Page 2 of 3 FirstFirst 123 LastLast
Results 11 to 20 of 22

Thread: Knowing is half the battle...

  1. #11
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Stroudsburg, Pa.
    Posts
    1,232

    Default

    Just as food for thought:
    The BGA scenarios were worked on for months and every scenario had, weeks ago, a detailed list of what units were portraying what actions, and where they were to go and at exactly what time. Every one was on a Powerpoint scenario except for Pickett's Charge. I will cheerfully send those Powerpoint scenarios to anyone who wants to see, and I will cheerfully recommend to any event organizer that everyone registered for an event should get one via email attachment from here on out.
    The reason? Even though those Powerpoints were both emailed to top military leaders and made available on a "share site" with access, and were talked about in conference calls that went on for hours, the detailed plans did not get down to some brigade or battalion leaders. A half hour before one scenario, I discovered a key brigade commander had not seen the Powerpoint, was surprised by it, and had been given somewhat different instructions by his commander earlier in the day. I respect that commander, and I give the brigade commander a lot of credit for mentally shifting gears and getting his organization to perform well, but really, why wouldn't anyone want maneuver unit leaders to know the expected maneuvers? It's one thing for the rank and file and even company leaders to be in the dark and have to execute upon command, but at battalion level the focus shifts: That's where the leaders have to know what's expected of their organizations in order for everyone attending the event to have a successful outcome.
    I sometimes run up against an attitude or philosphy that says "we can't make it come out right no matter what we do, so why try so hard?" The answer is that events where maneuver unit leaders see the scenarios and participate in walk-throughs turn out better than events where that doesn't happen, even if the final result is not perfection. The cost of doing that is simply time, attention and energy by fellows who are expected to spend time, attention and energy on behalf of their commands to make their experiences fulfilling.

    There was a question in some minds, all along, especially with the Round Top to Peach Orchard scenarios, whether reenactors could even cut it, since some organizations had to be used in two different portrayals. It turns out, now as in 1863, the rank and file can do a lot more than some of their leaders expect. The sight of exhausted, sweating men pouring over a hill to fling themselves instantly into battle, after being engaged nearly three-quarters of a mile away and then asked to tromp across rough ground to do it again, was an unexpected period moment. That experience, for those guys, perhaps more closely resembled what a Union soldier went through on July 2nd than anything else we did. And I hope that when their feet stop hurting they have a similar realization.
    Last edited by billwatson2; 07-01-2013 at 05:08 PM. Reason: Misspelling
    Bill Watson
    I write about history for people who regret not being there when it happened.

    Books
    Brother William's War, Illustrated, about a Southerner's war
    The Ludlam Legacy, Illustrated, about a young Yankee orphan's war.
    Seize the Day! A best-practices guide to wringing more satisfaction from your Civil War weekend
    The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting: An introduction for those who want to try it out

  2. #12
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Columbus, OH
    Posts
    3,400

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by kfrankli View Post
    Very true. The BGA scenarios were great when followed. (The Wheatfield was amazing), but not so much when they weren't although still turned out well.
    And yet, there was a tremendous error that occurred at the beginning of that scenario, which when realized was corrected quickly and without damage to the scenario or decrease in the experience by the rank and file.

    All weekend long, I had the honor of watching what some would consider the "comedy of errors" that I suspect occurs at every single medium-to-large event in trying to get people moved to where they need to go and do what you want them to do, led by men who are themselves only weekend warriors. Lack of communication (radios that didn't work properly, if at all, as only one example), misinterpretation of orders, unexpected impediments, etc, etc, etc, all being worked through and dealt with to provide the men in the ranks with what appears to have been a quite good overall experience for the weekend.
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

  3. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,314

    Default

    There are ways to get scenarios right.

    I have seen it done.

    Pards,
    S. Chris Anders
    Southern Division
    www.southerndivision.org
    http://www.civilwarhenrico.com/

    There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. - Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.

  4. #14
    Join Date
    Jan 2007
    Location
    Shenandoah Valley
    Posts
    410

    Default

    Well Chris, to be more specific, you have DONE it!

  5. #15
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    Location
    Hoboken, NJ
    Posts
    394

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders View Post
    There are ways to get scenarios right.

