Wednesday, May 24, 2006



The Dadmanlies have come across a wide range of re-enactors of late, which suits history-minded Little Manly just fine. Re-Enactors, for the few out there who haven’t discovered them, are those dedicated hobbyists who adopt period personas, learn vast amounts of detailed history, and spend their free time acting out historical periods.

Often re-enactments are re-creations of battles or other wartime events, although more and more historical periods or environments are subject to re-enactment. Little Manly is quite taken with these forms of “first person” history, and peppers the re-enactors we’ve met with all manner of specific questions, exploring intricate details of weapons (especially), practices, artifacts, and what can only be described as historical footnotes.

Little Manly thinks he will be a Re-Enactor someday. I am not so sure. certainly it may be a hobby he tries out at some point, but I know he has the idea that’s what these people do for a living. As they say, don’t give up your day job. Even those who moonlight for various museums, historical sites, or non-profit and educational organizations don’t pay their bills “living out the old days,” however much they enjoy it.

We’ve met Revolutionary War Re-enactors, both Colonial Army and Militia, and British Regulars. We’ve spent a lot of time around Civil War Re-Enactors, who must be the most common sort. We visited Baltimore during our visit to DC for the 2006 MILBLOGGER Conference, the beauty of which we first discovered in 2003.

While there, a group of Civil War Re-enactors bivouacked at Fort William McHenry. Fort McHenry was the site for the Francis Scott Key’s composition of the Star Spangled Banner. In our same trip, we saw the actual flag that was Key’s inspiration, undergoing renovation at the National Museum of American History.

The re-enactors included members of an Ohio Regiment, and they performed drill and ceremony, various crafts and period musical performances, and even re-enacted a Court Martial, complete with open air court room, presiding officers, and a death-by-hanging sentence (not re-enacted).

On the way home, we treated Little Manly to his second visit to Gettysburg, and this time on an inspired hunch, stayed two nights at The Battlefield Inn, a Bed & Breakfast that includes both a late evening and early morning re-enactment program. That was everything Little Manly could ask for, as our morning re-enactor portrayed a Sharpshooter, who brought his personal Sharp’s rifle, to augment the Inn’s reproduction Enfield musket.

Little Manly and I were allowed to fire the musket (powder only) as part of the morning program. That was neat.

Our evening re-enactor was a gentlemen who told us his real passion was re-enacting a Knight in medieval festivals. Which brought to mind meeting some members of the Society for Creative Anachronism. I suppose you could call them the original re-enactors, and they demonstrate many of the same behaviors, capacity to dwell in imagination, and habits of mind. I’ll stop with that.

We recently came across World War II Re-Enactors, which surprised me – how soon before things get re-enacted? (Now comes to mind the Monty Python sketch about a Ladies Group that re-enacted a famous British Naval Battle, complete with dueling purses and scrabbling in the mud. But now I really digress.)

Mrs. Dadmanly and I talked it over yesterday, and decided that if she was going to be a re-enactor, she would be a Polish Immigrant, and portray a woman like her Babci (Polish Grandmother).

She could wear a housedress and smock, put on one of those hair bonnets we see on Pierogi-making day at the Polish Catholic Church, and she could spend her re-enactment rolling dough, mixing cabbage or cheese and potato, and showing her audience the precisely correct way to pinch the ends together to make the doughy treat.

Someday, I suppose there’ll be Anti-War Hippie re-enactors.

No wait, we have those already. Check out Code Pink and others of their ilk. A good portion of the current anti-war sentiment of a certain generational flavor is no doubt a thinly disguised nostalgia for the “anti-war protest days. Call then Hippie Re-Enactors.

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