Monday, July 17, 2017

Patriots & Loyalists: Colonial Fort Wayne 2017

There really is something to be said about being in the midst of Patriots and Loyalists - the folks representing our country's founding generation. Especially here in Michigan. Yes, though not well-known, Michigan played a role in the early formation of our country during the French & Indian War as well as in the Revolutionary War.  However, I do not personally reenact as a Michigan settler in that time period; since I was a young child my main point of interest in history was 18th century east coast America, and that's where my historical heart lies. I know this may frustrate a few, but I would much rather be where my passion is than where it is not.
(I do, however, reenact as a 19th century Michigan farmer at Civil War events)
The soundtrack to the Revolutionary War:
fife & drum music
What I am happy to see is that interest in the founding generation seems to be growing, with help from the popularity of TV shows such as AMC's Turn, HBO's John Adams series, and the Hamilton play, as well as our country heading toward its 250th "birthday."
It was only a few years ago that I unwittingly wrote about how there seemed to be so few colonial and Revolutionary War reenactments in the southern Michigan area.
Fortunately, I was sorely mistaken. Not only are Rev War and Colonial events pretty plentiful, but they seem to be increasing with each coming reenacting season. And there's no sign of it stopping.
Yeah...I'm a happy man...
Road to Boston!
In fact we recently had two events occur on the very same weekend: Battle of Sunset Lake in Vicksburg, Michigan, and Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit. It was difficult for me to choose which one I would attend, but I felt I should be at the one closest to where I live - Fort Wayne in Detroit - for one main reason: the head of the Historic Fort Wayne Coalition, Tom Berlucchi, has done much for me; he is the person who allows me to utilize one of the beautifully restored Victorian houses at Christmas time during their Christmas at the Fort event. He is also allowing me the opportunity to put together a 19th century fall harvest event in October.
Giving back in this manner is the least I can do.
The second reason? Why, it's only about 15 to 20 minutes from my home.
                  Nice and close.
I do hope to make it to Vicksburg next year, God willing.

So, as it happened, it was toward the end of June that the sixth annual Colonial Days at Fort Wayne took place, and this year, for the first time, everyone camped along the road 'neath the shade of the trees. Yes, a much better location, in my opinion, than being inside the star fort grounds under the blazing hot sun!
Though we did not have as large a turnout of reenactors as we had hoped, 
we had enough tents to line the street, and the visitors seemed 
quite pleased, for every tent had a presentation to give:
I did present as Paul Revere, giving the visitors an overview and a few highlights of his life, as well as his accomplishments, and also allowing for questions. It's unfortunate that the Longfellow poem, though keeping the Paul Revere name alive, certainly did no favors to authentic history. I am always happy to try to set the record straight, and I was able to do that here for many of the visitors, both child and adult alike.
This is my camp set up.
~No, the British are not coming, though I hear the Regulars might be coming out. 
~No, I did not make it to Concord - I got captured on the way.
~No, I was not the only rider - there were dozens more.
~Yes, I completed my main objective, which was to warn John Hancock and 
Samuel Adams of the Regulars coming out...possibly to arrest them.


My wife brought along her spinning wheel and, as she spun, she really drew the crowds. It seemed that everyone who walked past stopped to watch as she 
explained the process from sheep to shawl.

My wife, at the wheel, also will have some of the younger girls attempt to card the wool with carding paddles. Hands on history!
Next to Patty is our friend Sue, who was working on her needlepoint. Normally a Civil War reenactor, this was Sue's first time out to a reenactment as a colonial, 
and we were very glad to have her with us.

~ Making food last ~
Ross and Geri are long-time 18th century reenactors. Here we find Geri working 
on making the summer vegetables last by stringing them up to dry them out. 
Drying was a common method of food preservation, and many old homes show evidence of this practice with the nail holes in the ceiling rafters above the 
fireplace hearth and in the garrets.

Ross, who, along with his wife, is a chandler (and he also has done blacksmithing), is a weaver as well; with his small loom, he weaves belts and straps.

Another camp showed make butter in the way our colonial ancestors did...with a butter churn.
It really was a simple but necessary process: after the cow(s) or goat(s) were milked, the milk was left to settle in a cool place in shallow pans so the cream would rise to the top. After half a day or so, the cream was skimmed off and put ready for the churn.  A stick called a dasher or churn dash was moved up and down by hand in an upright container, usually made of wood or earthenware. Moving the cream constantly is the churning that actually produces butter by separating out the yellow fat from the buttermilk.
~Welcome to Churning With Ruth~
Like spinning wheels, using butter churns evokes 
the spirit of the past as little else can.

Ken Roberts has been reenacting for 50 years. He was even involved in the Bicentennial reenactment at Greenfield Village on July 4th, 1976 where the 
Village saw the largest one-day crowd in its entire history.
Here we see him giving a lesson on the workings of a Brown Bess musket.

