I have been sitting on this blog for several weeks until I finally finished it to print. Someone sent me an email, and I was going to write a real long response, but decided against it. But I finally wrote up this blog to let everyone know about the safety that goes into our events.
My freenet email address is still down. It has been for several weeks. This is not new, and I suppose that I get what I pay for. I can read email but not respond on it. You can use my yahoo email address instead.
I want to answer some comments made by one person about our reenactment at Fort Cooper last month.
Although the reenactment at Fort Cooper looked chaotic, it was not. This is a different type of event and reenactment, and I have been doing it for 23 years. (But haven't made it every year.) It is made to look like a random ambush and attack, and has some humorous things happen during the battle. The Seminoles actually did play tricks on the soldiers during the Fort Cooper siege, including "mooning." Stealing the soldier's cattle and then cooking it close by, so the smells went over the fort of the starving soldiers, is another trick.
Every event is different, and as I said, Fort Cooper is a different kind of event.
The person emailing me was questioning safety. Let me assure you that all the muskets and cannons fired safe enough away from the audience, and were at safe distance and in accordance with the state parks historic weapons firing safety training. When myself or Earl ran through the audience during the battle, we did not have our muskets loaded.
All reenactors elevated their weapons and pointed them away from each other, or were at least 25 feet away from the opposing side, or anyone in front of them. I know this is difficult to determine from the audience. The only problem was on Sunday afternoon, when one of the Seminole reenactors got too close to the firing cone of the howitzer that was pointed towards the lake, at which point the soldiers stopped firing.
All the other reenactors that I talked with after the various battles did not have any problems with powder or safety. Everyone I talked with felt that it went very well. The only comment made by anyone was that during the first battle, that the Seminoles could not be seen by the audience, so they came closer to the fort in the following skirmishes.
There was a lot of safety training and information that went on behind the scenes. The Wednesday before the event, the state conducted a teleconference (since we have a travel ban and could not meet in one location) of Historic Weapons Firing Safety Training that was attended by park personnel involved in historical events and demonstrations. Participants were updated information that is enclosed in a 3-inch binder that everyone received.
Because of the travel ban, I attended Fort Cooper using my vacation time, and it was not on the clock, even though I am a park employee. Currently with the travel ban, I cannot even go to Hillsborough River and Dade Battlefield on park business, even though they are in the same district as I am in. And currently, the park cannot even request that I come there and help. I travel on my own gas on my own time, paying my own travel expenses. I know all the other reenactors do not get travel funds, but if you are a park employee going to an event at a different park, the state used to pay for travel, gas, per diem, and you were on the clock. Not anymore.
Four people who attended the training the Wednesday prior to the reenactment were at the Fort Cooper Reenactment. Including the park manager from Fort Cooper. This was a very good ratio. If the manager at Cooper had a problem with anything that happened during the battle, he would have told me. And he was sitting in the front of the audience during the battle; I have photos. So he did not have a problem with what we did. And he did pay attention to what was happening.
Each day before the reenactment, we held a safety meeting with the reenactors, of which most were in attendance. Only a couple could not make it, and we got to them when they arrived. Everyone at the event had been at previous reenactments at Fort Cooper, most for many years in a row. There was only one man and his son who were new, and they were eager to learn and do the right thing. So there was not anyone there whom I would feel was unsafe.
The Fort Cooper event has been going on almost as long as the event at Dade Battlefield, since the early 80s. The event has a good safety record that speaks for itself. And even much better than Dade Battlefield. I am not saying anything bad against Dade Battlefield. It is just that accidents have happened at Dade, and we haven't had the same at Cooper.