The Adjutant's Blog

A journal of information, events and daily ramblings of Longstreet's Corps beloved AAG, Tony Zusman

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Back in the Saddle Again

Well pards it has been awhile since I have lit up the telegraph and addressed the masses. Seems the post Gettysburg "hangover" was a long one this time. Good thing the 145th Anniversary only happens once every 145 years.

Since the big Gburg event, life has been pretty much filled with sleep, white russians, planning for Chickamauga and shooting at the bank reposessors. From there I moved on to my work with the Foundation for Future Adjutants and, of course, my attendance as a key note speaker at the Annual Adjutant's Convention in Las Vegas.

All this leads up to our upcoming event at Cedar Creek. No big command, only the Corps, no big commitment, just a good end of the season event where we can all come together for one last good time. I am looking forward to a break from the real world.

Good news for Cedar Creek is gas prices in my end of Valley have dropped quite a bit in the last week. I don't know what you are paying in your part of the world (haven't been able to afford to travel much lately) but we have seen prices in the $2.80's, just in time for the event.

Taking a look at what we have done since Gettysburg. We had very good reviews for Gburg both from the Corps and from all other parties involved. Having been involved in many of these big events, I was amazed at how smoothly things went on the command and event sponsor levels. When a problem arose it was take care of quickly. The only major incident came after the event. Immediately after the event news spread around the internet about a news report detailing a fight breaking out during Pickett's Charge. I personally investigated the incident and spoke to the parties listed in the story and their Union counterparts. All reported they saw nothing and no injuries were accounted for in their commands. It appears the story was simply a use of "literary licence" by some one who should have his licence revoked.

The planning for Chickamauga became more of a nightmare than anything that could have been thrown at us at the event. Our biggest hurdle was the prospect of $4.00+ a gallon gas and people, flatly, not being able to afford to go. The Corps tried to help by making charter bus travel available, however, we were only able to get 12 people interested in filling a 40 person bus. We set up a web page to arrange for carpools but no one took advantage of that. Perhaps if things get harder in the future this type of service may be more of a help to the membership. I would like to thank Eric Powell and Bill Russell for their work in planning the bus trip.

"General" Russell and Rick Miller procure a ride back to camp at Chickamauga.

General Cornett sent Capt. Bill Russell, 47th Va, to command the Corps. Attendance was reported at about 125 for the Corps. General Russell commanded a brigade made up of the Corps and the Hardee Guard Battalion.

The event hosts treated us well and the Corps even had an opportunity to march in parade for dignataries, including Vice President Dick Chaney. The battles proved a good challange and riding into battle on the train was a unique experience.

Ask anyone who has reenacted as long as I have about doing events in the deep South and you wouldn't get a good response from most. Recollections of events such as "ChickaMUDDA" and demands that we galvanize for half the battles kinda leave a bad impression in our memories. From the sounds of things at this event and the friends we have found in the deep South, we may have to consider more events in that theatre.

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Friday, May 30, 2008

A Role Model to all Reenactors

I was on my way to bed this evening when the last story on the news announced the passing of veteran comic actor Harvey Korman. Truly this is a passing that will reverberate throughout our community.

Korman gave us unlimited gag lines used at any event from such classics as Blazing Saddles, History of the World Part I and many others.

I recall a time when Chuck Hillsman was giving an inspiring speech to the staff before a big anniversary event. He told us, "these are heady times for us all," to which several of us quickly replied, "that's Headley!"

So here's to Harvey Korman, Go do that voodoo that you doo so well.

Harvey Korman Circa 1998 during the filming of
The Adjutant Never Sleeps, The Tony Zusman Story
pictured with Korman, Raul Zapata as Phil Gomez,
Slim Pickens as Waverly Adcock and Slick E. Bouy as John Wagstaff

Monday, May 19, 2008

Thanks for the Memories

New Market did not disappoint, it rained enough to make things interesting. It rained in 1864 when the VMI boys charged, it rained Sunday afternoon 25 years ago, it rained this weekend on and off. What is New Market without a little rain.

I wanted to take a moment in the blog to thank everyone for their kind comments on the last posting and on my anniversary. I received a wonderful anniversary present that I did not expect, throughout the weekend as folks came and wished me well they took a moment to relate their stories of their first event. I love to hear stories almost as much as I like telling them so bring them on. Click the comment button below and I will add them to the blog for other to see.

On Saturday afternoon I spent the better part of an hour visiting with Buddy Bare of the 8th Virginia. Buddy filled me in on stories of his 40 years in reenacting and pretty much caught me up to what I missed in the 15 years before I joined. Many will remember that Buddy was quite under the weather over the past year and we almost lost him a few times. I am happy to report he looks wonderful and may have more energy than I do right now.

