What is skirmishing? That's the question I get asked all the time when I talk to people about what it is I do on the weekends in Winchester, VA. A skirmisher is a member of the North-South Skirmish Association or N-SSA. The N-SSA was formed in 1950 and since then thousands of individuals have stood on the firing line at Fort Shenandoah firing authentic and replica Civil War firearms.
Often times people want to know if being a skirmisher is like being a reenactor. In some ways it is. Both skirmishers and reenactors strive to keep history alive. Both dress up in period uniforms and carry authentic period firearms. And both have a passion for what we do. But there are also many differences also. Civil War Reenacting is the portrayal of historical personas and events for the purpose of educating and entertaining. It is a beautiful way of keeping history alive. To be a good reenactor, you have to embrace all the things that make that period different from our own. And while it’s true that the N-SSA exists for some of the same reasons; we do it differently. In skirmishing, you don’t portray an individual soldier. Instead, each team represents a historical company or regiment. And skirmishers usually aren’t as interested in interpretation as much as they are in their ability to shoot accurately. N-SSA competitions often include events like the costume contest and historical lectures but the focus for many skirmishers is entirely on the shooting. The wonderful thing about skirmishing though is that there is something different for every person and the focus on the team aspect means you can find a group of similarly motivated individuals to compete with. If you are more interested in the historical side of things, you can find teams of reenactors to compete with in the traditional musket match and even spend your nights at the fort in an authentic civil war winter quarter encampment. But if it’s the competitive shooting that draws you in then you can find teams entirely focused on that as well.
The N-SSA is an organization dedicated to keeping history alive through competitive shooting of Civil War era firearms. To learn more about the organization, follow the link to get more information: http://www.n-ssa.org/about-nssa/.
Mike Howell has been a skirmisher since 2011 and is a member of the Cockade Rifles. In his civilian life, he is a structural engineer. His favorite event to shoot is the carbine but also enjoys musket and revolver as well. He grew up near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania but now resides in Morgantown, West Virginia with his wife and two children.