Monday, August 13, 2018

18th Century America Comes Alive at Old Fort Wayne, Indiana

Before we get into the excitement of one of my more recent reenactments, you may have noticed a change in the mast head of this Passion for the Past blog. My previous photo has been there since early 2013, so I thought it time for a change.
It seems fitting, for I have been leaning heavily toward the colonial period in our history of late...I'm not leaving the 1860s, mind you, but adding to my time-travel adventures.
The premise between the two pictures, however, is relatively the same: Historical Ken sitting in period clothing amidst a historic setting holding a writing utensil to paper, preparing to write the next posting for Passion for the Past.
But isn't it interesting to note the differences from the 1770s to the 1860s - a 90 year time span?
Writing my latest Passion for the Past blog post: 1776
And the previous mast head picture:
Writing my latest Passion for the Past blog post: 1863

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As reenactors, we do our best to represent the past as authentically and accurately as we can. At least that's what most of us strive for. And lucky for our modern visitors, the majority of folks I time-travel with usually give it their best shot...and do very well. And I believe you will agree after seeing the photos in this week's post that I do take my journey to the past with the best.
You see, when something looks and feels right in the reenacting world, there is little that can compare. For those of us who were at Old Fort Wayne in Indiana on this late July day, much of what occurred just seemed right, just like the stories we shared helped to make American History come to life for the many patrons.
A division of beliefs cannot split these friends, even though one is a Queen's Ranger, and the other is a Pennsylvania Regiment of Foote soldier as they walk to Old Fort Wayne.
The reconstruction of the long-gone original fort was begun in 1964 by using early 19th century sketchings.
Two guards posted out the front entrance.

However, the opening ceremony saw no colors or enemies - - - -
The 13th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foote marched into the Fort to take part in the opening ceremony.

My son, Rob, who you see in the middle here, is part of the 1st Pennsylvania, but seeing no other members of his unit in attendance, was welcomed warmly by the 13th Pennsylvania.

I included this shot because it shows the interesting architectural style of the buildings within the walls of Old Fort Wayne.

Raising the flag.

My son was asked to play a period piece on the fife during the flag-raising ceremony, so he played "Jefferson & Liberty," with the melody originally from an old English air known as "The Gobby O."
It is also known as "Paul Revere's Ride" in some circles.
The tune became popular in American fife and drum repertory.

A variety of British military representatives are in this photograph, including 49th Regiment of Foot, the Grenadier Company, and the Queen's Rangers.

Speaking of the Queen's Rangers, here are members of the Michigan reenacting unit that was founded in 2014.

Inside the fort we find the preacher (on the left) and Robert Rogers himself. Scott Mann could represent the "Turn: Washington Spies" version of Robert Rogers, eh?
Throughout the day I came and went as I pleased, for I was portraying an ordinary citizen, though they were suspicious of me.

Caleb is prepared for any "snakes in the garden..." 

In the kitchen we find Roger''s wife cooking a meal over the hearth. Hearth cooking is an art not many folks today can say they've experienced. But the food prepared in this manner is amazingly good - that I know from personal experience.

The kitchen has always been the one room in the home where almost all of the activity would take place; more than the parlor, the necessary (indoor bathrooms are a fairly recent commodity), or the bedchamber, life has always tended to center around the kitchen. 

There were plenty of Loyalists who were staying inside the fort, and I took it upon myself to visit a few of them and maybe even learn a thing or two...
I spotted ladies spinning on their wheels nearby.

My wife spins regularly as well, though she was not here on this day, and so I am always interested in the homespun crafts.

Bakery goods were kindly offered to me as I moved among those who were loyal to King George. I used to be, but as time continued on, I found myself becoming disenchanted with the ways of this tyrant and looking forward to a future of, dare I say it, independence.
I wonder if such a thing could ever occur, for I had heard talk of it...
Jan and Sheila offer period treats to folks passing by.
Jan also hosts the... 

...period fashion show, allowing the modern "apparitions" to witness and learn of the clothing people from the 1770s wore.

Outside of the old fort we find a different political belief system - one that wants to do away with the parliamentary monarchy of England and move toward one not seen before... 
The camp of the 13th Pennsylvania of Foote.

The 13th Pennsylvania were prepared to keep the King's army at bay.

All of the members the 13th were very friendly and welcoming, 
and I do appreciate that.
To me, when civilians take part, it adds that much more to the whole picture.

There were various outbuildings situated outside of the fort that included many of the necessities for folks living in the 18th century, including...
The Woodwright shop...

...where we find the man crafting his skills in making such necessary 18th century items as small writing desks, candle boxes, storage boxes, and other items found in homes in the 1700s. 

