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As re-enactors, we must recognize that this is, after all, first and foremost a hobby. Admittedly it is an engaging hobby, one which consumes many of our thoughts and much of our "disposable" income, but it is still a hobby. We believe it to be a most serious hobby, though, and vastly different from most others. Our hobby seeks to reasonably portray life among the troops as it was during the great War Between the States.

We find ourselves philosophically fixed between two extreme schools of approach to this hobby. On the one extreme, there are those referred to as "hardcores", or  "hyper-accuratists". Folks in that camp conduct inspections of wool weights and cotton thread counts right down to their participants’ skivvies. They seek to attain some measure of personal and corporate nobility by "enjoying" the same suffering that they believe their ancestors did. They are the Northerners too proud to don the gray wool because they (or their ancestors, or both) were born in a Union state, and the Southerners too proud to don the blue because they (or their ancestors, or both) were born in a Confederate state, both somehow thinking that they dishonor their heritage by wearing the colors of good men who took up arms against their home state or against their own ancestors. Hyper-accuratists scorn the ice chest hidden in the tent, preferring to eat sheep’s head apples and runty vegetables when they can find them, and to cook unrefrigerated meat and endure a weekend of stomach cramps and worse "for the Cause". They glory in avoiding deodorants and soap and water for the period of the re-enactment, some choosing to rub ashes and dirt on their faces to "look real", as was asserted in an article in late 1995 in Camp Chase Gazette.

On the other extreme, there are those known in re-enacting circles as "farbs". Farbs are so-called, some say, because their sobriquet is a derivative of the German "farben" which means to make or to manufacture; others contend that the term stems from the phrase, "far be it from me to criticize, but look at that...". These people are self-made Union or Confederate soldiers, wearing modern-day sunglasses, wristwatches, eyeglasses and the like as they exercise their impression of soldiers of the period. They are content to wear their gray polyester work trousers and gray work shirt with their name tag stitches removed, and any old-looking hat when they are Confederate soldiers; and they wear pretty much anything blue when they are Union soldiers. Wearing their kepis backwards on the battlefield and adopting the manner of "rappers", or rehearsing old Monty Python catch-phrases or parts of skits are not uncommon among them both when the camp is closed to spectators, and when they take the field before hundreds or thousands of spectators. Their cars and trucks would remain in camp if event sponsors would allow them. They all too often disregard the direction of their officers and fail to maintain the orderly behavior in drill and on the field which would have been common during the War, displaying not an independent spirit but an undisciplined, unruly, and rude spirit. Sadly, many of these men misrepresent the South exclusively in their impressions, having the mistaken idea that Confederate soldiers were all barefoot, unruly and drunken hillbillies, hicks, and coon-asses whooping and hollering their way through the War. Southrons are a proud people - at least those whom we portray were.

Both of those positions are faulty, in our view. The "hyper-accuratists" are so swept up in their attempt to achieve what they believe to be absolute authenticity that they miss the primary point of the exercise. They are not unlike the scribes and Pharisees of the New Testament who would strain out a gnat and swallow a camel; their adherence to the law was for the outward appearance of piety, for they were "whited sepulchers", whitewashed tombs filled with dead men’s bones. So it is with this group, for if they were truly so dedicated to absolute historical accuracy, their ranks would be peopled with few men above 5’4" tall, and most of them would necessarily have to be, to a large degree, of Scottish descent. They would refuse to participate in any event which took place on anything other than a battlefield over which men fought during the War. Most of their ranks would automatically be decimated because they would have to cull members out in order to maintain the proper average age levels, for the War Between the States was waged mainly with the lives of young men, as most wars are. Yet in re-enacting, many of us come to it later in life, and it is no less true of the "hyper-accuratists" school of thought.

Farbs, on the other hand, are really in the wrong hobby in the estimation of many. The hobby they really seem to want is either paint ball wars or re-enacting the Viet Nam War, but there are so many more boys to play with in Civil War re-enacting that they just cannot pass it up. They have a marginal interest in history, as demonstrated in their dress and their approach to re-enacting. They want to wear the romantic costumes and neglect the discipline which attends the uniform. Military etiquette is an essential element of re-enacting if the re-enacting is to be done passably well.

