Can campaigner numbers ever rise?
In another thread, my good friend and fellow RP (when he's not mainstreaming), Bill Rodman, wrote:
No, you're not a Streamer. Not entirely at any rate. Like many on this forum who attend Streamer events, you also campaign. In fact, the only campaigner events that really work well are those that attract cross-overs like you.
Originally Posted by TheQM
There, I've said it. I feel better now.
Now, some of my fellow campaigners will doubtless come forward and insist that their small mess hardcore event is superior to McDowell, "War on the James," the first "Burkittsville," etc., but with a few exceptions ("Pickett's Mill 2001" springs to my mind among those I attended), the events that campaigners themselves rate as "superior" bring in large portions of their attendees from people like you, Bill Rodman: Streamers who campaign. I bet if you did a breakdown of the attendees at "Rich Mountain," you'd find very few who only do campaigner events. And without them, the events become shadow plays of history, sideshows of the real thing.
You can "suggest" a corps of rifles with 20 men (we do this heroically at Gettysburg each year, but only for demonstration purposes), but the limitations quickly become obvious even to those of us willing to suspend our disbelief. Case in point: at the 2001 "Pickett's Mill," the assault on the CS high ground on Saturday worked perfectly because of the restricted frontage and thick undergrowth. The Sunday continuation had to be called off in mid-fight because the CS forces were attempting a flanking maneuver. The only problem? That flank originally had been occupied by another regiment (not present because we didn't have the numbers). The organizers stopped the event, rather than let it disintegrate into a tactical, a decision we all welcomed and applauded.
The notion of attracting a thousand rifles to a non-cooler/cot event isn't so bizarre. McDowell has inched up on that magic threshhold. It's not theoretically impossible if the events continue to stress an alternative experience, not iron man triathlete reenacting. Campaigner organizers who ignore the crossover does so at the peril of overall numbers. And it's no longer about the gear (which we were supposed to get beyond several years ago). In fact, many mainstream impressions are as good or nearly as good as their campaigner rivals. I've seen this over the years at McDowell: in three iterations, the level of the kit has improved markedly. Heck, even Bill Watson's kit is better than when I first met him!
Numerous campaigner events offer cot-less, cooler-less historical experiences without miles of marching or odd-ball uniform requirements. I remember the original "Burkittsville" asked Federal participants to wear "a sack coat." Numerous attendees of subsequent campaigner events started out there. It was a fine experience, one folks look back on now and wonder why there aren't more events like it.
So, I will respectfully disagree: it's possible to pass the 1,000-man mark for a non-Streamer event. It's just going to take a little more creativity and some persuasion. In spite of my years, I remain an optimist at heart.
Treasurer, The Rowdy Pards
'In the end, it's the history, stupid. If you can't document it, forget about it. And no amount of tomfoolery can explain away anything that makes history (and living historians) look stupid and wrong."