Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Revolutionary War Reenacting: Muster at the Mill 2018

I just simply cannot get enough of recreating the past. Or at least making a valiant attempt. When I discovered living history all those years ago (actually, back in the 90s), it seemed that part of my life...you know, the passion for the past part...seemed fulfilled; I had found my means of bringing the words - the stories and research - from my history books physically to life.
Not a bad set up, eh?
This is the reenactment at Uncle John's Mill in St. John's, Michigan.
"Why is it that the past enthralls me so much? I have asked myself that question many times but I have no absolute answers."
These were the first lines written in my very first Passion for the Past posting way back in November of 2007.
And I still have not found the answer.
Me and my new buckets
I can only say there are very few things that excite me more than history. A good example is when I very recently had the opportunity to purchase period-correct hand-made wooden buckets to go with the yoke I have, which is used for our colonial farming presentations. Oh, I had to spend a bit of money to get the right kind of buckets, and I did have reservations due to their price, but I was very pleased upon delivery. Very pleased indeed. And when I excitedly told a few friends outside of the history realm about them, why, they looked at me as if I were totally off my rocker.
I suppose that's to be expected.
Some just never will understand us history nerds...
I guess it's time, then, to be with my like-minded friends 'n' family and enjoy the past as I always do - it's inherent in me to do so, you know - - -
And with that being said, I must state that the brilliancy of having a historic reenactment at a cider mill...in the fall...in Michigan...is just that: brilliant.
If you know anything about my State - aside from Detroit being the Motor City - it's that in the autumn time of year, thousands upon thousands of people head out to apple orchards and cider mills nearly every weekend from Labor Day through Hallowe'en to take in the fall flavors of cider, apples, doughnuts, pumpkins, country crafts, nature walks, leaves changing color, and all that this season of the year has to offer.
And Uncle John's Cider Mill and Apple Orchard, located in St. Johns, Michigan, is no different.
So to set up the Muster at the Mill  reenactment in the midst of all of this fall fanfare is, as I stated, sheer brilliancy, for there were thousands of visitors strolling through our encampment on this beautiful last Saturday of September, and most stopped at each tent and fly to ask questions, to listen to the presentations, to learn about our 18th century clothing, and even to inquire a bit on the Revolutionary War itself.
The opportunity to teach of our proud history abounded, for there were many who had very little knowledge of this most-important-of-wars, which was sad indeed, and so it was in this mass that we were able to share our knowledge and, hopefully, garner enough interest for them to further their research of this time.
So, shall we begin?
Don't mind us. We're just queuing up in front of the flag.
Or maybe we're just men who follow 1770s fashion.
Either way, we're definitely not queue balls, that's for certain.

The circular arrangement of the above design was seen as early as October 17, 1777 at the surrender of General John Burgoyne at Saratoga, New York. Eyewitness Alfred B. Street alluded to our flag as it was first unfurled there:
"The stars were disposed in a circle, symbolizing the perpetuity of the Union; the ring, like the circling serpent of the Egyptians, signifying eternity. The thirteen stripes showed with the stars the number of the United Colonies, and denoted the subordination of the States to the Union, as well as equality among themselves." 

Uncle John's Cider Mill and Apple Orchard located about a half hour north of Michigan's capital of Lansing, in rural St. Johns. 
Back in the early 1900’s, this Cider Mill was used as a Cattle Barn where cattle, sheep and even draft horses were raised. Today, it has been converted into a Cider Press, Doughnut Shop and sitting area.
Being that we're out in the country during harvest time, pumpkins and apples abound.
And being that we are reenactors, our children learn quite a bit about the old ways, and enjoy life before electronics took over.
One of my favorite things to do as a child was to
play on hay stacks up north when the local farmers
would have them around their yard for purpose
or for decoration.

So to see children enjoying this time-held tradition
makes me smile all the more at the memories they
will have.

More than anything else, I feel I am among "my people" at a colonial/RevWar reenactment. This era of American history has always been my time, so to speak, and interest in it never truly waned...it just took a back seat for a short time while I was learning living history in a more immersion fashion in Civil War reenacting, another era in our past I love to learn about.

Being among like-minded folk at a reenactment doesn't always mean war, for it is also a celebration of the folk arts as well. And this is what I really get caught up in...this is a major reason why I reenact the past: to learn and be a part of every day life in a time so very different than our own.
Carding wool soon to be spun into yarn.
One of the most fascinating things about researching the past
is the fact that we continuously "meet" so many different people

 - people with originality, ingenuity, and inventiveness in their 
ancient ways of survival. 