I was reminded this week, while going through all the hoopla, of another story from my first months as a recruit. At my second meeting of Mahone's Brigade the colonel in command stood up and announced that after 25 years in the hobby he was retiring. My thought ... 25 years, damn that's old. It took Bobby Compton of the 28th VA to say it to me ... 25 years, damn that's old.

There is a lesson to be learned here, the farther away we come from being a new recruit we tend to forget how we felt when we first joined. The one thing I took away from this weekend was that everyone felt a little overwhelmed at first at this strange hobby. Next to paintball there are not too many social activities where you shoot at people for fun. Be kind to the new recruit, help them understand this unique hobby. We, as officers, often put personal opinions of events, other commanders and assumed politics in the way of these new recruits enjoying themselves and learning. While we do our best to look after their best interests remember that most new recruits just want to get into the next battle and burn some powder, they don't really care if the event commander once insulted you in some way.

So it begins, the big anniversary season. I did not get the t-shirts, bobble heads or even the Mariachi band for headquarters for all my adoring fans. What I did get was good times and good memories with good friends. That is quite a reward for surviving this long.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

25 Wonderful Years ... the saga begins.

A friend passed along word that my Blog had made it big time and was critiqued on another web site about the Civil War. The review ... Well written but talks a lot about being burned out on the hobby.

Well friends, that was the past two years. I think we were all a little scorched around the edges prior to this season. This year I have a lot to be thankful for in our hobby and one of the biggest is that it is my 25th Anniversary in Civil War reenacting! (Cue the balloons).

Yes indeed, both Stinky and I can trace our beginnings to the Battle of New Market in 1983. He with the 18th Virginia Co. G, I with the 41st Virginia of Mahone's Brigade. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking ... Tony was a private once? Well it is true, we all have to start at the bottom.

I had been recruited in March of that year at Ft. Boykin, the site of the annual School of the Soldier for Mahone's Virginia Brigade. I elected to come to Sayler's Creek, the first event of the season, as a spectator to get a better feel for the hobby I had just joined. This would prove later in life to be a wise decision.

Sayler's Creek was a tough event back then, close to what we would now consider a "progressive" event. Back then we considered it as close to the war as you were going to get without real bullets flying at you. At Sayler's Creek you would sleep on the ground with little cover, there were no families attending and few sutlers. The battles were renowned for being Death Marches all consumed with the Yankees chasing us through three counties. Bottom line, if you knew you couldn't do it then don't come. Admittedly, as a spectator, I did not see the hardship that befell the participants and only saw the battles, from that standpoint I was hooked.

So fast forward one anxious month to the middle of May and I am off to New Market for my first event. I didn't shave for a week to get that scruffy Confederate look, I packed beef jerky and water for food and came armed with $50 to start buying gear. I was instructed to look for Mahone's Brigade when I arrived and to check in with my Sergeant, Butch Petrey.

My wife and I took off early to get there and we arrived just as darkness had fallen. She unceremoniously dumped me off at the Confederate Camp with my blanket and sleeping bag, food and water. She was off to spend Mothers Day Weekend with her Mom who was about 15 minutes up the road. This always proved to be a convenient matter for us in years to come having the event that close to Mom.

Back in camp I went a looking for my new friends. I stopped at the first tent with soldiers and asked for Mahone's Brigade, reply, "I don't think they are here yet". Off to the next camp, "Yea I think they are over there on the other side of the camp." After walking back and forth for about an hour a group of three soldiers invited me over the the fire to rest for a moment. They were very hospitable, offered me some coffee, a little nip of something stronger and even to join them for part of their steak dinner. After about a half hour of conversation I realized I had found a good hobby with folks who were friendly and genuine. I bid my farewell and managed to trip into the next camp where I finally found Mahone's Brigade. It was the next day that the commanding general, George Heffner, rode up to me and addressed me by name and asked if I had ever found Mahone's Brigade. I told him I did and I did not realize who I was being entertained by. He spoke to me words I carry to this day, "I'm just an officer, if it wasn't for the privates we wouldn't have an event".

When I appeared in camp seemingly out of nowhere appeared Sergeant Petrey with a "where the hell have you been." He introduced my to five members of our company (all by nickname) and showed me to my tent. After getting settled I came out to meet folks but found everyone had already left the fire for other camps or had gone to bed. So I retired to my sleeping bag and blanket. I was amazed how soft the grass was where we camped, almost softer than my bed at home. I fell asleep thinking this reenacting stuff won't be so bad after all.

