Friday, May 20, 2022

A Day in the Life: Living History on a Spring Day in 1772

A glowing bed of red-hot coals burned on the hearth,  strokes of  morning sunlight glanced through the eastern windows and touched the checkered cloth on the dinner table.  In the south window we see the patch of plowed and harrowed dirt a-waiting the flax seeds.  There was an atmosphere of homely cheer and comfort in the room
Yeah...that's where I'm at... 


For most of the week previous,  the National Weather Service continued to tell us to expect cooler temperatures,  mostly cloudy with spots of sun,  and off  & on rain showers throughout event day.  Even on the evening before they said to watch for off  & on rain showers,  mostly cloudy skies,  and cooler temps.
"Oh well,"  I thought to myself,  "It rained in the 1770s, too,  so we'll just make the best of it.  We'll chalk it up to another way of experiencing the past."
Lovely ladies of the 18th century.
Not that complaints could change the weather,  but this living history excursion was more than just our usual time-traveling gang of living historians - me,  Larissa,  Jackie,  and Charlotte - at the cabin;  for this event,  my wife Patty was going to join up with us,  which she hadn't done before  (though she did  come and help me to pull flax last summer).  plus it was Free Museum Day in Jackson County:  
Visit your favorite Jackson museums on Museum Day for FREE on Saturday,  May 7,  2022  (between 10 AM and 4 PM).  Eleven Jackson County museum locations will host an  “open-house style”  reception and self-guided tours alongside child-friendly activities,  historical demonstrations,  and providing guided tours during the event.
Perfect weather would have made for a perfect day.
So I was more than a little surprised upon waking very early on Saturday morning to find a bright sunrise amidst a clear sky.  
Where're the clouds and spotty rain?
It continued to stay clear as I loaded up the van.  
It was clear the entire 90 mile journey to the cabin location.  In fact,  it remained clear the entire live-long day!  Not a cloud in the sky with temperatures reaching the mid-60s!! 
God's blessings reigned upon us instead of rained upon us!

Ken planting flax seeds in rows...
Yes,  it's springtime here in 2022,  and people are out preparing and planting gardens and enjoying the sunshine.
And so were we.
Mankind has always lived by the seasons of the year.  Oh,  I know that there are areas on this planet where seasons differ,  but my postings mostly concentrate above the Mason-Dixon Line here in the United States,  where winter,  spring,  summer,  and fall each make their annual visits.   
So there we were on May 7th,  celebrating a colonial spring during Free Museum Day,  sunshine-blue skies...and 60+ degrees.  I had my sack of flax seeds in hand,  on my knees,  sowing the plant that will be harvested in three months. 
Charlotte scattering flax seeds...
Prior to the invention of the seed drill by Jethro Tull  (in 1701),  sowing seeds was done by hand,  by scattering them on the ground or placing them in the ground individually.   Tull's drill was a mechanical seeder that sowed efficiently at the correct depth and spacing and then covered the seed so that it could grow.  Now,  that's not to say that immediately following its invention that everyone had such a contraption and began planting in this manner.  Like nearly anything else,  tradition dies hard and news traveled much slower in the 18th century,  so,  though planting in rows occurred before and after the seed drill,  not everyone followed suit.  So we here at the cabin tried both ways:  I went with planting in rows while on my hands and knees,  since there was no seed drill for us to use,  and Charlotte tried by scattering the seeds in the more traditional manner.
And my wife did her part by raking out the dirt.
According to a gardening historian from Colonial Williamsburg:  "I don't think the basics of gardening in the 18th century is all that different than in the 21st century.  Gardening has evolved but the basics of preparing the seedbed;  germinating seeds and caring for a plant remain similar.  It’s the same environment and soil that John Randolph wrote about in 1793.  For example,  materials like dung that Mr. Randolph mentioned,  animal remains,  and potash salts made from wood ashes were the primary ingredients used to  replace nutrients in the soil.  Farmers relied on whatever was available locally.  The soil continues to be the main ingredient to a garden’s success."  

Patty was tying the water bucket ropes to the yoke.
The means of watering our kitchen garden came from either God's graces in the form of rain or from the nearby stream,  then hauling the buckets using a yoke.  Of course,  there is the watering jug to sprinkle the water upon the freshly planted seeds.
With buckets filled with water,  we had the kids see what it was like to carry liquid,  whether water or milk from the cow,  in this manner.
The kids found walking with the yoke to be rather heavy and cumbersome.  
Of course they would---they did not grow up with this chore,  so naturally for them it would be a very tough task.  But as there were no hoses for watering in the 18th century,  the only way to get the water
to the seeds was by way of water buckets and the yoke.
Now,  as for my watering jug...
They've been using this watering jug for years at the Daggett House at Greenfield Village.  I then saw one very similar to what I have here being used on one of the British-made farm documentaries - either Tudor Farm or Tales From the Green Valley  (1620)  farm. 