Next up we have...
...the blacksmith shop.
Knowing that my 3rd great grandfather was a blacksmith in Detroit during the 1880s has piqued my interest in this occupation. No, this is not my 3rd great grandfather - - 
And, I was able to watch a wheelwright work his craft, which was a first for me at an actual reenactment.
I've only seen this at Colonial Williamsburg, so naturally I went to their page to garner more information on this much needed occupation:
No, this is not Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, but Colonial Fort Wayne, Indiana.

"Made of wood and bound with iron, the wheels of the carriages, wagons, and riding chairs that navigated rugged colonial roads had to be strong and tight. But first and foremost, the wheels had to be round.
Producing wheels requires strength, ingenuity, and the talents of both a carpenter and a blacksmith. Precise measuring skills are mandatory.
Wheelwrights who practice the trade start with a hub fashioned on a lathe from properly aged wood such as elm. A tapered reamer opens the center to receive a metal bearing.

The wheelwright uses a chisel to create rectangular spoke holes around the circumference of the wheel (the wheelwright in this picture is using a saw to work on a different part of his wheel). Carved from woods like ash, the spokes radiate to meet a rim of mortised wooden arches, called "fellies," 
that join to form a perfect circle. 

The blacksmith supplies a big hoop of iron precisely matched to the distance around the fellies. The wheelwright heats the iron tire, which expands just enough to be coaxed on with a heavy hammer. He then douses the wheel with water, which causes the iron tire to shrink a bit, which in turn binds the assembly."
I was quite pleased to be able to speak with the wheelwright here, and he was a wealth of knowledge - very willing to speak about his occupation. I find the trades of long ago much more interesting than nearly anything modern-made today. There is such talent in the world of the past and from those who try to keep it alive...whether watching a wheelwright, blacksmith, gunsmith, spinner, or even a farmer plowing a field behind a team of horses, that's where my interests lie.

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We did some living history at the fort (you know me well - - of course we did!), and gave a showing of what it may have been like to have seen the Declaration of Independence broadside for the first time.
Let's see how it went - - - 
It was not too far past noon when I stormed into the fort, holding a broadside and making myself known by loudly informing everyone inside: "Citizens of the American Colonies! (Nice plug, eh?) A courier just rode in with news from Philadelphia - - On July 4th in this year of 1776, Congress had declared independence from the tyrant King George! No longer are we his subjects but, instead, are independent people! We are now our own country: The United States of America!"
As I notified the public of this important document, I also prepared them to hear a reading of the words herein. It was unfortunate, yet expected, that the military men still under the ruling of the monarchy did their best to prevent me from delivering the words written. They abused much; but I was then told to not be afraid, no one should hurt me. I told him they would miss their aim. After searching me for arms, he said they should not. 
"Sir, may I crave your name?" an officer asked. 
Instead of giving my name, I told then that I was "a Son of Liberty."
Delighted to find he had bagged one from the infernal patriot mob, their commander "clapped a pistol to my head," and said, "he was a-going to ask me some questions, and if I did not tell the truth, he would blow my brains out."
However, before he could...
...I pulled myself free and, seeing the gates of the fort locked, I scurried into the kitchen and dashed up the stairs to the balcony, where I proceeded to lock the door behind me.
Another of my kind had followed me to help and protect me from the tyrannical army of England.

I then pressed on with the words written upon the document (much to the chagrin of the British officers below):
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.

That, to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government...
And that's just about the time that they broke through the locked doors and tried to snatch the broadside from my hands.

And they pulled me off of the balcony where they wanted to hold me for questioning...

They also roughed up the gentleman from the 13th Pennsylvania who planned to join me in the reading.
Fortunately for me, he got the brunt of their brutality.
Unfortunately for him, he got the brunt of their brutality.

As for me... promised, they held me for questioning, though I did not feel the brunt of their ruthlessness.
I was undaunted by their inquiries and told them of the thousands of militiamen then gathering in the area, warning them away from the fort, where trouble and colonial forces would be a-waiting for them. I assured my captors I was telling the truth, and they believed my warning, particularly when they heard gunfire from the same direction of my pointing. What my inquisitors did not know was the gunfire they heard was not the 13th Pennsylvania attacking as thought, but actually just the men emptying their loaded weapons before entering the local tavern - a time-honored American rule.
Rather than face the wrath of the 13th Pennsylvania, the men of the fort seized us in no easy manner and shoved me toward the fort gates.

A confrontation nearly ensued between the two military forces as my captors pushed me toward my freedom.
But, aside from a small shoving match, little else occurred.
And the 13th Pennsylvania marched on toward their camp, rescuing a 
proud Son of Liberty.
Little did I know then just what was about to happen due to my insolence toward the tyrant king and his forces
The pewterer got busy melting down unnecessary wares
into bullets, for, as we found, my arrogance on presenting our own
Declaration of Independence had unforeseen consequences.

Musket balls with the British army's name upon them.

Preparing for a skirmish...

Someone from the inside of the fort let the Continentals know that their was 'movement' among the men of the King's army, and they prepared themselves for any possible eventuality. 

The British occupied the fort and made the attempt to hold the surrounding grounds with about 100 regulars, and had plans to search the shops for supplies.
Some fun historical facts thrown in some of the captions:
This first establishment of the Continental Army, from 1775-1776, consisted of 10 companies of riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia who served a one-year enlistment.

The Continental Army was also supplemented by local militias and troops that remained under the control of individual states.

The Continental Army had a number of advantages over the British army. Their biggest advantage was that they were fighting for a grand cause, their independence and freedom, which was a very motivating factor.

Although the King's army had the British government and the Crown to fund them, the Americans had no such source of wealth to draw from in the early days of the war and were always short on money.

One of the major advantages of the British army was that it was one of the most powerful and experienced armies in the world. During the previous 100 years, the British army had defeated many powerful countries in war, such as France and Spain, and seemed almost unbeatable.

One major disadvantage or weakness of the British army was that it was fighting in a distant land. Great Britain had to ship soldiers and supplies across the Atlantic, which was very costly, in order to fight the Revolutionary War.

Accounts of the time usually refer to British soldiers as "Regulars" or "the King's men," however, there is evidence of the term "red coats" being used informally, as an everyday expression. During the Siege of Boston, in January of 1776, General George Washington uses the term "red coats" in a letter to Joseph Reed..

General John Stark of the Continental Army was purported to have said during the Battle of Bennington (16 August 1777), "There are your enemies, the Red Coats and the Tories. They are ours, or this night Molly Stark sleeps a widow!"

Members of the Queen's Rangers, a British provincial unit that fought on the Loyalist side during the American Revolutionary War. In 1778, the British introduced the red coat as a common color for all regiments, provincial and regular. Simcoe, however, appealed to the authorities for permission to retain the green uniform of the Rangers. He said ‘green is without comparison the best color for light troops; if put on in the spring, by autumn it nearly fades with the leaves preserving its characteristic of being scarcely discernible at a distance.” Simcoe’s request was granted and the Queen’s Rangers retained their green jackets.

Death on the battlefield~
This may seem odd, but there are two kinds of military reenactors:
those who die a "good death" and remain motionless on the field after they've 'taken a hit,' and those who 'get shot' and then lie on the ground, up on their elbows, watching the rest of the battle.
The deaths you see here are "good deaths." In fact, most reenactors die a "good death" on the battlefield.

By the way, we see a woman - perhaps the dead man's wife? - on the field after the battle had ended to be with the fallen man. Too often we do not see the grieving that goes with a soldier's death, so when it is portrayed, it hopefully will get those in the audience to think a little more about the humanistic aspect of the War, no matter what era is being portrayed. 

My cocked hat is off to the folks who showed these touching moments while bringing the past to life 
Like most Rev War reenactors, the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foote is a living history group that recreates both military and civilian life in colonial America.  They include marching and military drills, as well as period cooking and sewing demonstrations. At this event at Old Fort Wayne, they welcomed my son, Rob, as one of their own. Rob is a member of Michigan's 1st Pennsylvania unit, so he fit in well with the Indiana representation of the 13th Penn.

The skirmish is over...the march back to camp...

Historical reenactments, whether large or small, are such a wonderful way to give an idea of what it was like to live in another era. It could be representing battle scenes or everyday-life scenes, as long as the researched knowledge is there.

And so it goes...'tis only another day on the 18th century frontier...

Me & my son.
Like me, Rob also does Civil War reenacting and will
find himself in the 1770s one week and the 1860s the next.

Grown men and women reenacting the past seems kind of silly to many on the outside. But it's actually no different than an avid car collector spending his life savings to purchase a perfectly restored 1964 Ford Mustang, or the music collector remortgaging his or her house to get The Beatles 'Yesterday...and Today' butcher cover LP.
It's in our blood.
While at the Old Fort Wayne in Indiana, I did come out a few times as Paul Revere and had numerous opportunities to chat with modern visitors, making my valiant attempt at busting some of the many myths about the man. At one point I drew a goodly crowd of interested listeners, one of which surprised me with a note in my Facebook messengers page a few days after:
Thank you so much for what you do. My kids enjoyed the enactment, and the special audience with 'Paul Revere'. This will forever be etched in our minds; the courage, the passion, the resistance and grit of our early Americans. I am proud to have known them through your reenactors. Thank you for preserving this piece of history, and personalizing the American heritage. On the field, more than reenactors, you all were true American heroes!
Enoch ----
A note not just to me, but to all of us who are preserving this piece of history.
What an honor!
This is why we do it.

Until next time, see you in time.

Some of the information captioned 'neath some of the battle pictures came from THIS site
Other information came from HERE

And here are a few other postings you might enjoy:
In the Good Old Colony Days
Paul Revere - Listen My Children...
Preventing Tyranny in Salem 1775
With Liberty & Justice For All
Declaring Independence
Printing the Declaration of Independence

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