what you have vs what you need
- The quandary of event organizers trying to commemorate a very specific battle or action from the war: putting on a realistic presentation in terms of terrain and opposing forces (both in terms of overall numbers and the "mix" of troop types), when the terrain is completely transformed from the way it was in 1812, and when the numbers and types of "troops" available to the event organizer are completely out of wack with those present at the real engagement.
The issue for me has always been, when does the presentation put on for the public of an historic event get so out of whack with what actually happened, that it constitutes a disservice to the spectators and feeds them misinformation on an unacceptable scale. We've all been to such events.
When the terrain and forces just can't be twisted enough to stand in for an even remotely accurate "reenactment" of an historic event, then I think the better route is to put on a reasonably accurate reenactment of what might have occurred if the troops actually present engaged on the actual grounds the public is seeing. And tell them that this isn't the "battle of 'x'", but a presentation of tactics in the time period of the War of 1812.
The other alternative, that can be used up to a point, is to have the narrator point out the inaccuracies of what the crowd is actually seeing, as opposed to what really happened. As in, "you are seeing 250 redcoats and 50 bluecoats (5 to 1 odds). But at the actual battle, the proportions were actually reversed. And that's why when one bluecoat fires his musket here today, 10 redcoats are "dying"...."
What doesn't seem possible is to ask only 10 of the 250 redcoats to take the field, so the odds are correct... However, I've often thought that at the end of the tactical, it could be very effective for the narrator to have the two forces lined up, then tell the crowd that at the actual battle, the actual odds were 5 to 1 in the U.S. favour - and illustrate this by having 240 of the redcoats step back 5 paces...