Morning came too early at 6:30am. I was very out of place, still in modern clothing but eager to get started. I was given a pair of pants that were two sizes too big and a coat that was too small, at least the shoes fit. A little later in the morning I was taken to the sutlers by Sergeant Petrey. "How much you got", he asked. With a reply of fifty from me, he came back with, "well I can spend that no problem".

We passed a lot of sutlers tents full of everything needed to become the complete soldier. Sgt Petrey gave his critique as we passed them all, "Don't buy from him he will rip you off, we don't use him he's an ass." Finally we show up at his destination, a skinny guy standing behind his car with the trunk lid open. I was kinda hesitant at first and confused, all these grand palaces of shiny military replica items that looked every bit as exciting as a Turkish Bizarre were not as good as a guy selling out of his trunk like a denizen of a Saturday morning flea market?

"Slick Rick, what's happenin," my sergeant called out to the seller as they shook hands like long departed friends. Set my friend here up, he needs a kepi, haversack and a belt with buckle. The gentleman set me up in short order pulling from various places in his car. Total came out to $48, the two dollars change promptly was snatched up by my sergeant, we will need this later he said. Funny as it was buying my first authentic soldier items from the back of a car it turned out the merchant was Dennis Boettcher of Fair Oaks Sutler fame. To the day I still have my belt and hat and I consider Dennis one of my dear friends in this hobby.

On the way back I discovered the need for the $2, in a show of good faith towards his new recruit my sergeant bought me a fresh squeezed lemonade, with my money. Back in camp I was told to get my gear on quick, time to learn how to be a soldier. I was thrown in a line with two other fresh fish. One proved to be David Perkins of the 12th Virginia Infantry. Over the years it has been speculated by Stinky and I that the other fish may have indeed been Stinky. I remember we pretty much mangled the drill. The corporal sent to drill us called us all hopeless. "If you are lucky you can just follow the guy in front of you. Just don't hurt anyone", he said.

The event for the day was the parade in town. Man this reenacting ain't bad, first comfy ground to sleep on now a parade. We would walk to the staging area, march through town and then catch buses back to camp. I was proud in my first formal activity as a Confederate soldier. I was all smiles as I passed my wife and her family on the parade route. It was all great, until the parade was over. Our 1st Sgt. gathers us up and announces, there will be no bus, we have to walk back to camp and the city wants us out of the park in five minutes. My first harsh reality as a soldier that every promised luxury is probably a lie engineered to get you to do something.

Sunday marked my first experience in battle. We were going in first, right after the artillery barrage. After the artillery show we were sent to the back of the Bushong House, between the house and barn, to meet the Federal skirmishers in the orchard. "Man, who would want to be artillery? They just stand back here and miss all the action", I thought. Our Captain held us up a little short in the backyard of the house. It was then that I heard the strange "zipping" noise that sounded a lot like bullets flying through the air. My first thought was what in the hell have I gotten myself into? I looked over at some of the guys old enough to be Vietnam veterans and noticed they had a real scary look on their faces. I knew this was authentic but not that authentic! It never dawned on me that the noise was just a strange concussion off the buildings from the blanks the Yankees were shooting. To this day I still love watching the new guys go into the yard and listen to the bullets.

Boy! This was exciting stuff. It was everything I read about and more! We were shooting as fast as we could, men dropping around us, the sergeant yelling us to keep a line formed. Then the word came, "Charge the Guns!" I took off hell bent for leather towards my Yankee foe, I was going to capture a cannon in my first battle. Only one problem, a gunner with his sponge was waiting for me. As I charged the gun he reared back with the sponge in a pose that was reminiscent of Babe Ruth getting ready to swat number 713 over the wall. I reached the gun and almost had my hand on the muzzle when it hit me. WHAP! I heard the sound and I was launched backward. When I awoke gasping for air, the little gunner was over me asking if I was ok. He caught me across the chest and knocked the air out of me pretty good. He sat with me for a moment as I regained my full breath, then he reached out a hand and said, "Good fight Johnny".

Thus ended my first battle. Lessons learned for that weekend. Don't give your money to the Sergeant, porta johns are nasty so eat more cheese the week before, don't believe any promises given by officers and lastly, those Yankee boys ain't so bad after all. Reenacting was good then, it is still good now.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Hard Times Come Again No More

I am pretty sure the subject in everyone’s home right now is not if Lee could have won Gettysburg if he had Jackson, but rather how many Jacksons is it going to cost me to get to Gettysburg.

