Monday, July 31, 2017

Frankenmuth 2017: Cass River Colonial Encampment

Sometimes I feel that I live in the past and reenact the 21st century. I mean, it's only midsummer as I write this, and so far I have worn my period clothing 10 out of the last 14 weekends. And four of the next five weekends promises more of the same...and that's not even including the last four months of the year! There are also times I do two different periods on the same weekend. Well, three if you count returning to the 21st century - - - In fact, this happened very recently when I did the 1860s on Saturday in Charlton Park (click HERE to read about that), and the 1770s on Sunday in Frankenmuth, which is what today's posting is about.
To begin, one must understand that Frankenmuth, Michigan, also known as "Michigan's Little Bavaria," is a tourist town in every sense of the word. It was founded back in the 1840s by German Lutheran immigrants and has since highly accented these German and religious roots as part of its charm. And it's these deep roots that have become the draw for millions of visitors to this little town nestled in the middle of nowhere, making it a top state attraction. Frankenmuth also has what is, I believe, the largest Christmas store in the country - possibly the world: Bronners.
Then there are the chicken dinners...yeah...they are well-known for their fine chicken dinners at the world-famous Zehnder's Restaurant.
On the west end of the town is an outdoor shopping plaza whose structures tend to have an old-world European flavor to them.
Little Bavaria indeed!
It's also here where, for the past half dozen years or so, there has been the Cass River Colonial Encampment:
It's a fine location for a reenactment, for there is a large open field behind the plaza - large enough to situate a good-sized reenacting community:
Looking at the picture, you would never guess that directly behind me is a 
shopping center.
This was my first year attending the Cass River reenactment, and I found it to be a well-run event. My very good friend, Mike Gillett, a long-time Civil War reenactor, had joined up with the Queen's Rangers earlier this year and this was his first real colonial/Rev War reenactment.
Well, okay, he actually attended Uncle John's Mill last year sort of as a guest reenactor - he was the officiant for a wedding held there - but Cass River was his first as a bona-fide member of a Rev War unit.
Many reenactors enjoy doing multiple time periods; I've found that quite 
a few in the world of Civil War reenacting have crossed 
the bridge into the future, to the 1940s WWII era, which is cool.
However, I'm always glad when I can get a few who will cross time back to the 
era of our Nation's founders ...even if they sometimes do join the other side (lol). 
Standing with me here you see Mike Gillett, now a Queen's Ranger.
And there I am, Paul Revere, representing Citizens of the American Colonies.
(Picture by Kerry Dennis)

Let's meet a few from the military - - - -
The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion

The 42nd Regiment of the Royal Highlanders

The 13th Pennsylvania, portraying a late war period from 1779 to 1781. The gentleman in the back with the frock in the top picture is not actually part of this group - he fell in with them for this event.

And, tho' not reenactors, how about a special salute to the...
...Sons of the American Revolution. How wonderful to be a descendant of one who fought for our nation's independence!

For the visitors and the soldiers, the two battles presented here are probably the highlight of the day. Neither is based on an actual historical battle, but, rather, more on the tactics of the war. This gives the public a little taste - just a taste, mind you - of what it was like to fight in 18th century America. Children especially can have a more understanding of our nation's early years.
When I was a kid, reenactments were *almost* unheard of. It wasn't until the later 1970s that this hobby began to get a little bit of notice in my neck of the woods. I don't believe I actually attended my first one until sometime in the 1980s when I was already married with kids. I was enthralled.
And if I, as an adult, got so excited, I can just imagine what it was like for a young 10 year old kid attending something like this - - wow!
Of course, at the Frankenmuth event, I had my 'stealth camera' with me and took some photos of the excitement. I am also using pictures taken by a modern visitor friend (with his blessings - you'll see his name under the photos he took).
To accent some of the photographs herein, I have included original snippets from documents (letters and journal entries) and even songs of the time, which I've put in quotations.
The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion are preparing to commence fighting - the rolling hills and the covered bridge provide a nice back drop for the battle.

Also on the Patriot side are is a mixture of 1st Pennsylvania and 2nd Dragoons to help fight the King's army.

