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View Full Version : How One Got Started in the Crazy World of Reenactment. The Medical Section:



Jas. Cox
04-12-2007, 08:47 AM
I originally posted this in part of one thread and others have heard some of the information. However, I decided that there should be a separate thread for this, and as I have thread posting powers, I shall, and hopefully have corrected some of my horrendous misspellings:

Let me preface this by stating that I'm not a hunter, not big into guns - the NRA - etc., not a fanatic gun supporter or a fanatic anti-gun person either. I've had and shot a few since I was young and mostly on my grandmother's farm with cousins. That being said, I was at Sam's Club a few years back and of all things they had for sale was a ball and cap Colt replica Navy Revolver with brass frame (which I was to learn later was 1. Confederate because they had a shortage steel and 2. Not that great to shoot over time because brass is so soft). Now I had a slight fascination with western things. Also not fanatical about it, not really up on it, but liked Clint Eastwood movies a lot. So I purchased it. It came with a black powder horn and was in a box that said Civil War 1861--1865 or something along those lines.*
*
Well of course I wanted a holster for it, but not the kind of thing I'd just go out and purchase. So I put it on various Christmas, birthday lists for years. Santa always let me down. Then one night, late last late winter or early spring, there was an ad for a local Sutler opening up a store here. I saw a holster and thought, I'll just go get me a civil war holster as it is a civil war gun and no one else is getting me one anyway. So I went to their store and purchased a very reasonably priced holster. I of course went Federal being the good Hoosier boy that I am. Well, if one has a holster, then one needs a holster belt. They also had hats and uniforms and ..... With a spinning head and a love for costume I was sucked in. But I didn't want to be a fighting soldier. Make love not war.
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I have a lot of nurses in my family; my mom, aunts, cousins and a cousin that's a doctor. So it was logical progression to being a doctor. Besides I have a college degree and a half, and in ways know more about disease (not anatomy or surgery) then doctors during the civil war, and as I learned later, some appointed surgeons knew even less. I didn't want to be a general or even a major, but captain always sounded pretty good, so I chose that.*
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Being someone who is compulsive about completion and surrounded by so many things, I kept going back. I've been a very good customer to them at the suffering of my bank account and my photography equipment. However, I can get so many more things from them for less money then a new camera body.*I have a pretty complete gear package/uniform including MS sword. Winter heavy wool dark blue cavalry trousers/summer light cotton trousers dyed a light blue/in-between light wool sky blue trousers/heavy cotton brown trousers. An officer's frock with MS captain's bars. Various types of hats (slouch, forage, kepi, ....). Boots and brogans. Double instrument roll-up, some reproduction medical instruments. I try to only have period instruments, but my scalpel is all stainless and I realize that isn't accurate. I wonder if I can somehow encase the handle ... hmm. And so on.
*
Thus, for the want of a holster I am a Federal MS US Civil War reenactor.*Special note on the revolver and being a Civil War Surgeon. "Pictorial Encyclopedia of Civil War Medical Instruments and Equipment" by Dr. Gordon Dammann Volume II, page 41. "On the following pages are examples of sidearms purchased for their own protection. Since a surgeon was a non-combatant, these weapons would not have been used on the field of battle...." That doesn't necessarily mean they didn't have them with them during battle.

I am not a "thread counter" [this is a somewhat derogatory term for those who belittle others for not being 100% "authentic" in one's unifrom/portrayal of a character. Down to, "uniforms in the fall of 1862 had black thread on the right sleeve hem with exactly 28 stiches." Now those who want this sort of authenticity for their own persona and are only concerned how they portray one's own character without belittle others I believe is a fine thing for them]. However, I do try to be as authentic as I can (though as a photographer I take my modern camera with me to record events). I believe while certain regulations were issued, that the military at that time wasn't today's General Issue (G.I.) military. It is difficult to say a character wouldn't have worn "that hat" or other piece of clothing, especially among officers. Many brought things from home, had bespoke articles of clothing. Some Federal forces wore gray at the beginning of the war with some disastrous consequences for them later. Referencing photographic evidence or regulations isn't going to sway me. MANY photographs were faked during this time period and the armies of the time, are not the strict armies of today. Yes, un-manipulated photographs can clearly show that a certain thing was used, worn in a certain way, but it is show for that person. A lot of men, and some women, served in this conflict. Unless you show me photos of every soldier, then I can only take things as guidelines. That's not to say that I won't listen to CONSTRUCTIVE advice. I want to learn and be accurate, but I also want to enjoy what I am doing. And talking to a few others, they feel the same way.