    I have seen it done.
    No doubt there sir. There are two types of reenactors, those who experienced the Cornfield at Maryland my Maryland and those who wish they had. You pulled off one of the best.
    Brandon English
    Farb

  6. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Posts
    99

    Default Scenario Questions--use of radios.

    1st of all, I'm not trying to be overly critical of the Scenarios at BGA. I think for the most part they came off well, and the Culp's Hill fight was "Next Level".

    Along the lines of "getting scenarios right", I have a question (Probably several actually). Some pards and I were reflecting about about scenarios at BGA. We felt that any issue with scenarios at any event come down to one thing: communication. The question(s) that I have has to do with how to keep scenarios running properly. My pards and I discussed that with Powerpoints and walk throughs, radios are used to keep things moving properly (I believe this was the case at MmM--please correct me if I'm wrong).

    I understand that Chris Anders has walk throughs prior to scenarios. I believe that this helps to develop some ownership from leadership on down (desire to "do it right"). I think that this is a good thing. I was at AHT, RTM and MmM. All seemed to go very well as far as scenarios are concerned.

    --The use of radios. Unless there are mounted couriers running back and forth across the field taking messages back and forth, these seem to be a good thing.

    --Does it make sense for all leadership (from army to battalion level command) to have them?

    --Are the opposing armies connected via radio? Should they be?

    --If they are (or can be) used at these levels, does it make sense for the Army Commander (or even someone with a full field view) to have Powerpoint in hand along with timepiece and radio to keep things moving per the scenario? (ex: "1st battalion. Stop your advance, you are not to move forward until 8:15....)

    --The appearnce of a radio (walkie-talkie style) is intrusive. I saw them at MmM. They stick out like sore thumbs. Assuming cost is not an issue, is it possible for those that have radios to wear a potentially less obvious ear piece and lapel mic?

    --With radios being used, doesn't this potentially eliminate "rogue" behavior by creating a level of accountablility? (Peers can hear and see f somieone is breaking a scenario)

    --BTW, I'm not advocating using radios as a replacement for issuing commands--just a "back up" to make sure orders are timely and then followed accordingly.

    If all of the above is currently happening, and I am just unaware, I apologize. Just wondering if this stuff is happening or if not, if it may be possible or if any of this makes sense to implement.
    Sam Lowe
    Sally Port Mess
    Western Rifles

  7. #17
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    1,314

    Default

    Sam,

    Here is what I do, and I hope others do the same and improve upon it.

    First, power points are out months in advance to all commanders. These are built based upon space, ground, historical accounts and the number of troops expected.

    Second- walkthroughs of all scenarios happen prior to each, no more than 3 hours prior, for all officers battalion command and higher

    Third- I use radios with engineers from command staff with every single maneuver element on the field, and they have the scenario in hand and are connected to me through my chief engineer who is with me at all time.

    Fourth- I am on the horn on another channel directly to the opposing commander.

    Fifth- I wish we could afford right now earpieces, but since I bought every single radio, over 50 at this point, and over 30 have disappeared at events over the years, it is very expensive just to have them period.

    I know radios suck to be seen, but blown scenarios are worse, IMHO. Moving forward, if I do not have to buy replacement radios at every single event, I will be able to upgrade to earpieces, and that would be best.

    I love using couriers, but when something needs to be done "now" and in a specific manner, instant communication with the other side is needed.

    For we are "dance partners", no matter how good one side is, if the other is doing a different dance....

    Pards,
    S. Chris Anders
    Southern Division
    www.southerndivision.org
    http://www.civilwarhenrico.com/

    There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. - Niccoló Machiavelli, The Prince. 1537.

  8. #18
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Location
    Stroudsburg, Pa.
    Posts
    1,232

    Default

    "The use of radios. Unless there are mounted couriers running back and forth across the field taking messages back and forth, these seem to be a good thing. "

    Speaking only as a federal command staffer: We used radios, couriers, mounted couriers and the bugle to pass messages. The bugle, with preludes for each maneuver unit worked out with their buglers ahead of time by Chris Hall, was quite effective. So were the radios, but there weren't enough.


    --Does it make sense for all leadership (from army to battalion level command) to have them?


    Yes.

    --Are the opposing armies connected via radio? Should they be?

    They were at this one. The two top commanders were also in contact with event operations, which is how the cars got towed off the battlefield.