"General Washington...ordered some of the men to be placed near the bridge over Stoney Brook on the main road to hinder the (Royal Highlanders) passing over...which was scarcely done when (they) appeared, which caused a 
second firing...
In a little time, our men retreated and the (Royal Highlanders) were obliged to 
cross the brook.."

"The battle was in plain view from our door. The (Highlanders) fell in great plenty, but to do them justice, they keep a front and stood their ground nobly."

"Our main body (had) time to form and take an advantageous ground."

"It was now the fate of our army was to be decided---the firing was supported with equal vigor---and neither party seemed inclined to give way...all was dubious..."

"The horrors and devastations of war now begin to appear with us in earnest.
As these two regiments were to sustain the assault of the whole British line, 
it is not to be supposed they could make a long opposition. 
They were obliged to give way and retreated..."

"...when we mounted the summit, where the engagement was - good God, how the balls flew - I freely acknowledge I never had such a tremor come over me before."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"We descended the hill into the field of battle and began our fire very briskly."

"Tis God that girds our armor on and all our just designs fulfills;
Through Him our feet can swiftly run and nimbly climb the hills."

"Every time they shoot it off it takes a horn of powder,
and makes a noise like father's gun, only a nation louder!"

"...our men in the fort were ordered to fire and make a swift retreat - we covered their retreat till they came up with us by a brisk fire from our small arms - 
the dead and wounded lay on every side of me, their groans were piercing indeed."

 "The cannons roar from shore to shore the small arms make a rattle
since wars began I am sure no man ere saw so strange a battle.
The kegs, 'tis said, though strongly made of rebel staves and hoops, sir
helped oppose the rebel foes and we conquered the troops, sir."
(slight changing of words to fit the picture)
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"The particulars of the skirmish surprised me very much, as I had no conception the loss of the troops could have been so great when everybody agrees that the men behaved with proper spirit."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"...they now had possession of our fort and four field pieces, and by much the advantage of the ground..."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"Our orders then came to make the best retreat we could...and ran very fast up the hill, leaving some of our dead and wounded in the field."
Photo by Kerry Dennis

"...this battle, tho' we lost it, cannot do but honour to us, for we fought with less numbers...
...alas, some brave fellows (fell), among the unhappy number was our worthy friend Dr. Warren, alas he is no more, he fell in his Country's cause, and fought with the bravery of an Ancient Roman..." 
Photo by Kerry Dennis

Let's look at the homefront - - - - - -
The loneliness and anxiety felt by women whose husbands, sons, 
and lovers had enlisted was captured in a popular song:
Here I sit on Buttermilk Hill
Who can blame me, cry my fill?
And every tear would turn a mill,
Since Johnny has gone for a soldier.

Israel Hatch most respectfully informs the publick that his line of Stages will run every day in the week, excepting Sundays.  His Coach leaves Boston at 5 o'clock, and arrives at Providence by 2 P.M.   The Stages from Providence start at the same early hour, and arrive at Boston by 2 o'clock.  
One dollar, which is one half the customary price, and 3s cheaper than any other stage---
Well, I certainly cannot pass up such a deal as this! 
I will be home to Boston before you know it!

Wait---no one hitched up the horses yet.

The resident blacksmith of Michigan's reenacting world, Richard Heinicke.

Today Richard seems to be working on some sort of a copper bowl.

Fife & drum - the sounds of the 70s...the 1770s!

This young lady became an apprentice to the local pewterer. He showed her how to use a file correctly, and she was very attentive. In fact, she remained at his side for quite a while.

And here is her mother and father. 
Meet the Diggs - newest members
of Citizens of the American Colonies

The Continental doctor drew quite a crowd as he explained the procedures of 18th century medicine.

A pose with Mr. Gerring.

A line up of soldiers
Photo by Kerry Dennis
You know, any chance I can get to reenact, I do, no matter how large or small the reenactment may be, and I was happily surprised at the amount of participants at this Cass River event, for I thought it would be much smaller.
Good show to those who made it happen! And you can bet I plan to attend next year, and hopefully bring even more from my Citizens of the American Colonies group along.

Until next time, see you in time...

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I would like to thank Kerry Dennis for allowing me to use a few of his wonderful photos (I noted which ones were his).

Some of the original quotes came from THIS book ("Spirit of 76")
and THIS book ("The American Revolution: Writings from the War of Independence”)

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