"Hearth and Home"

by John Piland

(I'm not sure when John actually wrote this, it was in our C7 company newsletter when we still printed them, certainly pre-1995. Most of this certainly is true today. Why? Because it has been tested under tactical conditions. You can modify it to your own personal need/want list, but the end goal is the same. - DPS)

Earlier, we said, "Forget your tent." That might be the point when some folks turn the page, as they can’t imagine camping without it. They've seen those “shelter half tents" and they aren't going to try sleeping in that! Well, to tell you the truth, my system doesn't even use shelter tents! They're too wasteful of space! But, you can still be comfy.

At the LBL tactical, we used ponchos and/or ground cloths, plus sticks and twine, and built a very respectable lean-to that housed 6 men and still left 2 ponchos free for guard duty, closing off a side or whatever. (EDITOR, Again, John is too modest. They built a PALACE that was the envy of everyone who saw it!). Lean-tos or “sheebangs" of one kind or another have been built ever since primitive man laid one stick across another and said, "Condo?". An old boy scout manual is also a wealth of ideas on construction technique. A few other helpful hints.

SECOND ISSUE: FOOD.

All along, you've probably been aware of an "authentic versus convenient" struggle. You want to pack as lightly as possible, and that sure doesn't include boxes or cloth to 'cover up' farb items. And yet, you want to survive the weekend too. Food is a place where you must make some smart choices between "authentic" and pragmatic."

First off, the obvious "authentic" choices like hard tack and jerky are pretty salty items. Water can be precious, and you aren't reenacting in hot summer weather (Raymond 2, IS in May so take that into consideration), so salt isn't vital, while avoiding salt can help. Maybe include some salty items – crackers, a little jerky, etc. seeds, peanuts, - but certainly not your whole weekend's diet. Raw meat of any kind has an obvious drawback – unless you're extremely hard core, it needs cooking. Fires can be small and precious – maybe you'd be a lot better off with meat that you can eat without cooking, but something that improves with heating – or can be added to some other dish. Lunchmeat, boiled ham, etc., falls right into this. Ham even has some water in it. While this makes it heavier, your mouth will like it.

Another choice you'll need to make is whether to go full blown farb/comfy and pack in "modern camping foods" and/or MRE type stuff. They do have their advantages. Many of them fit the "don't need cooking but can be" category. They're usually highly nutritious for the weight involved. And, their packaging is light but waterproof. Maybe you'll select a little of this.

A food-related choice is what we'll call "army fuel." You know that campfires may be small or scarce, or (heaven forbid) not possible, so you'd like some way to make coffee or warm something. Obviously, "Sterno" fails both at weight and volume, but there are army "fuel tablets" and bars which actually make a passably warm cup of water. They aren't real heavy either, since they actually are made to be carried into the field. Like candles, they might be useful to starting a fire too. They probably rate some serious consideration.

You will want the energy and mental reward of "something sweet." Even in Fall weather, Hershey bars can be a problem. Go for lightness, durability, and satisfaction. A little hard candy is a nice break during the day, for both energy and moisture in your mouth.

Instant soup, grits, oatmeal, etc. all have the advantage of being light and the disadvantage of being virtually useless without hot water. So, while you don't want to build your weekend around them, a couple packets are probably worth the trouble. A hot meal at the end of the day is extremely rejuvenating, while hot grits or oatmeal are mentally a nice replacement for the bacon and eggs you almost certainly aren't having (even Cookie didn't bring eggs!). Both grits and soup, can also be beefed up (no pun intended) with lunchmeat, jerky, or other selections, while oatmeal is a little less flexible (for most of us anyway). Speaking of 'instant,' the "real soldiers" carried coffee beans, ground them with rocks or gun butts, and boiled the heck out of it. Modern alternatives are too inviting to ignore. Individual packages of tea or coffee bags/instant are sure hard to beat. You can pour or place them into your cup and use the wrappers to help start the fire too - which is ditto for any other food wrappers you have. Obviously, you don't want to litter the site and the paper is useful. Any wrappers from a non-fire "lunch" should be saved for "dinner" time in the camp to come.

You don't want a lot of small loose items running around your haversack. Consider putting things like your coffee, sugar, matches, etc., in one of those zip locked bags. Keep them together, undamaged and dry.

Something that is almost Food is Medicine. Individual packets of cold tablets, Tylenol, etc., can be added to your tea or coffee bag sack. They don't take much space or room and can provide some relief that means the difference between misery or relative satisfaction. And yes, we said "matches" in that zip lock bag. Bring the "lucifers" if you want to, but a disposable lighter might sure save your tail. Your 2-some or at least your 4-some might also consider sharing one very small flashlight…mostly for emergencies, but as something not everyone needs to carry.

There are other personal things to consider, among them alcohol and tobacco.

Frankly, tobacco costs you water, one way or another. Avoiding it may not be an option, and some benevolent feeling when it's all over. Cigars are lighter than pipes (which also require a pouch) and, as you smoke them, you reduce your load. Trouble is, they break easily. Alcohol is something else. Obviously, the 6 pack or the apple pie jug are not an option. A small flask is something to consider, although the weight makes it a heavy consideration. Again, this is a 'contentment' issue – you probably can't carry enough for intoxication (except Cookie, who brought a whole 5th and shared it with the entire platoon!), but just having a taste can improve your attitude.

This might be a good time to mention the fact that just as our normal 'heavy' camping teaches us important lessons about "sharing," tactical camping makes it ever more critical. What you and your pard or 4 some agree on is between you. What someone outside that circle asks for probably needs a strong feeling of trade involved. We experienced the highs and lows of human character at LBL, from Cookie, who weighed himself down like a pack mule for the benefit all, to someone who never shared anything of his own but was ever eager to take from others. He isn't with us anymore.

