For me, the joys of taking part in civil war reenactments are more than I could count. It's a way of stepping back from the hassles of the real world and forgetting all the worries. It's how I recharge sometimes. It is a great time with good friends. It's a lot of things.
There are practical benefits toward my career as a writer as well. I write Westerns, so being able to immerse myself in the way of life during in that particular period of time is a huge benefit. I've learned everything from how to fire cap and ball weapons to styles of clothing to understanding marching orders and different manuals of arms.
Reenacting is a lot more than just firing blanks at each other on a battlefield. That is actually a very small part of what we do that takes place for an hour or so each day.
A civil war reenactment is a living history event. We camp in A-frame tents and our manner of living for the weekend is entirely as it would be during the 1860's. Wearing wool in one hundred degree temperatures is not exactly fun, but it was historically accurate. Needless to say, my favorite events are the ones during the winter months.
On Fridays, school children tour our camps and we give demonstrations on different aspects of life during the time period. One of the talks I've given is on the life of a soldier. Others display the rifles and pistols and show how to load and fire them, with blanks of course. The favorite among the children happens to be the cannon demonstration. Visitors can walk through our camps and ask any kind of questions they desire.
Dances are held every Saturday night to period music and we learn how to dance in that style as well, from reels to waltzes and even the broom dance.
Then, once the sun goes down and the spectators leave, we sit around the campfire telling stories. There's something about staring into a fire at night that soothes the soul.
If you've never been to a reenactment, I highly recommend it, and if you'd like to participate, the more the merrier.
I'll be writing a regular column each month on various topics, but primarily it will be about different aspects of the reenactments, from the battles to the dances and everything in between.
Keep your powder dry, friends, and I'll see you next time.
Matthew Pizzolato's short stories have been published online and in print in such publications as: BEAT to a PULP!, The Copperfield Review, Pulp Mondern, Frontier Tales Magazine, The Pink Chameleon Online, Perpetual Magazine, Long Story Short, and The Storyteller. Matthew is the editor and webmaster of The Western Online, a magazine dedicated to everything Western. Matthew can be contacted via his personal website: www.matthew-pizzolato.com or he can be found on Twitter @mattpizzolato.