Relaxing, Reenacting, and Back in the Swing of Things

Well, I have had a busy last couple weeks, despite the lack of content, which I apologize for. On August 13-15, I attended another reenactment with the 1st South Carolina Infantry, Company H at Pipestone, MN. It was a lot of fun and the weather was not as warm as Nashua, IA. What really made the event neat was going out around 7:30 AM that Saturday and having a morning tactical, which is where we had a battle against one another with no spectators. We then had our battles for the crowd. The first day was interesting, as Union forces “died” a bit too quickly, but the second day, we gave the crowd a good show. Unlike, Iowa, I did not take as many pictures, but do have a few.

Gathered around the fire.

Our camp

Early morning in camp

In the coming months, I am planning to get equipment to portray the Union side as well. In addition to attending Pipestone, I helped with a display at Heritage Days in E. Grand Forks, MN, where Stuart brought some of his collection.

I also spent some time at the lake relaxing and the semester began, with me teaching a section on US History to 1877. It’s a lot of fun and I am glad to be back in the swing of things. The Northern Plains Civil War Round Table is getting up and running, we are hosting the Northern Great Plains History Conference, which is featuring a few papers on the Civil War, and I am working on reviews of several books. Overall , it’s been a fun last few weeks.

Update on Grierson Days

About three years ago, I posted my visit to Grierson Days, which is held each June in Jacksonville, IL. Jacksonville is where I attended college before journeying to North Dakota to begin graduate school, so I stop there every so often when I come home to visit the folks. Well, after that post, Mr. Ron Gray, who coordinated the event, commented on the post, which resulted in a second post on the subject due to the passage of time. My main issue in the first post was the announcing during the battle reenactment, which amplified the weaponry used and, according to my father, historically inaccurate. I conceded that I wrote the first post in the heat of the moment, but was looking forward to see how they did this year when I went up on June 19.

Well, I was pleased, as there was no announcing during the battle. Rather, one of the reenactors announced before the battle, briefly explaining the three main branches of the army that would be seen that day. Though simpler than three years ago, I will say it was better than having the weapons amplified through a public address system. I also took many photos that I will upload later this week. Having been to my first reenacting event in May, I came to this event with a greater appreciation for what the guys participating go through (especially since a line of strong storms went through the area around midnight and did a bit of damage to some of their tents). Overall, I commend the Grierson Society for their work and improving the event. Had it not been so hot that weekend and had their not been (as I heard) competing events, I believe the event would have had even better attendance and participation.

On a side note to my readers, I want to apologize for the lack of content lately. I am sure this is evidenced by a drop in stats. I thank you for your support and want to let you know that I expect some new content in the coming months, as I will be finishing several book reviews for publication and freelance to this site. In addition, I also put my name into consideration to write a sesquicentennial history of one of the campaigns of the US Army in the war for the US Army Center of Military History, so wish me luck and I will keep you updated on that.

Back from the battle!

Well, I returned late last night from my first adventure in reenacting. We were at the Old Bradford Pioneer Village and Museum, near Nashua, IA, which has the notoriety of being next to the well-known Little Brown Church in the Vale, which is was a popular hymn and later country song. I served in the ranks of the First South Carolina Infantry along with my friend and fellow graduate student Stuart Lawrence. Here is a Google Earth image of where we were:

The two-day event was awesome and we prevailed against the Union on the first day, while valiantly fighting hard against them the next day, only to fall due to several of us being killed (myself included). Sunday morning was quite cool, as we were treated to a pancake and sausage breakfast by members of the Little Brown Church, and later to a special Sunday service. Being in a church built during the war, wearing period clothing was really something.

In closing, I hope everyone interested in getting into reenacting gives it a try, as it is fun. I will leave you with some pictures from this weekend.

breakfast in camp

Cooking breakfast in camp


Pvt. Stuart Lawrence on the left.


Yours truly in front of our tent.

in camp

Hanging out in camp before battle.

