An official “Re-enactor Mudder”!

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Are you familiar with the term “mudder”? Originally it applied to a racehorse that ran well on a muddy or otherwise difficult track. Nowadays its meaning has expanded to include pickup trucks with the same capability. The newest twist is “Tough Mudder,” a $250 million industry in the United States, with over two million participants annually. It involves navigating a series of obstacles filled with, or covered in . . . mud.

I’ve come to believe that my hobby, Civil War re-enacting, entitles me to establish a brand-new category of this pursuit, “Re-enactor Mudding.” The rationale for doing so might seem a trifle arcane, but hear me out.

Regardless of the area of the country in which re-enacting takes place, the season generally follows its historical antecedent. This means that participants “campaign” from late spring to late fall. Now, re-enactors don’t expect always to be battling under sunny skies, amid balmy temperatures. During my years in the hobby I have had experienced a wide spectrum of weather conditions, from a frosty night spent in a sunken Tennessee farm road in October to 106-degree daytime temperatures at the height of a Virginia summer.

I have to say that I put up with being cold or hot pretty well. However, I am not a big fan of being muddy and wet. Case in point: a mid-September event in Michigan at which the above photo was taken. Arriving at the Union camp site the previous evening, I had just started setting up my canvas dog tent when the skies opened. The rain pelted down as a pard and I struggled to erect the tent. Despite being sheltered by trees our clothes were instantly dripping and water flowed around – and over – our brogans.

The travail didn’t end once the tent was in place. In our haste to escape the deluge we hadn’t hammered the tent stakes in all the way; heavy raindrops pounding the gap between the edge of the canvas and the ground sent sprays of muck inside my humble abode. I managed to put down a groundcloth, upon which I placed my musket, haversack, accoutrements, knapsack, blankets, etc. It was quite a feat to arrange my possessions in such a way that they were only dampened in the succeeding hours.

My reward for all this labor was to pass the rainy night, occupying an ever-decreasing area of semi-dryness in the tent, listening to the streams that gurgled around it. As the photo attests I survived the ordeal!

Perched in a camp chair as my coffee warmed that morning I was struck by the need to describe people that got through the kind of mud bath I saw all around me. That’s when Re-enactor Mudder came to mind. I find it a good, sturdy term for what I’d been through. I will be waiting for its use to become widespread enough for inclusion in the famed Oxford English Dictionary.

3 thoughts on “An official “Re-enactor Mudder”!

  1. So- is your tent really just a tarp over a rope/pole? That would be exciting in the rain.

    -B

    Typically, common soldiers’ dog tents consisted of two halves (each one carried by a soldier) that were buttoned together and thrown over a ridge pole or perhaps a rope suspended from two trees. Endcaps that buttoned to the main tent were available, but not always used. In inclement weather the men would use their rubber blankets to prevent the weather from getting into the tent.

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    1. I wouldn’t want to characterize living in my canvas tent as always being a trial (even in the rain), but the kind of situation described in my blog happens now and then. I think the biggest hassle is having one’s feet stick outside. The typical Civil War soldier was 5′ 8.25″ tall; I’m a littler taller than that.

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