Monday, August 7, 2017

Colonial America on the Frontier 1775 - 1783: Reenacting in Fort Wayne, Indiana

No...this is not my new grandson. This portrait showing 
an infant is a rare style of an 18th century painting – 
most paintings of babies included their siblings 
or other family members.
Many regular readers of Passion for the Past have seen my postings about reenactments taking place at Historic Fort Wayne, which is an actual fort built in Detroit back in the 1840s.
Well, for my first time, I got to reenact at a different Fort Fort Wayne, Indiana!
But it almost didn't happen. You see, it's a little over three hours to get there from where I live just north of Detroit, and we - my son Rob and good friend Mike and myself - were about halfway there when I received a call from my wife letting me know that my daughter-in-law had our third grandchild----that fast!
My little grandson was born while we were on the road - - - - hmmm...well, as the old song goes, "Indiana wants me, but I can't go back now..."
Needless to say we turned around. I mean, family always comes first! Besides...I couldn't wait to hold the little guy!
So, jump ahead a day: Sunday morning found Mike and I back out on the road once again, for Indiana was still calling (Robbie had already made other plans so he didn't come this time).
The outer walls of Old Fort Wayne, located in Indiana~
This is a reproduction of the fort originally built in 1816. They did an excellent 
job in their replication.

I, unfortunately, did not get any single picture that could give a good 
representation of how the inside of the enclosed fort looks as a whole, though I believe I did get each building in at least one photo.
The structure you see here is of the Commander's Quarters.

Inside the kitchen area of the Commander's Quarters I met the two men you see 
in the center in the above picture. Bob, on the right, is the Chairman of the Events Committee, and he did a wonderful job in ensuring everything ran smoothly...and it certainly did!
Chuck, in the center, is a reenactor, but I am not certain which group he belongs to.
Both are really great guys.
The woman in the background? Well, I don't know who she is
but she was a right friendly worker as well!
In another building, one that was once used as a hospital, we see chocolate being made in the same way it was in the 18th century. I have seen this done at the 1750s Giddings House but never at a reenactment, so this was a very pleasant surprise.
Chocolate was initially a treat for the wealthy, but soon was available to the every man. Benjamin Franklin sold locally produced chocolate in his Philadelphia print shop. In 1739, he was selling bibles and other books, pencils, ink, writing paper, and "very good chocolate."
By 1773, the demand for chocolate in the colonies resulted in the importation of over 320 tons of cocoa beans. Drinking chocolate was affordable to all classes of people and was available in most coffee houses, where colonists would gather to talk about politics and the news of the day.

John and Abigail Adams were very fond of chocolate. In 1779, John Adams, while in Spain, wrote, "Ladies drink chocolate in the Spanish fashion. Each lady took a cup of hot chocolate and drank it, and then cakes and bread and butter were served; then each lady took another cup of cold water, and here ended the repast."
Abigail Adams, writing to John Quincy Adams in 1785, described drinking chocolate for breakfast while in London:  
“London Sepbr 6. 1785 Grosvenor Square
This Morning went below to Breakfast, the Urn was brought up Boiling, the Chocolate ready upon the table…”
The gentleman here was preparing to make another
chocolate recipe...but I am sorry to say I have forgotten
what it was.

As we are in the midst of the Revolutionary War, seeing military about was not uncommon. For instance, outside the South Blockhouse we see members of the Queen's Rangers-Highland Company 1st American Regiment, a British provincial unit that fought on the loyalist side.

The Queen's Rangers were known as Roger's Rangers during the French & Indian War and in the early part of the Revolutionary War, then John Graves Simcoe took over until the surrender at Yorktown. 

The way the fort is set up, it really does give the impression of the way the frontier looked - the frontier being what is now Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and western Pennsylvania.

The pictures here, to me, exemplify what it must have been like for the 
average citizen of the American colonies to live among the British soldiers.

"Gen'l Gage order'd that no soldier in future should appear in the streets with his side arms. Is this not encouraging the inhabitants in their licentious and riotous disposition?"
"Also orders are issued for the guards to seize all military men found engaged in 
any disturbance, whether aggressors or not..."
~From the notations of Lieutenant John Barker Boston 1775~
The words may have been written about Boston, but they certainly fit the scene here as well, don't you think?

There were a few tradesmen there at the fort, working their craft for the public, including...
...a blacksmith.
This picture is a very quick rendering of two photos put together...rather sloppy 
but it does give one an idea of what the blacksmith shop looked like.

