Friday, January 8, 2010

Preparations for the Deadwood sim's re-start -- the military presence

At the "Ft. Laramie" build for the vendor/orientation area of the redesigned Deadwood 1876 sim, Clay and September (and September's prim children, who I think should be named "Primmy" and "Lagston") meet Sergeant OHanlon. Yep. That will be my new new main avie after the restart.

So by now a lot of you have no doubt heard about the plans to take the time frame for the Deadwood sim back to the spring of 1876. At some point in March, we will have the big 1879 fire in the old build and it will be destroyed. After a very brief transition period we will be reopening with everything taken back to what it was like when Deadwood first started--a rough mining camp illegally sitting on what is supposed to be Indian land, and consisting mostly of tents and rough cabins. You can read about the decision on our forum, and also on Cici Levenque's blog Western Roles.

We're all pretty stoked about this. Deadwood was already unusual in terms of historical roleplay sims, in that time actually moved forward and the sim physically and socially evolved as that happened. It started over two years ago as a relatively primitive frontier town in mid-1876. Now it's a slightly more civilized place and the time frame has advanced to January 1879. Part of what made the environment unique was that it was always dynamic--things changed, people changed, the community changed. It wasn't one of those sims where stuff got built and the builder just walked away to go do something else. And now, we are taking the next step--we're going to trash it and start over.

Why? Well, partly it's because burning shit down or blowing it up is kinda fun. But it's also because a lot of us rather miss those rough and tumble days that the sim represented early on. And we learned a hell of a lot in the last two years--how to organize ourselves and our roleplay, how things should look, and how the people should look, how gold mining actually worked in the 1870s, and what kinds of new stories we could cooperatively develop and play out.

It's a pretty bold move on the part of both the owners and the residents but it will be an an exciting opportunity to put all that acquired knowledge to work, and to do something that to my knowledge, no one else has tried in SL yet. And it is going to be an opportunity to try to do things better, and in more authentic ways than they have been done so far.

One of these areas is the issue of recreating a 19th century military unit in SL. Generally speaking, the US army of the Victorian western frontier has not been represented terribly well on the grid as far as we have seen. Some groups have tried to do it right, but mostly it's been pretty iffy. I won't point to anything specific, because, hey, people do the best they can using the information they have. And mostly they're just trying to have fun. Well, we're going to try to take it to the next step and still have some fun--AND tie the military presence into the sim orientation and greeting process.

As with much of what we intend to do after the re-start, we have already started creating new avies, building new gear and clothing, and choosing what our roles will be and deciding what our new characters will be like. And as you can tell from the picture at the top of this post, sim co-owner and chief builder Caed Aldwych has already started working on the orientation area/Fort build. We want to have just about everything ready to go so that that the transition period will be as short as possible.

For example, I have already got my new avie ready, and Caed has finished a uniform and equipment set for our recreated unit. Like I said, we're trying to do this as well as we can, and the results--which my avatar is modeling in the screenshots with this post--are looking pretty good so far. You will note that Caed made an 1854 style cavalry shell jacket with the yellow trim removed (they were using up a lot of Civil War era surplus in the post war era, as well as forage cap, trousers, gauntlets and riding boots. He also made up an equipment belt with the M1872 belt and buckle, an M1874 cartridge box, and a holster for the SAA Colt pistol first issued in 1873. To go with all this, he also produced that pistol and a Springfield carbine. As I mentioned in another post, we are looking forward to additional M1872 and M1874 uniform elements from Astolat Dufaux, so we will be able to demonstrate the mix of clothing and accouterments that the plains cavalryman of the 1870s was wearing both in the field and on garrison duty.

Here's my new avie, Sergeant Major OHanlon, wearing uniform, cap, equipment and pistol all made by Caed Aldwych, and Ju Weissnicht's KBoots (since OHanlon is a senior NCO we wanted him to have something a little fancier than the issue boots that Caed has made to provide to the privates and junior NCOs). The skin and shape were made by DarkDharma Daguerre, and the hair is from Discord Design.

I don't know about you all, but I think he looks pretty good. Yeah there will always be things to quibble about--including the fact that yes, we know that our representation of Ft. Laramie is the earlier form of the fort, but Caed elected to do it in this configuration for logistical and stylistic reasons related to the orientation and vendor function of this part of the build. But, hey, I think it's still more authentic than other in-world western "fort' builds.

