I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning…


 Just people playing at soldiers, aren’t they? Well – I suppose in some ways they are. But if you look at what they do more closely, a slightly different picture emerges.

 Go to any historical re-enactment and as well as the bright uniforms and obsolete weaponry there’s a massive amount of research and testing going on right there.

 You’ll find it on the campsites, where period food is prepared the same way it was at the time; in the forges, where iron is worked in the same way as hundreds of years ago (and yes, many of the tools they use today are identical with their predecessors); in the horse-lines, where animals are groomed and fed in the old-fashioned manner. And you’ll see it when soldiers drill and manouvre. Try following complex shouted cavalry commands on horseback!  Because whilst it’s often easy enough to read about how things were done, in today’s world of labour-saving devices and fast food, getting them right in real life can be a challenge. And when we do, we discover how difficult  – or easy –  the  way of  life really was.

 There are demonstrations (surgeons are one of my favourites), clothiers, bookstalls. And fighting, of course. ‘Living History’, they call it. And what’s great is that it’s accessible to absolutely anyone who wants to find out why our ancestors lived and acted as they did. You don’t need to read dozens of books filled with dry facts and dates – all you have to do is ask. Because in my experience, re-enactors are some of the most approachable and friendliest of people.

 Try it and be amazed!

 Next weekend (25th and 26th September) is the 17th International Napoleonic Fair in Dorchester, Dorset.  I shall be there on the Saturday to sign copies of Walls of Jericho, together with book critic-turned-author M M Bennetts (May 1812 and Of Honest Fame, both published by Diiarts).

 As well as us, there are loads of things to see and do (click on the web link for details). We’d be delighted to meet you and hey – there’ll be fun, education…and shopping.

 What else are weekends for?



~ by cavalrytales on September 16, 2010.

4 Responses to “I love the smell of gunpowder in the morning…”

  1. Amen brother. I attend when I can the Roman reenactment in Lafe AK. IZt is total immerson. Believe me, I am not used to such efforts to BE Roman…or Celt. And patience abounds as well as a few well placed grins at my stupidity. It is an awesome experience to just be near these men and women. That goes for the civil war reenactors too.
    I did hear a story once about how here in MO a group of Yankees and Confeds went in for breakfast before the event started. It was around Springfield which sided with the Confed during the war. Well, the boys dressed in gray got served. The boys in blue waited and waited and waited. Long and short…the cafe was NOT serving Yankees. The waitress refused. The owner had to and wasn’t all that quick about it. The Confed were ready to go with the Yanks were just getting their coffee. So, sentiments still abound


  2. We have a similar thing with the English and rugby. When Wales play Scotland, Ireland and even France and Italy there’s no favouritism over who gets served in the pub after the game. But if you’re an England fan, be prepared to be thirsty for some time!


  3. My first experience of re-enacting was being invited to an English Civil War muster in Pontefract, many years ago, by my then boyfriend’s sister. I don’t remember too much about it, but the longing to get involved with living history has stayed with me.

    A few years ago I discovered Jane Austen’s Regency World magazine and subscribed. The magazine arrived and was read from cover to cover, back numbers ordered and enjoyed. From these I discovered that there was a Jane Austen Festival in Bath every September…I had to go! In 2007 we went along and had a brilliant day out, taking many photos, and vowing to join in, in costume. In 2009 I made it in costume, and this year my husband also joined me in costume.

    This has led to getting to know some re-enactors who tagged themselves in our photos on Facebook…which in turn has led to getting to know more and more re-enactors of the NA from 95th Rifles, 44th East Essex, and some cavalry units.

    I’m not a member yet, but after a day spent at Newstead Abbey in May, and the Burghley House Battle Prom in July…well, I would really love to.

    Yes, this re-enacting lark is absolutely addictive!!

    Great blog, Jonathan, will be coming back to read more!!

    (Thanks for your comment in my humble Guest Book)



  4. Hi Sandi – glad you liked it. Regrettably I’m not posting as often as I should because real-life gets in the way as I’m sure you know.
    Must do something about horses and freezing weather….hmmm.


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