Although the basics of gardening remains the same,  the way we eat is radically different than in the 18th century.  As 21st century members of society,  we don’t have to grow and preserve enough food to last our family the entire year.  Stepping out to the store to purchase fresh meats,  vegetables,  fruits,  and other produce isn't given much thought here in 2022.
But,  in 1772 - - - - we have fresh asparagus!!
This is why we love May so much - the greens are popping up!
In the 18th century,  after spending months eating dried vegetables,  there could be no bigger treat than something like asparagus in May!
And were they delicious!

As members of the living history group  Citizens of the American Colonies,  what makes us a bit different - not better or worse - from the typical reenactor or museum interpreter is,  though we make sure we acknowledge and present to any visiting public that may come our way,  we still go throughout the day as if we were actually living there in that cabin in 1772.  We don't speak necessarily in a 1st person manner;  however we do our best to stray away from modern talk.  And the spectators may find us in a situation or in historical conversations depicting mannerisms of the time we are representing.
We were discussing our kitchen garden for next year.
Besides flax,  perhaps we'll plant potatoes,  turnips,  and beets.
Yes,  we always think ahead for our future time-travel excursions:
"Looking forward into the past."

~A window to the past ~
Tony and Patty...

The ladies of the frontier cabin:
Viewing a time of long ago: 
yes,  posed pictures are wonderful,  but catching everyone in a more natural state
can be just as good if not better.  
Here you see Patty,  Jackie,  Charlotte,  and Larissa,  perhaps discussing and
exchanging ideas for our afternoon meal.

Patty & Larissa were helping to prepare our dinner meal. 

Jackie and Charlotte did the same.

Look who made a whisk!
You do what you must - - great job!

Cooking on the hearth~
To be able to eat a traditional meal cooked on the hearth is another dream
of mine I've had since childhood,  ever since reading  "The Cabin Faced West."
I remember asking my dad & mom if we could have a meal cooked on our hearth, 
for our home had two fireplaces.  Of course,  the answer was a resounding  "no" - - - this sort of thing was just not done in the late 1960s and 1970s,  and living history was pretty much an unknown rarity at the time to most people,  especially outside of a historic home.

I am always impressed with the food the ladies come up with.
It is always period-correct - I've not been disappointed yet.

Yep---we brought the pipkin back again to warm our cider.
The pipkin is that odd-looking redware cooking apparatus you see  toward
the center of the picture.

Jackie not only made bread,  but a pie as well.

And there was time for crafts as well:
My wife can knit while standing,  walking,  talking...most anywhere!

Charlotte...taking a bit of a breather.
I've always liked this sort of picture,  for it lends an idea of maybe a time of peace,  wonder,  or even loneliness being on the frontier.

Not too lonely on this day,  though,  for we had plenty of spectators to speak to. 
In this shot I was explaining about the lanthorn and the rush light.

Being that this was Free Museum Day in Jackson County here in Michigan, 
well over 500 visitors came through to learn about America's history.
As I delve deeper into the world of living history I find myself wanting to experience a state of immersion into the 18th century.  We,  as living historians,  will hone our historical skills.  For instance,  we find ourselves learning trades and crafts of earlier eras not very often practiced in modern society,  whether it is candlemaking,  flax preparation,  spinning,  knitting,  leather and tin work,  or even cooking on the hearth.
And taking every step to make sure that when I transport myself into the past that there is no 1979 penny to unwittingly  bring me back to the future ~(remember that scene from the movie  "Somewhere in Time"  when Richard Collier,  after traveling through time to 1912,  discovers a penny from 1979 that immediately brings him back to his original time in the future?
Yeah...I try to keep the modernisms at bay as best as can be done.
And the wonderful friends who time-travel with me are the best I've ever worked with.  The knowledge - and willingness to share that knowledge - is incredible.  We have folks here that have been studying the past their entire lives - including myself - and one who has been working in a living history capacity for nearly 25 years!

Here is our group shot.
Tony,  there,  in the center,  joined us for the first time since fall of 1770 - I mean 2020.  It's always good to have this knowledgeable man come out to take part.
Patty noticed straight away how naturally we all assumed our 18th century roles, 
since this was her first time joining all of us.  She also fit in wonderfully.

The ladies cooked a fine meal over the hearth.  A number of visitors came through as we dined and,  from what I was told by the folks who run Waterloo,  they enjoyed seeing us eat!  I suppose I can understand that,  for I always enjoyed seeing the presenters eat at the historic homes inside Greenfield Village.  It makes the house come alive with the spirit of the past,  especially when we keep our conversations focused on the past.

