Monday, August 27, 2018

Colonial Kensington 2018: Would I Travel Back In Time If I Could...

Reenacting is my solace.
With a modern world gone mad, it is my place of escape.
Some people like to take a long walk. Others might exercise. Some head to the beach. And many will drink.
But for me, it's spending time in the past.
In another world gone mad.
Go figure...
But it's a passion for us who participate in this hobby, isn't it, to do our ultimate best to recreate what has gone on before? And it is more of a challenge in our attempts to do it accurately.
We have, shall we say, a real passion for the past.
And I must say that my living history experiences seem to improve with each passing event. Of course they are improving---as I delve deeper into my historical research and gain a better understanding of those who came before, my involvement in this hobby continuously grows and glows.
It also helps that I've made some fine friends in the Rev War circle, and a few of my long-time Civil War reenacting pals are jumping across the 90 year gap to join me in the good ol' colony days, for their interest in US history goes beyond the four years that the north and south were fighting.
At my tent site:
My Paul Revere clothes for Saturday.
With that being said, this year's Colonial Kensington was the best one yet for me out of the five years I have attended. For the first time I set up my tent here, and that just seemed to allow for much more involvement, realism, and even, to a degree, a larger participant connection for me, for there is always a decent public attendance at this event, and they tend to show a concerted interest in our nation's colonial past. By having my own tent, I had a home, and all were welcome to visit.
You see, previously at Kensington I've set up a few things on a table 'neath the pavilion and basically just sat around speaking with whomever would come my way. But I set up camp, and I am glad I did. In fact, our little area was where the Americans - the Patriots - set up, and there were a few of us there in this meadow kind of setting. I was able to share my space with Dr. Benjamin Franklin, and my next door neighbors were the Diggs family. Across the way was a family I just met and I am ashamed to say I do not remember their names, but they, like the others who side with the Continentals, were very kind.(Yes, yes, the Loyalists are also very kind - - just giving a little ribbing here!).
~The "American Meadow"~
That's my place with the flag 
Colonial Kensington always brings out a goodly amount of reenactors, and I believe the public was pleased to see all of the activity going on as well. In fact, a couple of the apparitions from the future mentioned to me that the 250th anniversary of the Revolutionary War was coming up on the horizon, and that was one of the reasons for coming out to this event.
Others mentioned the Hamilton play and the AMC TV series Turn: Washington's Spies.
Hmmm...methinks this era of reenacting is going to see an upswing over the next few years.
I hope so.
Anyhow, welcome to my camp:
No thrills or chills...just the basics, doncha know...

Besides the 13 star flag I had hanging on the pole, here are the items that were on my table: I spy a betty lamp, a pewter tea pot/coffee pot, a pewter cup, a pewter humidor, a tin lantern, the game Shut the Box, a ceramic tankard, a clay tavern pipe, the Dunlap printing of the Declaration of Independence, and my cocked hat.
I just may be setting up a second table soon.

Presenting the colonial times to the younger set.
When you can grab their interest when they are still in their teenage years, 

and then they begin to ask questions, why, that's what it's all about.

Here I am with Dr. Franklin. I am wearing my new farm hat (made by George Franks III) along with my farm clothing, though I did not bring my farming tools this time. I was very pleased when a visitor made the comment that I looked like
a colonial farmer.
Yep---it's great when they notice.
Maybe next year I'll bring my tools.

One tool I did bring along was my gun.
There will be meat on the table tonight!

And right next to my set up was the Diggs Family camp.
They are the young family on the right:
All here are members of Citizens of the American Colonies, the civilian group I formed a couple years ago.
You are seeing all Patriots here, though we have a few Loyalists as well, and you shall meet them shortly.

Sara Diggs prepares bread. She and her family were
very kind to feed us during the weekend.

Sara & Nicholas's daughter, Olivia, is studying to
be a pewterer. She actually is! She is working on a
spoon in this photograph under the guidance 

of Jim Strode, master pewterer.

That's Mr. Strode on the left and minuteman Ken Roberts on the right.

My friend Jackie and I.
Jackie is a top-notch reenactor (she has been in
Civil War for many years), and this is her second
outing as a colonial.
I am so happy she joined my 'Citizens' group and
is coming out with us to events! 

