Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Colonial Kensington 2017: "Where liberty dwells, there is my country."

I enjoy meeting new people.
And when you are a reenactor, you meet a lot of new people.
And when you reenact more than one time period, well, be ready for a whole slew of new people that will soon become your friends!
For over a decade I solely reenacted the Civil War period, and I've come to include many from that circle to be among my best friends.
More recently, I've been enjoying time in the good old colony days as well, and I remember when I went to my first 18th century event. It was at Historic Fort Wayne in Detroit in summer 2014, and, as I wandered about the reenactor's camps, I knew not one person there. one.
Not. One. Person.
Not even my wife came with me.
((I was alone))
I just moved about, watching, eyeing, and doing what comes natural to me: walking up to and speaking with total strangers.
And making new friends.
Just a couple of people I met within the
last few years.
So here we are in 2017 and my 18th century reenacting has been booming. In fact, I've recently attended my fourth Colonial Kensington, and guess what?
I knew practically everyone there, some of which I have become pretty good friends with.
For the era of the American Revolution, I've come into my own. And because of my presentations as Paul Revere, it's almost split down the middle by which name I am referred to: Ken or Paul Revere. The funny thing is, I answer to either without thinking twice. I also started my own reenacting group - Citizens of the American Colonies.
It goes to show you what you can do over a short period of time.
It's almost funny now to think about the time when I was under the impression that there were only a couple of RevWar era reenactments in my metro-Detroit area, and I questioned myself on whether or not it would be worth spending the time, effort, and money to get involved. But I've come to find out that there are nearly as many 18th century events in our area as there are for the Civil War: I have worn my "short clothes" at least nine times so far since spring, with more opportunities to come.
That makes Ken ecstatically happy!
(To be honest, I probably woulda purchased the clothing anyhow, on account of how much I love the era and how cool the styles were!)
The Colonial Kensington event is wonderful all around, from the location to the reenactors to the battles to the visitors, who, by the way, are quite excited to see their school history books come to life. It is definitely up there with the best of them.
I believe the pictures herein will convey that.
Most of the photos in this week's blog were taken by the magnificent photographic team of B&K Photography (Beth and Kevin). You will notice which images belong to them by the pink logo in the bottom left corner.

Okay then - - let's switch on the time-travel machine and head seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and centuries back in time:
Welcome to the 1770s!
Paul Revere at your service. 
Or maybe I'm Ken...
Gosh - - I'm not really sure who I am!
Either way, I'll be your host for the day.

Even in a peaceful scene where two ladies are visiting it is easy to notice there is discourse going on. Depending on your thought process, we're either in a fight against the crown for our independence, or we are fighting to save what King George III feels rightfully belongs to him.
I prefer the former...

Whether Loyalist or Patriot, the day-to-day living must go on.

 “The British Army and Navy sang a rousing song called "Heart of Oak"; the rebels had writ one to counter it called "The Liberty Song." Both songs blustered of freedom; but both were sung to the same tune.
And we, to avoid offense, played the tune without words.”

(Love this quote of M.T. Anderson's book "The Kingdon on the Waves")
The musical troupe known as 'Mcspillin' entertained all passersby with their wonderful versions of period songs.
Fun, upbeat, and traditional!
They even remembered my request from last year and learned it for this year: 
"Over The Hills And Far Away" - - 
This group puts a lot of fun into their music, and the audience can tell they enjoy what they do. By the way, aside from playing at historical reenactments, Mcspillin also performs at the Michigan Renaissance Festival (but don't hold that against them lol).

And I'm not "mcspillin'" a drop of cyder while I listen to them!

I had an opportunity to speak with these wonderful ladies earlier in the day - big fans of history. I spoke to them as Paul Revere, and they enjoyed hearing the true story of that famous ride rather than the Longfellow myth they heard all their lives.
Afterward, they had the opportunity to chat with Benjamin Franklin, of which I know they also enjoyed (as you can see here).
By the way...the ladies 'tested' me on the name of the African American who was killed at the Bloody Massacre of Boston. They gave me the biggest grin when I told them, without hesitation, Crispus Attucks.
I passed their test - - yes, it made me feel very good!