And for a little bit of fun:
Two men from 90 years into the future - the 1860s - somehow found their way
back in time to locate their beloved Jacqueline!
To learn more of conundrum  - a  "future"  back story,  click  HERE  (I think you will find it entertaining).

And there you have it - our second spring in the 1770s.
These special days at the cabin are,  perhaps,  the highlight of my reenacting year.  The physical and mental experience we each receive at each of these is beyond anything any of us could have imagined or wished for.   And when you can wear historic clothing and it doesn't feel odd,  uncomfortable,  or like a costume,  that's when you can almost be certain you are doing it right  (remember:  I did say  "almost").
It has been a want for me personally to work at historic Greenfield Village since I was a young adult,  but I just could not afford to quit my higher-paying job to do so.  
Oh my aching sciatic nerve!
But I did it - spring has sprung, 
and planting season has begun! 
However,  I believe what we as a group  (and me personally)  have been doing at the cabin may even be better for me than working at the Village!  We've all been getting true experience gained from the shared knowledge of the four of us and applying it.
Living the research.
In doing so we can pass these experiences on as teaching moments.  It also satisfies the hunger and thirst we have - this passion we have for the past.  It may be sorely overlooked in history books at schools and colleges,  but history is made from regular everyday people - the citizens - who survived under what we would consider harsh conditions.  We need to learn of those who are not unlike you and I - the majority...both men and women - who may not have gotten their names in the history books,  but were,  nonetheless,  every bit as great and important as anyone else - (like  you and I are in our modern day).  Unfortunately,  many folks have a tendency in our day and age to over-simplify the roles of a colonial family with the insinuation that those who lived before our own  "enlightened"  time were backwoods,  backwards,  and just not as intelligent as we are.  But I heard such a great line from someone on C-Span a few years back that explains it all perfectly:  "People in the past were every bit as smart as people are today.  They just lived in a different time."
That's how we,  as historians,  can fully understand the times in which they lived.
And perhaps not be so judgmental in looking back at them from the 21st century.  They do not deserve such harsh judgment.

Until next time,  see you in time.


I cannot thank the good folks at the Waterloo Farm Museum enough for allowing us to live out long-time historical dreams.  I appreciate the trust you have given us.
See you in the spring!
Also,  so many thanks to the wonderful living historians who joined me - Larissa,  Charlotte,  and Rebecca - for it was because of their want of these time-travel experiences that we could,  together,  make it happen.
I am proud to call you my friends.
And to Bob Jacobs for taking so many of the photos you see here - thank you sir!  There's a meal coming your way!

To read about our 2020 autumn excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 wintertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 springtime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 summertime excursion at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2021 harvesting of the flax at the cabin,  please click HERE
To read about our 2021 autumn excursion making candles at the cabin,  click HERE
To read about our 2022 winter excursion at the cabin,  please click HERE
To learn about historic farm tools,  please click HERE
To learn about a year on a colonial farm - living by the seasons - click HERE
To learn about colonial textiles,  click HERE
To learn about a colonial spring,  please click HERE
To learn how colonials lived with candle light,  click HERE
Adding everyday life to colonial living,  click HERE
To purchase a wonderful DVD about colonial daily life,  including farming,  click HERE

 ~   ~

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Commemorating Patriot's Day at Mill Race Village!

To my mind,  'Historians'  dig up the bones,  'Buffs'  study the bones, 
'Living Historians'  put flesh and clothing on those bones,  and the  'public'  has the privilege of simply admiring and learning from the results.
Or a better analogy is the relationship between farmers,  cooks,  and diners,  all of whom,  ultimately,  need each other. 