Now of course the appearance of an environment and the avatars in it is only one aspect of trying to do this right. There are also issues of information, and attitude. To this end, I would like to share with you the contents of the following two note cards that Sand Rau and I have been working on to help guide and inform the players who want to take part in this experiment:

Notecard One

Cavalry Units of the US Army on the Western Frontier
After the Civil War, the US army need to reestablish control in the western territories as well as occupy parts of the former Confederacy. Four additional cavalry regiments were added to the existing six. The 7th and 8th were white regiments. The 9th and 10th regiments consisted of black soldiers with white officers leading them. These regiments later achieved fame as the “Buffalo Soldiers,” a name given to them by the Indians.

After the Civil War, the Cavalry had a surplus of commissioned officers. Many had held high brevet (temporary) ranks during the late war. One such man was George Armstrong Custer, who had graduated from West Point in the class of 1861. At the end of the Civil War he held the brevet rank of Major General. These temporary promotions were rewards given for meritorious service. After the war he reverted to the permanent regular army rank of Captain. At a later date when he became second in command of the 7th Cavalry, he was appointed to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel. Hundreds of other officers were in similar positions. Ex-Colonels served as Captains, and Captains were served as Lieutenants. Though these men functioned at these lower ranks, they were entitled to be addressed according to the highest brevet rank they had held in the Civil War (hence Custer was addressed as "General").

Filling the enlisted ranks was another story. Most of the men who had served during the war were tired of fighting and returned to their families. Some experienced men who had served in the war did stay on--perhaps having gotten used to the life, or not having family to go back to. Among these were former confederate enlisted men--and even officers--who served as non-coms ( A number of years passed before ex-confederate officers were allowed to serve in the US army as commissioned officers).

It was extremely difficult to recruit men for this difficult, hazardous duty. For some men, the cavalry became a place to simply disappear. Most cavalry units operated outside the borders of the states and provided a new start in life with few questions asked. Early on, many of those enlisting in the cavalry had arrest warrants outstanding for them. Some joined the service as an alternative to serving jail time. Some judges believed that a hitch in the military would make a man out of the boy. In short, many of the enlisted men were criminals, adventurers and ex-confederate officers now serving as corporals and sergeants.

Immigrants, especially those from Ireland and German, also filled the ranks. Others came from England, France and Italy. John Martini for example was an Italian immigrant who became a bugler in the 7th Cavalry, survived the Little Bighorn battle, and had a long career in the cavalry.

One of the biggest challenges for these immigrants in the army was the language barrier. Organizational efficiency and communication was somewhat compromised by the fact that many of the American recruits did not read or write, and the situation was compounded by the reality that many of the foreign-born soldiers were trying to learn to speak english at the same time they were trying to learn the the ways of the army.

A trooper started off at the pay rate of $13 per month. By the time he finished his first hitch and re-enlisted this was raised to $15. At that point, he was commonly known as a “50 cent a day professional.”

Organization of the Cavalry
A regiment consisted of 12 companies, usually labeled from A to M. There was no J troop because in the handwriting of that era it was easy to confuse the letter I with the letter J.

In 1883, the term for a company was changed to "troop".

Four companies (or later, troops) comprised a squadron or battalion. A major commanded each squadron. The company itself was comprised of about 95 men,
broken down to the following ranks:

1 Captain
1 First Lieutenant
1 Second Lieutenant
1 First Sergeant
5 Line Sergeants
4 Corporals
2 Trumpeters
2 Farriers (horseshoers and
78 Privates (approximate number)

Army Posts in the West
Various forts, both large and small, were established, mostly during the period from the 1850s to the 1870s, throughout the Dakota, Nebraska and Montana Territories on the northern plains, in the state of Texas, and in the New Mexico and Arizona territories of the southwest. As settlement, railroad construction, mining and agricultural interests spread in these areas, these posts were established to to provide bases for operations. A few had defensive elements such as stockades, blockhouses and/or earthworks. The majority, however, looked nothing like the stereotypical log fort shown in the movies--they were generally “open plan” posts, with no protective walls and consisting mostly of large barracks structures and other support buildings (stables, storage buildings, workshops, officers housing, etc.) arranged around a central parade ground. Attacks or raids by Native Americans on army posts was extremely rare. These posts might be garrisoned by either cavalry and infantry personnel, and sometimes were manned by a combination of the two. Garrison life in a fort was structured with most events of the day being announced with bugle calls. The day usually started at 5:30am with Reveille and ended at 10:00pm with the bugle sounding Taps. The working day usually ended at 5:15pm with Retreat, and this was followed up at 6:00pm with Supper Call.