    --If they are (or can be) used at these levels, does it make sense for the Army Commander (or even someone with a full field view) to have Powerpoint in hand along with timepiece and radio to keep things moving per the scenario? (ex: "1st battalion. Stop your advance, you are not to move forward until 8:15....)


    Yes. That was taking place, but there were not enough radios and not every commander will accept a courier's oral message or even the chief of staff in person, relaying a message about position or timing.

    Assuming cost is not an issue, is it possible for those that have radios to wear a potentially less obvious ear piece and lapel mic?
    Yes, and the fellow who supplied the radios for this mentioned afterward his goal was to have something like that for the next one.

    --With radios being used, doesn't this potentially eliminate "rogue" behavior by creating a level of accountablility? (Peers can hear and see f someone is breaking a scenario)

    So far there seems to have been only one large incident at this one of rogue behavior, involving Chris's description of the portrayal of Frye's division in the Pickett-Pettigrew-Trimble attack, and the jury is apparently still out on whether that was deliberate rogue behavior or maneuver ineptitude or ignorance of history or simple geographic confusion.
    Bill Watson
    I write about history for people who regret not being there when it happened.

    Books
    Brother William's War, Illustrated, about a Southerner's war
    The Ludlam Legacy, Illustrated, about a young Yankee orphan's war.
    Seize the Day! A best-practices guide to wringing more satisfaction from your Civil War weekend
    The Little Book of Civil War Reenacting: An introduction for those who want to try it out

  9. #19
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Posts
    2,425

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Anders View Post
    There are ways to get scenarios right.

    I have seen it done.

    Pards,
    Yes Chris we've all seen scenarios properly designed and executed at your events. But we have also seen problems that illustrate the challenges every organizer faces.

    Saturday afternoon at “Down the Valley” had a 14 page, hand-written scenario that no one seems to have quite followed, the complexity compounded by one Federal regiment having no officers available for the Friday walk-through and another deciding in the heat of action that his men had taken enough fire that they should all die rather than continue the fight according to plan.

    To make matters worse, someone had decided that all the Confederates should “campaign” and wear heavy marching order during the first warm event of the year, which meant that attempts to correct the comedy of errors by radio fell short when calls for EMTs overwhelmed queries as to what page we were supposed to be on.

    More recently, at “Maryland, My Maryland,” scenarios sprawled over as many as 30 pages and showed maneuver units not drawn to scale. Later, for my AAR, I tried to figure out what my regiment had done in Saturday afternoon's fight and quickly realized that we had drifted pretty far from the plan from the beginning. In the Cornfield scenario battalions overlapped and portions of the attack resembled a footrace as some commands attempted to get ahead of others so they could fully deploy. In addition, some first wave units failed to fall back when they should have, adding to the confusion. It felt real enough, as far as the chaos of battle, but it wasn't according to plan.

    I don't consider these events unsuccessful, but they provide good examples of what can go wrong, as well as a caution against unwarranted complacency.

    We had a few similar issues at last December's “Fire on the Rappahannock.” The respective commanders did a good job of keeping scenarios simple and to scale. Nonetheless, one of our three regiments had no field or staff officer for most of the day Friday, and when one finally showed up he somehow managed to miss the walk-through. Perhaps as a result, in the next morning's fight a unit of that regiment charged into a private garden after some Rebel sharpshooters, not realizing that while the Rebels were supposed to be there, we were not. We also made a last minute change during the walk-through which resulted in a very clumsy ending for the last phase of the morning battle.

    Fortunately, I don't think these glitches affected the overall success of the event, which ended in that striking vision of Marye's Heights as the smoked-wreathed portals of He\\. Still, even successes provide lessons we can ill afford to ignore.

    As for communications, radios help, although no amount of chatter can overcome needlessly complex scenarios or problems of scale. Perhaps they're best used for simple corrections between commanders and medical emergencies.

    Bugles strike me as the best all round tool. Using preludes and a limited vocabulary of essential calls (advance, halt, open fire, cease fire, right, left) one could give most of the cues needed to run a well drawn scenario and even correct some errors. But there are always problems with acoustic shadows, shortages of buglers, and the unacceptable ignorance of basic calls by most reenactors.

    Wig-wags can have value for the simplest highest level communications. Couriers are essential.