It's roughly a little over a 700 mile trip from my home in Michigan to Lexington,  Massachusetts - or approximately an 11 hour drive without stopping  (12 to 13 hours would be a more reasonable amount of time).  Many of us here in the Great Lakes State cannot,  or,  perhaps,  will  not,  take such a trip  (though,  good Lord willing,  I hope to next year).  So,  though we are such a ways away,  we thought we'd put together our own reenactment of the 1st battles of the American Revolution,  especially since we are getting so close to its 250th anniversary.
Yes,  it is true:  this year of 2022 marks the 247th anniversary of the  "official"  start of the American Revolution,  where the colonists fought to form an Independent and Sovereign Nation,  though in 1775 they were not yet necessarily fighting for Independence.
Though April 19th is considered to be the actual beginning of the Revolutionary War,  the signs of a revolution were there years before:
I must make a note of all the 
history here.
~ a 1764 pamphlet called The Rights of the British Colonists Asserted and Proved was written by James Otis Jr.,  a lawyer,  and stated that  "No parts of His Majesty's dominions can be taxed without their consent;  that every part has a right to be represented  in the supreme or subordinate legislature..."
~ the Stamp Act of 1765,  which imposed a direct tax on the colonies by taxing all printed material including legal documents,  magazines,  playing cards,  newspapers,  and other types of printed items.  The colonists resisted this Parliamentary authority and fought back through petitions  &  protests,  and created coalitions,  among other forms of resistance.
The Stamp Act directly lead to the formation of 
~ the Sons of Liberty,  a secret society that was formed after the Stamp Act to help protect the rights of the colonists and to fight the abuses of taxation from the British government.  Their demonstrations against the taxes imposed often turned violent.
~ the 1767 Townsend Acts,  a series of tax increases that were enacted to raise revenue in the colonies to pay the salaries for governors and judges so they would remain loyal to the Crown.  It was the response of the colonists to the Townsend Acts that lead directly to...
~ the Boston Massacre of 1770,  where the presence of British troops in the city of Boston was increasingly unwelcome.  The riot began when about 50 citizens attacked a British sentinel.  A British officer,  Captain Thomas Preston,  called in additional soldiers,  and these too were attacked,  so the soldiers fired into the mob,  killing 3 on the spot  (a black sailor named Crispus Attucks,  ropemaker Samuel Gray,  and a mariner named James Caldwell),  and wounding 8 others,  two of whom died later  (Samuel Maverick and Patrick Carr).
~December 16, 1773 - the Boston Tea Party,  an act of protest by the Sons of Liberty in which a group of about 60 American colonists threw 342 chests of tea into Boston Harbor.  
~ On Sept. 6, 1774,  more than 4,600 militia from Worcester,  Massachusetts and three dozen surrounding towns descended on the county courthouse,  forcing the magistrates appointed by the British administration to resign,  and effectively declaring Worcester County to be beyond the reach of Parliament in London.  Perhaps the  "shot heard round the world"  could have been here,  if only there had been a shot.  Worcester had everything else.  (from the Worcester Revolution of 1774 page).
~Leslie's Retreat where a standoff between the British military and colonists in the town of Salem, Massachusetts, which was ended by a compromise agreement. The Revolutionary War almost began with this event that took place in Salem,  Massachusetts on February 26, 1775
~ Then there is what took place on April 18th and 19th in 1775 - 247 years ago - the culmination of the previous events leading up to an all out war...a rebellious Revolution in which the outcome formed a new nation:  the United States of America.
So here we are in 2022 - the 247th anniversary of the fight for independence.  The time is right to begin our celebrations and commemorations for  this amazing event in our nation's history.
Well,  actually,  for us as reenactors it began three years ago,  in April of 2019,  with our 1st Patriot's Day reenactment.  Unfortunately,  Covid took us out for the next two years.  But we came back this year,  and with a vengeance!
My historical spirit is filled!
I'd like to begin with a sort of preface to the reenactment:
A real Revolutionary War house inside Greenfield Village~
Thomas Plympton lived in this house in Sudbury,  Massachusetts,  and it was he that received the news of the march of the King's men in the wee hours of April 19,  1775:
Between 4 and 5 o'clock in the morning,  an express came from Concord to Thomas Plympton Esq.,  of  who was then a member of the Provincial Congress in that the Regulars  (the  "British")  were on their way to Concord~
The sexton was immediately called on the bell ringing and the discharge
of Musket which was to give the alarm.  By sunrise the greatest part of
the inhabitants were notified. 

(A Loretta Tester Pic)
In researching this event of that April night in 1775,  I have learned that the
express rider who gave Plympton the news was Abel Prescott,  brother of
Samuel Prescott,  who was one of the warning riders that rode with none other
than Paul Revere and William Dawes!

