Letters from America - No.2
During a sojourn at the French Creek Gathering over the weekend June 17th – 18th, we discovered that one of our privates likes the sound of steam engines. At least, that was the sound that emanated from the vent he was tending during the night shoot of the 17th. When the #1 applied the wet sponge, it sounded like a Stanley Steamer coming down the road! I guess that youth does not have all the advantages over experience! But he got it right in the end. When we fired our last shot, we appeared to set off a whole arsenal of pyrotechnics across the other side of the field! (Actually, it was a firework display, but that does not sound so dramatic.) The following day he was switched to #1. This was his first time on the front end of one of our guns. It takes a lot of effort to service our full size guns and he acquitted himself very well in a fairly difficult post. By and large, apart from the 90-plus heat, it was a very relaxing, enjoyable weekend, just right for acclimatizing to the conditions of Gettysburg and 1st Manassas. The only problem with THAT is that I was suffering the aftereffects of a bad virus and went down with heat exhaustion. Hmmmm. Something to be learned there, I think?
One of the things I always seem to forget, event to event, is that I need to use bug spray between stripping off my uniform and putting on my civvies for going home. In the 2 – 3 minutes that my legs were uncovered I managed to get nailed by 6 mosquito bites, and Rosemary got a few more. And this after debugging the tent area for the whole weekend. I guess it could have been worse. Before the start of the season, Rosemary and I purchased a mosquito net to hang over our camp bed. It must have worked, given the nailing we got whilst changing!
From entries in the Forum I see that there are plans afoot already for the 145th Gettysburg. You should bear in mind that there is a whole raft of 145th events to attend before we get anywhere near to Gettysburg. By the time this gets published we will be past 1st Manassas (Bull Run). Before Gettysburg in 2008 there will be the Seven Days on the Peninsula, 2nd Manassas (Bull Run), South Mountain, Sharpsburg (Antietam), Fredericksburg (all in 2007), and Chancellorsville. And these are just the major Eastern battles. Of course, I realise the great mystique surrounding the Gettysburg battle, plus the cost of getting across here, but Rosemary and I will be attending most of the above 145th events, and look forward to seeing some of you there also. And if not, then I am sure we will be just as pleased to see you at Gettysburg in 2008!
When/if you visit us on camp, you will discover that Rosemary and I no longer imbibe in quantities of alcoholic beverages as we did at ACWS events in the past. There are no religious/health/moral reasons behind this. We have simply found that the high summer temperatures of this country, combined with the exertions of re-enacting, do not go well with booze. Dehydration is the worst enemy over here, not yanks/rebs, and alcohol is one of the best dehydrators of the human body I have ever found. So, to a large extent, we abstain beyond the odd single glass of wine/bottle of beer. But we can usually drum one up for visitors, or you too may prefer tea/coffee. Or maybe, like us, you will make do with the odd gallon of Gatorade or just plain water.
Given the amount of perspiration that one can expect during the summer re-enactments, I recommend that you carry a substantial quantity of the aforementioned Gatorade in your supply chests. The amount of essential salts that you will require to replace is adequately provided by this stuff. It does not taste as pleasant as some drinks, but it will do you the power of good (and a damn site better than any soda) after charging around for a couple of hours in 90-100-plus temperatures, with the high humidity that prevails for most of the time. As for water, you will need to drink a canteen-full (about 2 pints) every hour. If you do not, you will almost certainly end up with heat exhaustion. It sounds a lot, but I will guarantee that you will not be peeing for England. Most of what you drink will come out as perspiration before it gets anywhere near your kidneys. Hydration is the key!
The effects of the Atlantic Coastal storm that hit North-Eastern States had a knock-on effect beyond the damage to property and loss of life (which, of course, is far more devastating than the effect on re-enacting). But for safety reasons, the 143rd Gettysburg event was postponed for 7 days, which just about wiped it out for our Battery. Of the original 30 registered for the event, only 4 of us managed to actually attend (and 4 of them were ladies – could have been interesting, but one of them was Rosemary!), and the 3 registered guns were wiped out to none. I managed to wheedle a job as Corps Ordnance/Safety Officer, and I spent the first day inspecting guns and munitions. I think I preferred that to being Corps Adjutant. All that paperwork!!!! “Pickett’s Charge” turned into “Pickett’s Skirmish Line”. My only bad moment of the weekend occurred when I had to “pull” a misfired round that refused to exit under CO2 pressure (being Safety Officer does have the occasional drawback, but God was on my side and it came out with no problems). The weekend did not turn into the logistic nightmare that could have accrued if everyone had managed to rearrange vacation time. We were looking at staying out on the field from about 10:00 AM until 6:00 PM most days, with gun movement and other things to arrange between scenarios. However, those of us who did manage it hooked up with another battery for catering and field duties, and I think we all had a whale of a time.
Wherever you are, and what ever you are doing, keep safe.
I remain, as ever, very sincerely, your obedient servant,
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, Summer 2006