Past Dispatches

In the early 1800's, England passed a law called "The Riot Act". Whenever there was an assembly of unruly citizens, the constable would read the law to them. If they had not dispersed by the third reading of the law, the authorities would use force to break up the mob. Thus, it would be perfectly common for the Civil War soldiers to use the term, "Read them the Riot Act".

Message from Colonel Van

I’d like to take some time and provide a recap of the Cumberland Guard meeting, both in terms of some specifics as it relates to the 2014 season, and some general thoughts I had in regards to the hobby.

We reviewed the 2013 season, obviously with Gettysburg being a highlight for many, and reflected on the impact Dave Shackelford had (and no doubt, will continue to have) on the hobby.  Our thoughts turned to 2014 and we had significant discussion about the lack of clarity for a unifying national event where the Guard could come in force.  Two thousand fourteen seems to be a bit of an ‘off year’.  We had a lot of discussion about Atlanta, but a lot of factors (the continued slow economy, fuel prices, and the commute time for our Michigan pards) all hampered our ability to make a commitment to the event.  While we will have many individual units attend, we wish we could provide a more compelling ‘full Guard’ commitment to our good friend Earl Zeckman.

Having said that, we wanted to focus on some specific regional events to strengthen the bond of the Michigan and Indiana units.  To that end, we made specific commitments to attend (as a Guard entity), Conner Prairie, IN (May 16, 17, 18), Hastings, MI (July 18, 19, 20), and Hartford City, IN (October 10, 11, 12).  I’ll be putting these events into the Facebook page soon, as well as request the CG website ( be updated.  It also will be placed onto the Michigan Civil War Sesquicentennial Events website (   I have been asked to be overall commander for Hastings, MI. 

We also spent some time talking about bringing the Guard closer to its original mission (i.e., an umbrella organization for Midwest Union re-enactors to be able to attend national events in strength and to have a ‘seat at the table’ that is representative of our size and skill).  I have never viewed the Guard, nor do I view me now as Colonel, as needing to be involved in smaller local events.  Events in Michigan should be coordinated by Michigan units and the same for Indiana.  In an ideal world, I would love to see Union re-enactors create their own ‘state based’ organizations where they put personal politics aside and have (as an example) one organization for Michigan, one for Illinois, one for Ohio, one for Indiana, etc., such that all these battalions can come together for a national event each year in such a manner that our numbers make us a force to be reckoned with.  I pointed to the Army of the Wabash in Indiana as the most recent example of folks putting their politics and egos aside to do this. 

Speaking of politics and egos, I also gave my personal views on those subjects.  I don’t have an ego with regards to re-enacting, and will be the first person to NOT command if it is for the best of the hobby.  I refuse to carry grudges and I refuse to carry other people’s grudges.  I have made plenty of mistakes both on and off the field.  I hope the people that have been on the receiving end of those mistakes move past it, just as I don’t continue to dwell on mistakes I have been on the receiving end of.  Everyone make mistakes, but people grow from these mistakes.  I am certain that I will make many more.  As said at the meeting, (and to Dave), I am NOT Dave.  For some of that, there is a lot of negative (I don’t have his skills, his connections, his presence), but I hope to leverage the positive side of that as well.  It is a new day, time to move past the personal agendas and the political nonsense that have pulled this hobby down into sewer at times.

Feel free to contact me anytime at

Colonel Van

Retirement Statement

Having announced my retirement from reenacting after 39 years of service, I have lots to say. I do not, however, know how to say most of it.

The hobby, if that is what you call it....for some, it is a lifestyle...has changed incredibly. From Sears light blue slacks to an entire industry of folks who make a living supplying the wants of the hobby. From individual companies on the battlefield with no coordination with other companies to battalion, brigade and Division drill and evolutions. From "Ripple fire from the left" to intricate and complicated commands that are not only correct but the rank and file know how to follow the commands.

Changes, yes, many. Sadly, what has not changed are the folks who see reenacting as an opportunity to gain importance and respect. They learned that by politics, back-stabbing and conspiring, they could get rank (although it is fake), recognition and an opportunity to command people.What they do not grasp is the responsibilities and burdens that befall true commanders. Those types do not put the privates interests first, only their own personal agendas. I urge all who read this to stand up against those who seek to advance at your expense and tell them "No". All it takes is one and all who are in silent agreement will step forward too.

How do I begin to name those who have influenced, assisted, helped or aided me in the 39 years? I have seen many good, if not great, commanders come and go. Some left for greener pastures, some out of being tired of the politics and some by passing on. All who helped and influenced me are due a sincere thanks. Keith Harrison must be singled out for his undying support and assistance.

The Cumberland Guard will be sorely missed by me. The friendships and bonds developed over the campfire or the clink of cups will forever be part of who I am. The Guard performed miracles in the course of their existence under my command. They are known in every corner of this nation as the best fighters, and disciplined soldiers anywhere in the country. Sure, I could claim credit for their success but the credit belongs to the rank and file that gave the sweat, marched in the mud, heat, rain, snow and darkness to create the magic of the Guard. All I did was stand out in front....they did the work.

Lastly, know that my heart is heavy with this decision. My presence will be seen at an event or two in the future and I am always ready to hear from any of you. To quote Napoleon at his abdication in 1814, "Although I love you all, I cannot embrace you all".



The After Action Review for Jackson, Michigan and information on the 150th Anniversary Events have been posted to the AAR page.

Colonel Dave


The After Action Review for Hastings/Charleton Park, Michigan has been posted to the AAR page.

Colonel Dave



Someone caused all of my email addresses and email messages, both sent and received,  to be destroyed. Thus, please pass on the word to send me a short email so I can start rebuilding my email address list.

One of the hazards of my profession, I guess. LOL

Colonel Dave


The annual meeting of the Cumberland Guard is at Conner Prairie from 10-1pm on November 7th. Please plan to attend and bring a pard. Have your 2010 plans in mind so we can discuss next year.

Our beloved Keith Harrison has undergone some medical issues that will keep him from Hastings but he will be at Jackson and Atlanta. Stop by and tell him how valuable he is to the Guard. I feel lost without his services and can't wait for him to be in the field again.


It is with much sadness that I announce the death of Suzanne LeBeau, the wife of Confederate Colonal Dave Julian. She certainly made her mark on the hobby and this world will never be quite the same.

Dave is a good friend of the Guard and is deserving of your prayers and best wishes. The heart of the Guard is heavy with her passing.

Gentlemen of the Guard and of the other organizations who generously gave a donation:

I received the contributions that were gathered at the recent Greenfield Village event. Your actions rendered me speechles and in tears. Never in the 39 years in this hobby have I ever been more proud to be a reenactor and to have the honor to call you my friends.

I will say "Thanks"  but a  simple thank you does not seem sufficient.....

A very humbled and thankful Colonel Dave

BTW, I am feeling a little better each day and can walk up stairs now.


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Last modified date and time: 04/09/2014 17:44