BULLETS.

As mentioned, it won't be necessary for you to carry 300 rounds. But you probably want to have 75-100 on your person, with that much in backup. Pack your cartridge box normally. If you have more than one, fine. Then, prepare at least 3 or 4 other packages, of say, 20 rounds. Include an 'extra long' cartridge, and fill it with 20+ musket caps. Wrap these in tinfoil. One or more will go into your haversack, (depending on how much you can carry in cartridge boxes) the others into your bedroll. When you get a break after a fight, add from your haversack into your cartridge box. (Remember, the tinfoil is useful!).

Pistols. Obviously, you don't want to try carrying a powder flask and all your assorted loading equipment on you. Do as they did, with possible alternatives.

I'll show you how to roll pistol cartridges from zigzag paper, powder and cream of wheat. You basically roll a cigarette paper around a dowel rod that fits the caliber of pistol you are using, put in the prescribed amount of powder, add cream of wheat on top, and twist it closed. When reloading, grab the twisted end, insert the rounded end into the cylinder, ram it with the reloading rod, cap, and you are ready to fire. Capt Smith

As mentioned earlier, a big tactical is not the time for multiple pistols and lots of cylinders. You simply won't want the weight and bulk. Some folks, in fact, choose to do without pistols entirely, while others restrict themselves to just 1. Based on what else you're carrying and your choices, you might use an unusual pistol. I consider going back to my .36 for a tactical…it uses less powder & the cotton wadding has advantages mentioned above. If you have one of the small .36 or .31 pistols and want to really lighten the load, but still want a revolver, you might consider using one of these as your principal (only) weapon instead of as 'back up.'

While you can carry pistol caps in a special cartridge (like your 'backup' musket caps) a tin of pistol caps isn't that heavy. You might consider carrying one tin among your 2some or 4some. Likewise, a pistol cap tin could be used as a 'grease container' and probably contain enough for the weekend (one per 2some).

CLOTHING.

First off, remember it's a tactical. It's fought in the woods. If you have any choices at all, between "nice" clothes and "grubby" clothes, leave the nice ones at home. This is also an excellent time to seriously put into practice Harris' "deyellowing." If you have a choice, go without. As proud as I am about cav, I don't even use a yellow cord. Instead, I tie a leather lace there for a 'hat cord' that I can actually use for something. If you have a choice of hats, go with a slouch. It has all the normal advantages – keeping sun and rain off. If it fits tightly enough or you use a cinch, it's actually a better hat in the woods than a kepi or bummer. While the brim can catch on branches if you move upright, you can duck your head and push through brush with your ears and neck protected…something you can't do with a kepi or bummer. Additionally, while a cartridge box is usually the start of your 'pillow', some folks crumple up their slouch hats for added cushion. (I know this may shock some of you with 'pretty' hats, but it's a historical fact!) All in all, a slouch is an obvious choice.

It's also a good idea to have your shirt(s) in a color that is similar to your sides' (blue or gray) and not too loud in the woods. Rebs have a big advantage here, as gray and most especially the browns blend in a lot more than any sort of blue. If things warm up and you get to fight in shirtsleeves during the day you really don't want the attention a white or red shirt will attract.

Footwear is critical. Repeat that 3 times. You are likely to walk miles – yes, miles – over the course of this weekend. The spectators will never see you fancy boots, because there won't be any spectators. Choose boots or brogans that you can walk long distances in (even if they aren't your most impressive or most authentic) and, prior to the event, make sure that you do walk long distances in them. Your legs and body need to build up for this, and you'll learn fast about your footwear and socks techniques...while you have time to do something about it. You don't want to travel a long way and be surrounded by thousands of men having the fight of their lives, and have your own event spoiled because of blisters.

When you do your pre-event walking, do it cross-country. Get into woods and walking path someplace. Go up and down hills. That's what you need to condition yourself for and that's what you need to test your footwear on. Asphalt/concrete is an entirely different test…much harder in some ways and easier in others. Gravel is different in a different way. You won't see much or any of either on this tactical, so get ready for what you'll see. And, GREASE YOUR BOOTS. You are, even according to Piland's "light travel techniques", still bringing at least 2 extra pair of socks, because your feet are as important as your carbine. But wet feet will cost you socks you can't afford to carry, make you miserable at night, etc., etc. Find some effective way to treat your footwear so that you can walk through some mud, wet grass, or even a shallow creek, without getting the insides wet. You may have to, after all.

Choose modern advantages wherever possible. Socks and underwear that "wick" moisture away can make a big difference. Choose wool socks over cotton – more spring, wet or dry. If the weather is 'iffy', some long underwear will take up less bedroll space than another blanket, and can help nearly as much. Also consider some light cloth gloves and a knit cap, for the same reasons. You can't function if you can't sleep and you can't sleep if you're cold. We aren't used to this. Even if we seriously do some 'pre-event conditioning', most of us are out of shape for the concept. So let's cut a corner when we can, and try anything that will make our load lighter and our lots a little more comfortable.

This seems like a lot of work. Maybe it is. Still, you'll find that fighting for a weekend is vastly different over the pitiful 1 or 2 hour "tacticals" we have at some events. It isn't just going into the woods and shooting for awhile. It's living much of the total experience of the civil war soldier. No, fortunately, it's still a lot easier than that, and we won't be burying any of our pards. But you will see and hear and feel a lot of things that you haven't experienced before. We say reenacting will "change the way you read a history book." A campaign tactical is about that much farther removed than our standard garrison camp. It's taking the experience to another level.