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THE "BARLEYCORN BOYS" MANIFESTO
by (Bvt. Sgt.) Pvt. Mike Palada
Attention, all military members of the Turner Brigade. Cpl. Jason Albregts and myself are pleased to announce the formation of a "mess" within the Brigade, to be named "The Barleycorn Boys." A civil war mess consisted of a small number, usually several men, in an informal setting, who shared the daily activities of life in the army. As did the soldiers that we represent, this mess will strive to demonstrate the camping, cooking, and general soldier life, within a small group of "Pards."
It is the Barleycorn Boys' belief that re-enacting is much more than just 20 to 30 minutes on a Saturday and Sunday, burning powder. We strongly feel that more attention and effort needs to be applied to portraying the civil war soldier off the "battlefield," in a more accurate and authentic way. When I say "authentic," I am in no way implying that this mess will be hard-core stitch counters. Cpl. Albregts and myself realize that at this time we are far from that. However, we do feel that much more progressive attitudes and actions will make for a more enjoyable, memorable, and pleasing Civil War experience.
Accordingly, as a "Pard" in the Barleycorn Boys, certain standards of uniform, camp-life, and demeanor will be expressed and expected to be upheld. We realize that impression is not for everyone, because of age, health, etc., and we do not wish to ostracize those that do not hold our convictions. We simply wish to portray a more authentic impression that we feel is lacking, and thereby honor those Pards that experienced it all firsthand. Having said that, allow me to focus on the three main concerns of the Barleycorn Boys.
I. Uniform and equipment standards. As I have said, we are far from the stitch counters. But, we do see the need for better authenticity, accuracy, and progressive re-enacting (more complete, specific examples available upon request). Research is needed before buying anything from sutlers. Do not take one person's word as law. Remember, the least expensive source is probably the least expensive for a reason...because it is CRAP. Before you buy, talk it over with us, and as many sources as possible. It will save you time and money down the road (I can personally attest to this from experience). Let's do it correctly. Above all else, you cannot get a thing from WAL-MART.
II. Camp life…This mess will portray campaigning soldiers, meaning that we will bivouac or campaign-style it. Most re-enactors, myself included at one time, carry far too much "stuff." Back then, if they couldn't carry it in a knapsack or a blanket roll, then they didn't take it. We will strive to do the same. You can get by reasonably well with little accommodation. Of course there are always the examples of winter quarters, or a more garrison camp like that at Pilot Knob. But for the most part, they campaigned it and so shall we, with little or few exceptions. Rations also fall under this heading. Paul Winslow has done great service with some first-rate articles on rations in the last few Shrapnels (Bully for you, Paul!). Taking into consideration our desire for a more progressive stance, the mess will cook and eat period rations in an authentic manner. It's not as difficult as you think, and it can be very tasty and satisfying. Also, keeping with the campaign tradition, minimal cook gear is needed.
III. Demeanor. Perhaps this is the most abused aspect of re-enacting, but can be the easiest to adapt to, if taken seriously. Let's start with creating a "first-person." Again, re-enactors make this much more difficult than it has to be. Not everyone talked in poetic Victorian verse, nor wore they a PhD. in History. It's the little things that one does in and around camp that makes for a successful first-person. With a little practice, one's persona will please you, your Pards, and the spectators. A plethora of articles on first person will be available to those interested, too many great ideas to publish here. And yes, you can still "educate" the public and stay in first-person.
If this impression and our mission interests you, and you feel that you have what it takes to be a "Pard" in the Barleycorn Boys, then talk to Cpl. Albregts and myself at an event for consideration and discussion. Only serious individuals who can comply with all three aspects please. As always, I remain your obedient servant...
The Barleycorn Boys
This article was originally published in the March-April 2001 issue of The Shrapnel, the newsletter of the Turner Brigade. For information about The Shrapnel, contact Capt. Randy Baehr, Editor.