SKIRMISHING: It's A Family Affair ...

This month, I thought I'd take a look at how the N-SSA has peacefully and quietly integrated female competitiors into our ramks. One of the news stories this summer was the attempt to gender-enrich The Citadel, a single gender military arts college in Charleston, SC. Well, it was only news for the first four hours, anyway, but all the attention that this unnews story created made me think back to a small alterca- tion between Antietam NBP and another female who wanted the rules changed at Antietam for living history participation. Given the roots of the North-South Skirmish Association, and the propensity of the organization to resist change, our own non-gender specific alteration has occurred remarkably smooth.

Prior to October 1991, the N-SSA Bylaws stated that applicants must be "male." At the October 1991 N-SSA Board Meeting, that word was removed, and opened the door to women who wanted to compete in the N-SSA. Women had been competing up to this time in a separate organization, the Womens Skirmishing Association. Quite a few joined immediately after the Board meeting, and competed two weeks later at an approved skirmish. In the time that has lapsed since this change, more and more women have joined the ranks of the N-SSA. As I shot at skirmishes this summer, I also began to notice that there were almost as many mother and daughter pairs as I could see father and son pairs. Being the man of the ninetys that I am, I talked to a few at the 1st Florida Skirmish this August, and I wanted the readers to meet these folks too.

I've been shooting alot of Carbine Team events this summer, and on more then one occassion I noticed that one of the teams competing was 80% female. Well, it turns out that this was the B Team from the 11th VA Infantry. In Photo 1, the 11th VA ladies are (L-R) Jackie Peer, Terri Sobers, Nikki Taylor and Jan Simpson.

Jackie shoots a Smith Carbine and this is her first year skirmishing. She was having her best day of competitive carbine shooting ever, and really enjoys skirmishing. Terri shoots a Maynard Carbine and is also a 1995 rookie. She has been attending skirmishes for years with her husband, and as the ladies contingent grew at the 11th VA, Terri joined this year. When asked about her best skirmishing memory, Terri said she was really proud of her accomplishments at this years 1st Florida Skirmish. Nikki Taylor is Jackies' sister, and shoots a Sharps on the Carbine Team. Nikki and her brother, Russell Wymer, make the neatest little Sharps cartridges, and Nikki has shot so well with it this summer she was shooting with the A-Team at the "Gator." Nikki and Jackies Dad, Ed Wymer, and Uncle, John Wymer, have been members of the 11th VA for years, and both ladies citied the support they get from the older men in the family as being important to their success. Nikki, by the way, has been shooting for 3 years, signing up just after the Board changed the rule. Her best memory so far has been winning a Musket Team medal at the 1994 Fall National. Jan Simpson is a familiar sight at Ft. Shenandoah, and also enlisted in the N-SSA right after the change. Jan shoots a Maynard carbine too, and quite well, as I have seen her shooting more with the A-Team then the B-Team the last couple of years. I believe that Jan was one of the first women to win a Team Medal at a National Skirmish, and I have seen her name on the leader board often. All of these ladies are married to members of the 11th VA.

Judy Stoneburner (Photo 2) is another familiar face on the firing line at Ft. Shenandoah. She has been competing in the N-SSA for 2 years and is a member of Mosbys' Rangers. Her son, husband and brother are all members of Mosbys' Rangers as well. Jan not only shoots everything -- Musket, Carbine, Pistol, Henry and Mortar, but she also competes in the ladies dress competion at the Nationals! Jan shoots a Maynard in the Carbine events, and we talked a little bit about loads for breechloaders. Jan is sold on 27.5 grains of FFF in her Maynard, and does quite well with it. Her best skirmishing memory to date was last years 1st Florida Skirmish, when she broke 11 targets in the Carbine event. Although she didn't come out and say it, I wonder if she didn't out shoot a couple of relatives?

Still another of the lady skirmishers is Mary Runyon of the 7th Regiment of Virginia Volunter Infantry. Mary appears in Photo 3 with her husband, Gary. Mary enjoys shooting both musket and carbine with the 7th, and her finest skirmishing memories in the short two years she has been competing are posting an 88 in 100-yard Musket at the last National and helping her B Team win a musket medal as well. Mary typified the acceptance that most females have recieved in the N-SSA. While I was wandering the firing line compiling this column (in between missing carbine targets), Gary couldn't wait to inform me that Mary had plastered the targets in the first two events. No room for chauvinism when you can shoot like that!

Nancy Crockett (Photo 4) of Chiswells' Exhiles is another medal winning lady skirmisher. I know she has won alot of medals, because many a time it was Nancys' name above mine on the standings chart! I'll never forget posting a respectable pistol score at a Potomac Regional in 1992 and moseying up to the Stat Shack to see that Nancy had beat me by a couple points. Nancy was one of the first ladies to sign-up after the rules were changed, and she has been shooting and shooting well ever since. I was really pleased to see Nancy advance into the higher classifications, because it improved my chances a little. Nancys' husband, O.C. "Davey" Crocket, is the Statistics ghuru of the N-SSA. Nancy remembers that her first medal was a 100-yard Carbine medal, and she enjoys shooting Musket, Carbine, Pistol and Henry events with her team.

The ability of the women who have thronged to the N-SSA is unquestionable. They shoot well, hang targets, time and safety and clean-up the range better then more then a few of the men. Experience has now shown that the addition of women to our ranks has made the North-South Skirmish Association an improved organization. The women I've introduced you to are only a sample, and I apologize if you are related to or a team member with another great skirmisher who happens to be a woman. I believe there are dozens, maybe hundreds of 'em out there.

The Fall National Skirmish will be only days away when you read this (or, you may even be at the Skirmish when you read this). I hope everyone gets to do all the skirmishing they want to, and that your memories are made with a smile on your face. Until the next time, shoot safe and have fun.

(C) 1995 Tom Kelley
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