Ian Straus

This is about safety, especially safety at large events. Safety in reenacting is a matter not only of event rules, but also of customs. Sometimes events publish a short list of safety rules, but below is a summary of all our safety practices. Most of these are generally known norms of behavior in reenacting. We will enforce these on each other, whether or not some outside authority publishes them.

At the 2002 Bellmead event we were reminded of our own mortality by the peaceful death in camp, of a member of a neighboring unit, the 1st Texas. It also seems that every year we hear of someone having a heart attack at some event. So our #1 safety rule is: Take care of each other.


A) At the end of the event, don't just skedaddle for the parking lot. We're going to hold a company formation and account for each other before we break up. That way, if someone is lying in the grass with a heart attack, we're likely to look for him. Consider how ashamed you would be if at the end of your drive home, you found out one of your comrades had been left behind dying on the field.

B) Tell each other when you are ill. That man from the 1st Texas had an insulin shock problem. It could have happened anywhere. But - did he feel bad before he went into his tent and and flopped down on his bedroll? We'll never know. But if someone had known he felt bad, he might be alive now.

Now on to the conventional and customary rules, which deal with weapons handling and other things. The "other things" first:

#2: No unscripted hand to hand combat or unordered charges. No capturing flags unless scripted - that's a good way to start a fight with the color guard. No actual contact in a charge.

"Scripted" means practiced before hand and planned by both battalions involved. Like the hand to hand and capturing at the 1995 reenactment of Franklin, where we and the Yankees ran through it several times in Texas, and shook hands with each other at our practice. It doesn’t mean two yahoos surprising everyone else with a bowie knife fight, as happened once at Prairie Grove, which brought the morning scenario to a halt.

#3: Artillery safety:

A. Stay clear of cannon with a rammer leaning against it, or on top of the hub (that's a signal that it's loaded), or crossed rammers (misfire). Stay at least 50 yards clear of the front of a loaded cannon!

B. No firing near or over an artillery limber or ammunition chest. All it takes is one burning powder ember in an open chest, and we'll all blow up for real.

C. No handling "captured" guns. They are both valuable and dangerous; they can roll down hill and crush someone.

#4: Casualties - simulated ("taking a hit"):

A. Watch the ground for casualties. Don't step on people. If we're moving backwards, rear rank men guide the front rank men around casualties.

B. Elevate when firing over casualties. Or pull them into our ranks.

C. Check casualties to see if there is a real injury. How do you know he's a simulated casualty? Ask, quietly. You may have one of those annual heart attack cases.

D. For real serious injuries call "medic". That's a modern term, and it will stop the battle.

#5: Edged weapons:

A. No fixing bayonets without orders from the battalion commander. The color guard is normally the only part of our battalion to march to battle with fixed bayonets.

B. No edged weapons unsheathed except swords. Generally, don't even bring Bowies or similar knives.

#6: Stay clear of pyrotechnics (ground charges) and wires.

#7: The six-wing musket caps from CCI: Don't use them at a reenactment. These "hot" caps tend to shatter, producing fragments which have made some of us bleed. Your neighbor in ranks won't like you if your cap puts out his eye.

#8: Musket handing:

A. Don't bring live projectiles to a reenactment. Possession is forbidden, good for being thrown out of the event. If someone does get shot and you're found with one, you'll go to jail even if you didn't do the shooting. Yes, I know some sutlers sell them as souvenirs.

That's for the spectators, and it's still stupid. Don't bother to buy such things to shoot, because the sutlers use shiny wheel weight lead, too hard to work in a Minie bullet.

B. Do not take hits with a loaded rifle. If it's on the ground it can be kicked and go off, possibly hurting YOU or the man next to you, and when you're playing dead you don't have control of the muzzle.

C. Elevate muzzles when within 30 yards of opponents, or when firing over casualties. What is 30 yards? Use the "rule of thumb": If your thumb held at arm's length won't cover a standing man, he's closer than 30 yards.

In the Red River Battalion we have a command to elevate in terms which don't break the historical flavor of the event: That command is "Range 1100 yards".

D. Don't remove fired caps after firing or before loading. This prevents "drafting" the bore when you put your next blank charge down. You don't want to fan an ember which will set your powder off.

E. Don't put your hand over the muzzle. Not when you're loading (we've had charges flash in a hot barrel), and not when you're in ranks at IN PLACE REST. That powder charge will deliver the same energy at the muzzle with or without a bullet.

F. No putting paper or wads down the barrel - nothing but powder! Paper can become a projectile. It can also start fires. Either one will end our reenactment battle.

G. Muskets must not be cocked until the command READY, except during FIRE AT WILL.

H. Fingers should be off triggers until the command AIM.

I. When we are not firing, loaded muskets should be on half cock.

J. Muzzles should not be pointed toward adjacent men, nor toward yourself.

K. Alignment must be preserved. Rear rank men, don't drift back - leave your left foot planted! Front rank men, don't drift forward. Keep 13 inches between ranks, elbows lightly touching. Corporals will look down the line occasionally to control men drifting forward, and sergeants will keep rear rank men close to the front rank.

L. Rear rank men: the front rank man's ear must be between your 2nd and 3rd bands, which will put his ear roughly half way between the cap and the muzzle.

M. Rear rank men must step correctly during firing: eight inches to the right when firing to the front.

For left oblique, advance the right foot eight inches toward the right heel of the man on the right of your file leader and aim to the left.

For right oblique, advance your left foot eight inches toward the right heel of the man next on right of your file leader, and aim to the right. (Hardee's, paragraphs 267-272).

N. Leave your tompions out of the muzzle in a battle reenactment, even if rain is dripping. You can forget them and they can be a projectile.

O. Always treat firearms as loaded in or out of battle.

 #9: Water: Always fall in for battle with a full canteen.  No canteen means no battle for you!

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