Friday, 18 August 2017

Fort Erie 2017

I haven't been blogging much of late. Too many other things - both personal and work related - have been occupying my time. I've also been lazy.
About two weeks ago, our dog of eleven years - Pooka - died. It appears he was suffering from cancer of major internal organs and we couldn't let him suffer any longer. Pooka used to go to the Fort Erie reenactment with us, but we had decided to leave him at home with some dog sitters this year; he was getting miserable with the heat. Now he is already sorely missed.

"... and in the Resurrection, little dog, you too shall have a golden tail."
- Martin Luther to his own dog.
Last weekend was the annual Siege of Fort Erie held at the Old Fort Erie site. This was our eighth time to attend and it was a great one. Our unit - Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry - fielded 5 muskets, with three women and one young man attending as well. We ate like kings, thanks to my wife's forethought and planning. We arrived and set up camp on Friday just before the festivities began on Saturday morning. We like to arrive early and set up in a more leisurely fashion in the daylight. BBQ chicken was on the menu for the evening meal and our squad-mate, Tyler shared some of his home-made mead. (I'm not a great lover of mead, but I found it flavourful and enjoyable.)
{Photos are courtesy of Laughing Devil Photography, Deb Lewis Brown, Lisa Brown, John Stephens, Steve Zronik, Rolf Gollin, Holly Brennemen, and my wife. If I have forgotten any photographer or mis-labeled anything, please contact me and I'll make proper corrections.}

Croghan's Company, 17th US - Kevin, Rob, your humble blogger, Tyler, and Nick
It was hot and a bit humid so we turned out in our white hunting shirts, work frocks, or roundabout jackets,
which are proper uniforms for the 17th. Cooler than wool and quite destinctive.

Croghan's Company, US 17th, but not often on the field - Beth Nia, Katie, and Tyler's son, Thomas.

Later, our friend, Mark of the 16th joined us with his wife, Carey, and their son, Caleb.

Carey and Caleb and a cup of water.

Drinkin' him some water.

Thomas took a liking to Caleb and they napped.
Friday night, it poured rain. Saturday morning, The Royal Scots Grenadier company consecrated and received new colours. I was not present for this; The US forces are often not invited, but this time we were. I simply didn't go.

The new colours on the altar of drums.
Following that ceremony, the first field exercise took place - Major Buck's surrender and the fort exchanged hands. I served off the field as safety-and-side-rope person, allowing the smooth flow of the column onto the field. Following that, our company went to the vendor's area for some fun and games. First, Nick read Hull's proclamation, outlining the reasons for the US invasion in 1812. We incited the crowd and then tried to arrest a "deserter."

Nick reads while we watch the amusingly hostile crowd.
Helmut the blacksmith provided constant heckling as did a few of the other watchers.
The sutlers and vendors told us they enjoy this since they never get to see the battles or field exercises.
They like it when groups include them in the fun.

"Huzzah!" (Steve Z. said I was yelling "Go, Jays!")
(Well, I would... if I were at the ball game!)

John of the Royal Scots light company was our "victim."
We called him a deserter and gave him the choice of rejoining the US Army or being hanged.
He responded "Ummm..." and took off, stage left!
(John turns out with the 17th on occasion, by the way.)

Tyler and Rob are like gazelles and caught John S quickly. Nick and Kevin provided some musket butt "persuasion."
John returned the favour and had a few of his guys run down Rob minutes later.
They called HIM a deserter and "cut off his toes."

Watching the crowd. Somehow I appear to be gripping my musket SOOOOO tightly,
but I'm really not. I don't understand.

Rob takes in the crowd as well. He changed jobs recently and began to reenact with us again.
He's told us a few times how much he enjoys it.
The afternoon battle recreates the battles of Chippewa and Lundy's Lane, both of which took place after the US took over Fort Erie. The US forces moved north along the Niagara River in a attempt to reach Burlington Heights, the Crown forces HQ. Chippewa was fought just above Niagara Falls and was a costly American victory. Lundy's Lane was almost a bloody night battle and was a strategic Crown win, with the American forces falling back to Fort Erie. The Crown forces followed up and besieged the fort. Many of the First Nations' warriors went home after these battles, appalled by the casualties and the savage nature of war in the field at this time. Our company garrisoned the fort during this battle reenactment.

Ship's Company, 17th US out of Erie, PA lined up.
The colours are part of the 22nd US contingent.

Major Phil, commanding the US militia and volunteers urges his men forward.

Two men of the 1st Volunteers come up on the flank of the Canadian Volunteers.

The Crown forces on the march, led by a combined section of the Glengarry Light Infantry Fencibles
(green with black facings) and the 60th Foot, the Royal Americans (green with red facings)

Henry, the US surgeon, pulls a wounded volunteer out of the line.

The massive turnout of the 1st Kentucky Volunteer Rifles (blue hunting shirts with red trim) flanked
by Asquith's Rifles (green hunting frocks with red trim) of the Maryland Militia. These folks travelled
all the way from Maryland!

The Crown fife and drum corps plays the lament for the dead at the end of the battle.

