TEN WAYS TO FIND
THE AUTHENTIC EXPERIENCE
By Ken R Knopp
Originally published in the Camp Chase Gazette (July 2010 Issue)
Do you want to get more enjoyment from your reenacting experience? Well, first humble yourself! Keep an open mind. No one alive today knows what it was really like. There is always something to learn and experience for even the most seasoned reenacting veteran. Here’s a few ways to make it more fun. Remember, enjoying your reenactment experience is both a process and a journey And, therein, lies the rewards.
1. UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU ARE DOING:
Read the books!! Read the diaries, reminiscences, OR’s and lots of books on the subjects that interest you! Carefully examine the photos available. First, understand the experience then…. “live” it!
Do you want to be P.E.C. (Period, Everyday, Common) or, a “First Person Persona”. Its your choice! But, be ready/able to document your character and the unusual.
3. IMMERSE YOURSELF INTO THE ERA & THE EFFORT:
Is it an early, mid or a late war impression? Who and “where” are you from? How “should” you look? Most the fun of this hobby is in the preparation, planning, building, etc. Immerse yourself into the period with the right clothes, equipment, accoutrements and food. Consider making or building your “own” kit!
4. PAY ATTENTION TO THE DETAILS!
Simply put: Going authentic grows and rewards in the small details such as proper hardware, “defarbed” weapons, period cut and finish of equipment, clothes, period rolled & packaged cartridges and, eating period food. Its not about cost or having the finest, fanciest stuff from the biggest “name” maker….its about having the “right” stuff and experiencing and “feeling the moment”!
5. BUY QUALITY THE “FIRST” TIME!
You want quality and period correct. Most of the time its costs only a little more to buy a proper period cut garment (even with hand sewn button holes) or accoutrements from a quality supplier, than junk from a low-end sutler. Don’t take just anyone’s word for what is right. Check the “Search Engine” on the “Authentic Campaigner” web site, ask questions….and buy only once!
6. SIMPLE IS BETTER/LESS IS BEST!
Question: Do you really “need” all of that stuff? Veteran soldiers were practical men. Simple and easy worked for them and it will for you.
7. TRAVEL LIGHT!
The average infantry or cavalry soldier in the field did not have “A-frame” tents, cots, wooden slat chairs, fire grates and three square meals a day. Quite the opposite. For example, believe it or not….ordnance returns show an average of only 50% – 60% of western Confederate cavalrymen carried a haversack or canteen. Moreover, only about 40% – 50% had a pistol!! That means about 60% DID NOT!!! Not two…not even one with extra cylinders! Records also suggest not a lot of western Confederate troopers at mid war had saddle bags opting instead for just a blanket roll. Less stuff means less expense, less weight and less to keep up with and fall apart. LESS IS BEST!
8. DO WHAT THEY DID:
Travel, fight, eat, sleep and live the way they did. What better way to capture the real experience. March, carry and wear the right stuff. Sleep on the ground, eat what they ate! Anything less is just “costumed camping”!
9. MENTOR, LOAN, “SHARE” THE EXPERIENCE!!
Mentor the new guy, loan everything you can to him, bring him “in”. Educate him!! What is more rewarding than giving to someone else the thrilling experiences that you have had and loved? What is more fun and more authentic? Going into an event with four “super authentic” guys or a “full” company?
10. NEVER STOP STRIVING FOR AUTHENTICITY!
(and, never quite reading). Think outside the box!! Don’t justify what you already own as “correct” or “acceptable”. Look at each item you have. “Do I really NEED it? If you do then research it. Then ask yourself, “Is this item absolutely correct?” Think about ways to improve each item you have by rebuilding, replacement or discarding it. This truly is the FUN of the hobby! Being “authentic” is not a destination. It’s a journey.