The red-hot glow of metal and clanging hammer in a blacksmith shop~
On a personal note, my 3rd great grandfather was a blacksmith in Detroit in the 1870s and 80s - - years after this depiction, but the basic routine was the same.

Next I have a few pictures of the gunsmith - - -
The man you see here has been involved in the reenacting hobby for literally decades, and the guns he makes by hand in the old way are pieces of working art.

I watched him for a bit as he skillfully used his period tools to make a musket...

It was very interesting to watch as he used the tools of the day to make the historic replica muskets. It adds such a high note of authenticity.

Here are a few of his finished pieces on display - all made authentically as if it were the 18th century

There was a fashion show, though since there were many non-reenactors a-watching, it was much harder to take photographs, though I did sneak this one:
Miss Jenni spoke about the details of women's clothing. This young lady really knew her 18th century clothing and it was a pleasure to hear her share her knowledge.

Yes, there were also men in the fashion show, including yours truly, but, alas, there were no pictures taken during this portion.
It is always a pleasure to meet folks with the same passion and authenticity as I try to have, and Jenni and Maria are two such people.
One anecdotal fact I enjoy speaking of, and included in my portion of the fashion show, is how Paul Revere continued to wear the 1770s fashion up until his death in 1818. A Mr. Ellis, who personally knew Revere in those later days and whose church pew was directly behind him, recalled seeing him regularly on the Sabbath "always (wearing) small clothes."
Small boys would sit and grin at the old patriot because Revere still wore "the old three-cornered hat and the breeches and all that are so queer..."
Another description from one who knew Paul Revere, Johnny Tileston, gives this account on the silversmith's late-life fashion: "(Paul Revere was) embellished with a great powdered wig and a cocked hat. His coat was broad-skirted, his (vest) very long and cut away at the bottom. He clung to knee-breeches and large shoe buckles to the very end."
In other words, I told the audience that because Paul Revere 
continued to wear the same fashion to a ripe old age, 
that I can portray the man pretty much for as long 
as I want, no matter how old I get!
In all honesty, it is in my humble opinion that of all the men's fashions throughout history, the clothing you see me wearing here - my 1770s style - is really the coolest clothing of any era in time.
The height of men's fashion~ 

Surveyors are so under-represented in the reenacting world. And that's unfortunate because they played a prominent role in the expansion of our country.
The role of the county surveyor in the mid 1700’s was to transfer land from the crown to private ownership.  Because of this, men were appointed to the position of county surveyor.
(Photo taken by B & H Photography)

There were also traders/sutlers 
(photo taken by B & K Photography)

A few of the members of the 13th Pennsylvania, who were camped 
right outside the fort.

The various groups making up a portion of the King's Army, including the Royal Marines, the 49th Regiment of Foot, and the Queen's Rangers.
The Continentals and Regulars did not show one particular battle at this reenactment. Rather, they portrayed the tactics used in military combat at the time.
And judging from the comments I heard as I stood amongst the modern visitors, it was very well received.
The replicated old fort certainly provided a spectacular backdrop.

The battle provided the opportunity for these young reenactors, still in their teen, 
to form their own Royal Marine unit.
I absolutely love seeing young folk take such a serious interest in history, as these young men do.

Small details are what I look for and, in my opinion, can really make a difference to a presentation, such as the cloth historical 13 star flag you see here rather than a more modern nylon flag of the same.

Note the flame coming out of the gun.
You do not want to be directly in front of this. Yes, it can partially blow a 
person's hand off, with painful burns to boot.
Check out the shooting flame:
And the picture below, taken by the excellent photographers from B & K Photography, shows the reason for the term 'flash in the pan' - - -

Contrary to popular belief, the term ‘flash in the pan’ is not derived from the 
flashing of gold nuggets in the pan of the old California forty-niner. Instead, 
it came from the old muskets. Flintlock muskets used to have small pans to hold charges of gunpowder. An attempt to fire the musket in which the gunpowder 
flared up without a bullet being fired was a 'flash in the pan,' as you can 
very well see in this great picture taken by B & K Photography.
The term has been known since the late 17th century.

The 13th Pennsylvania held off the King's Army valiantly.

Pastor Gillett, known in the Queen's Rangers as Chaplain Agnew, gives comfort, or possibly last rites, to a downed Ranger.

One of the King's artillery men.
In all honesty, he would make a great George Washington, don't you think?