I am not a member of any reenactment group (though I have had some generous offers to join a few of you here, and might just fall in with you at events where our paths cross) for a number of reasons. The chief ones being:
• I have found that at least local reenactment groups, don't particularly need medical reenactors as much as they do soldiers. They may not be against the idea, but they are not overwhelmed with excitement by it either.
• I'm not big on groups. I like to do my thing, talk to people, come and go as I please and there aren't that many reenactments in my area (within two hours drive), in my comfort zone.

And on a side note, I am developing a Federal Infantry private's uniform in honor of my great, great, great, grandfather (or uncle, we haven't totally figured that one out yet) William Haas a volunteer for the Indiana 53rd Company I. He and his company are documented in a book my grandfather's cousin wrote "To the Mountain of Fire and Beyond The Fifty-Third Indiana Regiment from Corinth to Glory" by Garland A. Haas.

I think this information sums up where I'm coming from and my interests. I'm also a little obsessive at times about completion.

If one flames me, be prepared to be brutally ignored. My wit and intelligence would be lost on one anyway.

Respectfully,

Capt. Jas. Cox
Assistant Surgeon
Federal Forces
Unassigned

mravery
04-27-2008, 09:12 AM
Hey Jas,

Cool post and interesting way to get into the hobby. I checked out your website and had a thought. Had you ever thought of also doing a civilian photographer impression? I had never seen one done and would be a cool addition to a reenactment impression.

My background is finance (banking and financial banking software) and the impression I'm putting together is that of a Federal Paymaster so I'm kind of in the same boat you are with your impression. A few groups have expressed high interest while others are very 'cool' (too many politics and egos involved I guess).

Where did you pick up your MS sword? The paymasters used the same style as MS but used a PD on the hilt instead.

Cheers
Mark

2RIV
04-27-2008, 10:15 AM
I got into the medical side of the hobby after doing infantry for years. It made logical sense being as I was an EMT for years and am now also an RN. I felt that the few medical impressions I have seen were lacking a lot of insight. They could explain the procedures and treatments, but could not answer the whys of why it was done/used. Being that I went to a very old nursing school, medical history was a huge part of my education. I read every original medical book I can get my hands on. I feel that I can bring the reasoning behind the treatment to the spectators and fellow reenactors. Also, I have noticed at events that when some one gets injured for real, they bring them to the field hospital, yet most people who do field hospitals have no or limited medical training. I thought it would be nice to actually be able to help out when someone is injured.

Regimental_Officer
04-27-2008, 12:33 PM
I got into the medical side of the hobby after doing infantry for years. It made logical sense being as I was an EMT for years and am now also an RN. I felt that the few medical impressions I have seen were lacking a lot of insight. They could explain the procedures and treatments, but could not answer the whys of why it was done/used. Being that I went to a very old nursing school, medical history was a huge part of my education. I read every original medical book I can get my hands on. I feel that I can bring the reasoning behind the treatment to the spectators and fellow reenactors. Also, I have noticed at events that when some one gets injured for real, they bring them to the field hospital, yet most people who do field hospitals have no or limited medical training. I thought it would be nice to actually be able to help out when someone is injured.
In my Brigade anyone who portrays a surgeon or hospital steward or anything medical has to have a minimum of cpr and first aid. When one is injured or a medical crisis happens in our regiment you gonna get a emt, paramedic and a doctor. We made this a policy because of a few incidents where when someone was injured a few with the green hospital stripes came running over and started treating the person, However they did not know what they were doing. As a emt/firefighter myself it was only logical to make anyone portraying a medical person of the civil war should be qualified and for us it works out we field up too 5 emt's and a doctor and pretty soon we will have a defibulator in the camp as well.

hanktrent
04-27-2008, 01:42 PM
We made this a policy because of a few incidents where when someone was injured a few with the green hospital stripes came running over and started treating the person, However they did not know what they were doing. As a emt/firefighter myself it was only logical to make anyone portraying a medical person of the civil war should be qualified.

Or the other way to solve it (which should be common sense anyway)--no one should be allowed to offer real modern medical treatment unless they're qualified to do it.

