Sunday, January 1, 2006

War re-enactments: What are they good for?

Dear Friends,

   The Hard Taco song for the New Year is called, "Egg Came First." I expect that taking a stand on this contentious issue will buy me a lot of hate mail, but I really don't care. To paraphrase Lauryn Hill, I'd RATHER DIE than have one "Chicken came first" person listen to my music.
    You know who else I'm really fed up with right now? Namby-pamby war re-enactors. I call them namby-pamby because they only seem to schedule their war re-enactments when the weather is nice. Where I live, one can go six to eight months without seeing a single war re-enactment! It’s not as if this is historically accurate... some of the world's greatest battles have been fought (or "enacted") in cold weather. Here is a timeline:

December 1777 - February 1778: The Continental Army entrenches itself at Valley Forge. Charles Wilson Peale would later write that it was "cold enough to fee George Washington'f nipplef through his tunick (sic)." 

November - December 1812: Napoleon's campaign in Russia. It was so frigid that the Emperor had to wear a double nine gore shirred overskirt with flounces atop his organdy polonaise and waist-bustle peplums!

September 1864: Sherman's Union army arrives in Atlanta. The weather is mild and refreshing.

November 1864: Sherman sends a dispatch to Washington stating, "I'm freezing my ass off." Two weeks later he sends another one that simply says, "Problem solved."

December 1944 - January 1945: The Battle of the Bulge, otherwise known as the Second Battle of Ardennes, takes place North of Antwerp. This may have been the largest land battle ever fought by the United States Army, and yet NO ONE HAS EVER HEARD OF IT! (The exception being people who learn about history in ways other than watching live war reenactments.)

    In spite of these pivotal winter campaigns, most namby-pamby war re-enactors prefer to commemorate cushy summer battles like Gettysburg and Bunker Hill.
    Give me a break! By all accounts, Gettysburg was more of a three-day weekend than a battle.  Obviously, there were thousands of casualties, but that's only because the Union General George Meade turned down Robert E. Lee's offer to "Suttle this like gentlemen in the volleyball pitch." (Meade had a nagging stomach wound from the Battle of Glendale that acted up when he tried to serve overhand.)
    Still, there is ample evidence that the "bloodiest battle fought on American soil" was, in fact, a charming and lively affair, owing in large part to the agreeable weather. In the South, it is still referred to it as "Gettysburg Days," because it was really more of a summer festival than a battle. For instance, halfway through the engagement, both sides stopped for twenty minutes while the Union Fife and Drum Corps entertained the crowd with a medley of Stephen Foster songs. They started marching in a group, fanned out to spell U.S.A., and then regrouped in the shape of Abraham Lincoln's face. Then the Confederate Drum Corp (they were too poor to afford fifes) marched around in the shape of Jefferson Davis' face, playing the drum part to "When Johnny Comes Marching Home."
    Meanwhile, George Custer ran a bonnet-making workshop out of his tent and did not participate in the fighting at all! (I learned this on ANTIQUES ROADSHOW, because this lady had one of the bonnets and it was worth over $250 in today's dollars.)
    Anyway (and in conclusion), when war re-enactors start waging some serious arctic warfare, I'll stop categorically calling them namby-pambies.
    Please download my song now.

With Warmest Regards,