SPRING HILL — Cannons, muskets and mock soldiers in blue and gray will be the centerpiece of the annual Brooksville Raid Re-enactment this weekend, but visitors to the sutler village will get a fuller picture of Civil War-era life.
Sutlers weren't mere hangers-on or camp followers during the war from 1861 to 1865. They were government employees with a purpose, said Bob Burnett of New Port Richey, coordinator of the sutler village at this weekend's re-enactment.
Some 50 impersonators of sutlers — those who sold hard-to-get goods to the troops — will hawk their handcrafted period wares to the re-enactors and the public at the festival.
Shoppers will find replica militia uniforms and muskets; tinware; blacksmith's ironware, including lantern hooks, campfire grates, cooking utensils and pots; leather works; boots; shoes, and such women's apparel as day dresses and ball gowns, Burnett said.
Tasting choices from the era will feature Indian fry bread, kettle corn and homemade root beer.
The menu offerings will not include sutler's pie.
"It probably killed as many troops as bullets," Burnett said in jest. "It was greasy wheat, basically; it wasn't much."
The original sutlers, appointed by both Northern and Southern governments and mainly selected through political connections, camped with the troops, one assigned to each regiment, Burnett explained.
"They supplied things that the army didn't supply," he said.
The travelers in commerce offered pencils, paper, canned foods such as peaches and oysters, along with illegal liquor, Burnett said.
"They were pretty much shysters," he said.
Armies of the North fielded more sutlers than did those of the South because the latter had access to fewer goods, Burnett noted.
Today's acting sutlers aren't so much into making money as they are dedicated to preserving "the real truth of history," Burnett said.
"It is an educational thing … to (provide) a really close facsimile of the way people lived."
Burnett and his wife, Debra, both 61, joined the purveyors of history 22 years ago after friends invited them to visit a re-enactment. "We fell in love with it," Bob Burnett said.
The couple crafts some 70 different items, replicating goods of the late 1800s. His handmade leather works include sword belts, cartridge and cap boxes, and haversacks. She sews women's and men's clothing.
The Burnetts tote their store, the Loafers Glory Sutler, to some 20 re-enactments each year, reaching as far as Gettysburg, Pa.
Their tent this weekend will greet festival visitors at the entrance to the sutler village, just outside the battleground.
Beth Gray can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.