(A Loretta Tester pic)
So,  yes,  I've been proudly celebrating and commemorating the events of April 18th  &  19th for years in my own way.  You see,  I've always loved history,  from being a tiny tot up through today,  and I believe it needs to be taught and remembered - the good and the bad - and we need to instill pride to our youth once again.  One way to do this is by way of living history reenactments,  where spectators can witness,  up close and personal,  the past they've only read about,  and watch it come to life before their eyes.
I wanted to go beyond period-dress visits to Greenfield Village,  and I came up with a plan to do so,  and formulated my ideas,  intermixing them with other living historians.
To begin with,  we needed a spot that could give us a sense - a feeling - of our own little version of Lexington.  Though it is strongly rooted in Victorian America,  Mill Race Village fit the bill for what we needed better than one might imagine,  as you shall soon see.  Mill Race was initially created back in 1972 by the Northville Historical Society and was built upon land donated to the City of Northville by the Ford Motor Company.  Originally the site of the city's first gristmill  (hence the name Mill Race),  it is now home to 11 historic structures,  all from the general surrounding area of Northville,  Michigan.  One in particular strikes my fancy:  the Cady Inn,  built around 1835.
The Cady Inn,  though built in the 19th century,  retains a strong 18th century architectural feeling to it,  including a slanted roof similar to what we now call
a saltbox style.
The original Buckman Tavern that is in Lexington,  Massachusetts,  established in 1713,  was one of the rallying places of the Minute Men in the early morning hours of April 19,  1775.  
I believe the Cady Inn is a very suitable stand-in for the original Buckman. 
Thus,  for our Patriot's Day event,  the Cady Inn became the Buckman Tavern from Lexington,  Massachusetts.
And inside our Buckman Tavern:
Meet our tavern wenches.  
In the 18th century,  the word  "wench"  meant mainly serving girls, as in a bar wench, who serves drinks at a tavern.  Eventually it came to mean prostitute.  If you find wench in a love poem from the 18th century,  think of it as an informal version of maiden.  But if someone called you a wench last week,  you should be insulted.
Lynn,  2nd from right,  portrayed Mrs.  Buckman.

Lest anyone forget what the fighting's all about.
Colonial taverns were run by keepers of a middling class who had a steadier income than a farmer or other laborer might have had,  and food,  drink,  and overnight accommodations were offered for a price.  He was certainly the best-known man around,  that's for sure,  and he made it a point to get to know all of his patrons. 
"My name is Benjamin Franklin.  I was born in Boston.  I was a printer by profession but
am now retired,  am travelling to Philadelphia,  shall have to return at such a time,  and
have no news.  Now,  what can you give me for dinner?"

The original Buckman became the headquarters to one of the most significant events in American history,  for it was close to midnight on April 18 when Paul Revere came into Lexington,  loudly calling out the warning,  we are told,  that the  (British)  Regulars were coming out and the farmers and shopkeepers should leave their warm beds and prepare to muster as citizen-soldiers,  for the Regular Army had left Boston in force to seize and destroy military supplies in Concord. 
Now,  we have to modify as best as we can when it comes to the midnight warning ride of Paul Revere.  First of all,  our event takes place in daylight.  I don't believe we'd get very many spectators out in the darkness of night,  nor would we get very many reenactors at that time,  I suspect.  And,  as I had no horse,  I came to town on foot--- in daylight,  which was fine,  and I went straight for the church to ring the bell.  When I did,  the militia heard the ringing.  
'tis I,  Paul Revere, 
ringing the warning bell.
A put my tricorn hat upon this young
man and he rang the bell as well.
In fact,  we also told spectators that when they heard the bell ringing,  that was the signal to come watch history come alive.  There happened to be a young lad there inside the church watching me pull the rope,  and so I asked him if he would like to ring the bell to warn the militia,  and he said he did.  Of course I had to put my hat on him,  which he really enjoyed,  and he happily rang the bell,  calling the militia,  and to the tavern they went!
By the 1760s and 1770s,  the taverns were the rendezvous for those who believed in the Patriot cause and listened to the stirring words of American rebels,  who mixed dark
treason to King George with every bowl of punch they drank. 
Now,  the story of our War for Independence could not be dissociated from the old taverns,  for they are a part of our national history,  and those which still stand are among our most interesting Revolutionary relics.
Originally,  the gathering of militia would have been inside a candlelit tavern, 
for it was in the middle of the night.
"I awaked the Captain of the minute men:  and after that I alarmed almost every house till I got to Lexington."
Paul Revere
Bells rang,  drums beat---"The regulars are out!"  Women gathered children and silver and fled to swamps.  Men seized muskets and powder-horns.  Other men mounted and rode off to other towns to carry the warning.
Soon after Paul Revere arrived in Lexington with the warning that the Regulars were
coming out,  local militia were rallying at the Buckman Tavern under the
leadership of Captain John Parker.
The anxious men inside the tavern spoke,  drank,  some slept,  and some may even had played checkers.  The game of checkers was played throughout Britain,  and eventually crossed the ocean to the new colonies in America.  In the mother country this game known as checkers,  for the checkerboard pattern on the game board,  was becoming known as draughts  (pronounced 'drafts'),  because the game pieces were dragged or moved over the board,  and by the turn of the eighteenth century,  the name Draughts was in common use across all of Britain.  However,  in the American colonies,  those who played the game still called it by its original name,  checkers.  Thus originated the divergence of the two names between what would become two separate countries.
The game board you see in the above photograph here I am quite fond of,  for a friend of mine,  who is also a former co-worker,  made it out of an old teacher's desk of oak wood.  Since the desk came out of one of the schools that I attended as a youth,  I like to think it may have originally belonged to a former teacher of mine,  perhaps while I was a student.  You never know...but it's well made and almost like an heirloom piece.
With the spirit of resistance sweeping the colonies,  America's taverns became
part of the mobilization effort.
Elijah Sanderson,  one who was held by British scouts in the middle of the night and was eventually set free,  walked straight for the welcoming lights of Buckman's Tavern,  for the Red Coats had still not arrived yet.  Sanderson wrote,  "I went to the tavern.  The citizens were coming and going;  some went down to find whether the  (Regulars)  were coming;  some came back,  and said there was no truth in it.  I went into the tavern,  and,  after a while,  went to sleep in my chair by the  fire."
Robbie took the opportunity to spend time writing letters,  
utilizing his pen & ink set.

