What is the N-SSA?
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What is the North-South Skirmish Association...
- Civil War History
- Uniformed Union and Confederate teams, representing actual historical units.
- Individual and team competition in musket, carbine, revolver, and artillery.
- Costume competition for members and families.
The North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) was formed in 1950 to commemorate the heroism of the men, of both sides, who fought in the American Civil War, 1861-1865. The N-SSA promotes the shooting of Civil War firearms and artillery and encourages the preservation and display of Civil War materials. The N-SSA works to accomplish these goals by conducting skirmishes; competitive, live firing of these Civil War firearms and artillery.
Competition in the N-SSA...
In the early morning sun you can see the dew on the grass. There is a chill in the air, but little breeze. The flags hang limp. You can hear the sounds of measured activity as men check their weapons and fill cap pouches and cartridge boxes. Anticipation hangs in the air. You take your place in the skirmish line that extends over a quarter of a mile. At last, the order is given, "Load and come to the ready." 400 ramrods glint in the sun as 400 Minie balls are rammed home. 400 hammers click back to full-cock. And then the silence. You can cut the tension with a knife...
This is no scene from the past. This is the way it feels to take your position on the line at a National Match as a member of the N-SSA.
Competition is intense in the N-SSA. Unlike Civil War re-enactments, skirmish shooting is done with live ammunition in original or dimensionally certified reproduction military firearms of the period. The core of N-SSA shooting is the 8-man musket team match. Uniformed Union and Confederate teams compete in timed, rapid-fire events, shooting at breakable targets such as clay pigeons, ceramic tiles, and clay flower pots at ranges of 50 and 100 yards. The team with the lowest time wins.
Members also compete in team carbine matches, team revolver matches and team breechloading rifle matches for Civil War-era magazine-fed shoulder arms such as Spencers and Henrys. There are also team matches for mortar and artillery. Competition also includes individual matches, fired at paper targets for score. In the intensity and excitement of competition, the N-SSA provides a taste of the way it was in 1861 - the urgent need to do your best under pressure.
When the firing starts, the ghosts return. Farmboys from Michigan, Indiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. Young men from the small towns of Ohio and Virginia, and the street-wise city kids from the big ports of New York, Philadelphia, and New Orleans. You can almost hear their voices: "There! On the left! On the left! Git it! Somebody take the one on the left!"
More about the N-SSA...
There's more to the N-SSA than the "ragged volley of musketry." In addition to shooting, members and their families compete for trophies in Civil War dress competitions. Men compete for the most accurate individual uniform. Union and Confederate troops compete for best-uniformed company awards. Men, women and children compete for awards in period dress - both formal and informal attire. As lovingly authentic as any of the weapons on the line, these garments add color and excitement to skirmish weekends.
Stand on the hillside in the late evening. Smell the sweet Shenandoah Valley breeze, and listen to the sounds of the camp. In the glow of open fires, the men discuss the day's struggle. Some are loud and boasting; others speak softly: chastened and resolving to do better tomorrow. From somewhere down the road come the sounds of a washtub bass, fiddles, and a banjo or two playing tunes the soldiers loved best. Songs of home like "Aura Lee" and "Lorena;" songs of inspiration like "The Battle Hymn of the Republic;" songs of war like "Tenting on the Old Campground;" and songs just for fun like "Goober Peas."
Skirmishing is a family activity - a pastime in which a person is respected and valued for their shooting skill and their companionship rather than their station in life. Members come from all social classes, with homes from the Deep South to New England and the Great Lakes states. What brings them together is a common interest in our national heritage and the love of black powder shooting.
Ft. Shenandoah is the N-SSA's home range. It is located on several hundred acres of land in the rolling hills of the lower Shenandoah Valley, just outside of Winchester, Virginia. Facilities include the country's widest (over a quarter mile) rifle range controlled from a single tower, a separate revolver range, and private camping.
Member units are assigned campsites for their use throughout the year. Most competitors and their families spend skirmish weekends on the range - a particularly enjoyable experience during the prime camping seasons of late May (Spring Nationals) and early October (Fall Nationals).
Planned activities for a typical skirmish weekend include childrens programs, dances, cook-outs, and trips to "Sutler Row," where vendors display and sell Civil War firearms, accouterments, and clothing.