One of the things I wish would happen is to have more American Indian tribes join us. The opportunity to teach of their way of life and their roles in the American Revolution, I think, would be wonderful stories to tell. I was very happy to see at least the one Native American who did take part. Theirs is an important part of history that should be told.

To the left we have Miss Lauren, a member of Citizens of the American Colonies
To the right we see a friend, Miss Karen, who is a member of the long riflemen civilian contingency.

At first glance, we see a man in period clothing chopping wood.
No bid deal, right.
But look to the left and what do you see?
Yes, a young boy also chopping wood...with a real axe. Just imagine...!
Well, please understand, most reenacting children are taught, at a young age, how to handle such tools carefully, and are actually better, safer, and more accurate than most modern adults.

That's one of the very best things about this hobby - - we pass down knowledge from parent to child so they can learn and carry on the traditional skills of our forefathers and mothers.
Along the same lines, here is a mother teaching her daughter how to "spin" yarn by way of one of the most ancient tools, the drop spindle.
If we, as parents, don't teach our children these arts, they will, like so many other things in our past, will be lost to time.

Speaking of art - -
Have you ever made fire "from scratch," so to speak - from nothing but flint and steal?
Neither have I, but a friend, Tony, taught my son Robbie how to do it.
Oh, it took lots of tries...and errors...and time...but...
...he did it!
Unfortunately, I did not make it over to see the flame up close, 
but he actually did it.
Not many outside of reenactors and Boy Scouts can say they have done something like this, but Rob can. 
~  ~  ~
(My own personal pride moment was when I got to plow behind a team of horses while wearing my 1860s clothing, which you see in this picture here.
Yes, this was a magical living history experience for me - one that I won't forget) 

The Revolution:
What would a colonial reenactment be without a skirmish showing a little on how the men on both sides battled during our nation's fight for independence?
Uncle Sam want YOU to fight King George III

The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion camp
(French & Indian War)

The Provincial members enjoying a moment of peace before the skirmish.

The Massachusetts men march in the direction of the Regulars...
off to battle - - 
"It having pleased the Almighty Ruler of the universe to defend the cause of the United American States, and finally to raise up a powerful friend among the princes of the earth, to establish our liberty and independence upon a lasting foundation, it becomes us to set apart a day for gratefully acknowledging the divine goodness, and celebrating the important event, which we owe to His divine interposition." - General Orders from George Washington, May 5, 1778

We must take cover, for there is to be a battle this day!
"Not soldiers or sailors, just ordinary citizens whose lives during wartime are inevitably influenced by the tumult around them. As the Revolutionary War spread from north to south and along the western frontier, it engulfed civilians' lives in ways unprecedented in colonial America." 
"O! how I dreaded the approaching Enemy.
I had thoughts (as many of my friends had done) to go higher up the country to avoid them, but as my Papa, with others of my relations, had not conveniences ready to carry off their Effects with them, and the Enemy approach’d in a rapid manner, they agreed to stay. It was a melancholy Sight to see such crowds of helpless, distress’d women, some weeping for Husbands, Brothers, other near relations and friends who were they knew not where, whether dead or alive, or what."

The American forces - - - 
"An individual soldier is a vertical line among many, his identity irrelevant in this attempt to evoke the reality of a battle, a march, a surrender. For the soldier, of course, reality was the comrade next to him—and the enemy he was to kill."

"The British, having several fieldpieces stationed by a brickhouse, were pouring the canister and grape upon the Americans like a shower of hail..."

“You needn't worry about me. I know enough to do what every man ought to do in wartime when he's watched and threatened by bullies. I conceal my feelings; lie whenever necessary; pretend to admire the rascals who've ruined our city and our country; cheer dolts, bullies and knaves and damn all wise temperate men!”

Here we find a member of the 49th Regiment of Foot and two members of Grenadiers Company fighting for the Crown.

