Reenacting War = Enacting Discomfort

Reenacting War = Enacting Discomfort

Hey Team,

So much happened over the last few days I’m not exactly sure how to condense it. So maybe I’ll just give you a quick outline and some pictures and the next couple days can fill in the blanks.

**Disclaimer: This is fair warning. I’m almost guaranteed to screw up lots of buzzwords in this post so all you people reading this that are actually familiar with reenactments can just lay off. So there.**

Private Amtrekker

Two of the officers from the reenactment picked me up in D.C. and gave me a lift to New Market, Virginia where the appropriately named Battle of New Market happened in 1864. Along with the “Chesapeake Volunteer Guard,” a group of reenactors that invited me to the battle, I would be depicting a private in the 1st West Virginia Regiment.

I had a few other offers from reenactment groups but I chose to throw my green hat into the ring with these guys mostly because the email from their Major warned me: “We are a hardcore progressive group that highly values authenticity and are more on the extreme edge, if you will, of the hobby.”

How can you turn down an invitation to anything that comes with a warning like that?! Not choosing these guys would have been tantamount to running across an “Enter at Your Own Risk” sign at an abandoned factory and choosing not to run into the building without thinking. And that’s just silly.

I don’t know what comes to mind when you read an invitation like that…because frankly I’m not sure what came to mind when I read it. It just struck me as a warning that promised adventure and that’s a tough thing to turn down. BUT, now that I am intimately familiar with EXACTLY what “We are a hardcore progressive group that highly values authenticity and are more on the extreme edge, if you will, of the hobby,” means I can provide you with a much clearer picture. (An “Enter at Your Own Risk But Watch Out For That Hole In The Floor Directly On The Other Side Of This Door” sign, if you will.)

In as few words as possible that warning can be translated roughly to mean, “When you reenact with us you will spend the majority of the time hungry, dirty and uncomfortable but we WILL provide you with a thin blanket to lay over the top of you so no one can see you bent in the fetal position all night laying on rocks willing yourself not to freeze to death.”

Yeah. I think that about sums it up.

The Battalion

Unfortunately, that doesn’t provide you with a very clear picture of how fun that actually was (okay, the “sleeping” part could have been better but I’ve spent the last ten months getting used to nights like that anyway). In a lot of ways it reminded me of the motorcycle rally in Daytona Beach. I was surrounded by a lot of people who were very knowledgeable and passionate about a topic I had absolutely NO experience with…and those are some of my favorite situations to be in.

We spent a lot of time drilling as a company and marching in scratchy, nipple sanding, wool clothes that ended up every bit as wet as they would have at a pool party where all the cool kids push the dorks wearing funny clothes into the deep end; battles were a little bit like paintball…minus the satisfaction of causing the other team small but intense feelings of pain and frustration; and reenactments were an exercise in pretending you don’t know how to stay alive. But the feelings of camaraderie and the connection created to a time well past is hard to underplay.

Overall it was an intensely satisfying experience (with an emphasis on the word intense) and easily ranks in the top ten adventures of the last year.

Hopefully that gives you an outline of the weekend. I’ll shoot for some more specifics tomorrow and the video will be up Wednesday. Thanks for hanging in there while I was separated from Charley for the weekend, Team!

I’m done.

Brett.





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6 Replies to “Reenacting War = Enacting Discomfort”

  1. I suppose the warning was to alert you that they try to be as authentic from the participant’s perspective as from the spectator’s. Wish I could’ve made it out there, but the Twitter updates from the battlefield were fun to follow. I just hope you slept better afterwards…

  2. I bet they would have taken your camera too if they realized that you’d be taking photos while you were dead.

    Wow, that last sentence is so messed up it should be shot, but it actually makes sense in context.

  3. Despite the itchy, wet clothing and lumpy sleeping arrangements it sounds like you had a blast.

    P.S. To prevent future chaffing put those little round band-aids on your nipples.

  4. Brett,

    It was a pleasure having you with us this past weekend. You cut it far better than even many experienced reenactors would have. Glad to hear that you enjoyed yourself and hope you get some rest! Just know you are welcome with the Chesapeake Volunteer Guard any time.

    All the best,
    Andrew
    Acting Field Officer, CVG

    PS Hope your nipples heal!

  5. @royterp I almost forgot to wake up at all the day after the reenactment.

    @Judy: Taking photos while dead is a special skill set that should be commended. Period.

    @jenninva: All I could think about was Andy Bernard as I kept checking for blood.

    @Adjutant: Thanks a ton for everything, Andrew. That experience couldn’t have been the same without you guys!

  6. I’ve always wondered how reenactments work for the guys on the front line that immediately get capped like cholos in the club (coincidentally also wearing nipple chaffing wool shirts…) Like, do they just play dead for 12 hours while the “battle” around them ensues? Can they keep their eyes open? Do they get bored and covertly play tetris on their phones? Do they whisper dirty jokes to try and get other dead guys to laugh? Do the “generals” force feed their troops ritalin to keep their ADD from flaring up mid-battlefield?
    I don’t think I could do it. So I am just going to stay here in my wool shirt and play tetris until my nipples are raw.

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