The Mission Statement of the U.S.S.
Fort Henry is "To establish and maintain a positive and accurate
image of U.S. Navy sailors and marines lives in the Civil War era,
by presenting nautical history and general seamanship knowledge to
the public." This is done through period naval and nautical living
history demonstrations, battle reenactments, school programs,
parades, memorial services, and performances of traditional sailor's
music. Our members portray crewmen from a U.S. Navy gunboat on
station off the coast of Florida.
Motto: "Style and Profile."
Fort Henry traces its roots back to when several of the
unit's organizers were in another "naval" unit. Dissatisfied
with the change in leadership, these men started a new "marine
only" unit, the Sergeant's Guard, in mid-1996. Shortly later,
we changed the name to "The Sergeant's Guard on the U.S.S.
Fort Henry." Gradually growing, our first sailor joined us in early 2003 where upon we changed the name of the unit to the "U.S.S.
Fort Henry," now having sailors and marines (more
below). Within a year we were recognized by, and became a member of the 4th Brigade, Department of Florida, as a company in the second battalion. By early 2005, the unit had grown to where we now have our own "navy compound" (encampment) at reenactments. Also in 2005 we joined the NMLHA and are unit number 986. In late 2007, we broke from the 4th Brigade as far as command, and now aid them on the field by order of the Admiral. (Organizationally, we are still part of the 4th Brigade for safety and event reasons.)
As we migrated from a marine only unit to a ship's
company, we searched for an appropriate name. The requirement was that we would
try to find a name of a ship that served near our own area (West Central
Florida), and had marines as well as sailors stationed on board.
The U.S.S. Fort
Henry was the ideal choice, and not only met, but exceeded our requirements!
The Fort Henry's crew was very active in raiding the enemy's land
fortifications. The ship was on duty for most of the war. Originally a New
York ferryboat, these ships were transformed into gunboats and served in various
squadrons. Pictured at the right is the U.S.S. Commodore Barney - a ship
similar to the U.S.S. Fort Henry. (More information on the original gunboat and
members of the crew can be found under the [Research] tab.
Our main Goal is to
educate the public on the Civil War era Union Sailors and Marines as infantry and artillery. At reenactments we set up an authentic camp representing a temporary extended term encampment. As not being a camp on the move, we are able to bring in more supplies and equipment.
When it comes time to go into battle, some members report to the 4th Brigade
as support. The brigade commander directs us to placement on
the field, which often requires a lot of movement as we often
"fill the gap" or "protect a flank."
As we go on the field we follow traditional battle commands for
infantry. We may move with the rest of the brigade, go out as
skirmishers, go into a flanking movement, or charge the enemy.
Like the army units we are on the field with, we must know our
commands and how to execute them. At time we might provide
artillery support and often both artillery and infantry support.
Other parts of the day are filled with various activities, just like
the men did in days of old. Training on the field and in camp
at a company level (especially for recruits). We also do
cutlass (sword) drills, pay call, and have time off to visit the sutlers.
While in camp we get many visitors (spectators) who want to know more about
the role of the sailor and marine in the Civil War.
However, we go beyond reenactment events. We perform
memorial services, often as a ceremonial rifle squad, museum
activities and open houses, school days and programs, parades,
and presentations to various organizations and groups. Our
presentations can be tailored for specific needs, such as "role
of the marines" and "sailors," battle tactics, equipment, etc.
Authenticity and Anachronisms.
There are obvious things we can do to help enhance our impressions. Modern eyeglasses, wristwatches and clothing items should not be worn. If one must have modern sleeping gear and food containers, they must be kept out of sight of the public (and fellow reenactors!) while at an event. An aspect of the impression that many land-based reenactors give no thought to is their personal actions. We owe it to both ourselves and those who come to observe us to give our best impression as much as possible.
Remember that we are portraying sailors and marines, not army soldiers. This is important since sailors
and marines, unlike soldiers who were trained only to march and shoot, were skilled artisans of their trade.
The seaman’s trade is one that most landlubbers feared to engage in. For those of us who are, or have been, in the naval services, keep in mind as you portray sailors that you ARE sailors, real sailors, and draw upon your experiences at sea for your arrogant attitude and your "background knowledge" of the sea.
For those who have not been to sea, draw upon your own knowledge, background or hobbies (other than this one) for material for your personal impression. If you are into carpentry or guns or sewing or mechanics, you can use those things to form a basis for portraying a rating specialty.
The key to naval reenacting is the specific knowledge you can show and the information about your position in the crew you can show to the public. Believe me, it will show in how they perceive you.
Copyright 2016 - 2017 USS Fort Henry Living History
Unit - All rights reserved.