The reenactors who help to bring the era of our founding generation to the present have taken the time to learn these ancient crafts to show curious visitors a way of life long gone from current thought and memory.
The large spinning wheel you see in the two pictures above and below goes by numerous names: wool wheel, great wheel, and walking wheel.
To spin on such a wheel requires the spinner to walk several miles on spinning day, for they will walk backwards to spin and forward to wind, the fibers being drawn out and twisted at the same time.
Such a wheel is a simple machine with few parts, and lucky is the spinner who knows how to make replacement parts, almost entirely of wood, to replace any that may become broken.

There were a few sutlers on hand selling a pretty decent variety of period goods to the reenactor or to the visitor who enjoys such notions. 
Let's meet one of the members of Citizens of the American Colonies and her family, known in the reenacting 18th century world as the Chambers family:
Mrs. Reisener and her young daughter had to move in with her parents due to her husband's enlistment in the Continental Army, and she could not support herself on her own.

A Connecticut Congregationalist family, her father's trade is as a butcher.
They are not camp followers. Like so many reenactors, myself included, they consider their tent a representation of their home and farm, and cooking chores (among other things) can be seen by the visiting public.

Megan and her family enjoy the hobby,
and willingly take part in all aspects of
bringing the past to life
We just keep raising the bar, don't we?
And there were other families meandering about, each seemingly having a different story to tell, of which, I'm afraid to admit, I know little of for as busy as we all were, there wasn't much time to speak, so I had to scour through my books to find some suitable commentary to go with the photos I took.
Though the Chambers family above do not represent camp-followers, there are many who do. In our United States history, camp followers were an important part of servicing and supplying the army during the Revolutionary War. There were also camp followers on both the Union and Confederate sides of the American Civil War.
However, a major difference between the armies of the American Revolution
and the Civil War was the presence of women and children.
Delivering apples and cakes to the troops in camp.
By the time of the civil war, camps and campaigns included far fewer wives, children and other soldiers' relatives as part of the military group. Women still served as nurses in hospitals and in other limited support roles, but were not present in the same way in the American Civil War as in the American Revolution.

Meet my friend, Charlotte. She is also a member of my Citizens of the American Colonies reenacting group. We were very happy to have her come out to Uncle John's Mill this year, for it was only her second time dressed as a colonial (the first time was on the 4th of July at Greenfield Village and Mill Race Village: click HERE).  

As a surprise to us all, Charlotte came to the event as a boot black, otherwise known as a shoe-shiner.
She found a spot right in the middle of the American camp and set herself up to make a little bit of survival money.
I was happily her first customer ever as a boot blacker.
And I was as pleased as any to have my dirt-covered
shoes looking like new after she was done.
"Yes, I have a pence for you, dear lady.
God be with you."

And look who else received a shining:
Though Mr. Jones was not necessarily portraying
General Washington in this photo, he certainly still
has the GW look which gives us that impression.

Paul Sandby RA, 1731–1809, British, London Cries: Shoe Cleaner, ca. 1759
(Yes, I did 'bring out' more of the detail of this painting through my computer program. 
It now sort of pops out at you)

"Thank you, Dear Lady. My boots have never looked
so clean, aside from when they were newly made."

The Doctor is in:
Both the Continental and British camps had a doctor on hand, and here is our American medical practitioner....
...and his tools.
Kinda scary, huh?
Interested visitors certainly do get an earful of medical history upon visiting. The kind of information nightmares are made of... 

Everything a soldier in George Washington's Army
could want or need is right here.

As spectators moved through the camp they
witnessed the men cleaning their guns and were
able to ask plenty of questions about the
ancient firearms.

This soldier, as you shall see, was able to interest quite a few visitors as he walked the interested folk through each step of firing his musket...
Being at a cider mill in Michigan in late September makes for a "perfect storm" to reenact in; the crowds of visitors were constant. and that gave all of us reenactors great opportunities to teach about this very important time in American history.

Another necessity of army camp life: wood for warmth and cooking.
This is my son, Robbie, here, and he, like his father, grabs hold of 

times past with both hands and dives into the hobby with full-force.
Yes, he's slept under the stars - without a tent - in 40 degree
weather, cooks his own food over an open fire, and gives me
little doubt that if he suddenly found himself actually living in
the times of our nation's founding, he would survive.