Little Brown Church

The Little Brown Church in the Vale

Inside the LBC

Inside the Little Brown Church from the back

The Little Brown Church from the front

Stuart on day two

Stuart on the second day

Myself on day two

Wearing my new vest and shirt on day two. I am wearing a neck wrap to protect my neck and ears from the sun at the time.


Our camp


Getting some extra drilling in (I am second from right).

More drilling

More drilling

Still drillling

Still drilling

Preparing to fire

Ready to take down some Yankees.

On a side note, I will be presenting tomorrow evening at 7:00 PM at the E. Grand Forks, MN VFW for the second meeting of the Northern Plains Civil War Round Table on the subject of The Camp of Instruction and the Union Soldier. I hope you can make it out to this talk if you are in the Grand Forks area.

Missed the Gettysburg Webcast

Well, I meant to participate in the final American Military University webcast on Gettysburg this morning, but was out and about with Stuart getting ready for our reenactment weekend in Nashua, Iowa. We ended up running out to my grandfather’s farm and firing some blanks from the 1861 Springfield, which was fun. I also received my Confederate uniform yesterday and am pleased with the quality, so I am making a huge, but quick plug for Blockade Runner.

A side note on this weekend. While I would love to blog about the event soon after each day, I will be unable to do so, but will attempt to write about it and post pictures. This will be my first foray into reenacting, so I appreciate any who are involved with reenacting sharing their first experiences with the hobby, so I can have a fun comparison for others.

When I do get the link to the webcast, I will post it up here for all to enjoy, including myself.

Welcome to our newest writer

I would like to welcome fellow graduate student, Army veteran, and Civil War reenactor Stuart Lawrence to the writing staff. I am sure that he will add many interesting posts to the blog and will be a wealth of experience on reenacting and other topics.

The Civil War in the classroom

Given this very interesting post by Brett, I thought I would bring up an interesting couple of ideas for teaching the war in the classroom and see what you all think. While understanding slavery and emancipation are essential to understanding the war years, I do feel that some classes on the war focus too much on non-military issues and not enough on battles. That is where the following ideas come into play.

The first is one I have some experience with from my days in elementary school in Illinois. When I was in fifth grade, my bus driver, who was also an avid reenactor, came and talked to our class on the war, while dressed as a Confederate soldier. It was really something cool to see and got me interested in reenacting myself (unfortunately, I do not have enough cash to get started yet, but some day) and later into public history. I think reenactors should be encouraged to present to schools, as seeing someone dressed in period attire is a wonderful way to introduce the war to younger people. In addition, reenactors do not have to just be soldiers, as civilian reenactors could portray and talk about how the war affected the home front. Further, if looking for a presentation on slavery, what better way to illustrate the evil of it than by having reenactors talk about the Underground Railroad, slave life, and African American experiences. For example, several students, professors, the college chaplain, and I participated in a play when I attended Illinois College, where we acted in several skits dealing with different contributions of my alma mater to the Underground Railroad. I would like to think that it was a great educational tool for the local children in attendance. I hope to use reenacting in the classroom when I finally become a professor, as it is a unique way to present history.

The other idea involves war gaming as an educational tool. There are many good PC games on the war that involve unit level operations and tactics. Students could have a lesson on a particular battle, then take command and see how they would lead troops. In addition to PC games, students might have a great time learning about battles and tactics of the war through more traditional war gaming, including counters and miniature soldiers. Plus, the more traditional method may be easier than attempting to link several computers and providing the software. War gaming is a very unique and fun way to get students interested in the war, as it allows them to understand what it took to lead the armies in the war.

Recall the diorama fiasco in Texas, where high school students built a diorama of the war’s last battle at Palmetto Ranch, Texas. Those students learned about the war through a unique lesson. I can only imagine how much greater appreciation those students have for history and the Civil War after building that diorama, however, when it was destroyed, I bet their enthusiasm was curtailed. This unfortunate incident does not mean that a diorama project is a great way to get students into history.

Overall, bringing reenactors into the classroom, using war games, and building dioramas are all great ways to learn about the war. There are many other great ideas to engage students, but I encourage educators to look at these ideas as potential teaching tools.