Looking back to when I started in the hobby, I remember thinking this was a pretty cheap way to get away from everyday life. I charged my rifle (which I think I just paid off last year) and I could spend about $25 on a weekend and cover my gas and food. All in all it was almost cheaper to go to an event on a weekend than to stay at home.

In March, as I was preparing for Endview, I actually had to look real hard at the budget for perhaps the first time. Suddenly getting from good old Woodstock to Newport News was going to cost quite a bit in gas, close to $75! I went to the store to buy the essentials (beer, jerky, OJ and soda) and that was $50. When I got the bill for Stinky cooking the big meals over the weekend I heard someone complain about the price going up. Stinky’s reply, “Ya bought a dozen eggs lately?”

Yea, the economy ain’t what it used to be and keeping the Yankees at bay is costing some serious green. The warning signs have been blowing gently on the breeze over the past few years. I listened as the Cavalry and Artillery guys complain that bounties paid by sponsors were not even putting a dent in the cost of getting to even the closest of events. Think of it, my infantry friends, would a $25 bounty to show up to an event even help you now a days?

Are thoughts of the economy going down the crapper getting you down, Bunkie? Well, there is an upside. I am here to tell you that being an experienced reenactor is not a bad thing during troubling times.

1. If we lose the house we still have the tent and we know how to camp.

2. We got guns!

3. We are used to subsisting on fatback, bacon and hardtack at least two days a week. If you have eaten Stinky’s cooking you are already conditioned to “road kill”.

4. When that Double frap, choco latte, grande, decaf goes up to $12, we can make our own coffee using a muslin bag and coffee grounds.

5. Lack of employment = more time to reenact. Perhaps we can just stretch the events out a week or two longer.

6. Most of us know how to make our own clothing. OK, so we will look like the folks at that polygamist compound in Texas but we will have clothes.

My friends in the “progressive movement” of the hobby may actually come out ahead with the current situation. For years now they have been encouraging the “mainstreamers” to cut down on the gear brought to events, get out of the tents and be a little more authentic. I predict once the mainstream element of the hobby switches from their big gas guzzling trucks to driving the wife’s economical Toyota sedan there will be a great reduction in the “extra” gear and tentage brought to events. The high price of food will certainly trim down us tubby bearded reenactors. All the manifesto’s and remarks on the campaigners forums can’t equal the effect on mainstream reenacting that a devalued dollar can wield.

One thing we tend to forget is that we are currently at war and traditionally things get a little lean during war times. Many of us also study WWII, imagine if Generation Y was faced with rationing, changing jobs for war production and shortages, like our families back then. "What do you mean Starbucks is only open three days a week? What do you mean I can't get Charmine?"

All kidding aside, we will have to wait and see what the future holds. Hopefully this will be a short term economical problem, or “adjustment” as the government likes to call them. But if not, I am afraid there is a lot more than our hobby that will change. Let’s get one last good season in before the change comes.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Soldier of the Year Deadline Looms

February 29 is the day to fill the Sergeant Major's mailbox with entries for the Soldier of the year.

As a refresher, any enlisted man from a full member unit is eligible for nomination. This person, in the past year, should have shown abilities that rise him above the common soldier. Whether he has volunteered for a local historic site, speaks to school groups, helps his fellow soldier in camp or contributes in a special way to forward our cause, he can be nominated for the SOY.

Nominations should be written by the top sergeant in your organization and forwarded to the Sgt. Maj. Johnny Glazebrook at

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Post Corps Meeting Hangover

I can tell the Corps Meeting is over ... my volume of e-mail has gone back to nearly nothing.Seems there is almost as much to do after the meeting as there is before. I should have all updates and notes on the meeting finished by this week. From there I will post them on the Corps web site.

If you check the website now, you will see our new cover page and the updated listing of unit contacts. The calendar has also been updated to reflect the events we have approved.

The new commander and his staff have been quite busy in the past few weeks, splitting time between the transition to command and getting ready for Gettysburg and Endview. It appears, among all the changes, that I have been offered a contract extension so I will be serving you all once again. I will be back to my old duties of event preparation and notifying you all of what is going on.

Communication will be a cornerstone of the new administration. Look for the new Blogs from General Cornett and Colonel Gallion. You have wanted to know what is going on in the Corps, well you now have three outlets reporting directly to all members.

Speaking of knowing what’s going on in the Corps, we would like to know what is going on in your company. Please forward your unit newsletters to me and I will post some of the interesting news on the Blog.

General Maupin was right, we needed to look to the future. The Corps has set its new direction. I guess the words of former Redskin coach George Allen are appropriate, "The future is now."