Our company is found somewhere in the middle of all of that. We believe in an authentic "look" and "feel" to all that we do. We will not check wool weights or thread counts. In The Washington Artillery, we do insist that the look be correct, however, and that uniform standards of the 1860’s be met. We love our ice chests, but we love them hidden in the tents to preserve the look and feel of the period. In all that we do, we seek to make the experience as real as we are able and yet remember that this is also fun. History is important to us, beginning with the histories of The Washington Artillery - 5th Company and the 6th Massachusetts Light Artillery, and continuing down to the very events in which we participate. Enjoying ourselves is also important to us, and we never neglect that.

Part of the fun of recreating that period is knowing not only the drills of the troops whom we seek to portray, but also their conduct in and out of camp. While not every rule of the day is followed, there are many which are critical to a minimally correct impression. Sadly, too many are ignorant of the fundamentals rules of military etiquette. For that reason, we have determined that it is timely for us to codify many of these things and present them in printed form to our members and others of like mind.

The Washington Artillery - 5th Company
New Orleans, Louisiana
August 1996

An Introduction

The Articles of War contain the two fundamental forms of discipline: formative discipline and corrective discipline. However, the tacit assumption made in the Articles of War is that the training manuals (such as Gilham’s Manual for Volunteers and Militia) will deal most effectively with formative disciplines, leaving the primary function of the Articles of War as dealing with corrective discipline.

Military etiquette is concerned less with the repercussions of inappropriate behavior than the inappropriate behavior itself. It is concerned with instilling in the men of the army the correct forms and protocols to be followed as men duly enlisted and sworn into service. While it has been codified well, the complete list of rules and regulations concerning personal and corporate conduct is also quite long. A thorough knowledge of all of the protocols is not necessary for a successful and good military impression. There are some principle protocols which need to be understood and observed, however, and that is the purpose of this subject treatment.

Chief among the formative disciplines in the military are the drills and the routines of military life. Scheduled activities which are repeated with regularity help to establish an atmosphere of stability which is needful, and serves as an aid to learning. Repetition is a necessary evil in that regard. The chore of repeating an exercise time and again may be annoying, but many things are learned most effectively by repetition so that the actions learned become reflexive responses. A habit of obedience to commands is not something most of us learn easily or necessarily retain forever, for we pride ourselves on our free thinking and our individuality.

Important as drills are for the performance of a soldier’s duties, it is not that subject which we primarily address herein. The subject of etiquette, the forms required by authority to be observed in official life, is arguably the single-most overlooked area of re-enacting. If it is important to conduct ourselves with crispness on the drill field and in skirmishes, it is important to comport ourselves in a fitting manner in the camps. The disciplines of the drill field go a long way to making us professional-looking soldiers on the field. The disciplines of military etiquette can only serve to reinforce that appearance on the field and in camp.

We have drawn heavily upon army regulations in compiling this information, and have used a strong editorial hand in abridging and abbreviating those regulations, re-numbering them according to our sequence. At the same time, we have taken some liberties as editor to make the language more easily read, even at the point of modernizing punctuation and re-structuring some sentences. It has been our aim to do as little violence as possible to the content of the original text in order to preserve its sound, and yet to make it clear to us today.

Etiquette in the military is necessarily more formal than the etiquette of civilian life, for in the military we most closely approximate a caste system. Those protocols include dress, personal appearance, and interaction within and between the ranks. Dress is a foundational means by which each level of the military is set apart from the other. Undergirding the concept of attention to detail in presenting the best possible appearance in uniform is the idea put forth in an old shaving cream ad: "Look sharp, be sharp, be clean". Inherent in paying attention to those details is taking pride in appearance.

Military etiquette is different from civilian etiquette, being in some ways more stringent, and yet in other ways easier to absorb because it deals with so many fewer areas of life. The tacit assumption behind the main body of military etiquette is that there will be little contact with the fairer sex, making the range of subjects under their rules of etiquette more narrow, and the number of subjects comprehended by military etiquette far fewer.

Still, there are areas of specialized knowledge to which the civilian would not normally be exposed, including treatment of the flag, wearing a saber, and others.  It is to these that we need to pay special attention in honing our military impressions.