A great deal of time in garrison was spent in drill (marksmanship training was limited due tothe army not wishing to spend a lot on ammo, but this changed after the Sioux war). A lot of time was also spent on grooming and caring for the cavalry horses--Stable Call was sounded twice a day.

Uniforms and Equipment
Uniforms and equipment right after the war was mostly left over gear from the Civil War. In the 1870s, new uniforms, weapons and equipment were gradually issued. On campaign the horse soldiers of the middle 1870s wore a gray pull-over 3-button shirt, the M1874 five-button fatigue blouse (a sack coat very much like the Civil War 4-button sack coat), a black slouch hat (usually with brass insignia on the front), sky blue trousers (with a branch of service colored stripe for officers and non-coms, and sometimes white canvas reinforcing on the seat and in-seams), and tall riding boots. Equipment included the 1874 McKeever cartridge box and the 1872 or 1874 saber belt with square US buckle, or the "prairie" belt with loops for ammo, the M1873 .45/55 single-shot Springfield carbine (firing a version of the .45/70 cartridge that had a lighter powder load to reduce recoil from the carbine), and the M1873 .45 SAA Colt revolver. The canteen, saddle bag and other gear were hung from the saddle. The M1860 light cavalry saber was issued to troops in this period, but usually was not carried in the field except by some officers.

Already working on backstory--note the service stripes on OHanlon's sleeve--they indicate 15 years in the service, including 5 years in the war.

Notecard Number 2

Background for the Recreated 2nd Cavalry Regiment at Ft. Laramie in the Deadwood Sim

Origins of Ft. Laramie as a trading fort

Fort Laramie was a significant 19th century trading post and
diplomatic site located in the area that becomes the Wyoming territory in 1868.

During the middle 19th century, it also was a primary stopping point on the Oregon Trail and the Mormon Trail and was, along with Bent's Fort on the Arkansas River, the most significant economic hub of commerce in the region. In the 1840s it was taken over by the United States Army to protect travelers on the Oregon, California and Mormon trails.

Ft. Laramie as military post

Fort Laramie, the military post, was founded in 1849 when the army purchased the old Fort John for $4000, and began to build a military outpost along the Oregon Trail.

For many years, the Plains Indians and the travelers along the Oregon Trail had coexisted peacefully. As the numbers of emigrants increased, however, tensions between the two cultures began to develop. To help insure the safety of the travelers, Congress approved the establishment of forts along the Oregon Trail and a special regiment of Mounted Riflemen to man them. Fort Laramie was the second of these forts to be established.

In the 1850s, one of the main functions of the troops stationed at the fort was patrolling and maintaining the security of a lengthy stretch of the Oregon Trail. This was a difficult task because of the small size of the garrison and the vast distances involved. In 1851, a treaty, the Treaty of 1851, was signed between the United States and the most important tribes of the Plains Indians. The peace that it inaugurated, however, lasted only three years. In 1854, an incident involving a passing wagon train precipitated the Grattan Fight in which an officer, an interpreter, and 29 soldiers from Fort Laramie were killed. This incident was one of several that ignited the flames of a conflict between the United States and the Plains Indians that would not be resolved for many years. A respite in the conflict came in 1868 when a peace treaty was signed at Ft. Laramie between the major northern plains tribes including certain bands of the Sioux and Cheyenne and the US government. Among other things, this treaty assured the Indians that they would retain title to the Black Hills, an area adjoining the Dakota Territory.

Fort Laramie in 1876

Unfortunately, the Treaty of 1868 did not end the conflict between the United States and the Indians of the northern plains. By the mid-1870's, major campaigns were being mounted against the plains tribes. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills in 1874, and the resultant rush to the gold fields had violated terms of the treaty and antagonized the Sioux who regarded the Hills as sacred ground. Under leaders such as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, they and their allies (primarily Cheyenne), chose to fight to keep their land. In campaigns in 1876-77, Fort Laramie served as a staging area for troops, a communications and logistical center, and a command and control point.