Yes, that is a B-17.
It buzzed the fort a number of times on Saturday and Sunday and caused a bit of a stir.
Saturday evening, Beth heated up a version of Cornish pasties which were made at home. We all enjoyed them so much. I'm looking forward to the next time we serve them!

They may not have been exact, but they were delicious.
The highlight of the reenactment is always the evening battle, reenacting the Crown forces night assault on the fort. During the actual battle, the powder magazine blew up and killed as many as 250 men of the storming force. Now, we don't actually blow up the place again, but impressive pyrotechnics are used and the battle is great fun. I sat it out; when I kitted up, I found I had trouble breathing. This disappointed me and my wife as well, since she had kitted up and was going in to defend the fort. Captain James and Mark of the 16th, Major Marty of the 2nd Artillery, and the guys of Croghan's company took care of her.  And she loved it.

The battle begins with US light troops defending the field while the Crown forces advance.

The 17th on the inner wall with Captain James' arm in the foreground,

US Artillery on the terre-plain

The 6-pound field gun from Fort Meigs, OH, manned by the Cushing's Battery, 2nd Artillery

Major Marty ambles off to a safe place.

The inner wall above the terre-plain.
Croghan's company is in white on the left, the 16th is on the right.
Beth is in the middle in the shako without plate with Holly next to her,
in the light hunting frock.
Beth and Holly "manning" the defences.
When in uniform, all reenactors can be addressed as male.

The Crown forces begin their advance.

The pyrotechnics begin!
Charges are planted around the fort walls, covered in peat moss to make an appropriate "explosion"
... and mess.
And the magazine goes up!
A "lantern tour" of the fort followed, raising some money to cover the expenses of the fort. Sunday morning saw a memorial service which is done every year. It includes a First Nations tobacco ceremony, remembering those who died on this land from all nations.

Sunday afternoon saw a reenactment of a sally from the fort by the US forces. Guns are taken, but are left behind and a lot of fire is exchanged. Someone had taken down the safety line on the one side of the battlefield so I stayed there to keep the public out of harm's way. No one tired anything stupid. During the afternoon battle on Saturday, a member of the public decided to walk across the battlefield during the battle... right in front of loaded cannon. We only fire blanks, but they can be dangerous as well. A 6-pound field gun uses a pound (500 grams) of coarse black powder every time it fires. The concussion could hurt you or even kill you if you were too close. (Another safety tip: Never mix alcohol with black powder, that is, don't drink and shoot. It's a recipe for disaster and personal damage.)

The 49th Foot and a green-coated Canadian militia unit advance.

This is how all of the guns are moved.

Major Marty and Captain Ollie lead the line infantry into battle.
Croghan's company is in the second rank.
The 2nd Artillery doffs caps for the lament at the end of the battle.
 
At one point, Major Marty wanted the combined 17ths to fall back to where the field gun was.
"Fall back to the gun! We need to fire it and you're in the cone!"
"To the gun?"
"Yes! RUN!"
Croghan's company, following orders, took off at a run while Ship' s company followed at a marching pace.
Here's Nick moving fast and swearing never to run again.

Ship's company and Croghan's company 17th US as well as some of the 19th US
on Saturday morning.

Croghan's company enters the field followed by the men of the 22nd led by Captain Ollie.
After that battle, things got quiet and we soon packed up to go home. It was a good weekend, even with the rain. I disappointed myself by not taking part in the battles but I served by keeping people safe and explaining some things to the public.

Now... extraneous photos.


Ah, girls...

Kevin, back from sniping in the fort.

Caleb in Thomas' hat climbing on Thomas

John S. looking very serious as a member of the Royal Scots lights.
Next time...

Thomas stoking the fire.

Major Marty and Colonel Rob taking a break.

Major Marty and Sergeant Major Dan between battles.
Life is too short to be serious all the time.

Friday, 26 May 2017

The Road to Culloden 2017


For the third time, the yearly event memorializing the Battle of Culloden of the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion was held at the Backus Page House Museum in Wallacetown, ON. I've been taking part in this event for these past three years and I joined in one held in London, ON about eight years ago. My wife, Beth is on the museum board and is a volunteer for a number of events there.

I'll leave it to you, good reader, to see to the details of the conflict. It's called a "rebellion" since the Scottish Highlands (and others) rose to support "Bonnie Prince Charlie" against the Hanoverian king, George II. It might be better characterized as a civil war. Whether the Stuarts or the Hanoverians were the legitimate kings of Great Britain is a discussion for both wiser and harder heads then this author. Let it be enough to say that the event is popular one to many reenactors, especially in the Wallacetown area where many Jacobite clan families were eventually settled. Colonel Thomas Talbot set up the land grants for the crown in the 19th Century and he gave the choice lands to... everybody but the Scots, since he didn't like them.

