A LOOK AHEAD & FURTHER AHEAD

It has been customary for me to review the year ending and take a look at the upcoming year in this issue every year, but I'm adding a new wrinkle this year. I want our readers to not only think about where our hobbies and sport are going next year, but it is time to think about the next century as well.

It appears that the avocation of Civil War reenacting has firmly established itself as a pursuit of tens of thousands, and, as such, I think it will maintain this popularity in the years ahead, and well into the 21st Century. One point to consider is the reliance that our leisure endeavors place on foreign markets. The most popular weapons currently purchased by reenactors are manufactured in foreign lands. Enfields and Springfields alike are produced and freighted to the USA from Spain, Italy and Japan to name a few locations. Ten years ago, you could purchase a 3- band musket for about half what one costs today. The trend will only continue.

When I scratch built my 1855 Harpers Ferry, I did so because no one made one. I purchased the parts at the Spring National, and by that Fall National the price of a stock, out-of-the-box Musket had increased to more then I had paid for custom parts! Reproduction muskets are durable goods, and there are plenty already here, but I hope that an American manufacturer will step forward to produce reliable, historically accurate reproduction weapons which will be reasonably priced and will fluctuate with our currency.

1994 was an exciting year for those of us who skirmish with the N-SSA. A new region was added to the N-SSA, encompassing for the first time areas west of the Mississippi River. The popularity of the American Civil War is at an all time high, and interest in shooting Civil War ordnance is also increasing. The creation of the western region will open skirmishing to thousands of musket owners from the mid-west.

This brings me to another point. Presently, the N-SSA conducts the National Skirmishes in the Spring and Fall at one not so central location, Ft. Shenandoah, near Winchester, VA. I predict that if our sport of skirmishing is to have the capacity to grow and thrive, sometime between now and the turn of the century we must identify additional locations at which we may stage National skirmishes, and begin to plan to do so.

The advantages are certainly obvious. Recently, every member unit of the N-SSA was coerced into contributing to purchasing additional land at the Winchester site because of "threatened" encroachment. Top dollar was paid for land unsuitable for development (couldn't percolate) to avoid future problems. This "all our eggs in one basket" policy was threatened again by legal action recently, when a litigant sought damages against the N-SSA. Having at least one other range in another jurisdiction and locality would be a sound insurance policy.

Another problem concerning having just one range is, the N- SSA is testing the capacity of the Winchester facility. Our National skirmishes are tests of endurance as well as skill. Each skirmish sets new competitive records regarding the number of teams and competitors. One possible solution would be to have teams qualify to shoot in National Skirmishes. Teams would have to compete in Regional skirmishes and qualify by scoring certain minimum scores in order to compete in National skirmishes in musket and carbine. This is how many sports conduct their championships, after all, and it works well for them.

Another possible solution would be to have two or three National Ranges established by early in the next century. The National Skirmish would rotate between these ranges, with an additional National Skirmish added, most likely a Summer National, if we had three ranges so each range could generate income once a year. This suggestion is not new, I think I heard it first nearly ten years ago, but the more I hear it the more I like it. I think a location on the Pennsylvania-New York border would be suitable, for it is not so far from the Ft. Shenandoah site to be stressful to those teams who have shot only there for so long, and this area is closer to the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Metropolitan regions then Winchester, VA. Perhaps another location for a third range could be found in southern Indiana or Illinois. This location would be closer to the Northwest and Western Regions, and probably equidistant for Deep South teams.

Such a distribution of National Range locations would reduce the number of teams competing at each National, certainly, but an additional Summer National would make up for the lost annual revenue. Having teams qualify for Nationals may still be an option, and this would certainly increase team attendance at other skirmishes.

1995 will be a big year at Ft. Shenandoah, that's for sure. Work is continuing in the improved sutler area, and when I was up there last month the area looked super. You won't recognize the place before too long. It sure is a welcome improvement.

The National Skirmish is still the place to be if you shoot, skirmish or reenact, and this year the Spring National will be May 17 to 21 and the Fall National is Sept 30 to Oct 4. You will find the Fort open to visitors during daylight hours on these dates only, and more then 50 sutlers will be selling their wares in addition to the musket, mortar, carbine, pistol and artillery competitions being conducted. Make your plans now to attend.

As I stoke the ol' fire, I wonder when reenacting will become as organized as skirmishing is. It seems like the one thing holding reenacting back is the lack of any real top level leadership and management. Individualism and freedom of choice are great concepts, but it seems that anybody with twelve dollars can buy a pair of chevrons or shoulder boards, organize a unit and show up for an event. Companies are constantly undergoing binary fission; "brigade", "battalion" and "regimental" organizations come and go like fashions, and still reenacting survives, but has not grown in the leaps and bounds it should have. As development encroaches on more and more sites, locations to reenact are being threatened as well. Reenacting needs national leadership before the turn of the century, or there will be no place to reenact left.

Good news does abound. Disney is down and out in Haymarket. More and more events support preservation. Opportunities to shoot and skirmish continue to increase. This will continue in 1995 and 2025! Make plans now to enjoy 'em both.

Mrs. Kelley and I hope your holidays are filled with the Joy of the season.

Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(C) 1994 by Tom Kelley
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