- Dear all,
Having sat and waded my way through the twenty or so Emails each night and
seeing the barrage of hard-headedness crowd the screen from some quarters, I
am not surprised that the 1812 re-enactment period is being looked down upon
by other periods. There is an old saying that goes something like "if we
cannot all hang together we will surely be hung separately" This was
clearly seen in the recent situation of the gun legislation Bill C 68.
There were elements of the Government that were acting to destroy our hobby
by sheer ignorance or malice, therefore, I took it upon myself to speak up
on behalf of the hobby and the War of 1812 re-enactment community.
Fortunately, I had the backing of some very good friends in the hobby who
supported me throughout the period and as a result, our joint efforts paid
off in the exemption we now enjoy. However, we cannot rest on our laurels,
or think that the troubles will now go away. There are numerous issues upon
which we all have strong opinions and I value this forum for their exchange,
but if we let ourselves get bogged down and divide into mutually exclusive
camps, we doom ourselves before we start.
Take this War of 1812 VRS Napoleonic stuff for example. To some extent, I
support Betsy in her contention that this was OUR war and we need to pay
dues to those who fought and died in their respective countries causes and
that putting "foreign" armies into a re-enactment ad-lib will only detract
from the "1812" type of event, confuse the punters behind the ropes and
dilute the educational effect that many of us are trying to create towards
getting the public to see the "North American War of 1812-1815" as a real
event and not some "Quickie in the backwoods" .
On the other hand, our war was only a side-show compared to the events
taking place on the other side of the Atlantic and EVERYTHING we did and had
was derived from that conflict. Politics, Campaign strategies, battlefield
drills and manoeuvres, uniforms, weapons etc etc. As a result, I believe
that there is a valuable opportunity to refer to that conflict and its vital
influence on "our" war by placing aside specific times in 1812 events for
the demonstration of general "Napoleonic" topics, (be that drill, firing,
costume shows etc, I don't care) just so long as an effort is made by the
site hosts , commentator and in printed matter that clearly differentiates
these presentations from the 1812 activities in the public mind.
Likewise, where a re-enactment is classified as a "Napoleonic" event , the
incongruities of North American presentations (e.g. Indians, buckskinners,
and civilians referring to themselves as militia) should be avoided, or
similarly, clearly differentiated from the main theme of the event. This
should not be taken as my saying that non-appropriate units should be
banned, rather that everyone should attempt to clothe themselves according
to the scenario, within the limits of ones budget.
In the case of myself and the lads I have the honour to sergeant, we have
regularly dropped our Canadian Incorporated Militia representation in favour
of an Ohio State Militia character to bolster a thin "American" line, and I
am proud to say that the American commander(s) have always treated us with
courtesy and respect. We have always tried to do honour to our adopted side
in our service and I have continually tried to put our small force out on a
"uniform" basis and not as a rabble (and I fully support the calls of that
leadership for uniforming (as in common styles of clothing, not A uniform)
their militia contingents.
Unfortunately their plea has repeatedly fallen on deaf ears and whether
portraying US or Canadian Militias, the sight of a line of individual
"civilians" posing as part of a military force does nothing to foster the
education of the public on the realities of those original units that fought
in the war (There are plenty of original source documents to prove that
these militias, on both sides, were supplied with various types and parts of
uniforms and equipment right from the declaration of war). The only
conclusion is that the resistance is due to the determination on the part of
these individuals to be "individualist"
Reenactors in North America have prided themselves for years that we held
standards that were significantly higher than European groups. However if
one now looks at the developments and improvements occurring within that
theatre, WE may soon be the ones looked down on, re accuracy etc. It's time
we started acting in concert to push ourselves as a viable community of
knowledgeable "Living Historians" interested in the period 1812-1815 and
shed our old isolationist and (in a very few cases) self inflating ego
characterisations for the benefit of the community at large.
To this end I will ante up with an offer to make available for reference any
of the documents I have in my archive from original sources. These include:
drill manuals, military instruction and guide books for officers, civilian
costume plates and texts (From Ackermanns Repository 1809-1815), photographs
of original military equipment and accoutrements in various museums. and a
complete series of detailed photographs of an original British other ranks
coatee for our period (infact I will go further than that. If there is any
interest I will be happy to give a workshop for those wanting to make a
properly tailored regimental coat ala original, or a talk covering civilian
fashions for the period). Any more bids?
Nuff Said for Now
Regards Richard Feltoe