Friends from Indiana's 13th Pennsylvania joined us at Uncle John's for the first time. It was great to have them! 

So here's the story for today's posting - - 
The American camp.

There is a lot of movement from the soldiers in camp - looks like a battle might be nigh.

The wind was a-blowin' pretty good, and that made it easy for the Gadsden flag to pose for me as the men formed up.

The American army needed a place to camp so, being the Patriot that I am (and much to the chagrin of my wife), I gave them the okay to use my property for as long as needed.

No, I don't think I would advertise "cider mill" on the roof of my outbuilding in the 18th century...but Uncle John's does in the 21st!

Like many farmers of the day, I own a rather large apple orchard, and they are filled with such varieties as the Roxbury Russet, the Belmont, Rambo, Baldwin, and Grimes Golden - most of which will become cider.
Friends and family join us in picking apples. Those who help will certainly not leave empty handed, and will also enjoy the fruits of their labor.
In fact, this is what was picked the previous day:
Apples for pies, fritters, sauce, cake, drying, and especially for cider...
And once in a while, for eating.
I did mention that we were at an apple orchard, right? 
But as we were out in the orchards, there was a-rustling coming from about, and we could see the coats of men who did not belong to our military. My son, Robbie, and I thought to scare them off...
...but decided not to, considering how many there were.
Instead - - -
...we scurried out of the orchard to find we were smart in not challenging them, for there were many more than we had thought.

They pushed us out at gun point, luckily without firing nary a shot.

Since my decision not to challenge them, I, instead, threw apples at the men. I almost hit a couple of 'em (they let me know afterward: "You were trying to hit us!"
I responded with, "Of course I was!")

Many thanks to B&K Photography for taking so many of the pictures here and allowing me to use them - - catch their link at the bottom of the post.

We soon came to realize that a battle was unfolding before our eyes.

The Queen's Rangers were there, directly in front of us.

As one got picked off, the other stood in bravery.
Even though they were not 'ours,' we can still admire the bravery that these men show during war time.

The Continental Army returned fire.

Under John Graves Simcoe's command, the Queen's Rangers were organized into various companies.

Members of the 1st Pennsylvania, including my son,
bravely moved forward.

Michigan's regiment of the 1st Penn, headed up by long-time reenactor Tony Gerring, is a top-notch group of men who take great pride in bringing their research to the public's eye.

Robbie has been reenacting for over 15 years, and most of that time has been in the military.

With the numbers and organizations of a legion and Ranger tactics, the Queen's Rangers were a true force to be reckoned with.

The Massachusetts Battalion were there as well, helping to hold the bloody backs back.

This young lass was not really frightened. She had just
taken part in our little scenario as apple pickers and this
was where she chose to hide.
Makes for a pretty effective shot, though, don't you think?

As my son reloaded his musket - not so easy while laying on your back - Tony's flash-in-the-pan let us know he meant serious business. So did his musket ball which took out a Ranger.

Rob has mentioned to me that Rev War fighting while in the 1st Penn is quite a bit different than the way he does battle in Civil War reenactments.

The fighting was fierce, and my son gave his all, but, alas, the King's Army won out this time.
We had a decent amount of spectators watching, but I photo-shopped them out of the pictures.

Something not seen very often in reenactment battles are the men - the victors - scavenging the dead and wounded for hats, shoes, musketry, and other accouterments.  

While the British were stealing garments and other items off the dead and wounded, something happened that I personally had not witnessed before in all my years of reenacting...

The crowd of spectators who were watching began to boo and yell at the men who were scavenging! Calls of "Bad form!" and hoots & hollers abounded. I wish I could have caught this on video.
It was pretty cool to see this happen. 
And that was the battle.
Fortunately, Rev War reenacting is growing here in Michigan. I hope that trend continues.

I'll be the first to admit I am not a soldier. Just a plain and simple farmer. But at times I do feel the need to take up arms against the King's men for what I believe in, and after reading "Common Sense" I believe in Liberty and Freedom.
So there's a chance that at future events I just might do what I can to help our cause and come out
as a Minuteman.

It's not often one gets a chance to have a quick
sketch with General George Washington.