Definite word reached the men inside Buckman's just before sunrise that the Regulars were not too far out of town,  and Captain Parker's company of militiamen prepared themselves for whatever event that might occur. 
The men forming up.

The proud local farmers-turned-militia  ready to face the Redcoats.

The Red Coats prepare to enter Lexington.

As British Colonel Francis Smith approached the town, 
it became clear that the countryside had been alerted and the
element of surprise lost.  As the Regulars rounded a gentle
turn in the road,  the Village of Lexington came into view.

The Regulars came closer,  eventually seeing Captain Parker's militia near the northeast corner of the Common,  hurrying into line.  

One militiaman turned to his captain and said, 
"There are so few of us it is folly to stand here."
Captain Parker turned to his men and replied,  "The first man who offers to run shall be shot down!"  And then he said,  "Stand your ground!  Don't fire unless fired upon!  But if they want to have a war,  let it begin here!"
The mood was dark.  Nearly everyone believed that this was no mere drill or demonstration.  On both sides,  there was a strange and fatal feeling that bloodshed was inevitable.  To his men Captain Parker said,  "Let the troops pass by.  Don't molest them without they being first."
The men studied the red-coated soldiers,  only yards away.  
As the Regulars came closer,  an officer was heard to say,  "Damn them!  
We will have them!"
Men on both sides heard the cry from a Regular officer say,  "Lay down your arms,  
you damned rebels!"
 And militiaman John Robbins heard the foremost officer yell,  "Throw down your arms,  ye villains,  ye rebels!"  Jonas Clarke heard an officer say,   "Ye villains,  ye rebels,  disperse,  damn you,  disperse!"
Captain Parker later testified,  "I immediately ordered our militia to disperse and not to fire."
Though some scattered,  some remained.
Some also began to move backwards and to both sides.  Jonas Clarke wrote,  "Upon this,  our men dispersed,  but not so speedily as they might have done."  In the confusion,  some of the militia did not hear the order and stayed where they were.  None of the militia laid down their arms.
A shot rang out---some say they saw a cloud of white smoke in front of the Regulars.  Others say it came from near the tavern.  As David Hackett Fischer wrote,  "We shall never know who fired first at Lexington,  or why.  But everyone on the Common saw what happened next.  The British infantry heard the shot,  and began to fire without orders.  Their officers could not control them.
Then came,  as Paul Revere later wrote in a deposition, a  "continual roar of musketry"  along the British line.
Lexington militiaman,  Elijah Sanderson,  saw the Regulars shoot at him,  but he was amazed that nobody seemed to fall,  and thought that the Redcoats were firing blanks.
A few Americans managed to get off a shot or two.

Some of the men were determined to stand their ground and fight back, 
though scattered upon seeing the red force coming toward them..

The militia - or  "rebels,"  according the the Redcoats - dispersed.

The King's army were able to pass through with relatively few obstacles and carried
on with their march to Concord.

Jonas Parker,  kin of the Captain,  "(stood)  in the ranks,  with his balls and flints in his hat on the ground between his feet,  and heard him declare he would never run.  He was shot down at the second fire."  They saw him  "struggling on the ground,  attempting to load his gun..."
"As he lay on the ground,  they run him through with the bayonet."

I felt my part during the skirmish was better to give details - a narration - of the events leading up to and of the battle that took place on our own Lexington Green rather than being a part of the militia.  The teacher in me came out and I asked questions to both young and old.  I found the younger ones knew their history pretty well.  Kudos to their teachers.  You parents,  however,  better brush up!  

