“Quoque Plures Fossor, Non Satis Ambitus”
By Craig L Barry
December 2009 Civil War News
One of the longest-running challenges faced by the U.S. Civil War community, particularly among the living history and reenactment enthusiasts, is the phoenix-like propensity for imploding after a few years and then out of the ashes reforming with fewer members into self-titled segments such as “progressive,” “authentic,” “hardcore,” “mainstream” or “campaigner.”
You can tell when this has happened because the old “69th San Francisco Zouaves” are now suddenly calling themselves the “Hardscrabble Mess.”
These self-titled segments are largely meaningless distinctions that people either attach to themselves or, more often, to others that they wish to belittle or denigrate. Humans have a herding instinct and something in our DNA makes us seek out conformity rather than diversity.
At any rate, here is a radical way to change the hobby’s zeitgeist into something truly “progressive” and at the same time explain the Latin phrase used in the title.
“Quoque plures fossor, non satis ambitus” translates as “too many clowns, not enough cicuses.”
This precept can work in reverse as well since a case can be made that we suffer from too few clowns and too many circuses these days.
It is like the old joke about there being 12 true hardcore enthusiasts but none of them can agree on who the other 11 are. We run too many participants off or frustrate them to the point that staying home is a better alternative.
So, let’s consider a more enlightened approach to labeling if we must label. Let’s label events and not event participants.
The previously self-identified “campaigners” may actually be able to take credit for this concept. About the time they did a head count at one of their “by us for us” events and found very few heads to count, the “campaigner” manifesto suddenly shifted from having the right “kit” (equipment ensemble) for the particular scenario, along with the right swagger, and became about having a good attitude for a weekend rendezvous that will contain little sleep, skimpy rations and some unpleasant surprises. It could rain or get cold at night, too.
They may be on to something here. If your standards become too exclusive, you are eventually all by yourself, an army of one.
We are currently a few years shy of the 150th cycle of events and some of us holding on by our fingernails, awaiting the much anticipated return to the halcyon days of 25 years ago (which ended about 10 years ago).
We hope for a surge in interest in the Civil War and, as a result, more participants coming into the hobby. We should make sure we offer something for the broad spectrum of interests that would accompany a surge in interest.
The fact is that labeling the event instead of the event participant is the natural order of things. Water can find its own level. It is rare enthusiasts who do all one kind of event or another. They pick and choose to meet their needs.
For me, there is not enough in a steady diet of campaign events to make a satisfactory Civil War hobby experience, or perhaps there is actually too much. Twelve-hour drives along with a lack of enthusiasm for experiencing one of every kind of minor discomfort in 36 hours that a Civil War soldier faced over the course of three years (except for real injury and dysentery).
I think my kit is good enough and my musket is usually correct for the time period of the event. Heaven forbid somebody accuse me of not having enough of the right muskets! The worst part of my impression is the guy inside the uniform. And part of what is best about participating in any event is camaraderie with the same group of odd-fellows, wherever the event is held.
We all know or have experienced ourselves the loss of a long- time comrade in arms. Those bonds form over years and long nights of mint juleps around the campfire.
Events are all different, but not necessarily better or worse than any other kinds of events. The key concept is disclosure of what to expect out of the weekend. Think of it as an authenticity factor.
So, in this new world order it would be expected that some AARs (after action reports) on last year’s event are posted so potential participants can get some idea of what to expect this year.
Hopefully, that would include approximate numbers that showed up on both sides, in case your idea of a reenactment of Five Forks in 1865 is not 50 Federal (well, actually 50 “galvanized Confeds”) and 500 Johnnies. Or if it is, then at least you know what to expect.
An event would be accredited based on its safety record and so on. The hobby has been around in some form at least since the Centennial events of the 1960s, so let’s “get it right” for the 150th this time around.