In spite of fellow Westerners admonishments that Easterners were "wierd", that Cedar Creek was a farb fested circus, etc. I ventured east to participate in the 145th anniversary of the Battle of First Bull Run / Manassas .
Why ? Well , I wanted to go to the first reenactment the one that Kennedy and Eisenhower enjoyed but no adult would think of putting that much effort into history . I vowed some day to go . I came , I say , I concurred .
The event was two faceted : from a Western perspective it was full of all the things abhored by us : plastic beer coolers in site , oceans of Sibley and A frame tents , cars everywhere , a bagpiper , women in camp , in the ranks of all branches and even at the dance ! Needless to say , modern food , drink , cigarettes, sleeping bags, cots etc. were all not only present but in full view. So much for the camps . Why in the William Tecumseh Sherman , would I enjoy this event ?
The Saturday battle lasted two hours twenty minutes by my time piece. It stormed on us and several folks keeled over from heat and so on. The various types of units were a sight to see . Every type of uniform : zouaves , militia ,Garibaldi Guards , 1st or 2nd Rhode Island , 69th New York , chasseurs , et. al. What was missed was the Scots 79th Highlanders of New York. I saw one. Even more perverse was the lack and I mean a total paucity of gaiters. Consider for a moment the mind set of reenactors : here is an event where it is correct to wear them and they didn't . Conversely , you will see loads of them at the Battle of Franklin. Go figure . I was in the 3rd U.S. Regulars and from my vantage point I could see the Tiger Rifles attack us with great elan , even drawing out their Bowie knives to frighten us . The Fire Zouaves were full spirited and advanced and were attacked by Stuart's troopers . after which they fled with historic gusto. I saw Mississippi troops and the 33rd Virginia who seemed to break ranks in an attack upon our artillery. Once the Federals had pushed back the Confederate line I could see Jackson up on a ridge before us with a line of Virginia infantry . Gee, he stood there like a , like .... like a stone wall . If this t'wasn't history what is ? The battlefield and the troops arrayed on it looked like a minatures war game done well . The reenactor who portrayed JEB Stuart wore a blue Federal uniform and was an outstanding horseman . His large mounted cavalry force caused us Regulars to form square as they broke around us ala Ney's charge at Waterloo . Our general looked like Ambrose Burnside . Folks really put some effort into their impression for this event and it showed.
In conclusion , the battle was one of the best and most historic I have ever witnessed . No scenario busters here . From a living history / campaigner /authentic point of view the camps were as historic as a Boy Scout Jamboree . Other highlights however were that it was fought on an actual battlefield , it was in Virginia , ( always a history plus ), and the incredible 2nd South Carolina String Band not only performed for the dances but performed while reenactors strolled down sutlers row . In a perfect world , musicianship of their quality would fetch a premium price and not be free to all who stumbled by.
I enjoyed what I came for , which was a battle reenactment . I did not come for camp life or living history as I knew better but it's quite gratifying to learn that a four decade wait did not spoil my enjoyment of Bull Run.
all for the old flag,
David Corbett , 10th ILL. Vol. Inf. / Battelfield Balladeers