When looking at this photograph of the return fire, do you notice anything?
No? Look a little closer - -  
 Yeah...that's a stream of fire shooting out of the barrel of that musket, lest anyone thinks these guns are not dangerous.
Also, please note the 'flash in the pan' I captured in this photograph. Yeah...these muskets are to be handled with care and reverence.

The 42 Regiment of the Royal Highlanders~Fighting for the Crown
"They exchanged a number of shots at each other, neither side inclining to give back."

"A number of our men went over and drove the British from the fence..."

""They were, by this time, reinforced in their turn, and drove us back. The two parties kept thus alternately reinforcing until we had the most of our regiment in 
the action."

Yes, that's my son Robbie portraying an American.
As he should; he is descended from a number of patriot Revolutionary War soldiers...on his mother's side.
I'm descended from Quaker loyalists - - the poor boy is so torn!

 But, as you can see, he enjoys the opportunity in playing a part in 
representing his ancestor.

The 1st American Regiment of the Queen's Rangers - a loyalist unit - were also at this skirmish.

They held their own against the rebellious Americans...

By the way, this was an excellent battle reenactment - one of the best I've seen this year. It was very well put together and carried out.

Members of the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Regiment.

"The eighteenth-century battlefield was, compared with the twentieth, an intimate theater," writes historian George Middlekauff. "The killing range of the musket, eighty to one hundred yards, enforced intimacy as did the reliance on the bayonet and the general ineffectiveness of artillery. Soldiers had to come to close quarters to kill; this fact reduced the mystery of battle though perhaps not its terrors."

“Valiant! The word mocked me, for I knew myself to be anything but valiant. What I had done, I had done in a fit of insane bitterness, not with cool courage, not with brave quick thinking, not with presence of mind - but with absence of it.”

“We receiv'd News That our Forces had been attack'd the Day before, and likewise got the Better of the Enemy ; we had an Account that we kill'd 300 of them, but the Number of wounded none of us could tell: Our loss was 5 Officers and 32 Privates, 12 of whom were kill'd and the rest wounded. The same Day we went to get our Plunder, which we discovered on our march round the Island, consisting of Gowns, Shirts, Petticoats, Stockings, Coats and Waistcoats, Breeches, Shoes, and many other Articles too tedious to mention and some Cash ; which, if the Things had been sold to the Value, would have fetch'd upwards of 500 l. Sterl.”

The battle now over, the 1st Pennsylvania Continental Regiment move up to the front for a spectator line up.

 My son, wearing his woolen cap his mother knitted, also does Civil War reenacting.

1st Pennsylvania Continental Regiment - the battle is done until next time.

There was a pretty good crowd of spectators who came to watch the battle and interact with the reenactors. They were not disappointed in what they saw.
And I do enjoy when they come up and speak to all of us reenactors. It's a chance to share and gain knowledge.

After battle activities - - - 
Come, the fighting seems to have stopped for now. We have work to do on the farm.

I'm going to do something I don't do very often: spotlight a business. It's a wonderful little sutlery known as Samson Leather, which has been around for over thirty years and is now run by a young married couple - Casey and Abbie Samson. They really are making a great effort to sell quality items in their shop.
I've only met them this past year and and was very impressed with the purchase of my brown cocked hat Abbie had made for me. From there she and I got to know each other through phone conversations and discovered a mutual love of colonial history.
Her husband is also a fan of the period and the two of them have taken over the family business, making it their full-time job.
Samson Leather has a shop in Indiana as well as their sutler tent they take on the road to different reenactments.
I was impressed by the variety of items they sold...

They have a supply of men's garments on hand including waistcoats and knee-breeches, as well as the shirts, knee socks, neck stocks, and garters.
Please understand, their clothing is not hand-sewn (as many reenactors prefer), so if that is what you are looking for, this may not be the place for you.
Because the clothing is machine stitched, they are able to keep their prices lower, which is good for those who cannot afford the high end stuff.
Yes, those are cocked hats you see a-top there!

