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This last Sunday I went to Antietam (or Sharpsburg) Battlefield to see a demonstration by Brady’s Michigan Sharpshooters. They showed us how to load a rifle as well as an example of what a skirmish would look like.

(Pictured: John Teller and Audrey Scanlan-Teller)

This event was particularly good one to have at Antietam given how much the topography influenced the amount of causalities. When the re-enactors advanced or retreated up and down just the small hills near the visitor’s center, you could see how easy it would be to shoot at someone’s head if you were on higher ground, or to take someone by surprise if you were blocked by a hilly-area of the battlefield. This is why places like Dunker’s Church were so heavily coveted by both sides. Even modestly higher ground was the difference between life and death.

(Audrey Scanlan-Teller explains how a skirmish works.)

While I was there I also had a long conversation with two re-enactors who participated in the event, Audrey Scanlan-Teller and Tracy McIntyre, both female re-enactors who have been rocking the boats of the re-enactment world just by their mere participation. I heard about both these ladies through another re-enactor contact who told me they were both well-respected in the community, but the stories that both Tracy and Audrey told suggested that this opinion was not universally shared.

Both of their impressions pay homage, in some way, to the women who disguised themselves as men and fought during the War. As a result, both take their impressions very seriously - keeping their hair short, no make-up, no jewelry, no “va-va-voom” tight coats. These all seem like obvious requirements, but there are plenty of female re-enactors who do not go out of their way to make themselves look like men. Pony tails, nail polish - all of these things do a disservice not only to female re-enactors who wish to be taken seriously, they noted, but also to the actual women who were risking everything just to fight for their country.

More on female re-enactors later though!

By now you’ve noted the strange title. That’s because it was not really a day. If you read through this entire post, you’ll find out why (u mad, bro?).

This was the first event I saw this morning at the NPS’s Brawner’s Farm Living History program as part of 150th Manassas living history weekend. A cavalry demonstration by some stalwart reenactors, who, despite the rain, rode on in their quest for wider public knowledge.

Or maybe they just did it because they looked awesome, and it also probably felt awesome to do (I imagine).

Don’t know how the weather us where you folks were today, but in Manassas, VA, it was torrentially raining on and off all day. And just while these boys were finishing up…

I abandoned ship, and decided to get off of the open, possibly deadly, battlefield when there was lighting coming down just over the treeline in front of us. Soldiers from North and South fought sure far worse weather I’m sure.

There were only 2 soldiers camps or so at Brawner’s Manor who were hanging around in between demonstrations, though, and one of them I hung out with yesterday. This weekend it seemed like there were more reenactors who were recruited by Manassas City, or were hanging out at Manassas city events (Was it paid or volunteer? Does someone know?).

I did head over to Liberia Plantation (organized by the city of Manassas, it seemed) when it cleared up, where I met some folks interpreting slave life on that particular plantation, and after talking to them to a little, of course the heavens opened and it was monsoon-like. No photos from that, unfortch.

And that was the end of Manassas Sesquicentennial Living History Weekend for me.

Meanwhile, the Post did a lovely slide show of the events at Brawner’s farm here on Saturday, when the weather was much, much nicer.

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(Can you see me? Photo by Meghan Daes)

Holy crap, what a weekend. This was officially my third event ever, and it was nearly my first (thank god that wasn’t the case). Previously I did a small regiment-wide muster at a campsite for a night, and Chancellorsville, which I believe was three nights. I have a lot of thoughts and feelings about this event.

Let’s start with the logistics:

- First of all, it was hotter than hell itself. Every day was at least 90, and on Saturday the heat index was 110. Thank god for the women on the battlefields carrying around bags of ice (known as “ice angels” in reenactment lingo) - I had about 5 cubes in between my sack coat and my shirt at any given time. Luckily I sufficiently hydrated the entire week before, as well as physically conditioned with the Xbox Kinect Game “The Hip Hop Dance Experience.” There was also some woods right by federal camp in which we could avoid the sun. I lost five pounds in water weight.

- The Gettysburg Anniversary Committee, or the organizers of this event, seemed to have miscalculated the appropriate ratio of attendees/tourists to port o’johns. Yes - sorry to report that they were foul to be point of inhumanity at most points of the day. The hand sanitizer dispensers that were in them were almost always empty, and there were no hand washing stations (is it any wonder I had a spell of reenactor dysentery aftewards?). Confederate camp was really, really far away (to the point that, when the tactical was cancelled, some confederate reenactors believe it was because the Yankee reenactors were too lazy to walk over [we had a bunch of ppl in our company alone who wanted to participate in it - the reason for the cancellation is unknown to this writer.]) Also - we heard they were late to a battle because they didn’t receive ice or water the first day. Again - nothing confirmed, but it was clear that the facility planning was far from well done.

The spectacle:

- Good lord there were a lot of spectators there. Grandstands of spectators. And there was funnel cake, and ribs, and three dollar cokes and the whole shebang. So much so that it was the first time I really had to step back and face the capital being made off of 50,000 lives. How much money were the organizers raking in on this? And how authentic can it all really be if there are grandstands and piped in music? It was a circus. Truly a circus.

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At the Renfrew event last month in Pennsylvania (or Pennsyltucky as it is fondly known to some), I went Secesh (another funny term I heard.) I got to experience more relaxed Confederate reenacting (compared to the relatively strict Yankee version), although I still was with my home unit that usually does a Yankee impression. 

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It was also the first time I did rifle at a reenactment (usually I’m playing the fife.) The last time I carried a rifle was at Remembrance Day last year and damn was it heavy - that’s when I decided to be a musician instead. The battle at Renfrew I participated in was kind of “lame”, according to my boyfriend, who is a colonel and was next to me, and tearing cartridges for me some of the time. It was kind of fun to fire the gun, but I’ll tell you what, it is WAY more fun to march on the battlefield with a band. So that’s probably the last time I ever do rifle.

I also heard some pretty racist things said while I was standing in line waiting to go out. I won’t elaborate really on what was said in great detail since it was a small group, but comments were made about the current President that were racial in nature. Of course I should stress that not all confederate reenactors hold or openly express such views, but I have heard from other confederate reenactors that it not uncommon to hear such things in the pickett line, or around the evening campfire.

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On a lighter note, we played a lot of camp music. I tried out my washtub bass for the first time, which Ben made for me for my birthday. It was really difficult to play, but with more practice and the right tuning (it’s only one string) I can hone my technique. 

I’m looking forward to Cedar Creek, which will also mark the one year anniversary of the Civil War Tours Podcast!

[First two photos by Craig Shipp, last photo by Christine Tolbert.]

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It has been forever since I did a post and furthermore, an episode. But the reenacting season is kicking off and what better time to start putting my podcast subscription money that I pay every month to good use! 

My impression has come a long way since I started officially reenacting a year ago. The top photo is from the 2013 Remembrance Day Event, as you can see it was very cold and I look pretty miserable in that photo, but I swear I wasn’t! The last three pictures are from this past weekend’s 150th Plymouth, NC event, where we fell in with the Old North State Fife and Drum Corps. Some of the guys in that group thought I was a 16 year old dude with a really high voice. Awesome!!

Those awesome photos were taken by Ms. Cymry Flood.