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Aug
25th
2022

AAR: A Mudsill’s Misadventures · 3:29am Aug 25th, 2022

As you might know, dear readers, I’m a Civil War Reenactor, and the last two weekends I have spent, nominally, living in the 1860s.

The first weekend was spent at Hale, my now former place of internship, this time with my usual reenacting group the 1st Ohio Artillery, Battery A. All of our younger and new members were present, and I had a great time working with them. Mr. N & Ms. S. make a great team and it is always a pleasure to work with them on the guns. The weather was hot, but bright, sunny, and dry. I got in some good drill on the piece this time around, thanks to the Captain brining his 12 lb Model 1841 Field howitzer. It was the first gun I ever worked on, and a personal favorite of mine out of all those we use, barring the original guns from the Statehouse. Because we only had crew enough to man one gun on the battlefield, the howitzer sat in camp and was thus available for running unloaded drill on. I now feel fairly confident on all the positions but I am frustrated by my tendency to make little mistakes here and there. Part of the issue is, as I work to improve my performance on certain positions, I get rusty on others, and so I feel a bit like I’m chasing my own tail. I dug my first fire pit, which was exhausting work, and helped out our company chef. I really enjoyed the opportunity to get to cook over an open fire for the first time. The results were delicious, although the fire was really smoky which meant I frequently had to bow out as I was tearing up.

One particular moment stood out amongst the usual fun at Hale, and that was the memorial service on Sunday for the reenactors that had passed since the last reenactment was held. It was a solemn occasion, and though of course the pandemic and some three years time rather exaggerated the count, it was still quite moving. Some units were hit hard by the pandemic, and lost quite a few of their members, sadly. Even my own unit was not untouched, as we lost a long time member in 2020, though that was more due to an incident of food poisoning (predating my joining the unit) from which he never quite recovered, ironically also at Hale. It really felt like a real moment from the war, reading off the lists of those who had fallen, and drove home that even in a fun hobby loss is something we all must face. Fortunately, we have friends to help us through it together.

This last weekend, Tigerrose and I did an encampment at Streetsboro, as it was their bicentennial. This time around I fell in with new unit: Riley’s North Carolina Battery, . Usually, I don’t play a Southerner, for a variety of reasons not the least being I don’t have much gray in my wardrobe. However, they were the only artillerists in attendance and are usually the 1st Ohio’s opposite number at Hale, so this time I made an exception. Fortunately, I have a great number of “early war” clothes that I don’t really get to wear much, and a pair of dark gray pants, so I was able to throw something together. Though I’m afraid I was still quite obviously a Federal at heart. Nonetheless, the battery were great hosts and I was honored for the chance to work on their Model 1861 3-in Parrot Rifle. That means I can now add another major Civil War artillery piece to the list of guns I’ve worked on, including the diminutive 12 lb Mountain Howitzer, a Coehorn Mortar, a original 3in Ordnance Rifle and an original Model 1841 6 pounder, the aforementioned 12 lb field howitzer, and a James rifle.

This is where the misadventuring begin… you see neither me nor Tigerrose have ever been to Streetsborough and thus we got a bit lost. This was compounded by missing the parade which kicked off the event, because earlier that morning we had to get the cat more food (or else be eaten alive). Thus, when we arrived we found out route into the venue ostensibly blocked! After some maneuvering we finally arrived in camp and were able to set up.

I had decided to experiment with the way I had my tent set up. Usually, it is composed of two pieces of canvas, buttoned to together, set up in the usual "dog tent" tent but spread wider than usual using ropes on the bottom, so that I have a little more ventilation and room in it (as I discovered I am longer than a regulation shelter half!). That day, however, I decided instead to set them up in “lean to” fashion, with one side of the tent completely open and the other totally closed. It was essentially half of the usual “dog tent”, only embiggened by being two pieces of canvas long. This was all well and good, as it helped me squeeze the tent into a tight space in camp and was quite airy, but I would later come to regret it.

The Captain of Riley’s battery is quite the character; although it is not readily apparent initially he has but one arm, an he wears his uniform in the period way with the empty sleeve tucked into his belt. It was so barely noticeable, that I honestly did not perceive it initially. I believe we’ve met before at Hale, but as I’ve said that was three years ago so I had quite forgotten why Riley’s Battery sounded familiar. He was an excellent host and glad to have me as I completed his crew on the gun. Our grand total of two firing demonstrations of Saturday went well, though I’m embarrassed to admit I was a bit bumbling. Every gun and crew seems to have it’s own quirks, in spite of the drill being ostensibly the same between units. This particular cannon had problems with fouling around the vent hole which added an extra step to the drill to correct it, and their ammunition in the ammunition box was on the opposite side from where the 1st Ohio’s was. Such minor differences are just about enough to throw one off their game!