Our neighbors across the meadow from us.
I enjoyed speaking with them but I simply cannot
remember their names! But it was our first meeting
so I suppose I should be forgiven for that.

Mostly I do my best to stay "in the moment," but when the public is not around I sometimes like to take advantage of the opportunity and try to get some interesting photos, such as this one with Jennifer.
As long as it's not intrusive, as long as other reenactors don't mind, and as long as the modern apparatus is put away quickly as to not ruin the moment for others.
That's the way I try to do it.

Jennifer, by the way, also reenacts the Civil War era.

Our friends from Fort Wayne, Indiana - the 13th Pennsylvania - joined our local 
regiment, the 1st Pennsylvania, for this weekend's events.
It was great to have the guys along - - - 

Marching and drilling was going on throughout the day...
seems to me they may have been preparing for something to happen, 
which gave great concern to the locals...

The Massachusetts Provincial Battalion.

The 1st Pennsylvania rolling rounds.

With the war at hand, farmers continued to grow food, artisans continued to practice their trades, and merchants attempted to maintain their businesses. Despite efforts to maintain business as usual, the entire social landscape was changed.
One of the nice things about Colonial Kensington is that it is loosely set up somewhat as a village, with homes (tents) and even a shopping/business district.
Though a Patriot, Jackie, on her way to town to 
purchase only the necessities, stays clear of any 
trouble from the King's army and befriends all 
who comes her way.

David Schmidt: 18th century commercial fisherman,
set up along the lane.

Samson's Historical, a sutler run by the young couple Casey and Abbie Samson. They carry men's clothing and period accessories to help the beginning 
18th century reenactor get started.

Smoke & Fire was also at Colonial Kensington, and they, too, have a large array of period items and clothing for the 18th century reenactor.
I have purchased items from both Smoke & Fire and Samson's Historical and have been satisfied.

Another sutlery business was Calico Jack.
I believe this is mostly a resale shop, though the items are of
very good quality.

Then we have the Carrot Patch Farm:
Susan Hanson and her mother spins and dyes wool, which then gets knitted or crochet into a myriad of reproduction historical items.

Mrs. Hanson, another member of Citizens of the American Colonies, has been commissioned by the King to be the official supplier of goods to the Queen's Rangers.
Yes, she is a Loyalist.

The Ranger bonnet at the Carrot Patch Farm.

Mrs. Hanson also employs her cousin to help with the
repair of any of the sewing needs of the King's soldiers.

The doctor is in...
...and his tools were prepared for anything that came his way. 
Black Murray performed under the pavilion for the passersby. Their music consists mainly of traditional tunes from centuries past, though they will also perform more contemporary songs, but in a traditional style.

Anxiety and concern were at a high; besides the stepping up on the marching and drilling of the King's armies, there were reports from local patriots indicating the presence of a foraging party of British soldiers and their Loyalist allies hiding in the woods.
As a result of these reports, a detachment of the
1st Pennsylvania Regiment was sent out on patrol
in search of the enemy party.

"We followed (the British) for several days, arriving on their camping ground an hour after their departure from it. We had ample opportunity to see the devastation they made in their rout: cattle killed and lying about the fields and pastures..."
"...some just in the position they were in when shot down, others with a small spot of skin taken off their hind quarters and a mess of steak taken out; household furniture hacked and broken to pieces; wells filled up and mechanic's and farmer's tools destroyed. It was in the height of the season of cherries, the innocent industrious creatures could not climb the trees for the fruit, but universally cut them down. Such conduct did not give the Americans any more agreeable feelings toward them than they entertained before."
"Now, you have been wishing for some days past to come up with the British, you have been wanting to fight, now you shall have fighting enough before night."

"The men did not need much haranguing to raise their courage..."

"We were marching on as usual when we were ordered to halt...the general opinion of the soldiers was that some part of the enemy by some means got into our rear..."

"At every stroke their jackets did smoke
as though they had been all on fire..."

"It was about ten or eleven o'clock before we got through these woods and came into the open field, the soil of which was sandy, the mouth of a heated oven seemed to me to be but a trifle hotter than this ploughed field; it was almost impossible to breathe.."

