Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Civil War Muster: Serving as a Soldier

You may remember last year I interpreted an American Civil War nurse at the Ella Sharp Museum. At that event I met a person who would later bring me into the world of Civil War re-enacting, but this time on a whole other level. Piece by piece he put together a uniform of a Union Army member, all meant for me.

Why would a woman re-enact a Civil War soldier? Well, for one, I was extremely interested in getting the most up close look at the action. Secondly, and more importantly, was I wanted to put myself into the boots of women just like me, who in their own time risked their lives to disguise themselves as men and take part in the fight for the Union. During the Civil War, women were not allowed to serve in the military in any way. In fact, at the very start of the Civil War, women were not even allowed to be nurses. However, there were a strong and stubborn few who secretly took on aliases to fight for their cause on both sided of the Mason-Dixon Line.

My day began at 8:30 a.m. when I joined the ranks of my company for a morning battle drill. This was my first experience with any kind of real re-enacting and I was nervous. I can not stress enough how nice the men of my company were to me. Men from all over the mid-west came together to re-enact and so we quickly became friends. I was told in the beginning that someone might pull my arm to help me get into position once in a while. That was an understatement. I had Daniel behind me who was my Corporal, shoving me around like a rag doll practically the whole time. I couldn't have been happier. Everyone was calm and precise, but authoritative and strong about what I needed to do. I wanted to do things as correctly as I could. I was truly in the flow of the company and I was going to go wherever they took me.

This put me in position to feel what it was like to be a soldier. Over time I stopped even concentrating on the idea that I was a woman soldier, but rather just that I was a soldier at all. I was easily able to imagine some of the feelings they may have felt. Fear, nervousness, being unsure. Not to mention hot, dirty, dehydrated. I felt all of those just in one day in their shoes. 

However, I also felt the positive feelings as well. Most of all was the comradarie with my fellow soldiers. I have to state once more, for the record, how nice people were to me. It was so fascinating watching people who are so passionate about something, do what they love. There is so much protocol, and they knew it all, but they were so willing to share it and not intimidate a newbie trying to do her best.

I loved the diversity on the field as well as the range of ages. Soldiers ranged in ages from young teens to 60+. I wasn't the only newbie on the field, there were a couple of teen boys near me that were in the same boat. As I studied people's faces I knew that these were the exact same faces of the real men that fought the Civil War. We may think that people looked different in a different time, but I think the truth is they looked exactly the same. Panning the area, I knew that these exact same men could have fought the exact same war, depending on when they happened to be born. What's more is that I was thinking about what these men do in their "real" life. Who are they? What do they do for work? What do they look like in 21st century clothing? 

In this short weekend I met so many interesting people, had interesting conversations, and learned A LOT though experience. Am I ready to invest in a Union uniform, not exactly, but I have a feeling my first battle won't be my last.