Saturday, May 18, 2013

A Little Known Slice of Americana / N-SSA Spring Nationals at Ft. Shenandoah


A Little Known Slice of Americana / N-SSA Spring Nationals at Ft. Shenandoah

NSSA is an acronym for several organizations; but the N-SSA of which I speak is the North-South Skirmish Association, an organization comprised of individuals and families with a love of the history and artifacts of the American Civil War, competitive black powder shooting with original or closely vetted reproduction Civil War era firearms, camaraderie, intense competition, cookouts and gatherings around a campfire, and shopping for gun parts, uniforms and accouterments from quality vendors of appropriate wares.
Civil War re-enactors reprise battle scenarios but for obvious safety considerations, do not use live ammunition. Uniformed skirmishers shoot in timed team competitions at breakable clay or ceramic targets at distances of 50 yards and 100 yards using live rounds.  Safety is of paramount importance and inspectors walk the line during every event. The Holy Grail for the team competitions is 1st place in the musket match. 
Spectators are welcome to attend matches and watch the spectacle. Sunday mornings before the musket rounds begin, the teams march in formation on the range in opening ceremonies replete with color guard, an invocation, and the playing of the National Anthem for the Federals and Dixie to honor the Confederates.
Ft. Shenandoah, the N-SSA National Range, is situated in the beautiful Shenandoah Valley in Frederick County, Virginia. Each team has an assigned campsite. Some teams have constructed permanent cabins or shelters; others have parked trailers or campers that haven’t been moved for decades. Still others bring their RVs, or pop-up campers or tents to set up for the event.  There are also activities scheduled for children and costume competitions for civilians.  And I do believe some skirmishers come to Ft. Shenandoah merely to eat their fill of the infamous “sliders” that can apparently only be found at the fort.
For a first time visitor to Ft. Shenandoah, one of the most striking features of the landscape must be the vast numbers of travel trailers that I’ve no doubt date to at least the early 1950s.  It is well worth a visit to Ft. Shenandoah for a spring or Fall Nationals to experience this fascinating sub-culture of Americana. I’d never heard of the N-SSA or any similar organization until I met my husband, who has been a member since the 1970s.  We can hear the sounds of the muskets firing from our front porch.
The N-SSA has teams throughout 13 Regions that include territories as far north as New York/ Massachusetts, west as Wisconsin, south as Louisiana / Mississippi, and southwest as Texas.  The various regions host smaller skirmishes between the 2 Nationals.  Most skirmishers make their own rounds. This requires molding lead into the right size bullets and creating cartridges with the appropriate amount of powder and filler and the right lube for the right gun. I’ve come to learn there is a science to this hobby. 
For me, I’ll stick to socializing and bringing the broccoli salad to the team dinner.





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