SPRINGFIELD, NJ - When the crowds go home and the battle pauses for the day, life still goes on for re-enactors in the encampment.
Striving to maintain as close to colonial accuracy as possible, the re-enactors will live, eat and play in the encampments they make. As Mark Oettinger of the Third New Jersey Regiment and Lawrence Wood of the Fifth New York Regiment explained, that means hewing as close as possible to colonial living.
"[It's] as close to period as we can possibly make it," Oettinger said. "We don't want to bring in McDonald's of White Castle to our event, so we try to do everything on the fire, do everything with traditional food. Farm fresh, cooking, just stay away from any of the modern conveniences."
"We can't teach history if we're dressed in jeans and just flying by the seat of our pants, Oettinger added." We try to stay in costume, stay to period from the time we get to the grounds until the time it's time to pack up and leave."
And for Wood, staying as accurate as possible helps him and other re-enactors to properly educate the children who come to these events too.
"it's one thing to read about it in a book," Wood said. "It's another thing to come out and actually experience this in person. The history books, they only teach you a paragraph or two of this in class.
"When the kids come out and see this, they actually realize what it was like to be a soldier back then."
Both Oettinger and Wood noted that while the common issues of wild weather, humidity and bugs did sometimes bother them, every re-enactor in the encampment was more than happy to work around those hassles to maintain the charachter of the re-enactment.
"We enjoy it all," Oettinger said. "We roll with the punches. if they provide us decent facilities, we accept that with honors. If not we just deal with what we got."
"We deal with it all, just like they did," Wood added.
One of the biggest problems for re-enactors is keeping their gunpowder clean and dry. If it gets too wet, or there is too much humidity in the air, the powder will not fire and the re-enactment is a dud. But as long as the rifles and powder are kept functional, nothing else really seems to matter to the re-enactors.
"We can teach history better than the way the schools can teach history," Oettinger said. "They're very limited, they're trying to breeze through the paragraphs, but I think in our setting and our encampment...[the children] get a good picture, and it's in living color."