It was unfortunate that the event was cancelled the following day due to a down pouring of rain. The area was a sloppy mess and Uncle John's felt it was best to close up the encampment until (hopefully) next year.
But for the one beautiful day we had, this event can easily be in my top five of the year. And that's good considering I do about a dozen actual reenactments and over a dozen more "extras" and presentations.
Someone mentioned this pic reminded them of Poldark.
Ha! I'll take the compliment no matter how far off
they may be.

So...until next time, see you in time.

A special thank you to Beth & Kevin from B&K Photography for allowing me to use many of their pictures (you can see their watermarks on those belonging to them). Click HERE to visit their Facebook page.

By the way - - if you are interested in other postings I wrote about our nation's early history, please click any one of the following links:

April 19, 1775: As Seen Through the Eyes & From the Quills of Those Who Were There 
This is a sort of 'Reader's Digest' collection of descriptions, quotes, and commentary concerning the people involved in the Battle of Lexington & Concord. A 'you are there' post.

Becoming Paul Revere
Read how I do my Paul Revere presentations

Dissecting the Copley Painting of Paul Revere
Very cool stuff most normal people don't look at

Collecting History - The Old North Church Lantern
Yep - I got the Bicentennial replica of this oh-so-important piece of American History!

Colonial Christmas
A history of Christmas in America's colonial past.

Colonial Cooking: On the Hearth
A post dedicated solely to colonial-era kitchen and cooking - lots of pictures!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village on Patriots Day
April 19 - Paul Revere and the beginning of the Revolutionary War must never be forgotten. I will do my part.

Colonial Ken & Friends - 4th of July 2018: Celebrating Independence Day in a Colonial Way
A few of us celebrated our Nation's birth as if it were 1776.

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village for the Fall Harvest 
I'm at it again, only this time I was able to enjoy the season of fall during the 1770s while in my period clothing. I even got to make beer!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village on Black Friday
My annual anti-Black Friday excursion to Greenfield Village. In colonial clothes!

Colonial Ken Visits Greenfield Village for New Year's 2015/16
I again wore my colonial clothing for Holiday Nights, only I concentrated on the new Year's aspect of the Holiday season. Oh what fun!

Faces of History: Original Photographs of Revolutionary War Vets
Yes, you heard right! Actual photos of the men who fought in the Revolutionary War

Flags of Our Founding Fathers
Learn the history of the early flags of our United States

In the Good Old Colony Days
A concise pictorial to everyday life in America's colonies

Paul Revere's Ride
Let's go beyond the Longfellow dramatization and get to the truth of Mr. Revere's famous ride from April 1775

Noah Webster: Forgotten Founding Father
Yes, the man of the dictionary fame was actually a Founding Father. We almost lost his house to history in exchange for a parking lot. Read all about it here.

Meet Paul Revere & Sybil Ludington
Back to the Future Day!
Here is a presentation my friend Larissa and I put together for school kids studying the founding of our nation.

Meet Paul Revere's Wives, Sarah and Rachel
Learn of their part in the making of Paul Revere

Reenacting Early American History
Pre-Civil War era reenacting

Revolutionary War History - Preventing Tyranny at Salem in 1775 
How the townsfolk pulled together and beat the British - true pre-RevWar story!

Ste. Clair Voyageurs at Metro Beach: Life on the Frontier
My first time participating as a reenactor here. In fact, my first time attending. It was awesome!

Thanksgiving in Colonial Times
Just how did our colonial ancestors mark this holiday? Read on, my friends!

Travel and Taverns
To help you understand what it was like to travel and stay at a tavern in colonial times.

With Liberty and Justice For All: The Fight for Independence at the Henry Ford Museum
Telling the story of America's Fight for Independence by way of the amazing collection of artifacts in the Henry Ford Museum.

Now, if you scrolled down this far, you are in for a treat:
So...after we left Muster at the Mill, Robbie, Mike, Charlotte, and I stopped to have a bite to eat at the St. John's Big Boy restaurant while still in our period 18th century clothing. We were seated near a young lady (and her mother and grandmother) who was very excited to have us next to her. You see, she is a very big history fan, so we seemed to have added to her evening out.
Well guess what?
She and her family were the perfect topper to our wonderful day reenacting at Muster at the Mill.
Young lady, please keep feeding your thirst for history - - read, research, and enjoy!
And thank you for helping to make our day as well!
Oh! What fun we have no matter where we are!

~   ~   ~

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