In the Heat of the Night…and Day…


I believe that I can honestly say that I have never been to a Manassas/Bull Run event that was not  hot. This year’s reenactment, however, took the cake (or at least baked it!). When we arrived at camp, we learned that our Lt. Colonel, Kevin Skaggs,  had brought a small table-top thermometer which informed us that the temperature was 111 degrees F.  I’m not sure that it was better to know that or not.

As we soon learned, the organizers had scheduled no battles for the afternoons, no doubt due to the predictions of extreme heat. This was good, since it was miserable enough just lying in the shade in the afternoons. The organizers did provide cooling tents with fans and walk-through misting units. However going to them would have necessitated walking across the field in the sun, so we elected not to take advantage of them. There were some lectures and other educational programs going, but again, it was too hot for me think about going.

Saturday was only 109 degrees, but seemed more humid. By around 2:00pm, my companion noted that she was pretty sure that she was not going to live through the afternoon. This was the first large Civil War event that I could remember the organizers encouraging participants to wear non-period dress ie. shorts and tee-shirts, in camp. The key to survival in all this was to drink lots of fluids and avail yourself of ice when possible. During the battles, these items were plentiful. Also, I want to give a word of thanks to all the WVRA folks for supporting one another in such circumstances.

The battle Saturday morning went off reasonably well with only a few glitches due mostly to unit commanders who didn’t stick to the script. But there wasn’t a lot of that. The WVRA guys and the Connecticut regiment whom we fell in with,  portrayed New Hampshire troops in the first part of the battle, then retired from the field to hydrate. We then came back out portraying the US Regulars. The high point was forming a Napoleonic infantry square to repulse Confederate cavalry. The Rebs charged with spirit and the result must have looked impressive, although, of course, we did not have bayonets fixed as a real square would have.

After suffering though Saturday afternoon’s heat, we managed to rally enough to go to the ball, which was situated near Sutler’s Row. The dance was well-attended despite a number of reenactors bailing out early due to the weather. Music was provided, by, I believe, the 2nd South Carolina String Band. The music was great and the dance caller did a good job. Strangely, there was nothing in the way of drinks provided at the dance. There was a water station not far away, but you needed to bring a canteen or cup with you to take advantage of it. A vendor could have made a killing selling sarsaparilla.

Sunday’s battles were a repeat of Saturday and seemed to come off better, since we had ‘practiced’ the day before. The temperature had dropped to a brisk 92 degrees by lunch time, which seemed cool by then.

The biggest glitch on Sunday was the parking/leaving situation. On Friday, a small army of volunteers had been in place to direct parking all the way up and over the hill across from the event site. No such folks were present on Sunday and with literally thousands trying to leave down a narrow lane out of the parking area, it got ugly. There were a handful of police personnel on the paved road at the bottom of the hill, but this didn’t help the situation up in the lot. I was parked all the way on the top of the hill and was stuck there with an increasingly angry crowd of hot, tired reenactors, without moving even a car length, until an enterprising young man located a back way out through the trees. Several of us took advantage of this option and I was able to get back to camp before everyone in my group had left.

Obviously, there were a lot of pros and cons to the weekend. This particular event is a visual feast since so many units make an attempt to recreate the various uniforms that were present on the field during the real battle. Also, as I noted to a friend, a reenactment of this size is the only place where you are going to hear a continuous crash of musketry during the entire course of the battle, as well as the ongoing thunder of a large number of cannon. The weather, of course was the biggest downside. Obviously the organizers couldn’t control that. Overall, they did a pretty good job of compensating for it. The parking lot situation was the biggest organizational failure which I personally saw.

This 150th cycle is probably my last hurrah as a combatant in ACW reenacting. So I want to take advantage of as many of these as I can, before I become a civilian reenactor or whatever. Therefore, I am glad I went, heat or not. Hopefully, it won’t be this hot next summer when 2nd Bull Run rolls around.


One response to “In the Heat of the Night…and Day…”

  1. bill donegan Avatar
    bill donegan

    “It is so hot…I don’t think I vil survivek”

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