For the battle, as our story goes, a few of us were out near the water, collecting scraps of wood for kindling, picking berries for pies, and just enjoying our day. We didn't notice all the King's men filing up over the hill beyond our scope.
Woe came to families or farmers who found themselves in the way of advancing armies. Despite stringent warnings against such behavior from officers on both sides, farms and homes were often plundered. Soldiers took grain, livestock, or whatever goods they needed.
Perhaps it takes a German-born professor of British history, currently at the University of Pittsburgh, to treat this highly charged subject so evenhandedly. His first chapter, “Tory Hunting,” begins with a grisly description of the tarring and feathering of an unpopular customs official in 1774. This was one of the myriad ways Colonial vigilantes “debased and defiled, humiliated and dehumanized, their Loyalist neighbors,” Hoock comments. Persecution became official after the Declaration of Independence, when Congress and the states passed confiscation and banishment acts.
The country which we lately traversed is called neutral ground, but the miserable inhabitants who remain, are not much favored with the privileges which their neutrality ought to secure to them.
As the British entered major cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, and New York, many people fled to the countryside, looking for food and work.

Britain responded with “desolation warfare.” British warships bombarded coastal towns; Falmouth, for one, was reduced to a smoking ruin. The redcoats looted indiscriminately, seizing crops and property of rebels and Loyalists alike; plunder was often accompanied by rape. Some British commanders instructed their men to take no prisoners; wounded and defeated American soldiers were killed on the field. When they were made prisoners, American soldiers suffered in conditions so terrible that mortality rates ran as high as 70 percent.

Wars are not merely fought on the battlefield. Even in the 18th century, successful campaigns were the hallmark of a concerted effort. By 1783, the entire American population seemed battle weary, from the foot soldier to the farmer's wife. Their sacrifices helped secure freedoms for the generations that would follow.
Unfortunately for the British, these brutal tactics handed the Americans a priceless propaganda opportunity, which they exploited relentlessly. The war had barely begun when, in January 1777, Congress appointed a committee to investigate allegations of British war crimes; such a fact-finding mission, Hoock notes, was “unprecedented.

~1st Pennsylvania~
Americans faced seemingly impossible obstacles. 

Since there was no one battle in particular reenacted at Kensington, I have included historical facts on some of the actual battles fought during the Revolutionary War, as I have done in previous postings.
The Battle of Chelsea Creek, which took place on Saturday, May 27, 1775 at Suffolk County, Massachusetts, started when American militiamen, led by Colonel John Stark, raided Chelsea, on the northern shore of Boston Harbor, for livestock and any other supplies and to burn hay the British needed to feed their animals. A skirmish occurred between the Americans and the British. 

Since I was initially part of the opening of the battle, I was at a pretty good (and pretty hidden) angle while it took place, and I was able to get some shots that most of the public could not see.
The comments received after it was posted on Facebook made me feel very good:
"That is a really cool picture." 
"Absolutely nothing modern in sight."
"The way it ought to look." 
"How it would have looked!"

The Battle of Long Island took place on Tuesday, August 27, 1776. This was the first battle to take place following the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. The battlefield in which the British and American Forces fought during the Battle of Long Island was located in Brooklyn Heights, Long Island, New York. The Battle of Long Island ended in defeat for General Washington and Patriot troops. Soon after the battle a fire broke out in New York City and destroyed over 300 buildings.

Once again, I was hoping for a you-are-there visual in this picture.

Members of the 1st Pennsylvania - - 

Filing past rotting corpses...

The Battle of Brandywine took place on Thursday, September 11, 1777 at Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania. Charles Cornwallis surprised the right wing of the American army, drove it back, and General George Washington was forced to retreat. Sir William Howe occupied Philadelphia and captured the forts below the city of Philadelphia. George Washington tried to surprise a part of the British army which was posted at Germantown but failed due to accidents and inclement weather including a heavy mist. The American army were forced to retire to Valley Forge, a strong place in the hills that were not far from Philadelphia.

I love what Joseph Plumb Martin, an actual Continental soldier of the Revolutionary War, wrote upon a battle lost:
"There were several circumstances which contributed to the defeat of the army on that day, but as I am narrating my own adventures, and not a history of the war, I shall omit to mention them. Those who wish to know more may consult any or all the authors who have given the history of the Revolutionary War."

