The Revolutionary War reenacting scene is, apparently, facing some challenges. The hobby is probably the most expensive of the ‘big’ reenacting time periods (with the beginning of mass production and industrialization it becomes much easier to get ‘authentic’ reproductions or, in the case of WWI and particularly WWII, actual surplus equipment) perhaps making it a bit intimidating for those wishing to dip their toe into the pool and see if they like it.
Perhaps in part because of that, there’s an impression that the Rev War (look, I’m picking up the lingo) community is older than other reenacting time periods (Us old timers may have a bit more disposable income).
Finally, let’s face it. History remains less than appealing for many and there are some alternatives that appeal to those who just want to get into a scrape. Everything from Call of Duty and other video games to more ‘kenetic’ historical reenacting of other time periods to paintball if you want to strip the history out all together and focus exclusively on individual/small unit tactics.
So, recruitment is an issue. Particularly recruitment of young people who can be expected to given a more accurate impression of soldiery during that time period (see a bunch of octogenarians dressed up in blue or red might be nice for gramps but you’re gonna lose a little something in the way of impact) and carry on with the hobby when the old timers all move on to the grand tactical in the sky.
So, turning this predicament over in my head I thought about the modern Army and ways they encourage motivation and high standards that might be transferable to the reenacting community. One suggestion that I’m going to introduce here (to be fleshed out by those with more experience than I) is something I’m tentatively calling ‘The Grenadier Challenge*”.
Getting my inspiration from things like the tests to earn the Expert Infantryman Badge or the Expert Medic Badge I began thinking about a course by which reenactors could demonstrate their proficiency in a number of period appropriate tasks. If they meet a predetermined standard (which should be difficult and require some significant training to achieve) then they can be awarded the honorary title of ‘Expert Grenadier’. So, in the hopes this sort of thing might spawn some thought and discussion (and suggestions), here are my initial thoughts on what sort of parameters such a course might have.
Eligibility: Ideally, any Rev War reenactor with an interest, regardless of nation, rank or unit. Practically, best to start small initially, beginning just with the 35th Regiment of Foot as a proof of concept and then (if things look good) expanding out to other grenadier units, British units generally, and then the whole community. Individuals may only attempt the challenge once per year.
Cost: Free for members of the 35th (since they’d also be organizing and conducting the course) and a nominal fee to cover equipment and logistical costs for everyone else. A key component will be to keep costs down so it doesn’t serve as a barrier to participate.
- 1764 Manual of Arms – Complete all 35 counts of the manual with no more than two (?) errors
- Load and fire firelocks – Load and fire five empty cartridges within two minutes
- Grenade throwing – Throw five (?) grenades to hit three (?) targets
- Bayonet drill – Given three bayonet dummies, hit five of six (different) marked target areas within ??? seconds.
- Uniform inspection – All equipment will be inspected for cleanliness and serviceability. Since some may portray units that had modified their uniforms for combat use, accuracy of uniforms (with exception of the 35th Reg. of Foot) will not be considered. Rather, the standard will be for uniforms in a condition expected in a garrison environment (brass shined, leather colored appropriately, no rust or corrosion, clothing clean, etc).
- Military Courtesies – Demonstrate proficiency in military courtesy both under arms and without arms to NCOs and officers as a private.
- Drill and Ceremony – Be able to conduct the following:
- Left/right face
- To the right, about face
- To the left, about face
- Slow step march
- I’d like to put a physical fitness portion in here (like a one mile march to be completed in a certain amount of time with full kit) but think there might be too many liability issues. We don’t want anyone getting hurt for this.
Participants will be considered to have successfully completed the course if they pass five of the six tests (?).
Judges: Judging will be conducted by the 35th Regiment of Foot. Specifically the Captain of the grenadier company, non-commissioned officers and any other members of the unit that have been awarded the title of Expert Grenadier by meeting the course standards.
The Captain of the grenadier company may, at his discretion, invite other officers to assist with judging, in the category of uniform inspection.
Completion Ceremony: Upon completion of the course, the Captain of the grenadier company will present the awards (a token to be determined, possibly a ribbon, badge, certificate, etc.) to those who succeeded in front of a company formation. Once awards have been distributed, the company will present the honorary expert grenadiers with a hearty ‘huzzah’ and disperse for merry making and celebration.
*I focus here on the title of grenadier since they were considered the elite of the British army in the 18th century and my unit is a British grenadier company.