    But I think Bill Watson has the best suggestion for improvements. I can see giving every registered participant a copy of all the scenarios a couple months in advance leaving a brief comment period, then nailing the scenarios down a few weeks before the event (with a big “FINAL” on each page). Most of us have computers, and even if we don't have Powerpoint, there are free programs out there like Open Office.

    Let everyone know what everyone is supposed to do. Do not rely entirely on chains of command to distribute information, because some simply don't function as they should. If individuals want to enjoy the “fog of war” they have the option not to look at the plan.

    But the more people who know what's supposed to happen, the less likely a commander can “improvise” or go off the reservation with their own version of history. And if they do, we'll all know who the guilty party is and we can all decide whether this is someone we want to work with or serve under in the future.

    As for BGA Gettysburg, I'm still working on my AAR, but I have no hesitation in saying now that it worked far better than I expected and that every aspect – from the logistics to the battlefield experience – showed the result of years of experience on the part of the organizers as well as their obvious devotion to history and their comrades in the hobby.
    M. A. Schaffner
    Midstream Regressive Complainer

  10. #20
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Columbus, OH
    Posts
    3,400

    Default

    Observations from a Federal staffer at BGA:
    1) Radios are great.....When they work (not often), when they last (batteries die quickly and at exactly the wrong time), when you can actually hear what the other person is saying (a major crapshoot at times), and when the network doesn't get overloaded by medical emergencies, extraneous talking, garbled messages/commands, etc, etc, etc. The frustration level I saw and heard at times was enough to make some commanders go bonkers. On occasion, cell phones had to be resorted to for communications, with some being effective and others being useless, depending upon the provider (In Federal camp, Verizon had no service, AT&T mostly worked).

    There are never enough radios to go around to everyone who "needs" one. "Need" varied from day to day, scenario to scenario, and sometimes minute to minute. That included logistics, medical, scenario control, and several other areas.

    2) Couriers, especially mounted ones, are very helpful, but there's a time lag involved (particularly with those on foot), messages can be misinterpreted (even if written), and just finding the intended commander can be, shall we say, interesting at times, including re-finding the originator if he has moved to deal with other matters.

    3) Signal Corps only works across open ground and takes time get the message across. It works quite well when conditions are stable. Conditions were rarely stable, within the ebb and flow of movement/battle.

    4) Weekend warrior commanders are not used to dealing with all these issues all at once, coming from all directions, and under the great stress imposed by a major event. Even minor variations from "what's supposed to happen, and when" can throw things off all out of proportion to the actual act of not moving quite fast enough, being slightly out of position, or running into an unexpected complication that appears minor locally but has major effects overall. It happened over and over again, and there was simply no way to account for much of it.

    Personal notes:
    There were times during the extended weekend when I could have killed (Do you really need to bring your car into Federal camp on Saturday afternoon, long after cars in camp are forbidden, to drop off one, count 'em, ONE bag of ice??????). People getting mad at us because the road net was narrow, needfully one way, and their long bed truck with the thirty foot trailer behind didn't have room to just glide in, spend two-three hours unloading, set it all up, and then glide back out. (Our Mantra: "Welcome to Gettysburg. Drop your shiit and get out.") It was a frikkin' farm hillside, people! Discovering a family of spectators on top of "Little Round Top" just as the scenario was about to go live, who had to be escorted to safety, then getting cut off by the Confederate advance from returning to my duties. People wanting to view the fighting from places they had no business being ("But officer, another officer with a beard and sword and sash said we could be here....."). And I wasn't alone in having to deal with these sorts of problems, none of which was listed on the job description, but became evident once the ball started.

    At times, it felt as though it would take a miracle for anything at all to go right (Rain? Really??? Now??????). At other times, we just shook our heads at how bizarre some things came down. In the end, we marveled at how all the blood, sweat and tears somehow came together to almost magically provide most participants with a good, overall experience. All the hard work and effort, plus the cooperation and understanding of most of the reenactors, came together to make for one heck of a ride.

    Maybe the most telling moment for me came on Saturday, as staff was scrambling to find out where lost and broken up units were as they had to move, literally, from one end of the field to the other to immediately take part in a second scenario. A battalion commander, exhausted beyond belief, separated from most of his men, looked at me and said, "Little Round Top was incredible!", and then slowly walked up the hill to find his people and go back into the fight.

    You can't find that kind of experience just anywhere.
    Bernard Biederman
    30th OVI
    Co. B

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •