Thursday, October 13, 2016

Muster at the Mill: A Brand New Revolutionary War Event

On the 1st Saturday in October I attended a brand new Revolutionary War reenactment called Muster at the Mill. It was held on the grounds of a centennial apple orchard farm located almost smack-dab in the rural middle of the lower peninsula of my great state of Michigan.
Yes, I know that Michigan saw little of the Rev War, but not everyone can travel hundreds of miles to see a reenactment, you know?
So anyhow, the orchard, known as Uncle John's Mill, is an excellent place to do living history. Not only is there plenty of land to reenact for soldier and civilian, but the draw of cider and apples on an autumn weekend in Michigan pretty much guarantees an audience.
I did participate as Paul Revere, but I did not set up a tent so I had nothing to display, though the visitors were still interested in what I had to say (and a few took a "quick sketch" with me!).
The battle that was reenacted wasn't any one in particular, it was put on to give the public a little idea of what skirmishes were like at the time, and, I must say, it was excellent to watch.
It is my hope that this reenactment will continue and, as such, will gain more reenactors to help create what could become a major event.
And we need more Revolutionary War events around here. That's for certain.
In the meantime, here are the best of the many photographs that I took with my 'stealth camera' while there:
How the reenactment site looked from the parking lot. Being that the lot was up on a hill, the cars were mostly out of sight of the reenacting area.

As we get closer to the camps, we find that this little tent town is alive with people.

Not too bad of a showing for a new event...especially considering the damp weather.

A young lad learning to be a drummer boy. 
These two certainly sounded fine together!

Planning the battle scenario...

Here are men who portray Roger's Rangers as they were during the French & Indian War period. The guys came out to help with this first ever reenactment.

The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion - one of the top units around who will portray American patriots.

42nd Regiment of the Royal Highlanders - subjects of the King.

The Queen's Rangers/Simcoe's Rangers

The Queen's Rangers/Simcoe's Rangers

The various units formed up for the public.

Artillery - the visitors loved hearing the cannon being fired.

French & Indian era Roger's Rangers

The battle:
Sometimes it takes a little time to get a new event off the ground. Many reenactors will opt to stay home and wait to hear how well it went - or how bad it was - before deciding to make an effort to attend.
Well, in my opinion, this Muster at the Mill went very well indeed, and those who remained in their cozy homes really missed out. I certainly hope it continues as an annual affair, for the potential here - location and size - is great and I believe this can eventually turn into a major event.
But because so many stayed home at this 'trial' reenactment, the battles had to be somewhat modified as more of a teaching tool rather than a strong depiction of an actual Rev War battle.
There were two skirmishes held on the day I was there - Saturday October 1st - so I combined photographs from both into one.
The Americans were hiding inside the orchard and the Highlanders planned to enter to snuff them out.
"Any two (British) regiments here can beat, in the field, the whole force of the Massachusetts Province!"

There was only one cannon but it certainly was a crowd pleaser when fired!

The Americans fired first, and then the Highlanders entered in.

I was sitting atop the hill as I took the pictures. I particularly liked seeing the smoke from musket fire rising above the apple trees. It had a great effect...
...and added a note of realism. None of the spectators, including me, knew what was going on. 
How could we?

The Highlanders got quite a surprise when the 42nd Massachusetts fought back twice as hard and pushed them back out onto the open field.
"They attacked with great intrepidity, but were received with no less firmness." 

And push they did!


"The battle was long, obstinate, and bloody!"

"Their husbands, fathers, and brothers lay dead in heaps...

...while others lay wounded or dying---a melancholy sight indeed!"

Fighting with the Patriots...

...for Liberty and Independence.

A lone Native American came out, which added greatly to the scenario.

"Yonder is the (enemy)...Are you worth more? Prove it! Tonight the American flag flies from yonder hill or Molly Stark sleeps a widow!" (Patriot General John Stark)

"Deny the best-disciplined soldiers of Europe what is due them and they will run away in droves...
...but from this one can perceive what an enthusiasm---which these poor fellows call 'Liberty'---can do."
And that's how this skirmish ended, with the Patriots winning the day.
It was then that the many visitors came to the campsite to learn more about this time period in our Nation's history.
The man portraying an Indian was actually of true native 
heritage, and he and I had a good conversation about 
Native reenactors and of their importance in showing 
American history. 
He hoped to get more Natives to come out to future events.