Jobs and duties of the our recreated 2nd US Cavalry unit at Fort Laramie:

We are a group of Deadwood sim residents who will be forming a recreation of a company of horse soldiers from the 2nd US Cavalry, which served at the real Ft. Laramie in this era.

The U.S. Army on the frontier was there primarily for keeping the peace. But it also was sworn to faithfully execute the orders given to them by the legitimately elected government of the United States, and sometimes that meant carrying out policies that the soldiers did not make and may not have agreed with. However, like the members of the organization that we seek to emulate, we will do our best to follow our orders and carry out the assigned mission.

1. IC, our primary duty here is to maintain the peace between Indians and civilians. However, we may be called upon to expand that mission: in the early months of the gold rush, we will be the only official law in the area of the Black Hills. Remember, in 1876 this land is not yet officially part of the Dakota Territory. There is no local government or law except that which the miners organize themselves according to their usual customs and practices.

2. OOC we will also function as greeters and help new arrivals get started.

We will help any person who is new to DW sim, and provide them with any help they need (such as explanation of Rules and guidelines of the sim.) It is our duty to help anyone who asks or inquires of DW sim. So a good attitude, knowledge of how the sim works and its rules and guidelines, and good communication skills are a must.

3. We will function and behave in a way that honors and respects the memories and the heritage of the professional frontier soldiers who were given a difficult task and who, for the most part, sought to carry out those duties in a responsible and professional manner.

Serving as a soldier in the DW sim:

Initially, 2nd US Cav will be the only official peacekeeping force in the DW sim, but we will not and cannot take a hand in dealing civilian situations until we are asked by a town or group of people for our assistance.

As a soldier you must be patient in acting on situations. For example, if you see bandits or hostiles attacking a civilian you never act alone, you come to the highest officer available and report the situation--the action to be taken from there will be determined by the chain of command.

This also applies for fights between civilians--HOWEVER, if any shooting or mischief takes place on the grounds of the fort, then and only then can a soldier can act on his own behalf. Likewise, in situations requiring self-defense or defense of a comrade, a soldier should act as his training and instinct directs him to. All incidents should then be reported to the chain of command.


A major part of what the unit will do is of course to garrison the fort area. At other times, when we have enough personnel, we will make mounted "patrols," that may take us as far as Deadwood.

These patrols will be led by either the unit commander or a non-com.



1. Officers and non-commissioned officers
a. Post commandant--Captain Sand Rau (note: Sand achieved the rank of Brevet Colonel in the Civil War, so although like most army officers he returned to his pre-war rank in the post war army--that of captain--he should still be addressed as "Colonel"
b. Regimental Sergeant Major/senior non-com (Dio alt, Sergeant OHanlon)
c. Sergeants (to appointed as needed)
d. Corporals (to be appointed as needed)

2. Medical personnel
a. Regimental surgeon
b. nurse(s)

3. Enlisted soldiers
a. privates assigned to fight as mounted troops
b. privates assigned to serve as gun crew for the mountain howitzers

4. Support personnel
a. cooks
b. ferrier
c. laundresses
d. sutler
e. post canteen bartender
f. quartermaster

5. Scouts and Interpreters
a. contract civilian scouts (white and African American)
b. US Army Indian Scouts (mostly Crow and Arikara warriors)
c. interpreters (can be white, Native American or African American)


The entry area to the DW sim and vendors will be in and around the fort (possibly including a "trading post" build). This is the only area that will be OOC and IC at the same time. 2nd Cav unit members and support personnel will be expected to be IC as much as they can when talking to or helping visitors to our sim. But when talking to or addressing an officer or other 2nd Cavalry member in open chat, you must be IC.

Since Fort Laramie will function as both an orientation and vendor area, 2nd US Cav members will meet all types of people. As time goes on, people will get to know you for who you are and we want their memory of you to be that you conducted yourself responsibly and honorably as a member of our unit and a representative of the DW community.


***Basic Unit Guidelines***

UNIFORMS: Unit members on garrison duty will only wear government issued blue uniforms (either the trimmed or untrimmed M1858 shell jacket and forage cap from older quartermaster stocks, or the M1874 sack coat and M1872 kepi--approved slouch hats may be worn in some circumstances on post). Garrison uniform will include sky-blue trousers with yellow stripe--white canvas trousers may be worn for fatigue duty such as stable call or KP. Accouterments will include the M1872 belt and McKeever cartridge box. All of these items will be provided to you though the unit once you are accepted as a member.