One of the reasons I got out of medical reenacting was the frustration of everyone else being encouraged to perform a period role, except for us.

If a real medical emergency happened, of course everything was stopped as necessary until the person could be taken care of. But then everyone else could go back to reenacting, except us.

For those who primarily wanted to be modern first responders, it was great--they could do what they came for.

However, I was primarily interested in the history of medicine and wasn't interested in being a modern EMT. So it wasn't worth putting in the study and preparation and driving for hours, just to have my part of the event regularly cancelled or shortened, when I could see the infantry, artillery or cavalry continuing the historic roles they'd prepared for.

Fortunately, I've since found some events where it's different. Either modern EMTs in modern clothes with ambulances are hired to stand by. Or modern medical people, regardless of their period role, voluntarily quit reenacting to do modern medical care. That way, no one branch of service is decimated, and those who aren't modern-trained can continue with the history, rather than standing around watching EMTs work.

So there's more than one way to handle it, and it just depends what medical reenactors want to get out of events. Not all are there for the same reason.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

hta1970
04-27-2008, 04:21 PM
I too am more for the imersion side which Hank mentions. I am schooled in enough human physiology and latin to know my way around the peiod terms for the body and medicines, but I have no desire to give modern treatment and get "out of character." Leave modern medicine to the modern hired medical personnel.

Having me provide moderen medical care simply is one more chance to get out of character and I'm here to provide a First Person impression, not be a modern actor in period attire doing something inauthentic.

Best think someone can do is go straight to modern medical personnel for that assistance. They certainly don't want anything in my "bag of tricks."

Jas. Cox
04-27-2008, 11:23 PM
Hey Jas,

Cool post and interesting way to get into the hobby. I checked out your website and had a thought. Had you ever thought of also doing a civilian photographer impression? I had never seen one done and would be a cool addition to a reenactment impression.
...

Where did you pick up your MS sword? The paymasters used the same style as MS but used a PD on the hilt instead.

Cheers
Mark


Mark,

It has been suggested before that I do a photographic impression. Perhaps y'all are trying to tell me something. ;) To do such an impression would require a lot of equipment, chemicals, etc. and money. Each image actually taken would incur an expense I cannot afford. I'm all digital now. Although I have considered how I could disguise a digital camera in a period looking case, but that has mostly been in traveling back in time fantasies. Still it wouldn't be historically accurate. It has been considered.

I believe I got my sword through Dixie Gun works. I will tell you that although I consider it pretty decent, most MS reenactors I've seen post on this forum do not like the quality of any reproduction sword they have seen. Furthermore, once one has worn a sword to a few events, one finds it's a pain in the butt to lug around unless one is doing some sort of formal event. If I knew now, what I didn't know then, I wouldn't have spent the money on one. Well, probably. A sword is kind of cool. :cool: But I really don't plan on wearing it much "out in the field" anymore.

Thank you for your positive comments.

2RIV
05-01-2008, 07:33 PM
Personally, I help out people whether I am doing infantry or hospital. I also try to do it in a way that does not interfere with the happenings at an event. Most injuries are minor and can be taken care of with out much, if any real intervention on my part. I do find however, that the reenactors I am with find a degree of comfort in know that someone is there to help should it be needed. I am very much into doing the medical impression, but having modern knowledge when needed is an added bonus.

Matthew,
I see your a Jersey Boy as well. I was an EMT for many years before becoming and RN, and I still keep up my cert. Where do you ride?

Linda Trent
05-02-2008, 09:06 AM
I have my father to thank for getting me involved in living history (though he never lived to know that). As a kid my parents took me to the Algonquin Mill Festival every year where we watched a reenactment of Shiloh. Why these small events chose to do a major battle like Shiloh with less than fifty men is still beyond me, but I do digress.

The Algonquin Mill was actually built by my gggg grandfather, and seeing the reenactment there always made me wish that maybe someday I could portray my gg grandmother and welcome the visitors to the mill.