The event itself is a lot of fun. Saturday, May 20 was an absolutely gorgeous day - cool, bright, and breezy. My son, Rob, and I served with the Sutherland Independent Companies, a militia unit. Andre, who portrayed Col. John Campbell, the Earl of Loudoun, had hurt himself and was barely able to speak. So since I was his sergeant last year, I was promoted sergeant major and served as his voice in the field and in the camp shenanigans. The turnout of the public was quite good and there were a large number of Jacobite clansmen present. The Government forces were smaller, with the Sutherland Militia, the soldiers of Clan Campbell, and both grenadiers and "hatmen" from the regular army represented... and cannon for both sides. (Photos courtesy of Beth, of Laughing Devil Photography, and of William J. Wright. My thanks to all.)


Andre as Colonel Campbell, the Earl of Loudoun

Chris as His Royal Highness, Charles Edward Stuart - "Bonnie Prince Charlie"
He's been portraying the Prince for quite a few years and does it well.

I believe this is Lord Elcho.

Mike, as the chief of the Prince's Bodyguard and a sergeant of Baggot's Hussars

Rob and myself in the government camp.
This was Rob's first time out, so he was in trousers and a plaid vest.
Beth had made me a red jacket and a set of trews.
My knee braces would look strange with a kilt on.
The MacLachlan (Tom) inspects the Jacobite clan soldiers after the morning flag raising.

The soldiers of Clan Campbell - supporters of the Government
Marcio (far right) was the sergeant. The whole group were part of the King's Royal Regiment of New York,
an American War of Independence reenactment group.

The Campbells, the Southerlands, and the Grenadiers of the 1st Foot (The Royal Scots) at drill.

The shenanigans begin!
I addressed the crowd of onlookers for Lord Loudoun while a planted reenactor heckled me.
I had the grenadiers arrest him...
...Which they did...

... only to have a band of Jacobites rescue him.
Jeff, in full uniform of a grenadier of the Royal Scots.

Beautiful onlookers in proper attire.
In the afternoon, the reenactment got loud, with a battle scene based on a MacGregor ambush of Government troop near a small fort in the highlands. Andre led the Royal Scots and the Campbells to reinforce the fort, which was held by the Sutherlands and a mixed group of regulars as well as a small artillery piece. The Jacobites attacked from three sides, much to the delight of the crowd.

Strategy session at the "fort." - Sutherlands and Regulars

They fired first so we fired back!

The second group of Jacobites begin their firing, coming up hill from stage right.

The MacLachlan supervises the firing line,

Lord Loudoun commands the reinforcing force - Campbells and grenadiers -
to hold their ground in the face of Jacobite volleys.

As the pipes skirl, the Jacobites advance "at the ordinary."

The reinforcements have come up-hill and take a defensive position.
My skirmish line is off to the photo's left behind the cannon.
The dreaded "Highland Charge" begins.
The fire discipline of the Clansmen wasn't equal to that of the regulars, so the solution
was to come to hand-to-hand as quickly as possible.
Sword and targe and Lochebar axe would do the trick!

The Government forces begin to surrender. You kneel and reverse your "firelock."

The two uniformed "regulars" and I stand off a batch of Highlanders
who had come around the back of the "fort" to take us from behind.
The "Fort" is actually a small barn on the top of the hill on the Museum property.
My son and "Wee Tom" didn't surrender, but took to their heels and ran off.
(They actually hid behind the other barn until we marched off the hill.
Then they dashed over to a path and met us as part of the crowd.)
Earlier in the day, the Prince and his entourage went for a stroll, to the accolades of the crowd.
I was returning to my tent area with my lunch as the group passed.
It assured Mike that my lunch made me neutral and I bowed to His Royal Highness who wished me a good lunch!


In the evening, the tavern opened and grog was served.
For those wondering, "grog" is one part rum, two parts water, fresh lemons, and brown sugar to taste.
I had to go home to prepare for worship Sunday morning, so Beth told me all about this.
The recipe listed above is proper, but a mere guess as to what how much rum really was in the grog.

Rob and I enjoy ourselves at the morning shenanigans.

At the event, I purchased a Scottish basket-hilt broadsword.
It's quite a piece of work. My son is jealous.
(Patience, boy, patience!)
Sunday was not as nice a day. Rob and I made it out to the Museum shortly after noon. The rain had turned the hillside into a muddy, slippery mess. So the Museum director consulted with the reenactors and event organizers and all agreed to cancel the day's activities. Disappointing, but just as well. No one wants to see people hurt. So we collected Beth (who had stayed the night at the site), packed up our tent, and went home. So until next year - on the Victoria Day weekend. Come out and visit the Government camp! And the Jacobite camp! And the lunch canteen!

A few more photos:

Seamus, who is instrumental in organizing this event, pledges loyalty to the Prince and his cause.

Two ladies who wandered the site and often entertained us all with their singing.

Seamus kept changing his hat, claiming neutrality (green tam) while actually
supporting the Jacobite cause (blue tam with the White Cockade.)
{The beard is real, by the way.}

A lone Sutherland and the two regulars hold the one side of the fort.

The Jacobite cannon gives fire.

The Government artillery prepare to fire back. I'm busy loading and  staying "behind the gun's axle" for safety.

The Union Jack is replaced with St. Andrew's Cross. The Jacobites have won the day!
Next at the Museum: