I had a few questions heading into my first reenactment. Probably my number one question was how does one “die” during a battle? I imagined all sorts of possibilities. Perhaps before the battle you drew from a deck of cards that accurately represented the casualties of the battle? If you drew the “die a glorious death” card you would do just that. Or maybe you would draw the crippling “take a flesh wound that hobbles your walk” card. Or much less fun yet more historically accurate would be the “died from consumption in camp before the battle” card.
As I soon discovered, taking a fall during a reenactment is much more a matter of a personal decision. Sometimes you may be encouraged to take a fall by your superior, or other times you might choose to be a casualty if your musket stopped operating correctly (a much more common occurrence). Or maybe you were a pro at reenactment like these French soldiers and took a fall for dramatic effect:
Well done monsieur. Well done.
The First Battle of the Hook
The 2nd South Carolina took the field early on a drizzly Saturday afternoon. We were officially representing hand picked Grenadiers that saw the heaviest fighting during the Battle. As we took the field, we immediately encountered British skirmishers. It was the first time anyone ever pointed a firearm at me and fired. As I watched the skirmishers take aim and fire at my line and I thought to myself “this is it!” Orders to take aim and fire were given. I leveled my trusty Charleville and fired. We only had powder in the barrel, but still it was a unique experience. I had never purposely discharged a firearm at anyone before.
But it was all part of the game and quite fun. That is, until the fun stopped. I should of known better. After only three fires, my flint stopped sparking. Knowing my weapon’s propensity to chew up flint, I should of carried a spare, yet inexplicably I did not. After a few more misfires, I did what any good reenactor would do–I took the fall.
Appropriate? Perhaps. Wise? Maybe not. I had no idea how long the battle would last. I spent the next hour in a prone position, occasionaly peaking up to catch a glimpse of the action. At one point I even dared to think I could catch a quick catnap, but that idea went out the window once the cannons were pulled up fifty yards from me. The cannon blasts shook the ground and kept me bright and alert as any “dead” soldier could be.
The battle finally came to a close and afterwards I was informed of the glorious maneuver in which the 2nd South Carolina surprised the British by suddenly appearing on their right flank from a corn field.
Yes, it was quite an exhilarating afternoon for those with sharp flints. However it was hard to avoid a feeling of disappointment for not participating in a larger portion of the battle. I obviously had missed out, but not all was lost. There would be another battle of the Hook on Sunday. And better yet, there would be a night battle later that evening that involved taking a redoubt from the British. I would not miss this chance to take the field again with sharp flint at the ready. As it turned out, the night assault would be the highlight of the weekend.
Up next, night warfare and the storming of the redoubt.
Bill Bahr said:
Enjoyed your comments about dying on the field. Apparently a new chapter needs to be written in a nifty on-line reenactment manual I just found: http://www.nps.gov/stri/upload/18thCMusketManual2010-01-21.pdf
My own experience with dying has left me a very cautious reenactor. Among other mishaps, my falls have resulted in a dented canteen and non-functional cellphone (hiding in my haversack). Another time I thought I’d be cautious and just kind of quickly kneel down. However, my tomahawk handle hit first and plunged the upper blade portion into my side, tearing my hunting shirt and, while drawing only a couple drops of blood, ripping me a nice eight-inch long “scar,” which after two years still hasn’t completely faded! So, as the good Sgt Phil used to say, “Hey, let’s be careful out there!” Thanks again! : )
Which reminds me, some time ago a gentleman who had witnessed a Revolutionary War reenactment and a Civil War reenactment asked a friend who was experienced in both, why Revolutionary War reenactors hardly ever died. The response was that Revolutionary War uniforms were “very expensive!” : )
So maybe the response for most is “I didn’t die because it was too expensive” 😉
Yup. And, in the rare event you do again decide to go down, don’t forget to die only under a rubber (emphasis, rubber) tomahawk! Huzzah! : )
Too expensive and at times dangerous! Yup, I’ll remember that!
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