I would like to add some comments to Mark Tully's article in the July issue about our battle demonstrations. From my perspective as the person who frequently narrates them, one of my criteria for a good battle is that I must be able to logically explain what is happening on the field. Unfortunately, I frequently need to -- shall we say prevaricate. Why are the opposing lines 25 yards apart and no one is being shot? How do I explain the fact that one side took almost no casualties, had greater numbers, an artillery piece, or some other advantage, yet suddenly turned and marched off simply because it was their turn to lose? Or, on the other hand, how can I explain a victory in which the winning side appeared to be totally disorganized with each unit doing its own thing, while the other side formed line and appeared to be ready to sweep the field clean? And what about those long intervals when no one fires and no one maneuvers and there is no apparent reason for one side not to go into action and take advantage of the fact? In other words, our battles often lack credibility.
My second criterion is that a good demonstration should be entertaining. Frequently, what seems exciting to those on the field does not appear that way to spectators -- and we must remember that we are performing for them. We are dealing with the instant gratification generation used to movie special effects, so we must have drama and almost non-stop action. The long pauses are, simply put, boring. And we often lack even the appearance of spontaneity. Of course, it's hard to be spontaneous when you know who will win, but some of the best battles are those in which the troops APPEAR to be totally surprised by something that happens on the field.
My third criterion for a successful battle is that the public needs to be able to SEE it. If I had a shilling for every time I have mentioned that at Fredonia the troops should not deploy behind the big trees or in the weeds at the foot of the hill I would be a rich woman. And that is not the only place we have a problem. Sometimes the action is almost all on the side of the field farthest away from the crowd or down at one end where only a few can see. Most of the action should occur at the "50 yard line."
Yes, our battle demonstrations need to be theatrical. Would you be disappointed in a play that was slow moving or didn't make sense or for which you had a terrible seat? I'll bet you would. And our spectators are no different. They want a good show. And if we all work on it cooperatively, we can give them one that is logical, fun to watch, and safe as well.
To aid us in achieving this aim, I submit a modest proposal. Much as it goes against the grain, each soldier should periodically sit out a battle and become a spectator. Pretend you are a typical member of the public who is trying to figure out what he or she is seeing. Listen to the crowd reactions and analyze why they enjoyed the battle -- or why they didn't.
I've been bothered by these things for a long time, and thank Mark for giving me the impetus to get some of this said. I hope it will make sense to some of you.
Your well-intentioned servant, Linnea M. Bass,
Brigade of Guards Grenadier Co.