Our Revolutionary War celebration brought us a number of fascinating re-enactors. We had a chance to catch up with them and find out what makes them drawn to re-enacting and why they choose to make history come to life.
We spoke at length with Sargeant Major Bert Puckett, who has been a re-enactor for years and just retired from the Army. He is currently searching for his next job, which he hopes will give him a chance to continue this hobby that is an academic pursuit. Both Bert and Bob have been stationed at Fort Bragg, both have spent more than 20 years on active duty and both found interesting parallels between the Revolutionary War and modern conflicts in Bosnia, Iraq, and Afganistan. In preparation for a re-enactment, they review some of the curt orders of Francis Marion as well as the protocol of the re-enactment division.
The manual provides the following instructions:
The recruit having received his necessaries, should in the first place learn to dress himself with a soldier-like air; to place his effects properly in his knapsack, so as to carry them with ease and convenience. He is to learn how to salute officers when he meets them, to clean his arms, wash his linens and cook his provisions. He must accustom himself to be able to dress in the night; and for that purpose, always have his effects in his knapsack and be placed where he can put his hands on it in a moment, that in case of alarm he may repair with the greatest alertness to the parade.
When learning to march, he must take the greatest pains to acquire a firm step and proper balance, practicing during his leisure time. He must accustom himself to the greatest steadiness under arms, to pay attention to the commands of his officers, and exercise himself continually with his firelock.
A company is to be formed in two ranks, at distance, with the tallest men in the rear, and both ranks sized, with the shortest men of each in the center. A company thus drawn up is to be divided into two sections or platoons; the captain to take post on the right of the first platoon, covered by a sergeant; the lieutenant on the right of the second platoon, also covered by a sergeant; the ensign four paces behind the center of the company; the first sergeant two paces behind the first platoon, and the eldest corporal two paces behind the second platoon; the other corporals are to be on the flanks of the front rank.
Bert and Bob have both been to Dewees Island before as guests, and they delighted in our uncrowded beach. They were both always interested in history. They joke that their families may like the dress-up part the best, but they are drawn to what they call “experimental archaeology.” They stressed that it was not just the history but the replication of materials and processes… making their own shoes, for instance. They dissolved steel wool in vinegar for several days to make a solvent that actually changes the composition of leather, making a blackener that won’t wash off. They described using historical methods exclusively for a three day encampment. “I’m a professional soldier and I was just smoked, ” Bert recalls, describing his exhaustion after that exercise.
We thank them for making history come to life on our little island, and bringing to the forefront the role Dewees played in the Revolutionary chapter of the State’s history.