In 1990 I returned to college and one of my teachers was a reenactor. He knew I didn't want to sit around at an event with nothing to do, so he recommended I get involved with a particular medical group. I could always be making bandages, or assisting with various things, etc. But one particular surgeon (the major) didn't like women in his hospital and drilled me in my first person long and hard. How did I get here? Where's my escort? Where's my carriage? And so on and so forth till he literally brought me to tears. His goal was to see if I truly had the desire to be a part of his unit. That was the best thing that could have happened to me, as I swore I'd never get caught like that again. I passed the major's scrutiny and was accepted as a member of the unit, but shortly thereafter the unit fell by the wayside, but not before I met the lieutenant, who I later married. :lol:

My interest in medicine is strictly from the early to mid 19th century. What I find the most discouraging about our end of the hobby is the same thing that Hank does, mostly that we study historic medicine, pay to obtain all the materials (clothes, equipment, etc.), drive hundreds of miles only to have an event fold up on us.

It was disheartening to drive to Gettysburg 15 years ago only to find out that there wasn't anything to do at the hospital -- it was solely modern medicine. The officer in charge asked who had modern medical training and I was the only one to not raise my hand. They all marched off to the field to minister modern aid. I sat back in camp alone, watched the advance of the armies, and recorded my character's thoughts -- that in and of itself was amazing, but it wasn't what I had come to do.

At Jackson Michigan one year a real injury came to the yellow flag. A guy had a piece of metal on the exterior portion of his ear (if I remember correctly). His real blood mixed in with the water in the basin, and got onto some of the instruments, etc. What a mess! Obviously after contaminating the area with real blood the hospital scenarios were called for the remainder of the event. Again, it was about a 10 hour drive round trip to the event, and we never got to do any medical stuff. :(

I was fortunate last year to finally get the opportunity to do what I originally wanted to do. I went to the Mill Festival as my gg grandmother. It was a success, as many of my relatives had the opportunity to talk to their gg grandmother. My character didn't know them, but knew her family and was able to talk about her son off in the war, about her children who were about the same age as many of my cousins' children and that sort of thing. Afterwards they wrote and thanked me profusely for their experience.

That's what got me into the hobby, the opportunity to give spectators and other reenactors the best step back in time experience as I can within the realms of health and safety, of course. :rolleyes:

Linda.

"Doc" Nelson
08-14-2008, 09:12 PM
WOW!! I know this is a little late . . but hey, what can I say ;)

Anywho, let's see . . . . well, I was an MP Explorer (I won't tell you how long ago :rolleyes: ) in a program on Fort Monroe, Virginia. Well, being there, it gave me many chances or opportunities to visit the Casemate Museum, the old bastion fort itself, among other historical "sites" on base. Learning that, Robert E. Lee was stationed there from 1831 to 1834 and, played a major role in the Fort's final construction. I spent many a days at the museum, researching and checking out the displays. I became enthralled with this era of American History.

I started asking around, to see if there were any groups that portrayed troops from the Civil War. Well, the museum staff put me in contact with a few other historical sites. And, lo and behold . . many contacts. I soon found myself in a Confederate uniform. Come mid-1989, I found myself in a gray uniform and, hence born my endeavor in this great hobby. I remained a Confederate Infantryman for many, many years. Studying and learning as much as I can. Shortly afterwards, my dad told me that, he had been told from relatives that, we had an ancestor that served during the War. But, we had no idea whom it was nor, what capacity he served (we assumed it was a “he”, but you never know)?

It wasn't until 2005 that, I found out that, my 3rd Great Grandfather served as the Surgeon with the 4th Georgia Infantry, CSA, from 1862 to the end of the War. It was this point that, I began giving some serious thought into changing my impression. After much thought (I believe only a couple of minutes ;) ), I started looking into and, purchasing what I needed for a basic medical impression. After trying to figure out what I wanted to do . . “Assistant Surgeon” (it was the best choice, considering it would fit into an event better than a full blown Surgeon . . not to mention, the cheaper route). It was here that, I met a certain "Micah Trent" ;) . I have really enjoyed our friendship ever since.

My 3rd Great Grandfather was no great advocate of the War. He longed for "things" to go back to the way they were prior to the War (this is in his memoirs, written by him). So I felt it was only honorable to "do" my impression correctly . . authentically. To honor, not only him, but all that served in the Medical Corps, on both sides.

So no, I'm no stitch counter myself. But, I do strive for authenticity. And, I will never belittle someone else for their choices. No, I may not agree or, care for their choice. But, it is still a free Country. But I will offer advice, backed up with historical evidence or facts (however you wish to put it). You can bet that, when I "hit the field", I will do my impression as historically as possible. I understand that, certain things are not within my control, so I will have to do the best I can and work around those obstacles.

