Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Land of the Free...


...Sometimes, I wonder. On April 12th, to kick off the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Charleston is hosting a reenactment of the firing on and siege of Ft. Sumter. This should be quite an event. They have approximately 30 Confederate cannon to be placed on the shores of Charleston Harbor. No cannon will actually be allowed in the fort, so there will be no return fire. Upwards of 150,000 spectators will be in Charleston.

Sounds good, right? It should be, but...

...a hardcore, super-authentic reenactor has been placed in charge of the event, and like many of his kind, he has no tolerance for anything not being done his way or to his standards.

All uniforms will be subject to his approval. If you are not approved by him, you cannot be there. A group of gentlemen who portray various Union generals have asked to come, and they were rejected because, "Those generals weren't there during the siege, and there's no place for them."

Anyone else see a problem here?

They don't want to attend as participants. They merely want to be there,and to dress for the event theme.

Even those bringing the cannons will be required to conform to the strict guidelines of this event. If you have the wrong uniform for an early war impression, or the wrong buttons, etc., your cannon will be welcome, but you'll have to either change to a uniform more appropriate or leave.

I'm all for having some type of authenticity regulations, because you cannot do this with an " anything goes" mentality. I've seen many Gettysburg parades where authenticity was lacking, and it was ridiculous. Period-correct uniforms, shoes, eyeglasses, and equipment should be required. But, what period? The Civil War in general, or a battle-specific impression?

Say you own a cannon, and your group reenacts a gun from a battery that was formed later in the war than Ft. Sumter. You have put $45,000+ into your gun and equipment, you have a truck of suitable size and a trailer to haul the heavy cannon, and you've been invited to this event. You have to travel a few hundred miles, paying $3.50-$4.00 per gallon for gasoline in a vehicle that doesn't go too many miles on a gallon. For a multi-day event, you'll spend close to $500 on powder and friction primers. You'e taken time off of work, and have made lodging arrangements to stay for a few days. All you meals will need to be purchased in Charleston or along the road.

Is it really fair to tell those who are already volunteering their time and effort, and are spending a substantial amount of money, that they cannot participate because their shell jacket is of a pattern not made until 1862, their buttons are Western theater, etc.? I think not! The event organizers should be glad they came, because without participants, there is no event!

As to spectators, last I checked, this was a free country.They should be allowed to wear whatever uniform they want. They want to dress as Union generals? They want to wear a WWI doughboy uniform? they want to dress as Winston Churchill? Why not? They aren't participating. They aren't trying to recreate history. As long as they are carrying no weapons, breaking no laws, and are not being obnoxious, who is some hardcore, stitch nazi in charge of an event in a public U.S. city to say they cannot be there?

I wish I hadmade plans to go to this event. I'd wear my British airborne uniform and would have my wife dress as "Rosie the Riveter" just because we can, and I'd see if they tried to ban me.

If you go, good luck, and have fun. Don't be intimidated, and don't be afraid to be different. It's your Constitutional right.

Event planners and organizers need to get off their high horse and realize the facts. Your participants make the show, and your spectators make the show possible. Without either, there is no event. Also, people have the right to do what they want and wear what they want, as long as it's within the law! Deal with it!
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