The ladies of town watched in horror at what just occurred.
Okay,  in actuality,  most were in their homes,  praying,  but non-militant reenactors
like to watch the battles take place as much as anyone!
As the British troops disappeared into the west,  the people of the town gathered on the Common.  There was,  at first,  a sense of shock,  a terrible numb and empty feeling of cruel and bitter loss.  The result of this British charge left eight Americans dead,  nine wounded,  and a musket hole in the door of the Buckman.
Some of the men who survived now wore bloody bandages.  A few had faces and shirts blackened by powder stains.
The people of Lexington asked themselves,  who were these arrogant men in their proud red coats?  By what right did they act as they did?
But the day had just begun...
The ladies,  however,  had their role in all of this:
helping the wounded and finding the dead.

Before we go to Concord,  I'd like to show you a few of the folks who participated in helping to bring this time back to life:
Religion in Colonial America was dominated by Christianity.  Christian denominations included Anglicans,  Baptists,  Catholics,  Congregationalists,  German Pietists,  Lutherans,  Methodists,  and Quakers among others.  Religion was fully integrated into the lives of the colonists and completely informed their world view.
Pastor Gerring... his church.
In the few photos here we have long-time Revolutionary War reenactor Norman Gerring's first time out as a minister,  and I believe he was very well accepted by the other living historians.  He told me should he continue to pursue this 18th century vocation,  he would prefer to represent a Lutheran pastor.  Though they would have been a rarity in Massachusetts,  many Lutherans did make their way to America in the 18th century,  and the vast majority were German speaking.  Between 1700 and 1775 the enrolled membership of Lutheran churches increased from an estimated 3,000 to about 40,000.  From the beginning of the American Revolution to about 1830 Lutheran immigration was at a virtual standstill.  Although there was little new immigration,  there was migration westward and northward to new frontiers.
The good preacher wanted to check on a few from his flock in his congregation...

That's the Hunter House there on the left,  where there is some fervent patriotism
coming from a few of the women of town.
In the decades of resistance leading up to the War of Independence,  Americans throughout the colonies began boycotting the importation of British goods in protest of increased taxation on everyday items. Women played a critical role in this effort.  The nonimportation movement of the 1760s gave cloth-making a significance it had never had before.  In Boston,  patriotic merchants revived the spinning schools.  In Hartford,  members of a society for promoting arts,  agriculture,  and commerce offered a bounty of twelve pounds to the person who manufactured the most yards of woolen cloth in a year.  In Newport,  the editor of the Mercury displayed at his printing office  ‘a Sample of Cloth,  made by a Young Lady in this Town,  which is equal in Width,  Fineness,  and Goodness,  to an English Plain.’
A few of the ladies of town were spinning and knitting,  just in case stockings
and caps may be needed for future necessities.
Newspapers trumpeted even the smallest success.  In Newport,  Rhode Island,  a seventy-year-old woman who had  ‘never spun a thread in her life before’  became a very good spinner.  In Windham,  Connecticut,  one woman raised six thousand silk balls from a single mulberry tree.  In Sutherland,  Massachusetts,  a lady of fashion made and quilted a petticoat from remnants in her scrapbag,  patching together forty-five pieces for the outside and ninety-two for the lining.
That's my wife a-spinning there while she listens
to preacher Gerring.
In February 1769,  several newspapers reported a seemingly spontaneous contest between two Connecticut women.  ‘On the 16th Instant,  the Wife of Mr.  John Vaughan of Lebanon agreed upon a spinning Match with a neighbouring young woman;  they began their work three Quarters of an Hour after Sunrise,  and left off at Nine O’Clock in the Evening of the same Day.’  The winner had spun seven skeins and two knots of fine linen yarn and her competitor almost the same.
Soon there were reports of large gatherings all along the coast of Massachusetts and into Rhode Island.
My wife spins on her wheel as if she truly were from that time!
One writer described the Daughters of Liberty at Newport, Rhode Island,  ‘laudably employed in playing on a musical Instrument called a Spinning Wheel,  the Melody of whose Music,  and the beauty of the Prospect,  transcending for Delight,  all the Entertainment of my Life.’  Another assured readers that the young women who met at Daniel Weeden’s house in Jamestown,  Rhode Island,  were  ‘of good Fashion and unexceptionable Reputation.’

Larissa and Jackie enjoying a few relaxing moments
in the tavern.

Benjamin Franklin had just stepped off the boat after an
extended stay in England.   He was not very well received
initially upon returning home - many colonists thought
he was a traitor who was siding with King George.
Of course,  he wasn't.

Now here's something we don't see at many reenactments:
Tim Clark does an 18th century nautical impression that focuses on the leisure and labor aboard ships of the period.  At events he will engage visitors by playing games common to sailors such as  ‘Anchors and Crowns’  or  ‘Put-And-Take.’  His primary display is a collection of tools related to the construction and maintenance of rigged ships.  "I generally ask the guests if they want to play a game by trying to identify the tool based on the name  (Kids are almost always willing to play a guessing game)."  He has over thirty-five different items that he sets out on a sailmaker’s bench and a sea chest.  
All the tools can be picked up and handled making for a good tactile experience
for the audience. 
"When someone guesses the tool it gives me an opportunity to explain how it was used and even talk a little about what life was like aboard 18th century ships."