A currier brought in an interesting notice from that could 
possibly change the course of the War and history - -

A letter was received, along with a broadside, asking that we read aloud to the citizens of the area the words printed upon the broadside.
It was from the 2nd Continental Congress, who were made up of delegates from all thirteen colonies, and they were declaring independence from Britain and King George!  

Four of us took turns to read this Declaration of Independence. 
It was a very stirring moment for me.

I began the reading:

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America
When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…

...and each of us had a different section of this sacred document to read to the visitors and reenactors present.
(Yes, you see a Queen's Ranger helping out - - we're all Americans now, aren't we?)
I have to tell you, this was an amazing moment for me. To be upon a balcony in full period clothing while reading the Declaration of Independence to the people below - - - - wow! It was definitely a highlight for me to represent - nay...honor! - the Patriots of the past in this manner.
And that is how my mind thinks while I reenact, whether I am doing 1770s colonial/RevWar or 1860s Civil War: to do honor to those from our nation's past.

But as a patriotic American, I do take my fun seriously.

Speaking of fun:
A couple weeks before this event, Abbie from Samson's Historical ran a contest where contestants had to guess how many bone dice were in a Ball jar. The person with the first or closest answer would win a handmade leather cup with six bone dice.
So...guess who won?
Me! I won! Woo hoo! I won my first on line contest!!
Initially my answer was going to be 1776 (yeah, I'm a nerd!), but I figured that was too high so I cut off the thousandth and answered with 776---and I came the closest (784 was the actual amount)!
Abbie doesn't live too far from Old Fort Wayne and she and her family (husband and child) showed up to give me my prize in person

Here is Abbie Samson giving me my winnings. 
Thank you Samson Historical!!
Abbie, by the way, made my brown cocked hat you see me wearing in the picture. Her family's company, Samson Historical, has been making quality historical items and clothing for nearly 40 years. And it seems that they are taking a more aggressive position in bringing their company out to the forefront in the colonial reenacting world.
Yeah...go on and click the link - - - I think you'll like what you see.

~   ~   ~

And that, my friends, was how I spent the last weekend of July: a new grandbaby and a new time-travel experience.
I have to thank Scott Mann for his persistence in getting me to come to this event, and Bob Jones for the wonderful treatment we received as out-of-town guests. Colonial America on the Frontier was all Scott said it would be, and more. And I was only there for one day! I believe we can work out some very cool scenarios for next year, like maybe include some Sons of Liberty shenanigans - they do have a pole that can work as a "liberty pole," so I am sure we can get something a-goin'.
The closing of the event...until next year - -
Many new adventures awaits us...and for me personally, I have a new grandson to enjoy.
I am truly bless'd.

But, the adventures did not stop there.
The following is a true story - - -
So...shortly after leaving the Rev War/Colonial reenactment in Fort Wayne, Indiana today, I stopped to get gas for the long ride home.
I walked into the gas station while still dressed in my full 1770s clothing and told the guy behind the counter that I needed feed for my horse. He looked at me and asked, "Pea for your horse?"
I said, "No, FEED for my horse. We have a long way to travel and he needs to fill up."
The attendant said (without missing a beat), "I have beef jerky. Will that work?"
I replied, "No, he needs more than that - here, let me see how much feed this will buy," as I handed him some cash.
And I went out to fill up the car - - 

Next stop, the Arby's near the Indiana-Michigan border on I-69.
Still in our period clothing, the young girl behind the counter would glance up at us, then lower her eyes, only to glance up again. A guy behind the counter asked me why I was "dressed like that?"
I returned the question, asking him why he was dressed the way he was. He said it was his Arby's work uniform. I told him I was a silversmith.
A few minutes later our order was up. I asked the two workers if they knew what decade I represented, and if they couldn't guess then I get my food for free. The girl responded with, "you're the the guy with the kite!" At that point, a customer in the dining area spoke up, "You mean Ben Franklin! ---'The guy with the kite'---sheesh!"
You can't make this stuff up!

~~~Until next time, see you in time.

To learn more about Old Fort Wayne, please click HERE
My Paul Revere information came from THIS book

Oh, by the way, here is a picture of me holding my brand new little grandson, just hours old, on his actual birthday of Saturday July 29, 2017:
Definitely worth turning around for, wouldn't you say?
Dang! I shoulda stayed in my period clothing for the picture!
Oh well, next time!

~   ~   ~

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