Some of the Ranger tents.

It's fall - corn is in season!

I like guns. Whether old or new, I like 'em.

I wouldn't mind getting myself a replica musket. 
All I need is money, right? 
Ahhh...maybe sometime in the future past.

When I am asked if I would actually like to live "back then" by a visitor, I usually respond with, "At my age today, probably not. Maybe if I were thirty years younger..."
I am also asked, "What's the one thing you would miss from today if you were suddenly zapped back to the past."
My answer? "Modern medicine."
No question.
Smallpox, as just an example, killed one in three of those who became infected. Washington wrote that is was more destructive to his army than the enemy's sword.
And how many do you know who've had small pox?
The surgeon, with all of his gory details about 18th century medical practices and techniques, was certainly a popular draw.

The best part about our visitors is that most that I had spoken to had never been to a reenactment of any kind, so it was a new thing for them to see, and it was great to be able to speak to these folks and give a history lesson to many who may otherwise had not seen history presented in this manner.
Up close and personal.
I really love it when we get American Indians to come out with us to speak of their various roles in the Patriot's or the King's cause. The man here representing the Native American of the period gave a wonderful description and depiction of his ancestor's role in the American Revolution.

I never thought of having a reenactment at a cider mill, but because these places have such a large draw in the fall, it only makes sense, for we had a decent amount of people coming down to see us after having their cider and doughnuts. It was a real pleasure.

Here I am with fellow Civil War reenactor, Mike Gillett. 
Yes, I said "Civil War." Like me, Mike does the 
1860s as well, but this was his first venture into 
Revolutionary War. He was there to officiate at a wedding. 
 A period wedding.
Keep scrolling to see a few of the photos taken 
at this special occasion:

Scott Mann, who heads up the Queen's Rangers (and looks remarkably like Robert Rogers himself as depicted on AMC's "Turn: Washington's Spies" TV series), married his betrothed, Carol-Anne. Yes, they actually got married right here at this reenactment.
Carol-Anne moves up to the make-shift altar.

The gentleman on the left is Scott's Best Man - his own son.

The ceremony was period-correct and taken from a replica 18th century Bible. No, the Bible hasn't changed from 250 years ago until now but the style of writing and verbiage has, which gave the ceremony that period flair.

The British army was there to honor the couple.

As you can see, it was quite a nice scenario. I was honored to be there.

Rev War reenacting is slowly picking up steam here in the upper mid-west, and I am happy to be a part of it. I believe it will grow as we continue to celebrate the events of the sestercentennial (250th). 
At least, I hope it will.
The times in which we live - we are now well into our second decade of the 21st century - has tested all Americans of all political parties, and a strong dose of American patriotism is sorely needed.
I like what Thomas Paine wrote in his 'American Crisis' (from 1776): "THESE are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.”

Until next time, see you in time.

For a closer look at America's fight for freedom, click HERE
To read how Salem stood up to the King's Army in 1775, click HERE
To read a general overview of everyday life in colonial times, click HERE



Micah Hall said...

HEAR HEAR! From the British Legion and 2 co'y Georgia Artillery that drove up from Ga for the event! We were glad to be a part of it and most definitely proud to be there for MAJ Mann's wedding!

David Marquis said...

Going to have great memories of this event, you say and show it all so well! Brava, Sir, Huzzah!
David Marquis
Crp 42d RHR

Utah Josh said...

Wonderful report Ken! I enjoy your articles and wish we had as many events here in Utah as you do up there. However, if you ever do decide to come out west over a July 4th Weekend, I would highly recommend attending the Colonial Heritage Festival in Orem, which is probably the best revolutionary war event this side of the Rocky Mountains.

Cincinnatus said...

Wow. Great attendance at this event. Looks like it was a well planned muster at a perfect site.

highlandmann said...

Ken - you have once again outdone yourself with the wonderful photos and spot on narrative to go with them! Thanks so much for being there and keep up the fantastic work you do on behalf of all of us!

Historical Ken said...

Thank you everyone!
This was an excellent event and has the potential to became a major reenactment.
One can only hope, right!