This photo of me appeared recently in the Naples Daily newspaper. It was an event back in January at the Collier County Museum. It was after the event ended for the evening, and I put my glasses back on and am blowing out a candle lantern.
Being the sesquicentennial of the American War of Succession, a lot of events are going on to commemorate it.
The article with my above photo is about Civil War reenactors. It was not a very good article, full of misconceptions and false notions of reenactors toting guns all over the place. (Not that we would expect the press it get it right.)
But one thing the article did notice, was that reenactors are often age 40 and above. I will be 50 in a couple years. How did I get to be an old fart? Since retirement age during the 19th century was 45, this makes us a bunch of old geezers.
So are we too old?
This is a question that we have been debating for the past few years. Many of our long-time friends showed up at the Dade Battle reenactment, being the 175th anniversary. Some of our friends were on crutches, or in wheel chairs. We are all getting old and infirm. Many have passed on.
I was at a meeting of the Dade Battlefield Society around 1999. At the meeting, it was mentioned that the average age for the current soldiers reenactors was about age 53. Looking at the real men who comprised Dade's command and who died there in 1835, none of them were this age. The oldest was Major Dade himself at age 43. Only four other men were in their 40s. Most were in the 20s and 30s. On the other spectrum, only one was under age 21, and that was Lt. Richard Henderson, age 19.
So, we do not really represent an accurate representation of Dade's command, and many of us are older than Major Dade was at the time of his death.
We are in a dilemma. We are wondering if the reenacting is a particular phenomenon to our generation? Many of us have photos from when we were kids around the Christmas tree, wearing the polyester confederate uniform or Davy Crockett coon skin cap. And I have my YMCA Indian Guide photos as well. (No, you will not see them posted here!)
We can't do battles very good anymore because we can't move as fast. If we fall down, the ambulance will take us away. At an event last month, I had banged my shin a few days before and could hardly walk. I had to use an air mattress in my canvas tent because when I slept on the ground at another event, I had several expensive payments to the chiropractor afterwards.
So I don't know how much longer I will be doing this. I am not the young stud that I used to be.
My own theory is that most of us were there in a previous life, and are taking a nostalgic trip from our past life. But that generation is passing on.