Preparing to fire the cannon.

I always just miss catching the flame shooting out of the cannon.

This cannon, in case you were wondering, is a two-pounder French field piece.

"Brother, I have Johnny cake for you
to take. 'Twill not come amiss with new 
butter Mistress Church had made."
I was pleasantly surprised to see so many parents bringing their children to the reenactment, most of which had never been to one before. A few said they wanted to teach their kids history because they felt their schools were not doing a sufficient job. One parent told me his school downplayed history and he was sick of it so he took matters into his own hands, and part of his plan was to go to more local historical places such as Historic Fort Wayne, the Detroit Historical Museum, Greenfield Village and the Henry Ford Museum.
Now that's a pro-active parent!
I also mentioned for him to visit Crossroads Village, historic Greenmead, and Mill Race Village, and even included some of the other various reenactments in the general area, including Civil War.
It was nice to have such a mixture of kids and adults, and I made sure to not only speak a bit on Paul Revere, but also on the Declaration of Independence and of its importance, since this reenactment took place shortly before the 4th of July. Unfortunately, there are so many false or embellished stories about this period that it's almost like I'm fighting a losing battle. Seriously - too many people utilize blind faith and Facebook memes to get their "facts." 
I cannot stress enough to do your own research and utilize multiple sources!
On the left you see my son, Rob, portraying a minuteman. That's me in the center, and Ken Roberts on the right. 
Rob is still finding his way in this era, but every year he inches
closer to where he hopes to be. As a descendant of a Patriot on his mother's side,
that is who he chooses to portray. Yes, I am proud. 
It's ironic that I am descended from Quaker Loyalists!
Ha!
It always amazes me to hear folks speak of battlefields as if a town set aside a portion of land for the men to fight upon. And these same people are surprised when they learn that the armies fought wherever they felt they could best use their forces to win, be it in the midst of the town's houses and buildings or on farmer's fields. I try to explain that the citizens of said towns were almost always in harm's way, and many would escape as quickly as they could to where they hoped would be safety.
"Children, we have had our fill of this War outside our door. When we arrive at 
your Aunt's, remember that your mother has taught you to work quickly and 
with care. Show that you have learned your lessons well."

Members of Simcoe's Rangers?
By the way, I would like to note that at least a half-dozen visitors mentioned AMC's Turn: Washington's Spies to me during the course of the weekend, and they said that the show is what ignited (or re-ignited) their interest in the Revolutionary War and so they came out to our reenactment because of that.
I think this is very cool.
Yes, and though it may not be a historically accurate show, I would also like to point out that there is no denying what Turn has done for Revolutionary War history and reenacting here in the 21st century:
~ we now have dozens more attending our reenactments and living history events solely because they watch Turn and its piqued their interest to learn more. And they are asking questions!
~ People who may not have been very interested in the time period are now purchasing books and doing further research to learn more of what actually happened during the War.
~ Because of Turn, as well as the Hamilton play and the John Adams HBO mini-series from a few years back, interest in our nation's founding has grown. Huzzah to that!
Yeah, Turn (and the other shows) may not be fully historically accurate, but it has done more to generate interest for early American history than nearly anything else out there in recent times.

And that's alright by me.

Meanwhile, back at Fort Wayne, much to my surprise I found myself in an unfortunate situation: 
Unbeknownst to me, a few members of the Queen's Rangers were making plans to arrest me. I wonder if the flag gave me away...
Stepping out of my house - - -
I was accosted by two members of the Rangers, one held a bayonet to my throat while the other pointed a musket to my chest.

They roughed me up a bit then sat me down at their headquarters where I was read the "treasonous" charges against me. Of course, being the honest man I am - and a proud patriot - I admitted to most of them.
And gave them attitude - - - - - - 

They decided to put me in front of a firing squad rather
than death by hanging to make an example of me.
At least it will be quick...

I stood bravely, awaiting my fate...
Suddenly, the word "FIRE" was heard and the guns blazed.

You know, over the years I've seen many reenactors "die" on the battle field, but none at a firing squad. So, with all visitor eyes upon me, I knew 
I had to make it a good one - I needed to make it realistic - so when the volley 
was fired, I jerked and flung myself back. 
I was told it was an excellent death.
Not bad for an old guy - - - - - 

Checking to make sure I was dead...
It's little scenarios like this that add flavor to reenactments...and I wouldn't mind doing this again,  showing what could happen to a captured member of the "Sons of Liberty" or other patriots.