Members of Simcoe's Queen's Rangers with a Royal Highlander.
This was another excellent event, one that I am sure was pleasing to all involved, from participant to visitor. Participation was high and so was the amount of 21st century guests who came to see us, many of whom were part of the younger set, and they asked so many wonderful questions. And, while in my farm clothes, I was asked about farming in the Detroit area during the 18th century, which I've not been asked before. 
It's good to see knowledge and curiosity of American history from so many.
That gives me hope for our future past.
Yep...Colonial Kensington was a mighty fine event indeed!

~   ~   ~

But wait---there's more:
So...a photographer friend, Jerry Jordan, took a photo of me.
That one is on the left.
He then sort of roughed me up a bit in the picture on the right, giving me almost a pirate look...or maybe one who enjoys the tavern a bit too much!
Anyhow, they are pretty cool shots, so I thought I would present both of them here - - -  
Clean-shaven natural Ken
The touched-up pirate-y Ken

Speaking of pictures - - 
Every-so-often I enjoy taking "shoe-shots" - pictures that
show the different styles of men's and women's shoes of
the later 18th century.
Here's the latest.
(Clockwise from 9:00: me, Nicholas, Sara, Susan, and Heather)

~   ~   ~

Ken's Thoughts Dept:
More often than I care to, I read of reenactors dropping out of the hobby due to other living historian hobbyists "ruining" it for them by insisting on everything being historically accurate. To me, that's silly. One would think the opposite: that a reenactor would want to leave because others may not be up to a higher standard of presenting history. I mean, I am one of those who believes if you are going to do something, then do it to the best of your ability. That's what my father taught me. That's the way I try to be. The information is out there, easily accessible. We all have different levels of accuracy and authenticity, but it's the striving to improve that makes the difference.
One of the things I feel is a must is to change it up a bit. For instance, the picture you see to the left here is of me working toward my 1770s farming impression. Yes, I am still researching on it, but I believe I am heading in the right direction. But it is a nice change from strictly presenting as Paul Revere. Now, please understand, I greatly enjoy interpreting both personas, and that's why I do more than one, as to not become bored or stagnant. Thus, I am committed to continuous historical research, something I enjoy immensely.
By the way, for folks who are interested, there are a number of pretty good Facebook pages where everyone from the newbie to the more senior reenactor can get information on nearly anything in the hobby as well as to share their knowledge or findings with others of the same interest and mindset:
18th Century Stop and Swap
Samson's Historical
Jas Townsend and Son
18th Century Closet
Ladies & Gentlemen of the American Colonies
18th Century Civilian Reenactors
Citizens of the American Colonies

And finally:
So, the day before Colonial Kensington I was up in Port Onieda, Michigan, west of Traverse City, doing four 1860s farming presentations with my friend and presenter partner Larissa. As it is quite a long drive, I didn't get back home until nearly 10:30 that night (after leaving at 5:00 am to get there), showered, played on the computer, then went to bed. I was up before 7:00 the next morning, on the road by 8 and arrived by 9 to set up my tent, put on my colonial clothes, and was ready for the visiting public by 10 am.
But what a time I had!
And my son gets the nap!
It should be this old man sleeping...not my son!

Until next time, see you in time.

~   ~   ~

Some of the information came from THIS, THIS and THIS site.
Other quotes came from Joseph Plumb Martin's A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier
The Spirit of Seventy-Six by Henry Steele Commager & Richard B. Morris

Many of the photos in this posting are from me, but there are a few by other photographers, notably Kerry Dennis, Lenore & Jerry Jordan, Richard Reaume, and Cheryl Crawford.
I thank you all for the use of your wonderful pictures.

If you are interested in reading other posts I've written about colonial times and reenacting, just click the linked titles below:
Good Old Colony Days

Taverns and Travel

Cooking on the Hearth

Colonial Lighting

Fall Harvest

Independence Day Celebration

Buried Treasure: Stories of the Founding Generation

Shadow Portraits and Bourdaloues

The Wives of Paul Revere

Colonial Christmas

Colonial Clothing For Men

~   ~   ~