What Rank Are You?
The passing of another reenactor got me to thinking about our habit of taking on military rank in what is, after all, a hobby with no real military rank. I didn't want to rain on the man's remembrance, and hope to convey my sorrow at his passing and the great loss it will mean, first to his family, and second to his reenacting brethren.
But it does make me queasy when military rank is bestowed on men playing soldier. It isn't helped by the often bloated rank structure of our hobby: "colonels" showing up at events with 25-man "brigades," and captains commanding two sergeants, a corporal and no more than a half-dozen snuffies.
Please don't ever refer to me, living or dead, as anything other than "reenactor." Is it any wonder the rest of the world thinks we're mad?
Any rank I hold, I hold for the purposes of an event. No one obeys me at any other time, and the notion that someone has "rank" in a reenacting unit seems, to me, more than slightly ridiculous.
I apologize in advance if I've offended those who feel they've "earned" their rank serving in what are essentially clubs with a pseudo-military organization (if you feel it's a real military organization, then tell me what happens if someone refuses to obey your orders?). At the end of the day, we're all just reenactors, and no one is above or below me unless I choose to pretend they are -- for the time we're in the field.
Or is your world different from mine?
I have to agree with you as professional career military myself. I don't get too excited about rank, and don't intend to offend either, but it is a hobby. I have rarely run across guys that take themselves too seriously with their rank, but when I do, I just just laugh to myself and move on. As for my unit, the real military officers and NCOs are all privates and some NCOs, and just happy to be there having fun.
Frank, I would normally not pay much attention, except for this piece:
Although I don't agree at all with the fine writer at The Salon, I couldn't agree more with your assesment of "titles" and "rank". I too noticed it lately upon posts and obituaries of passing reenactors, and at first felt guilty as I guffawed at the headings of "Colonel Smith" and "General Jones". If I go out, let it be known that I didn't want to be tagged with an honorary commission, unless it be Corporal Captain like the mythical Walter O'Reilly at the Officer's Club in Kimpo
This isn't the first time this article has surfaced on here....Or maybe it was on the AC. This is strictly an opinion piece...an editorial. Although that author desperately wants to convince the reader to "share" his opinion. I think his problem is that he studies the War till he's sick of it. Kinda what happens when you do it for a living. He does it to pay the bills. We do it as a labor of love. We actually enjoy it, and we love the look in a kids eyes when he gets to see up close an(hopefully)accurate representation of history. I've never heard any of the even most Highly Exalted Worshipful Grand Poobahs of "reenacting" advertise himself as an "expert". That shameless horn tooting rings the alarm bells for me as far as this guy goes. Sounds to me like he's been hanging around too many "Institutions of Higher Learning". Kinda like the way college professors "educate" the idea of a living God right out of impressionable young minds. In other words....."Me thinks he protesteth too much". He's also "going to the wrong events". The egghead probably has no clue that there is a such thing as "progressive-authentic" living history.
To answer the original question Bill...I'm in Australia right now. We obviously have to do things on a smaller scale. I belong to a progressive "Mess", where we're all privates. We try to take turns as NCO for drill purposes. I also belong to a Round Table group down here. We do things such as find CW veterans who moved here after the War, and died and were buried here. Often these vets have no marker on their grave. Many times we have to really search to even find their plot. That's what the researchers in our group do. When we find a grave, we apply to the VA for a marker, and have a ceremony. They appointed me Captain for these ceremonial events. I refused that rank and accepted 2nd Lt. I only wear rank to please the RT guys, and ONLY at these ceremonies. When I leave the hobby(hopefully of old age), don't sully the names of the real soldiers by trying to make me "one of them". Don't bury me in my uniform. Give it to my sons, or another young living historian. That's just my thoughts.....Others have to decide for themselves. Just note somewhere in my obit that, after my family, living history was my passion. Right up there with Alabama Football, Braves Baseball and junk collecting.
A poor imitation of a private,
I've noticed that rank, once accepted, is temptingly hard to give up. I've spent a season as a private in the ranks and I've seen people who were officers 25 years ago still being officers. I'm just sayin...
I have recently returned to reenacting and while part of me thinks I've no room or place to complain, I do have to say that the number of officers at events was one of the issues that pushed me away before, and it still bothers me now. Of course each unit has its own system for awarding rank, but who actually holds rank (and what rank that is) should, in my opinion, be based on the number of 'rifles' that show up to an event. We proclaim our efforts toward authenticity, and I think this should fall within those efforts.
I was at an event recently - and again I'm new to this so this may be more common than I think - where the ranks and number of those who held rank weren't finalized until it was clear how many were actually going to show, and this was for all groups in attendance, not a single unit.
So while this post echoes those above it, I think it's an important point to echo.
During the course of a season, I'm likely to be almost any rank, both Blue & Gray, but it wouldn't hurt my feelings if some people remembered I was also the Colonel of the 1st. Battalion, ANV for ten years, or so, and commanded at a few events. Ego is a funny thing.
Not following the logic. A lot of progressive-authentic reenactors have history degrees and/or college connections, so one can't diss eggheads while praising authentic reenacting as if they're mutually exclusive. I don't have any degrees myself, but when I run into those who do at progressive-authentic events, they fit right in. I've also found that the same level of research necessary for authentic reenacting fits right in when put on paper for "eggheads" to read.
Originally Posted by D.W. Scalf
An anti-intellectual attitude seems to fit better among reenactors who are honoring the memory of their ancestors, already have their minds made up what the war was about and don't want to hear evidence that would rock the boat. Unfortunately, that's the kind of reenactor the average college professor, wandering into a random event, is likely to meet, and no, they're not going have much in common. I'd also expect that in general (no pun intended), those are the kinds of reenactors more apt to care about their legacy of rank in a club rather than a reputation for knowledge.
"your only rank is reenactor." I read that somewhere once. It's the truth. I think it's offensive for those with REAL military service time, past or present, for some one to assume their "hobby playtime" rank in real life. Our bullets aren't real, theirs are.