And should you want to make your own cocked hat, they also sell hat blanks as you see in the above picture. Or, if you prefer, they can make 'em for you, as Abbie did for me:
Hat by Samson Leather

Small leather-bound journals, clay pipes, wood candle or pipe holders, quills, ink, and inkwells...

Beeswax candles, leather dye, twine...

And shoes.
Leather shoes.
With buckles.

A fair collection of candle lanterns, as well as a turn-of-the-19th century betty lamp. Then there are the wood desks, soap, deer string bags, shaving kits...and mugs made of leather, tin, and ceramic.

I had my eye on that costrel you see at the bottom right of the picture.

So, of course, I knew I needed a new one... comes in handy on the farm.
Okay...I didn't really purchase the costrel this time, but it's on my wish list. The picture you see here of a costrel situated in a historic setting was taken at the Daggett farm house at Greenfield Village.

After the battle, my son, Rob, pulled out his fife and played some 
fine period music. He even played a tune with Mcspillin!
Note the cap he is wearing:
yes, it is one similar in style to the same one Abe Woodhull wears in AMCs "Turn: Washington Spies." Yes, it is historically accurate ~
In fact, Rob is kind of portraying Woodhull, to an extent...we'll see where that goes...
I'm gonna brag - - my wife made Rob's and she's knitting one for me as well. Both caps began life as raw wool that she carded, spun, and dyed naturally.
Just like in colonial times.
Okay...done bragging.

Here is Robbie performing with Mcspillin:

When I go to a reenactment, I like to bring a few of my accessories, including a lantern, quill and inkwell, my Betsy Ross flag, candle mold, and betty lamp.
Sitting to my immediate left is a humidor, made in Colonial Williamsburg, that a very kind person gave to me.

Mr. Schmid presents commercial fishing of the 18th century, which, from what he told me, was the number one industry in North America at the time. The cod was shipped all over the globe for use in trading for other commodities.
It was a fiercely competitive business.

Reunited after the battle...

Trading war stories...
but unbeknownst to Robbie, trouble was a-waiting...

He was arrested by the King's Army for treason and being in possession of a musket belonging to one of the Queen's Rangers.

Throwing him against the tree, they roughed him up, attempting to get him to confess to his crimes.

Hit and kicked, Robbie denied all charges against him.

They then grabbed him and lifted him to his feet. 
The plan was to string him up.

The second that Rob saw his chance to escape, he took it!
As he ran like the wind, the muttering of "You guys suck!" could be heard from the commander to his men.

"Fear does things so like a witch
'tis hard to distinguish which is which."

Karen did a beautiful job in her period appearance.

There were reenactors selling off their extra items at pretty good prices.
Here you see Lauren and I checking out some of the other items for sale.

Rae, like me, has been a Civil War reenactor for numerous years, and when she heard I was forming a Colonial group, she immediately asked me to include her. 
I am very happy that she is a part of the Citizens of the American Colonies...
...and yet, like me, she still reenacts the 1860s as well.
She's doing us all proud!

In the title of this post you see the Benjamin Franklin quote: "Where liberty dwells, there is my country." That's how I feel while reenacting the colonial/RevWar period, for aside from visiting some place like Colonial Williamsburg, this is the closest I can get to being among that generation of great Americans that formed this wonderful nation of ours. Yeah, we are only reenactors - living historians doing our best to recreate the past - but, to many spectators, this is their way that they can connect with those long gone days of old...with the spirit of '76.
And, as a participant, I feel the same.
I had such a great time at Colonial Kensington - I always do. I repeat: there is something to be said about being among the founding generation, even if it is only reenactors. And, as I said in a previous post, the "small clothing" (knee breeches, tricorn, etc) really is the coolest clothing a man can wear. 

You know, with all of the garbage going on in our country right now, it does my heart good to be in my place of solace.
In history.
With people I can call my friends.
"I don't deserve to be so happy, but I can't help it!
I just can't help it!"
Until next time, see you in time...

Some of the caption quotes came from THIS page and THIS page.
To contact B&K Photography, visit their Facebook page HERE
To contact Mcspillin, please click HERE
To contact Samson leather, click HERE

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