You are right. Sometimes the people who have the skills to get an event organized are not the people to stand out in front of a body of soldiers and yell "Forward! guide center!" either. It take special organizational skills, connections and expertise to organize something bigger than a company level event. I can't do it, and my hat's off to those who can.
For most of reenacting season I portray a private. Sometimes I fill in as as sergeant if my home unit needs it for local events. At the larger events I portray a battalion commander. I've found that field officers in the hobby are best described as party planners. You play host to people who like to play the same game as you and everyone's role is equally as important. Musicians rate the highest on my VIP list. Fifers are worth their weight in gold.
Over the course of a season I get to sample the hobby from many perspectives. I get to shoot my fair share of rounds and cook my bacon over the fire and actually get to hang out with friends. I don't take myself too seriously when serving as an officer, but I take the responsibility as one to serve- not from service.
Every command a reenacting officer gives ends with the silent word "please". As previously stated, the authority is only as broad as the men in the ranks allow.
Every officer should be required to portray a private at least once a year. They forget what those muskets weigh at "shoulder arms" when they don't have one.
My favorite rank is 2nd Sgt. Personally I think it is the most important position in a company. Most 2nd Sgt.'s don't have a clue of their role in drill, marching, parade, etc. I have been a General when asked. I was a General at the 150th Firing on Fort Sumter, Manassas, and Bentonville and a few other events. I was a 2nd Sgt. at McDowell. I am just as happy being a private. But I love reading the drill manuals and one of my pet peeves is people assuming rank and not knowing drill. I call them cluster muckers who make their commands look stupid. I have seen a General do a brigade wheel because he didn't know how to change front forwards. He had a whole battalion lost in the woods. I was a private in that move laughing my a-s off.
Just a lowly private and proud to be one.
I really could care less, as I don't pay attention to any officer except my own captain at events... Though I'd follow Bill Cross straight to Richmond if he gave the orders in German.
I'm usually pretty rank after a few days in the hot sun.
I should hope so!
Originally Posted by Strawfoot
As you know I don't usually post on boards anymore. However, your question (which in reenacting, is one of the more important questions) needs discussion. Here's my humble input...
(WARNING: TWO WORDS WILL BE USED EXTENSIVLY THROUGH THIS POST. THEY ARE, RESPONSIBILITY AND KNOWLEDGE.)
I explain the subject of "rank" to Fresh Fish and people outside the hobby as follows...
In military reenacting the "rank" used is the same as rank held by soldiers during the war. With "rank" comes a certain level of responsibility and necessary knowledge. The higher the rank, the higher the level of responsibility and necessary knowledge. The "rank" should, but, doesn't always reflect the scenario. The example being a "general" leading four "privates" into battle.
"Rank" should be earned by proving ones level of responsibility and knowledge. In the mainstream unit I first joined, there was actually a skills test which had to be passed in order to obtain the "rank" of "corporal". It involved posting guards, basic drill and knowledge of the company we portrayed. And yes, men did fail in their attempt to become "corporal". We once had a man, who was previously a "corporal" in another group, try to join us, expecting to keep his "rank". He was given the basic skills test and failed. He was given the opportunity to join with the "rank" of "private" and then retake the "corporal" test after his six month probation period was up. He declined the offer and went on to find another group that would accept him as a "corporal", the dysfunctional poser that he was. I have seen times where the "rank" of "corporal" was desired because of the position when formed-up. Being on the end in the front gives you great exposure in photographs. You never have to worry about someone standing in front of you blocking you out when those cameras are clicking. Once again another sorry excuse.
Many years ago I attended one of the finest events I had ever been to. "NCO School" held at Fort Washington. It was arranged by some of the finest reenactors in the hobby and was attended by some of the most serious reenactors in the hobby. The sole purpose of the school was to train men to become better reenactors. After two 12 hour days I had the confidence to wear "corporal" stripes and the fear to never go any higher in "rank". The first thing I learned, when you have rank, you are responsible for the men under you. No, they're not going to get shot, but, they could come down with heat exhaustion. Being aware of the signs of physical strain and heat related illnesses is the job of all men with stripes on their sleeves and straps on their shoulders.
My biggest mistake...
I attended a McDowell event as a 2nd "Sergeant". I was 2nd "Sergeant" in 3rd Company. Heck there were only three companies. How hard could it be? We were formed up on Sunday morning and preparing to go into "battle". How safe I was being 2nd "Sergeant" in 3rd "Company", until the order to march out was given... "Left Face" "Forward March". Yes, I led the march up the mountain. That was the last time I wore "Sergeant" stripes.
Weapons inspections done by "Sergeants"...
I've got news for you, some reenactors don't clean their muskets. Is it dangerous? You betcha and it's the responsibility of the men with the strips on their sleeves to find those dirty, improperly maintained or improperly assembled firearms. Have there been accidents? Yes there have. Were improper, incomplete or non-existing weapons inspections the fault? Sometimes, yes.
Weapons training and drill...
This is the responsibility of everyone from the guys with two strips on the sleeves to the guy with the oak leaf on his straps and non of you should say, "It's not my job".
Get ready here comes the big one...
Troop movement in reenacting should only be ordered by someone who has the highest level of knowledge. I need not explain this. There's nothing like a few hundred men running in different directions in an open field carrying bayonets and firing black powder from rifles! If you don't know which way they're supposed to go, where they're supposed to be, or when they're supposed to fire those rifles, you shouldn't have those straps on your shoulder.
I haven't even touched the surface regarding the guys who give the order to fire those artillery pieces which use anywhere from 4 to 8 ounces of black powder.
The use of reenacting "rank" outside of reenacting...
I remember the Chancellorsville event at Fort Pickett in VA. A few weeks before the event a reenactor, who wanted to stop by the base and check out the terrain before the event, called and identified himself a "captain" of a particular unit. Thinking he was a commander of a National Guard unit he was switched from one lower ranking person to another until he got through to the base commander. The base commander was so outraged by the kook that was using a false military title he wanted to cancel the event. Here's a hint, it's not real. The "rank" you achieve is only good in reenacting.
Yes, "rank" has it's privileges. But it also requires knowledge and comes with responsibility. (I promise not to use the K and R words any further in this post).
So Bill, to answer your question... I'm a "private" for life.
This is my 2 cents from 13 years of military reenacting. I hope I didn’t offend anyone and hopefully this post doesn't get deleted.
PS: That sentence under my name in the signature has been there for a decade and not just applied for this post.
I have seen some of the finest reenactors in the hobby be everything from "private" to "major". Having the most fun as private!