Camping Campaign Style

By: Wes Smittle & Gary Linton

Campaign Camping

    Campaign camping is the style of camping in which you camp with what you can carry on your person as if on campaign or march.  This style of camping is not only a simple and practical way to approach this hobby but a historically correct one.  For the majority of events we do, campaign style camping is the authentic way to go.  All you need is a strong back to haul the equipment and a good prayer to keep the rain away.  With these two working for you an OK event can become a great experience due to the atmosphere produced by doing what those boys did.

    The best way to approach going campaign for an event or not is to start with research.  If the event we do is representing a specific battle,  read and find out as much as you can about how the battle was fought and when.  Was the battle a surprise or planned, was it an offensive or defensive fight,  did these boys march for miles to get there or did they just have to go down the road?  These questions and others can help you decide if you want to go for it or not.

    An example when we used a tent this year was at the battle of Phillippi.  Where we camped was the exact location where the Upshur Grays set up their brand new A-frame tents.  So in this case we used a tent.  An opposite example is Gettysburg.  As we all know they were on the march and used the wagons for foraging, ammunition, ambulances, ect., everything an invasion army needs.  Therefore they did not have room for frivolous items such as tents, so we headed for the wood line.  A general guide line is if the battle was in 1861 look into it and see if tents were used.  After Ď61 a good guess would be no tents.

    For events that do not have a specific battle we would suggest going campaign, but this is your decision.  We find the campaign experience has brought our reenacting level to a new plane.  You can get a better sense of what it was like and get in touch with how they lived from day to day on the trail.  Sure, we donít do the marching that they did but at least we can sleep, eat and experience some aspects of their lifestyle.

    Packing for campaign is easier than tenting, you donít need to bring your tent.  This is one more thing you donít have to remember.  A good rule of thumb is if you canít carry it on your back then you don't need it.  Below is a basic list of what to bring for sleeping.  This is all that we bring and we couldn't be happier.

Sleeping Equipment

    The sleeping stuff could be rolled up and tied at the end and middle and thrown over your shoulder or get a good knapsack and attach a roll to it.  Jupe rope and raw hide string are good period correct ties for a blanket role.  If you use leather, use the dark tanned type instead of the golden/light brown. Garry uses the blanket roll technique. Articles like extra socks, shirts, food and ammo can be rolled up inside it.   I like the knapsack which can hold everything I need.  We will go deeper into the area of equipment later.

    If it does rain or looks like it you can always make a shebang or dog tent with a pard.  A shebang is tying up your shelter half or ground cloth with sticks and trees to make a lean-to or shelter for those wet nights.  The dog tent is made by attaching two shelter halves together and making a little tent.

Picking the Spot and the Sleeping Set up

    At times the only hard thing about campaigning is the ground.  Sometimes this can't be avoided but usually we can get right comfortable and we donít want to leave our spot for a farby bed at home.  Try to find the most level ground possible with no rocks or roots.  This is all pretty basic stuff so we will skip on to the good stuff.  One of the biggest rewards of campaigning is the outdoors.  When finding a spot we try to find a secluded place in the woods or an open field on a hill with a view.  In the woods you can be by yourselves and experience a nice quiet night of conversing with your pards.  In a field you can spend many hours staring at the stars philosophizing about the mysteries of the universe with your fellow mess mates, while in the morning waking up and taking in the beautiful view.  I guess what we are saying is what makes a good camp spot is a place where the experience of nature adds to the feeling of being there.

    Once a location has been chosen now it is time to hit the sack.  Lay down your ground cloth after moving sticks and such.  We prefer no straw since this would have been quite uncommon and there were no such thing as a square bailing machine in the 1860ís.  Once the ground cloth is down get out the blankets and shelter halves.  Everyone has their own way of preparing the ďnestĒ so we canít help you on this.  Just try different techniques of staying warm until you find one right for you.