Below: My friends Earl DeBary and Ralph Smith survey the dead soldiers at Dade Battlefield, about 8 years ago.
After two years the Florida Park Service has narrowed down the rules and standards for blackpowder safety and historic weapons firing. Overall, there are not many surprises. Standards are now more in line with the National Park Service and other similar states, like the Georgia park service.
There are some differences from the NPS rules, and that is because NPS does not have full-scale battle reenactments, and we do. Battle reenactments like at Gettysburg or Chalmette in New Orleans are actually held off the national park property and hosted by support organizations. Florida is different, where we have battle reenactments on the actual sites of the battles.
For a long time, there have not been any standards in Florida for holding battle reenactments or firing historic weapons. We pretty much policed ourselves following what was practiced elsewhere, and overall it worked pretty good. But we have said for years; at least 15 years from the training notes that I have, that we have to police ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, the federal government or ATF could tighten down and end our fun. So we have tried to look after ourselves. Overall, I think this has worked well, but there have been problems.
One problem that we have had in Florida is that people coming onto the battlefield at reenactments are often alone and not under any supervision. People have just shown up and walked out onto the field and started to fire. This has created many problems. Elsewhere in other states and national parks, you have to be a member of a unit or organization to participate. There is no individual registration; you must be registered through a unit. When I did the recent event at Fort Toulouse/Fort Jackson, I was registered for the event under the U.S. 7th Infantry Living History Association. I have attended events in other states as a registered member of the 7th infantry since 1997. It is not that hard to become a member of a living history group.
But it becomes a problem if you have unknown people who just show up, unregistered at events, and start firing explosive material (black powder) in the middle of other participants. And this has created problems in the past. Whenever it has happened, we have safety issues and problems with these people. We are holding a buckskinner rendezvous, and we are not out there just playing cowboys and Indians. We try to make our events and battle scenarios pretty tightly scripted.
When reenactors show up 10 minutes before the battle without having attended the safety meeting, it is a problem. I will not name names, but I am thinking of specific individuals. They become dangerous, especially when they fire off a pistol or musket within close range of another reenactor, weather it is someone on the opposing side, or someone on their own side. Although these are not loaded weapons, they can still seriously injure someone when fired at close range.
Okay, I have plenty more to say, so I think that I will break this into more than one entry into my blog.