SELMA, LORD, SELMA
by Charlie McCulloh
was the first reenactment I ever went to as a spectator, it was the first
reenactment I went to as a reenactor. I camped civilian in a Nylon tent,
wearing a truly bizarre costume that I had cobbled together from “the
Skinners” on Sutlers Row. Looking at Ruth and myself posing in that first
reenacting photo only makes me shudder. We were just then starting
the hobby/lifestyle/allconsumingthing. Everybody has to start
somewhere....and Selma is just right for fresh fish. Static battleground,
close spectators, beautiful setting for a wonderful period ball......AND...the
whole town supporting a City wide event. The 33rd Alabama has always been fine
host and put on a great event, despite the uncooperative weather we sometimes
have in April. The good Colonel astride his mighty war steed directing his
loyal and brave troops against the overwhelming Yankee Mercenaries is good for
Selma AND Reenacting.
actual battle, as most of you know, was an assault by mounted and dismounted
cavalry. No, not the pseudo “Yosemite Sam/Josey Wales” impersonators you
see at some reenactments, but
campaign hardened Midwest troops armed with repeating carbines. They attacked
an outnumbered cavalry force led by “Ol’ Bedford” and were supplemented
by Alabama Militia. The Militia
was spread thin in the miles of works around Selma.....it was hoped that the
Militia could hold off the attackers until help could arrive. They could not.
Alabama Militia as evoked by Executive Decree from Gov. John Gill Shorter on
December 22, 1862 (O.R.SeriesIV, Vol. II). The Governor calls for all men not
available for conscription to form companies of .....“ a Captain, two
Lieutenants, four Sergeants, four Corporals and forty Privates”.
The muster roll was then taken and forwarded to the Adjutant-General of
Alabama Militia, General H. P. Watson. All militia would provide their own
clothes, blankets and if possible their own arms. The Governor
directed that drill be held on a regular basis but should not interfere
with productive war work. There are several battalions listed in the Alabama
service records. These units are listed as numbered Militia Battalions and
have muster rolls on file.
Imagine this at the Selma Reenactment, not this one.....but maybe the next. A unit files by the crowd, some in shirt sleeves, some dressed in blue, black and brown civilian jackets. Some in checked pants and suits, some in old brown farm rough jeans. Old blankets and quilts as bedrolls. Slouch hats, top hats, straw hats. Old, very young and convalescing men armed with rifles, smooth bores and percussion shotguns. They have on cartridge boxes and cap pouches, and are equipped with canteens and bayonets where needed...Selma is a depot town and there should have been enough equipment for the hurriedly called Militia to be outfitted. Their Captain calls them into line, he is a regular army captain on convalescing leave...perhaps with a sleeve pinned up from an amputated arm, but at least with some form of bandage. They dress and are placed at the wall between the regular troops. They give a good account of themselves for the first wave of attacks, many are shot down.....but on that last Yankee push.....they break and run, and I mean RUN LIKE HELL. The NCO’s try and slow them down but can’t. Tossing off ‘cooters and dropping arms. Run right by the crowd, probably amid hoots and boos, with a panicked expression and wild eyes. I can’t think of anything more authentic than Alabama Militia at any of the battles reenacted on Alabama soil. It might require a little extra kit work and maybe some MORE money (as if you haven’t spent enough already), but it certainly would be an impression that would educate the public and represent the war as fought by something other than the major armies.
What do YOU think?