorporated into the National Regiment, Eastern Battalion. (As we know, Rouzerville was a "National Regiment Event.") Perhaps the presence of our own 110th could have made a difference.

Don't misinterpret me: I am not "anti-National Regiment," [Well, not at the time. I became so in the year after. - Jonah] but there has been a malaise this year that I can't account for and I think it has something to do with the NR. Perhaps it's unmanageably large, with the effect that the good leadership and troops we developed in smaller units (like Warren's Brigade) gets diluted in the larger Eastern Battalion formation. If I've learned anything this year, it's that big is not necessarily better (two of my favorite events of 1986 were small ones: Ridley Creek and a memorial I did at the Monocacy battlefield site with the 3rd Maryland).

We hear a lot of talk about faulty leadership and a massive ego-support structure within the NR; maybe that's the problem. Rotating leadership positions among those willing to work in these roles could be a solution, or maybe an event committee would be a good idea. The latest issue of "The Regimental" asks for more feedback from the members -- we ought to supply it. Perhaps we're experiencing the growing pains of a suddenly popular hobby with large numbers of good and bad reenactors making their presences felt. Weather could have been a factor -- it certainly was at Manassas. It could be that it's just going to take time for the National Regiment to flourish. Whatever the reason, I hope it isn't a factor next year!

Of course as with any event there are good things. The 8th Ohio was there, and I enjoy myself more and more at every event we do with them. They seem to be the perfect Western compliment to our 110th, and I look forward to being brigaded with them in the future. South-central Pennsylvania is simply beautiful in October, and the free apples are a nice plus, too.

But the event was still a disappointment.