The atmosphere at Streetsboro was more “county fair” than “reenactment”, and the small group of reenactors present (Rileys Battery and the 8th Ohio Infantry) were in a secluded area of the event, so we did not get much in the way of visitors. Unfortunately, the secludedness of the spot did not shield us from the dreadful “thumpa thumpa” music that would not stop. There was also a chainsaw carver at the event, and the sounds from that were also quite loud. On their own, each would be tolerable, but combined it was a racket that was enough to drive the sanest man mad.

Slightly more sonorous was the occasional sound of a gobbling turkey. At first I thought it was someone with a turkey call, but it transpired to be an actual Turkey! It was a Bourbon Red Turkey, who was part of a petting zoo trailer that was also at the fair. We visited him on Sunday and he was quite the photogenic and talkative. This would not be the only appearance of animal shenanigans that weekend…

Then, came the rains.

We had known that it might rain, of course, but I don’t think we were quite prepared for the kind of storms we faced. A sutler (reenactor vendor) nearby lent me a blue tarp to put over my tent to help keep dry. There was much speculation of how dry it was likely to keep me (the safe bet was on “not at all”) around camp. Now, I thought it would be fine, because I expected rain… but what we got was a major storm. Now, I am a stubborn person, but let it not be said I don’t know when I’m licked. The moment the storm winds picked up and the blue tarp blew off the top the tent, I knew it was time to retreat into Tigerose’s tent, a sturdier “A Tent” large enough for the both of us.

So I quickly struck the tent, and took shelter in the A Tent, as the storm hit. The winds were pretty strong, and there was pouring rain, lighting, and thunder. It was… disconcerting. Fortunately, the A Tent stayed up, and the blue tarp found a new use on it’s floor, giving me a dry place to sleep. The truly odd thing was, in spite of all the crazy weather, the planned evening fireworks show went ahead as scheduled! It was effectively a private show, too: only the reenactors and a few vendors remained at the event by this point. It was a strange thing to see in the deluge, and even stranger to view it through a crack in the front flap of a tent.

The next morning, we awaken somewhat wet, and quite tired, but hoping for a new, drier day. It seemed to be clearing up that morning, so I moved my tent to a new spot and set it up again in the way I previously had. My thinking, aside from “I know how to set this thing up right, I swear.” was that during the day the tent canvas would have a chance to dry off.

No such luck. The moment I finished setting up again, the heavens opened. The weather report had predicted rain staring at one in the afternoon, leaving open the possibility of doing some more reenacting. But that was not to be. My tent proved somewhat more waterproof this time, but not for long, and I was once more forced to retreat, this time to the headquarters of Riley’s Battery. The campground was by this point getting flooded, and all present decided that it was time to go home. Even vendors were packing up, and as I shall say henceforth “you know the event is over when the vendors start packing up”. I shared some “monsoon stew”, which is what happens when your potatoes, onions, and fat back bacon get poured on, with the 8th Ohio, and then packed for home.

But the misadventures were not quite over yet! For before we left for home, in a scene which Tigerose saw but I only happened upon afterwards, the local magicians rabbit decided to stage and escape, and was only recovered by a passerby who previously happened to have rabbits. The bunny in question was a black and white model, with adorable little mutton chops, and quickly exhausted itself with a short jaunt across the grass. I had the opportunity to of giving it pets after it’s rightful owner had recaptured it. All this goes to show that Angel is not the only misbehaving bunny out there.

And so we ended our excursion to the 1860s (sort of) and returned to the modern world, quite exhausted but glad to be out of the rain. Streetsboro was, as one of the others reenactors said “an event we’ll be telling stories about for years”, and I though it was a story worth telling here. I hope you enjoyed our misadventures!

I am planning on working on some new stories soon, but I won’t promise anything as I headed back to my university to take care of some unfinished business: specifically, getting a certificate in Historic Preservation to complement my Masters in Public History. It requires only a few more courses, mind you, but should hopefully be worth it. I will keep you all informed as to this, and other developments, my dear readers. In the mean time, every pony, take care!

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Comments ( 1 )

Thanks for sharing. :)
And, hey, they had heavy rains in the 1860s too. :D

Good luck, with the academics and in general!

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