 Of course, 240 years later...in 2017...
2017? ugghh! I must have overslept! lol

 Meanwhile, back in 1777 - - -
...and at my camp...
I enjoy bringing a few accessories with me to accent my presentation.
One example, beside the cloth Betsy Ross flag, are the two lighting apparatus's 
I brought along:
my tin lantern and my betty lamp

and a few other items such as:

a tinder box, pewter mug, ceramic mug, pewter ink well and quill pen, and silver candlestick. Oh! And a Virginia Gazette from July 26, 1776 announcing the 
Declaration of Independence. 
The Windsor chair? I wish I could say it was mine but, alas, 
it was borrowed for this picture.

I am honored to stand alongside two men 
with a long history in the world of reenacting.
America was very lucky to have the men and women that it did when our Nation was formed. I personally believe it was Providence, for, out of a population of about three million people, we saw such great Americans as Benjamin Franklin, George and Martha Washington, John Hancock, Thomas Jefferson, John and Abigail Adams, George Wythe, Dr. Joseph Warren, James Madison, Samuel Adams, Paul Revere...and so many more.
Just think of it...
I am glad we have not forgotten our founding generation; not many countries venerate their founders in the way we do, which I find unusual. But the thing is, most citizens of other countries can tell you about Washington, Franklin, Jefferson, and even Revere.
"Tis sweet to be remembered..."
Yeah, for all its good and bad, I think we have a pretty darn good country with quite the varied history.


And so, we'll end this on a "cute" note.
We got a puppy! In fact, we picked him up earlier in the day and brought him directly to his first reenactment.
We named him Paul Anka (yes we did, you Gilmore Girl fans!) and he is just 8 weeks old here.
But as you can see, he is quite the helper already!
Paul Anka was eager to help us set up our tent!

After all that work, he needed a drink of water!

He barely flinched when the muskets or the 
cannon were fired. And why would he? As a retriever 
he is a born hunting dog, and guns (or fireworks) 
do not startle him at all.
Paul Anka really is a Son of Liberty!
As of this writing, our new pup has become a comfortable member of our family, likes his name, and brings lots of joy to all of us. And I got to admit, I enjoy seeing the look on the faces of people when we tell them his name...
"And they called it puppy lo-o-ve..."

Until next time, see you in time...


If you are interested in learning about life during the Revolutionary War time period, you might enjoy the links below:
Colonial Cooking: On the Hearth
A post dedicated solely to life in a colonial-era kitchen, including cooking. It is filled with information on the types of foods our colonial ancestors ate, their utensils, food preservation, and so on.

Living By Candle Light: The Light at its Brightest
Could you survive living in the era before electric lights or even the 19th century style oil lamps?
Do you know how many candles you would need for a year?
Do you know what it was like to make candles right from scratch, or what it was like to visit your local chandler?
That's what this posting is about!

Historic Lighting
Here is my own personal collection of historic lighting apparatus - some original and most replicated - dating from the mid-18th century through the late 19th century.
I never realized lighting could be so cool.

Travel and Taverns
The long air-conditioned (or heated) car ride. Motels without a pool! Can we stop at McDonalds? I'm hungry!
Ahhhh....modern travelers never had it so good.
I've always had a fascination of travel back in the day, and I decided to find out as much as I could about them.
I wasn't disappointed - - - I dug through my books, went to a historic research library, 'surfed the net' (does anyone say that anymore?), and asked docents who work at historic taverns questions, looking for the tiniest bits of information to help me to understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in the colonial times.
This post is the culmination of all of that research.
Our country's founding relied greatly on the tavern.

Colonial Cooking: On the Hearth
A post dedicated solely to life in a colonial-era kitchen, including cooking. It is filled with information on the types of foods our colonial ancestors ate, their utensils, food preservation, and so on.
 
In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies. And I do mean "pictorial," for there are over 80 photos included, covering nearly every aspect of colonial life.
I try to touch on most major topics of the period with links to read more detailed accounts.
This just may be my very favorite of all my postings. If it isn't, it's in the top 2!

And, for good measure:
Turn: The Original Culper Spy Ring Members
I haven't loved a television show as much as I do AMC's Turn since I can't remember when, and the series, though not as historically accurate as I'd like, got me interested in a part of the Revolutionary War that I previously had little to do with.
What I did here is write short biographies of Washington's original spies from Long Island. Inserted throughout are pictures from the 4th (and final) season of the show.

Those who are not fans of Turn (usually due to the inaccuracies) really despise it. But then, they will find fault with most American-made history shows. But for those of us who do like it tend to be major fans. That being said, if you do not like "Turn: Washington's Spies" then you probably will not care for this posting because, as I said, I am a major fan. So rather than read this and get all upset because you don't happen to like it, I suggest you move along.
If you are like me (and so many others) and love the show for what it is - a television series with great drama - stick around, for there are plenty of pretty cool pictures in store for you.










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