Friday, August 28, 2009

And Yet Another "Comedian Turned Critic"

Wednesday night on the Tonight Show, Conan O'Brien hosted Bill Maher, who proceeded to express his views on how he thinks America is stupid. He said that Obama is too concerned with his own popularity to push through his universal health care plan, of which Maher is obviously a fan. But the words I found offensive were his summation of America's Two-Party System: the Democrats, who defend banks, credit card companies, big agriculture and pharmaceutical lobbies, and the "fringe party" Republicans, who include religious lunatics and Civil War reenactors who "take their orders from Rush Limbaugh."

Excuse me? Civil War reenactors? Really Bill? I meet a lot of these people, and they certainly don't fall into the category you put them in! They can't be grouped as all being religious, Christian nevertheless, of which Bill is verbally opposed, or being Republican. This statement is unjust, and I'm here to protest. I'm sorry, but I don't hear any criticism about Renaissance Festival participants, or people who enjoy any other hobby, for that matter. What about Trekies? Aren't they fanatics as well?

The political stigma that is attached to Civil War reenactors, especially Confederate reenactors, is repulsive to me, and only goes to show true ignorance. Assuming such negative associations is at the very least unfair, anti-American even. Is it wrong for us to celebrate who we are today by reenacting the suffering that occurred in our great nation's history? You complain that America is stupid, Bill. Well, to disable living history would be an educational crippler, too. How else can people really learn about historical significance besides taking the time to study it themselves? Experiencing what it was like by interaction is far more interesting and entertaining. And you being an entertainer, Bill, should agree: isn't that what it's all about?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Book Signing a Huge Success!

My book signing last Saturday at Book People in Sioux City was a big success! Thanks to everyone who came out. It was great seeing some old friends, and relatives I hadn't seen in years! The little book store was filled to capacity, and everyone there was gracious and accommodating. Thanks again for a very special event.

Monday, August 24, 2009

More on the Mason City Reenactment

During my vacation/book signing tour of Iowa, I spent the weekend of the 15th in Mason City, where I participated in their annual Civil War reenactment. Each year, a different battle is portrayed in which the boys from Cerro Gordo County actually participated. This year, it was the Battle of Pleasant Hill in Louisiana. Although the reenactment was a small event with very little publicity, it still a drew good crowd, and about one hundred reenactors were on hand as well.

The actual battle took place on April 9, 1864, and is officially considered a Union victory. However, at this year's reenactment, the Confederates won. There were many interesting characters about, including Abraham Lincoln. The event also featured a Civil War photographer complete with studio, an old-time root beer stand, a candy stand, a surgeon and nursing demonstration, a Civil War ball, and of course, a sutler selling assorted era clothing and accessories. The event was free to the public, and took place in Mason City's East Park.

I was astounded to learn that participation is dwindling. Of course, the poor economy is partially to blame. I hope more people will attend next year. It is an excellent opportunity to learn about history, see the guys in uniform doing battle, and experience their camp life. If you have the opportunity to see a reenactment, don't pass it up. They are a lot of fun, and the soldiers love talking about and sharing their insight into the Civil War.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Book Signing a Big Success!

I'd like to thank everyone for coming out to the Civil War reenactment in Mason City, Iowa last weekend. We had a great time, and the weather cooperated as well. It was a lot of fun with a good turnout, and I hope we can participate again next year.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Flags Long Ago Unfurled

Last night I had the pleasure of listening to a gentleman by the name of Larry Hawkins give a discussion about battle flags used by soldiers during the Civil War. His main concentration was flags from Mississippi, and his deep concern was that these relics would be lost forever. That is why he is compiling a book about the flags, with pictures included.

He expressed the fact that many flags have vanished and are irreplaceable. His fear was that these flags would not withstand the test of time, in that political views have changed since the mid 1800's, and people would no longer wish to keep them as a reminder of the Confederate cause.

I truly hope this never happens. There is already too much negative association tied to the Confederacy, because ignorant people automatically link it with the Ku Klux Klan. This isn't the case, however, as they are two separate entities entirely. The Sons of Confederate Veterans only wish to preserve their ancestors' legacy, and slavery isn't even an issue, just as it wasn't an issue for Southern soldiers. They didn't give up their lives for abolition, but for self-preservation. They fought to defend their homeland, just as their ancestors had during the American Revolution. Preserving the past is our responsibility, and our duty to our ancestors. Whether we hold their same beliefs or not is irrelevant. They sacrificed their lives for a cause they believed in, and we should honor them for that above all else.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Being a Reenactor Takes Dedication

This weekend, I am attending a Civil War reenactment in Mason City, Iowa. While putting a list together of things I'll need, I got to thinking about the reenactors themselves. Many travel all over the country to attend reenactments, which generally take place from March through November, and participate in an average of two a month. These are dedicated folks, to be sure, for they invest a lot of their time, money, and energy into such events. In many instances, entire families get involved. Checking out costumes and uniforms on Ebay, I saw that they cost hundreds of dollars, and by the time you throw in authentic shoes, undergarments, weapons, etc., the cost can add up into the thousands. On top of that, these reenactors drive for days to participate,(some toting cannons behind their trucks), camp out all weekend, usually don't have access to running water, and have to tolerate those nasty wool uniforms.

Some would find it ludicrous that these "Civil War junkies" are so obsessed that they would pursue such a hobby. But I say, more power to them. Many of the soldiers are actually retired veterans who enjoy reenacting so that audiences can see what it was like back then to be in the army. Teaching living history is educational and fun, even if it means passing out from heat stroke on the battlefield. Now that's dedication!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Owner of a Broken Heart

It's hard to imagine what it must be like to have to give up your child. My son, who just left for school, was here for two months, and we had a great time. It doesn't seem like summer should end this soon! Now our big house is really empty without him. Knowing he'll be back at Christmas is a consolation, but it's still pretty lonely around here.

I can't possibly fathom what it must feel like to watch a child go off to war, knowing he might never return. Or seeing his name listed amongst the casualties in the local newspaper. And sometimes, the mystery of what happened to him is never resolved.

To all the parents that have had to deal with that heartache and loss, I salute you. My heart is breaking just giving my kid back to college. I guess I'm blessed in that respect.

Monday, August 3, 2009

A man's best friend is his dog ... or his eagle?

Because I have always been an animal lover, I can't imagine my life without pets. At present, we own five dogs, three cats, two birds, and a tank full of fish. That number has downsized considerably over the past few years. I think we've had every kind of pet imaginable, both domesticated and wild. Whenever we take a road trip, our little dachshund, Dixie, travels with us.

Soldiers fighting in the War Between the States weren't any different. They brought along their dogs and cats, as well as domesticated livestock, and made squirrels, bears, and raccoons into pets, amongst just about any other kind of wildlife. Regiments sometimes chose animals to represent them as mascots. The 8th Regiment Wisconsin Volunteers even had an eagle named Old Abe represent them.

General Lee had a pet hen, George Armstrong Custer had numerous dogs, and Sallie, unofficial mascot of the 11th Pennsylvania, is carved in bronze on the regimental monument at Gettysburg. There are many other famous canines that accompanied their masters to the battlefield ... and to their death. A few are even buried there.