Just a quick report on the goings on up in Camden, South Carolina this past weekend. My wife and four kids and I went up Friday evening, arriving near 11:30 pm at the Holiday Inn in Lugoff, a few miles down the road from Camden.
I was very sleepy. The children, who had been sleeping, woke up ready to rip. AAARGGGHHH! GO TO SLEEP! Anyway, we finally got them back to bed and the next thing I hear is the phone beside the bed going off at 7:30 am. “Hello?” “Hey, this is Charlie, are y’all not up yet?” “Uhhhhh, no.” Charlie gave me directions on how to get to the site for the reenactment and went on his way. I rubbed large quantities of gravel out of my eyes and started getting everyone up. After breakfast, which we had to eat because it was free (i.e. included in the price of the room) we made it over to the camp right at the public opening time, 10 am. Charlie met us at the gate, having already walked around the entire site, met every reenactor and sutler there, and bought $$$$$$$$$$
worth of stuff. What a man!
The family and I started walking around and looking. There was a good turnout by the public and several reenactor folks who obviously had done their research. Now, this was our first Rev War event, and I am brand new to reenacting, so the opinions expressed here on out should be viewed with caution.
As I said, it was obvious that there were some folks out there who knew what they were doing, but there seemed to be a whole bunch more who had been doing this for a real long time and never have figured out what they’re supposed to be doing. You would probably think it a bit presumptuous of me to call someone a farb, since I’ve never done this before, but I figure that even if woefully ignorant me can spot this stuff, someone’s not doing their best job.
My thoughts about the stuff we saw:
1. Dadgummit, folks, learn to build a proper campfire!!! I may not have ever reenacted before, by I know how to build a derned fire! Large, cold, smoky logs and little tiny beds of coals only make everyone uncomfortable and stinky and gee, guess, what—are useless for cooking. Small, hot, low smoke=less stinky, easier to cook, easier to keep warm.
2. Pretty buckskin! Lots and LOTS of buckskin. Damp, damp buckskin. (It wasn’t raining, only overcast, and not even really humid, but sure glad it was them and not me)
3. Lots of the tartan about. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. By the way, do you know why Scotsmen wear kilts? Sheep can hear zippers. (I’m Scot, I’m allowed to make such comments). I have seen a little documentation for highland kilts among common Colonial folk, but it’s really a stretch. The one guy that still defies explanation was this fellow my wife and kiddies saw; said wife describing him as wearing a long (mid-calf) gauzy brown shirt slit up to the waist, a belt, high boots, and nothing else. They managed to catch a glimpse of pasty-white-guy upper thigh, and were pretty revolted. Anyone care to hazard a guess who this goober was supposed to be?
4. Reenactments are probably not the best place to start a new craft. We saw some burly, tartan-clad, barefootied Angus sitting upon a workbench, gently whacking upon a poor, defenseless piece of timber with various bits of tool-like metal. “Aaach, oim makin’ a wee booowl.” This was early morning. When we left at around 4, that pitiful hunk of wood was still there, no closer to being a bowl than I am. Now I realize that time moved at a more leisurely pace in the 18th century, but this was a bit lame. Bowls could be (and still can be) roughed out and finished well enough to use in a couple of hours. Let’s see some chips fly, McGregor!!!!!! (And work on that accent)
5. Just because something was originally handmade, does not mean that it had to be crude. Just like folks today who try to make things like bookshelves and decorative knickknacks and doodads, there were people who could, and people who should have been locked away for trying. Several folks were of the type that seemed to have just decided to start making stuff, and figured that if it looks bad, so what!, it’s handmade. Caveat emptor, and don’t buy the excuse that handmade is the equivalent of crappily done.
6. Most of the soldierly kit looked relatively good, although there were a good many baggy legged breeches and haversacks below the butt and generally odd comportment of accouterments Again, I am brand new at reenacting, but I have read enough stuff and seen enough correctly worn kit to at least have some sense about the right and wrong of it all. I just don’t understand why the folks that have been doing it so much longer don’t read the same stuff.
7. I saw maybe two or three women dressed in clothing that was correct for their supposed time and place. Everyone else had on Harlequin-romance-novel-cover-art-Society-for-Creative-Anachronism-come-and-get-yer-titties-here-serving-wench-looking stuff. Except for the gigantic fat girl in some sort of British uniform smoking a stogie. She looked very authentic.
8. One shouldn’t blow down the barrel of his lovely Thompson Center Hawken rifle after firing it. Especially in front of the public. Especially in front of my wife, who knows very little about muzzleloading, guns, gunpowder, smoothbore versus rifling, or anything else about guns. Because she will call you an idiot. Because, guess what? YOU ARE!!!!! I can only guess that this yahoo thought he was clearing the barrel of unburned powder by blowing it back where it came from. Sorry folks, but that takes a special kind of stupid, such as the type to light a match to see if there’s gas in the tank.
9. The next few comments should be taken with another grain of salt, because again, I’ve not done this before, but here goes: I know there is currently a big debate among folks about campaigning versus costumed camping out. But I also know that comments from my wife and kids about the appropriateness of soldiers having nice little beds in their tents and big fluffy blankets and nifty little slatted stools and tons of tasty food and big iron kettles make me think that possibly the public is not being well served. Is it really that difficult to sleep on straw
for a couple of days? To maybe eat the same ration as a soldier ate for a couple of days? Cooked in one tin camp kettle for a couple of days? I really think that the public knows, especially those with military experience, that the fluff stuff did not last long on the march. If Washington couldn’t keep his troops from throwing away camp kettles on the march, do you think the same fellows would have lugged around a giant cast iron pot and skillets and sets of irons? Probably not. Soldiers in garrison or billeted in homes may have had access to such stuff, but not out marching. It is not comfortable to sleep on the ground, even if you do have straw or boughs. It makes your stomach hurt to only eat a hunk of boiled beef and potatoes and firecake. But, gee, it’s only a couple of days. If that’s just too much to put up with, at least let folks know that what you are presenting to them as “living history” has had some concessions made to modern comfort.
10. HEY! Don’t cuss loudly in front of my kids. (British churl and blackamount. And an officer, to boot!).
11. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Guns good. BIG guns even better. ARTY ROCKS, MAN!
12. Children should be tied in cages. Or at least mine. I had to throw the two littlest ones out of a particularly well-known sutler’s tent—I didn’t know who to get mad at—my kids for touching everything, or the ass behind the counter for loudly telling them that this stuff was not toys and it was very expensive. (In my mind, I’m throwing my stuff down and telling this jerk that it’s all overpriced, that you’re selling it to be USED by people, that my kids know the difference between toys and your farby leather pouches that you bought from Tandy, that these are MY kids and if you want to talk to them-TALK TO ME, and then I jump the table and screw two musket worms into his eyeballs, pluck them out and pop them like grapes while singing the theme from “Barney.” In reality, I smacked Jonathan on the back of the head and sent him and Catherine out to momma and paid for my stuff without so much as a whimper. JerkMan just better be glad I decided to be nice. Or chicken).
13. We had a great time. I just wish we had more time to go visit the real battle site, and the other historic things in Camden.
14. Gas is cheaper everywhere than here.
15. South Carolina and Georgia have enough money to pay state troopers to patrol the interstates ALL NIGHT. I’m thankful I did not contribute to their revenue stream.
16. I get some of my best sleep while driving.
Anyway, that’s it for now.
Written sometime around August of 2000, then reformatted on July 12, 2001