In Civil War re-enacting you have the 'mainstream' and the 'progressives' (aka authentic campaigners). The progressives go to the ninth degree for historical accuracy, spend countless hours researching and spend thousands of dollars on their kit. The 500 re-enactors recreating the 15th Iowa are all progressives and take history very seriously.
The following gives you a glimpse into what they will experience at the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Shiloh.
"What can you expect at our Shiloh 150th event? I’ve always liked to know what I am getting into before I arrive at an event, so I’ll treat you the way I like to be treated.
You will arrive at registration like every other big national event and complete registration. Then you need to go to the 15th Iowa registration so look for a sign that directs you. At our registration you will need to do a few things: 1) you’ll be issued your bus transportation and paddle wheeler pass and told where to board the bus depending on whether you are on the paddle wheeler or joining us at Pittsburg Landing (if you don’t have this pass, you cannot go, so get it and don’t lose it – VERY IMPORTANT), 2) you will turn in your 5 St. Louis Arsenal packs made according to the previous email (if you didn’t get the previous email, contact your company commander), 3) if you have things to drop off at our Saturday night camp that has been previously arranged, you’ll be told where that camp is, and 4) if we need a little help with anything, you’ll be directed what to do prior to boarding the bus to Savannah, TN where we board the paddle wheeler.
Now let’s consider our Friday camp in Savannah, TN and the boat trip. Guys will arrive all day on Friday. I’d like everyone to be on site at registration by 10pm (they are on Central time) since the last bus trip to Savannah is at midnight. If you cannot make the last midnight bus trip, you MUST notify you company commander so we can make arrangements. There will be three boat loads (one paddle wheeler making three trips) to accomplish transporting everyone from Savannah to Pittsburg Landing. The first load will board at approximately 10pm on Friday night, the second load will board at approximately 3am Saturday morning, and the third will board at approximately 8am Saturday morning. The reality is that everyone in a company may not be present when a boat load needs to leave, especially the first load. If there are guys arriving late at the event site and taking the midnight bus trip to Savannah, the first load is already departed and up the river. Each boat load must be filled to capacity or the last load may have too many guys that need to get on and we have a major problem. I say all of this now because if it’s important for you to be on the boat with your pards, you MUST coordinate your arrivals at the event site. At registration you’ll be given a steam boat transportation pass that will designate which load, 1st, 2nd or 3rd, that you are on. That is YOUR trip so your butt needs to be on that trip. You may trade that pass for a different trip with another soldier but you will need the correct pass to board. No tickey, no ridey. Just make sure you have your pass, you know which trip you’re on and where you’re supposed to be when it’s time to load. Regimental staff will be giving you directions at our Savannah camp to insure this actually works.
This is a flat haversack event, meaning bring nothing to eat. Your registration fee has paid for all of your rations. You are on your own for Friday supper and then will be taken care of from then on. You will have access to water at our Friday camp, but that’s it. Plan to eat supper prior to boarding the bus or bring something to cook for your supper at our Friday night camp. There are a couple restaurants about a half mile walk from camp Friday if that matters. You will be fed breakfast aboard the paddle wheeler like the original boys were, and you’ll be issued marching rations for the day. The balance of your food will be issued at our Saturday night camp on the event site.
When we arrive at Pittsburg Landing, we will land at the original Pittsburg Landing per the National Park Service, not the one at the park marked as such. Yep, you actually get to learn something that spectators/visitors don’t. The road we’ll “hold” like the original 15th is the road between the original landing and visitor’s center. We’ll have water at the landing to refill canteens. We’ll be issued our rounds here like the original boys were (but we will NOT load on park property), and we’ll boil coffee here like the original boys (only on pre-designated spots since randomly lighting fires on Federal property wins you shiny bracelets). The arsenal packs that all of you must turn in at registration are to have caps in them or you will not have caps. And when you un-wrap your packs, remember they are not all rounds. One of the paper tubes has caps in it and if you’re not careful, you’ll dump caps in your barrel. If you shoot those at the rebs and hit a guy, it will cause a significant wound and you’ll get your wound in the county jail just after lights out. Bad move, use your head. While here at Pittsburg Landing it is very likely we’ll hear the boom of cannons in the morning just like the original boys heard. It’s a 7am tactical at the event site. Since it has nothing to do with recreating the historic movements of the battle of Shiloh, we are not missing it, we are happily avoiding it. It does however provide similar first sounds of battle that the original boys heard. Nice period ear candy to get you in the mood.
Next is our 5 mile march to the event site. You MUST be fit enough to carry your full load and complete the 5 miles. Re-read that last sentence. And remember that’s just to get to the event site. You’ll be going into a 2 hour battle just as you arrive. Start getting in shape NOW. The route is pretty level with only a few small rolling hills. Brian Hicks and I walked it in heavy marching order a couple weeks ago to test the route. You will be on grass for all of it except for about ½ mile of pavement. Our route will take us 2.5 hours to complete including a 30 minute stop to refill canteens. We will march across the original battlefield, the national cemetery where some of the men you are portraying are buried, and past the big Iowa monument. We were never out of breath but did get blisters on our feet. Get your feet toughened up! Wear and break in your brogans carrying your intended load for 5 miles. Carry your load 5 miles BEFORE you arrive. That’s confidence training. You might change what you’re carrying. KNOW that you can make it. And know that the column cannot stop for you as it’s on a deadline to make the battle or we all miss it. We do have a medical staff that will have mole skin and other treatments for blisters. But you’ll have a lot more fun if you toughen your feet up and get in shape. There, you’ve been warned like an adult.
What should you pack in your knapsack? I know the original boys had an extra suit of clothes, an overcoat, two blankets, etc. in their knapsacks and it was described by one of them as a “mule load.” I’d STRONGLY suggest the following and no more: overcoat, one wool blanket, one gum blanket, a change of wool socks (always sleep in dry socks in cold weather), a sleeping cap and your toiletries. THAT’S IT. Regardless of how much you carry, walk with it 5 miles BEFORE you come to the event.
As we approach the main event site, the battle will be under way as it already was for the original boys. You’re going to hear a battle beginning to rage in the distance and it’s going to get louder as we approach. We will join the battle and fight for about two hours. After which we’ll fall back to an abandoned Federal camp. The 46th Illinois Infantry had a camp and had come back to their camp in the middle of thefirst days fight to make dinner. They then returned to the front to fight and when night fell they found themselves so close to the rebs that they stayed in that forward position on arms lest their retreat would open a place for the enemy to advance. So we’ll occupy their camp in the rear toward Pittsburg Landing. I’ve not found a record of who, if anyone, was in their camp that night, but just that it was unoccupied by them. There should be enough canvas for everyone to be inside, out of the weather. So if you hear of bad weather prior to the event, don’t worry, we’ve got a nice home for you.
Our regiment has become so large that it will require all of us to work together to make this happen. When we get to camp, pay close attention to your Orderly Sgts. as they are charged with assigning all of the details whether it’s canteens, wood, food preparation, cooking, baking (we’ll have bread ovens), cleaning rifles, etc. It ALL must be done for every company to function. Come prepared to pull your weight as your pards and the entire regiment are counting on you.
There, now you know what to expect. Did I tell you everything? Nope, there are always cards up my sleeve. That’s how I roll. And I want some surprises for you. I learned a long time ago to make my own fun and my own luck. If you can do the same, you’re always guaranteed a great time no matter where you’re at."