Sunday, March 13, 2011

CSA Cotton Will Defeat "Ape Lincoln" Cover (CS36)

Cotton will defeat "Ape Lincoln"

     This Confederate patriotic cover is one I have recently purchased and have just started reproducing (Item CS36 Feb.2011).  It's an interesting one.  It was printed early war by "J. Mullen, Publisher, Canal Street, New Orleans, C.S.A." (printer's tag line on reverse of cover).
     I often describe patriotic covers as "1860s bumper stickers" to spectators who come by our tent.  By that I mean for their time and culture these envelopes presented in a popular art form the political messages of their times, and people responded by buying and mailing these political statements.
     That this was printed in New Orleans to me is an interesting historical detail.  There are many covers I find that do not have the publisher on them, and I find myself wondering where and when they were printed.
     The reference to Packenham is lost on us today.  But to Southerners, especially those of the New Orleans area, it would have resonated "defeating the impossible".  Major-General Edward Packenham was in charge of the British forces invading Louisiana with the mission to seize the important city of  New Orleans.  The Battle of New Orleans (Jan.8, 1815) was the final major battle of the War of 1812.  Andrew Jackson commanded the American forces which against all expectations defeated the superior British Army.  During the attack, Major-General Packenham was killed as he attempted to rally the British troops. 
     The Battle of New Orleans was regarded in the American culture of that time as the greatest American land victory of the War of 1812.  The artist of this Confederate cover draws on that history to say "as in that day, so in our day what looks impossible will happen -- those defending our homeland will defeat tyrannical overwhelming forces".  You have to give the artist credit for succinctly developing a hopeful rallying message and having a good cutting sense of humor -- "Ape Lincoln".
     This would be an interesting cover for use by Confederate reenactors to portray Southern early war confidence.  If you are interested in buying this cover, in my order system it's number CS36.  I also have some early war Confederate Provisional stamps that would go good with it for a living history display.
     There is a Union cover, printed by Upham, that is counter-point to this Confederate cover using the same picture but with the mocking notation "Jeff. King of the Cotton plant-nation on his throne".  Upham reflects the Northern counterpoint that cotton will not be the savior the South thinks and will regret allowing Davis to rule them.  It's always interesting to see these dueling political covers.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Challenge of Balance in Reenacting

The follow post from Fred London is another perspective on balancing being accurate with being inviting to new people:

Glenn, Last week, I posted the following opinion on a well-visited Civil War forum in response to extremes in authenticity.  It is along the lines of your post concerning your family's introduction into reenacting.  I wanted to post it as a comment to your last post was unable to do so. [Fred, I have no idea how posting works, but have set it up as open as far as I know. Glenn]

     I am not, what is referred to as an "authentic campaigner" by any means. But, even so, there are a few things, that even for me, cross the line of what should be acceptable, especially for those who have a couple of reenactments under their belts and should know better. Most of this laxness is attributal to the veterans who permit it to occur without diplomatically pointing it out to the "fresh fish." Just last week, I was at a reenactment, where they turned the battle into essentially a sporting event/theatrical presentation---play by play announcing, directing pep rally type cheers, and annoying background music.
     Frankly, I was embarrassed. I believe it sent the wrong message to the spectators, and more importantly, contributed little to honoring the brave men who fought and sacrificed for a cause they believed in. It trivialized the very reason we were there, and therefore, did a disservice to all parties concerned.
     But, I fear that some of us, in our zeal to be 100%, if that is even practically possible, may be taking an unintended self-defeating approach to reenacting. As I was reading the long lists of farberism, I began to think of the 613 ordiances in the Mosaic Law, which no man could perfectly keep, which is why a blood atonement was required for the remission of sins. I fear that in our well-intnetioned zeal to "get it right", which in and of itself is a good thing, we may be in danger of "destroying the town in order to save it."
     Knowledge and judgment are not necessarily the same things. When it comes to pure knowledge of the techncial aspects of the Civil War, the wealth of information that many of you exhibit is quite impressive to say the least. I have benefited much by it. But, at times, I question the judgment, or application of such knowledge, when I see it used to intimidate, though unintended, rather than to patiently educate, along with a certain amount of moderation.
     Of course, what is deemed moderate to some, amd be too legalistic or too liberal to others. That will differ from unit to unit and is an important factor in determing whether a prospective recruit is a good fit or not. In that regard, the burden of adaptation is upon the individual, and not the other way around. But, sometimes I get the impression that these hardcore reenactors are more concerned with impressing each other rather than making a prospective recruit feel welcome and educating the public. That is simply my opinion based upon observation, but do not presume it to be a fact.
     I do agree with many of your points, and many of things that "drive you up the wall" have the same effect on me. But, I believe that if we are too legalistic in our approach to this endeavor, the reenactment community as a whole will find itself part of a continuing shrinking number of participants---a small, introverted, and exclusive club of elitists---a painful and slow death to an honorable hobby.
     Fred London 

Glenn's Editorial comments:  I think there will always be a tension between "wanting to do it well" and being "open to new people".  I am very grateful that in my family's early days of reenacting, we had a unit that was graciously helpful.  They came along side us and made suggestions, gave input, and realized that we were open to learning and adapting . . . as the budget allowed.  Be willing to give honest and good advice.  Live by your standards.  And allow for some diversity.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Can You Believe Those Farby Bright Blue Sack Coats!?!

     The family showed up at the reenactment.  The mom had diligently sewn the dresses for her and her daughter as well as the black pants and shirt for her husband's chaplain impression.  They had bought his black frock coat.  A major expense on their limited budget.  She had also sewn their two young sons outfits, using the McCalls pattern bought at the local fabric store, out of blue cotton. . . not just blue, but bright blue!  In the fabric store the cloth hadn't looked quiet that bright under florescent lights inside, but outside in the sun their outfits really stood out.
     The husband had always had an interest in history.  The wife, who was homeschooling the kids, agreed to reenacting -- if it could be a family hobby.  This family, new to the hobby, showed up at the local reenactment in their new outfits.
     Would you have been embarrassed to have them in your camp?  That family was us almost 20 years ago.  What Vicki had labored so hard to sew for us that day would not be considered "acceptably authentic" by today's standards.  I still marvel at the graciousness of our old unit in accepting us "as we came".  We still smile about the brightness of those blue cotton uniforms for the boys.  The ladies graciously guided Vicki into making better outfits.  With their guidance she bought better patterns and sewed new outfits for us all, and the boy's sack coats made of more accurate material blended in with the other reenactor's outfits.
     Over the years the hobby has developed "better standards", and that's good for all of us.  It's good for the spectators who come to explore the history we are portraying.  But in all our upgrading, don't lose sight of the fresh fish who enter the ranks.  With all their mistakes and confusion and missteps, show them some grace as you bring them along.  Besides, as you watch them flounder along during the weekend, it will provide you with some good laughs when you go out for pizza on the way home.  I know we provided some good laughs for our unit that weekend.