There is something so…ridiculous about this story that it’s almost hard to even explain. First, let’s start with the re-enactments of the Civil War battles. We, in the South, continue to re-enact the battles, perhaps hoping that we can kill General Sherman before he torches Atlanta and marches to the sea. It never happens. 2011 marks the first of a series of sesquicentennial (150) anniversaries beginning with the Battle of Fort Sumter last April 12-13 and ending at Palmito Ranch on May 12-13, 2015. Over the next four years, battles will be lost and won across the U.S. and each time, the outcome will be the same.
But even as people from the North and the South fight these battles again and again, staging and reenacting, there is an odd rule that seems to pop up in various places –
“Women discovered in uniform will be dismissed from the field.”
Seriously? It’s not even real. Our participation won’t change the battle or the outcome. It happened 150 years ago.
Of course, there are accounts of women soldiers who disguised themselves a men and fought during the Civil War and some women re-enacters hold her up as an example. Lt. Harry T. Buford was actually Loreta Janeta Velazquez, well maybe. In 1876, she wrote The Woman in Battle: A Narrative of the Exploits, Adventures, and travels of Madame Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Otherwise Known as Lieutenant Harry T Buford, Confederate States Army. Although she admitted writing the book for money [isn’t that why people write books?], she did not denounce her participation or claim it was all fiction. Some have discounted the veracity of the book, but it does not diminish the fact that women did, indeed serve. According to this AP story, there have been 200 documented cases where women served as men on both the Union and Confederate sides.
If you want to be a re-enactor at Fort Sumter, you will have to go through a screening process. That’s what Audrey Scanlan-Teller did and was denied. She sued and won. Reenactments are serious business with some women even expecting to share tents with the men.
Susan Kinne of New Hampshire told AP, “I had to sleep with women I didn’t know and it bugged me.” [Welcome to the world of being a soldier.] Can you imagine going to battle and then picking your bunk mate or saying “Hey, I don’t know these guys”? It was war, not a sleepover!
So, 150 years after a brutal war that took 620,000 Americans, , more than all the wars put together since then, thousands continue to reenact. I can’t put my finger on it, but there is definitely something wrong with this hobby.