As for me being affiliated with any units . . yes, a couple. I am a Civil War Living Historian, I am not a mainstreamer or hardcore (as some will label it). My focus is to educate others on the medical aspect of the War. I currently portray a Federal Assistant Surgeon. My kit, is a basic one. I use only what I carry. I have no tent, nor all of the camp furniture. I choose to “bunk” where I can. I do this, as my choice, to get more out of my impression. No, it may not be 100% accurate . . but, we’re not marching for 100’s miles either. Nor, are we camped for days and days. We are at an event for about 2 days, on average (some longer, some shorter). I am a diabetic so, I will have “modern” articles with me. Although, they will be concealed and, seen by no one except myself (and maybe 1 or 2 other persons, just in case something were to happen). So, given this is the 21st Century, I will strive for the best impression within my power.

Micah Trent
08-14-2008, 09:47 PM
When I first started in the hobby, I protrayed a federal chaplin. At the time I thought it was a neat thinng to do seeing that I was working in a church. However, it was never really what I intended doing for I had an itch to want to suit up and play infantry.
Side note: Someone did take a picture of me in my....ahem...chaplins outfit...(which I will not share due to post dramatic flashbacks...it was that bad!).
I finally gave up chapling and started doing infantry in 2002. Haven't looked back since.

"Doc" Nelson
08-14-2008, 09:57 PM
Someone did take a picture of me in my....ahem...chaplins outfit...(which I will not share due to post dramatic flashbacks...it was that bad!).
I wonder if that "someone" was a certain spouse ;) ??? and, I wonder if we can find this photo on eBay or, possibly put it up for sale on eBay :mrgreen:

hmmmm . . "dramatic" instead of "traumatic", interesting :lol: .

Micah Trent
08-14-2008, 10:14 PM
I wonder if that "someone" was a certain spouse ;) ??? and, I wonder if we can find this photo on eBay or, possibly put it up for sale on eBay :mrgreen:

hmmmm . . "dramatic" instead of "traumatic", interesting :lol: .

Comical is more like it.

LOL...Honestly it was not the wifey. It was someone from the church where I was working at.

It got worse though. That photo made to the front page of the local newspaper. At the time I thought, "Alright!" Now I look at it and think "Ugh! Why? What was I even doing? Did I really do that? Did I really look like that?"
I guess though my uniforms have changed and improved...my looks haven't!:???:
Just Kidding!

BigYankee
08-15-2008, 12:59 AM
Well, the way I got started is not glamorous or anything like that. I had been doing federal infantry one weekend and a medical steward came up to me and asked if I can help lift someone onto a stretcher. So I help, again and again and again. Now I'm hooked. That's it, nothing special just helping someone out.

bgent
10-28-2008, 07:52 PM
my intro started via metal detecting (wonder how many others started or eventually found their way into artifact hunting) Eventually this led to lectures in schools on the war. I always seemed to have a interest in the war so the next logical step was to locate a unit near me having done this I visited as a spectator and met almost everyone. What a pleasent surprise on how helpful and accomidating they were.
All this led me to this site and again a great bunch of people I thank you all for answers to my newbie questions

"Doc" Nelson
10-28-2008, 10:20 PM
newbie questions
No worries there. I've been in this hobby for 19 years and, I still consider myself a newbie ;) . Crap, I don't know everything . . I still find myself asking a LOT of questions :mrgreen: .

bgent
10-29-2008, 11:49 PM
No worries there. I've been in this hobby for 19 years and, I still consider myself a newbie ;) . Crap, I don't know everything . . I still find myself asking a LOT of questions :mrgreen: .

you wouldnt happen to be a physician would u in actual life? the reason is before my forced retirement I was PA in new yourk state myself

"Doc" Nelson
10-30-2008, 04:28 PM
you wouldnt happen to be a physician would u in actual life? the reason is before my forced retirement I was PA in new yourk state myself
No sir. The closest I've come to anything medical is, being a certified EMT :mrgreen:. Never been to NY. Originally, I'm from Michigan. Closest I've come to NY was New Jersey, while visiting the wife's family.

bgent
10-31-2008, 02:30 PM
that,s where i reside in hudson county . In fact this summer i hope to have a reenactment here to benefit fallen law and fire personal . It was my two friends and brothers in arms that lot their life 2 years ago xmas eve, here so this one is personal.