Campaign dress may include slouch hats (including approved civilian versions), the shell jacket or sack coat, buckskin jackets for officers, canvas trousers or trousers that have been reinforced with canvas, grey issue shirts, blue or grey civilian shirts, neckerchiefs, either standard equipment belt and cartridge box or the prairie style belts with ammo loops, and riding boots.

By the time winter comes an approved issue overcoat will be identified or developed.

SWORDS: An approved version of the M1860 light cavalry sabre will be worn for parade (but seldom on campaign). These will be provided by the unit once you are accepted as a cavalry member)

WEAPONS: for enlisted personnel--M1873 Springfield carbine and M1873 SAA colt pistol; officers, scouts and interpreters may provide themselves with other weapons that are historically appropriate for the period 1876. The government issue weapons will be provided by the unit.

HORSE: Enlisted combat personnel will use horses provided by a group horse rezzer with the army style saddle blanket. Officers and scouts may provide horses from other sources. Certain non-combatant personnel such as the sugeon, quartermaster or laundresses and cooks may utilize horse-drawn buggies or wagons of approved patterns (some wagons may be provided using group rezzers)

RANKS: Ranks will be assigned by Col. Sand Rau ((he wants you to know that promotions will be based on merit and attitude, and will not happen overnight...nor in a week, for that matter))

EVENTS: At any event hosted by either Fort Laramie or Deadwood ALL Cavalry unit members MUST wear full issue blue uniforms.

Military courtesy: Officers and non-coms will be addressed properly according to rank, and in garrison duty, will salute when appropriate (salute anim will be provided)

A message from Col. Rau:

HOW I HOPE FOR US TO BE SEEN as members of the recreated 2nd US Cavalry: I want both our visitors and our residents to look upon us as those "Good ol boys of the cavalry" and/or "The nice helpful folks up at the fort." I want to have people respect our members and to feel safe with us. Having their respect is an honor, but remember that respect has to be earned by being honorable.


Ok so you're probably wondering why I went through putting all that information up here for you. Well, I was thinking that maybe some of you might look at that and say, Hey, I'd like to give that a try. But seriously, the main thing I wanted to emphasize there is that preparing for this big change isn't just about building stuff and picking out new skins. It's about sharing information, and ideas and expectations. A big part of the effort in getting ready involves learning.

Yes, we will still learn as we go, just like we did with Deadwood during the previous couple of years. Yeah, it's also hopefully gonna be fun, and we'll get to whomp up some kick-ass storylines and have some action, suspense, drama, and the occasional comic moment.

But we're gonna have history too.

So like I say, we are real excited about this. I will keep you updated, and we will also probably talk at some point soon about some other areas of concern--not the least of which is how Native Americans will be represented in this experiment. There are some real complex and emotionally charged issues to deal with here. You know, it's most likely not going to turn out how we expect or hope (remember nothing does in SL). But it should be interesting.



  1. Wow! I'm still stunned by what a brave thing this is for people to do. It's looking great and I like the "new you". What will happen to Dio?

    As for the fire & explosions - do you guys have that planned? I have some experience and can pass on tips & product links after blowing up my jungle & the Mason Lab:

    Also, did you get my tweet about Osprey Therian being a really good film maker? Drop her a line and she might be able to help out :)

  2. Hey HB,

    yes I got your tweet about Osprey and I will talk to him/her (?). I really think we do need to document the build and the characters before we pull it down.

    Actually our folks have some good experience with burning down and blowing up stuff. Just not on this scale, so it should be fun. I have to admit it though, it just struck me I am probably gonna actually cry when this happens--the town has been my home in DW for over two years now.

    As far as Dio in the new build--well, shit I was planning on not bringing her back, but I had a number of requests to have her there in some form. So while the Sergeant will be my main,and I will also have a secondary character who is a miner, Dio will be there now and then. But it will be very occassional. Caed, our primary builder, has agreed to bring back the laundry on the outskirts of town (probably a lower prim, cruder version of what is there now) that will be designated as Dio's. So she will be a largely "off-screen" presence, her storyline more or less intact, just not playing out in front of everyone. And ocassionally she'll actually show up to comment on things and add some color to the proceedings.

    To be honest, I was rather touched that a number of folks said they would feel something was missing from Deadwood if she just completely disappeared.