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  • Writer's picturejcvalicenti

The Art of "Taking a Hit" in Civil War Reenacting.

Updated: Feb 20

Simulating a #civilwar #battle for a #reenactment is a generally easy concept if you know the basics. Very similar to the original Civil War armies, commanders move their soldiers into place, and once contact is made with the enemy, fighting ensues. This can be done on a small or large scale, and for many reenactors, perhaps more so those who enjoyed a childhood as part of a generation who played with toy firearms of varying realism, have found it easy to make all the proper motions to simulate a civil war fight. This includes shooting, reloading, and even #hand-to-hand #combat, all of which are done with strong ideas of safety in mind. But therein lies the question that many have asked. How do you #simulate the conditions of war with anything even close to real violence?

The answer can simply be made as: you can't, but the attempt is nevertheless made, and in that attempt sits the reality of what war violence can and is still present. Not that reenactors possess the resources to display #movie-quality violence; though fake blood and even removed limbs have made appearances at events, the simple act of reacting to a gunshot or explosion is most simple and effective. For example, say an #infantry #soldier (as Inhave chosen to leave out the Cavalry and Artillery as let's face it one takes hits rarely and the other nearly never) is standing in line with his fellows, firing, reloading, firing again, and all seems to be going well when suddenly the man to his left falls to the ground. He was most likely not expecting this, as his focus was on the fight and keeping an open ear to the orders of his superior officers. The moment passes; a man from the rear rank steps up to fill the gap in the line, and for another moment, it is as if nothing had happened at all. Then again, another man goes down, then another, perhaps even more. The enemy is now in view, and their rifle fire becomes more audible. Then he sees it—the rifle that is pointing at him. Now remember, this is not real; it's a reenactment. This can go two ways. The shot looks like it would hit and he would go down, or somehow it misses him and he would still be standing. How and when should he make the choice to fall or stand? Many will simply go with the flow. In short, if it looks and feels realistic, then just go with it. This will also depend on the level of dedication per person.

Put yourself in the situation: What if the spot you are in on the battlefield, if you were to fall, is too far from camp, or if it is overgrown and the underbrush is too thick or problematic to lay upon? Say the bugs are too heavy in number, or the event is in the summer and there is no shade. The truth is, then, what hits you. As much as you should "take the hit," as it appears the enemy is close enough for their fire to be hitting their marks, this is not the time. Here is a problem all too well known by every reenactor: sometimes taking a hit just does not make logical sense, even though by all accounts, not taking the hit will make it less realistic for anyone watching.

The good news is that this is fleeting. Though it is all too common to happen, every simulated battle offers the chance to take the hit, as there is simply so much going on. In an almost natural course of action, the various movements of all those involved lead to one situation or another presenting itself to which taking the hit at the right time is easy to spot or even unavoidable.

The line marches forward in good order. All are in unison, able to see the faces of the enemy. You somehow caught them while they reload. If you can only reach them before they do, you will be able to turn them and take the ground. Then... they aim their rifles at you. A volley, every rifle fired at once, is about to happen just feet ahead, and when it happens, what will you do?

Just like those soldiers who fought in the war itself. Some will "die," some will be "wounded," and some may still be standing to fight on.

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