So the report of the bloody transaction at Lexington was spreading overnight in every direction with the rapidity of a whirlwind.  
The people were seen,  in arms,  moving swiftly to the seen of action.
The alarm reached Concord about the hour of four in the morning when Samuel Prescott,  who was with Paul Revere only a short while earlier,  rode into town.  The town father's,  after speaking with their minister,  William Emerson,  decided to muster their militia immediately and also to confirm the accuracy of the alarm by sending riders to Lexington.  Like the Lexington militia,  they all agreed that the town should defend itself.

When the enemy approached the town,  the Americans then collectively retired across the North Bridge to the high ground beyond it,  and then waited for the reinforcements from the adjacent counties.
The militiamen were ordered to load their weapons.  Many had done so already;  some deliberately double-shotted their muskets.  There were strict orders not to fire unless the British fired first.  It was agreed by the leaders that if the fighting began,  which was felt to be inevitable,  the Regulars must start it.
Some of the redcoats searched homes in the town for arms and purchased food
from reluctant residents.

The Regulars at the bridge never imagined these  'country people'  would dare to
march against the King's troops.
Suddenly a shot rang out.
Captain Walter Laurie saw with horror that one of his own Regulars had fired without orders.
Two other British soldiers fired before he could stop them.  Then the front ranks of British troops discharged a ragged volley,  much in the same manner as in Lexington.  The infantry fired high,  and most of their volley passed harmlessly over the heads of the militia.  Thaddeus Blood remembered that  "their balls whistled well."  Captain Davis of Acton was killed instantly by a ball that pierced his heart.  The arterial blood squirted from his wound,  and drenched the men beside him.  Private Hosmer was shot dead with a bullet to the head.  Still the Americans came on steadily with a discipline that astonished their enemy.
As men began to fall around him, Major Buttrick of Concord turned and cried,  
"Fire,  fellow soldiers,  for God's sake,  fire!"
Several more shots rang out from uncertain sources.
(No,  the guy in the red coat is not a  "Redcoat" - - he is a militia man who happens to be wearing red)
No one fell and some of the militiamen assumed that the redcoats were simply trying to intimidate them, and that they had no intention of opening fire. That illusion was quickly shattered when a crackling volley was loosed from the British side. 
Two Americans were killed,  and the fire was promptly returned. 
The New England muskets rang out with deadly accuracy by aiming carefully and firing low.
Recent hours of practice on the training field had made a difference.
"The infantry fired high,  and most of their volley passed harmlessly over the heads of the militia."  
The Regulars found themselves caught in a trap.  The New England minutemen and militia were deployed in two long files curving down the hill along the causeway.  Many men in that formation had a clear shot.  The British soldiers were packed in a deep churning mass;  only the front rank could fire.  The loss of officers compounded the confusion.
Again,  I was not a part of the battle scenario here at the Mill Race reenactment;  I spoke to the spectators about the occurrences that were going on in front of them,  explaining the situation. 
The  "teacher"  in me came out and I began to ask questions,  letting the folks know
they would be graded on their answers,  which drew smiles...and even some nervous laughter.
Well,  unbeknownst to me,  the Redcoats had other plans on my behalf:
I was dragged off - literally - and held captive with other  "insurgence."

It was from this captive vantage point that I and the other captives had a view that turned from fright to elation as we watched our American militia turn away the King's army and sent them a-runnin'~
To the amazement of the American militia,  the Regulars suddenly turned and ran for their lives.  It was a rare spectacle in military history.  A picked force of  British infantry,  famed for its indomitable courage on many a field in battle,  was broken by a band of American militia.  British Ensign Lister wrote,  "The weight of their fire was such that we was obliged to give way,  then run with the greatest precipitance."
The British ran pell-mell back toward Concord center,  defying their officers and abandoning their wounded,  who were left to painfully drag themselves away.

The American militia watched,  less in exhilaration than in what seems to have been a
kind of shock,  as the Regulars disappeared in the distance,  followed by wounded
men  "hobbling and a-running and looking back to see if we was after them."
From Lieut.  Colonel Smith,  in a letter to Massachusetts Governor Gage:
"On our leaving Concord to return to Boston,  they began to fire on us from behind the walls,  ditches,  trees,  etc.,  which,  as we marched,  increased to a very great degree,  and continued without the intermission of five minutes altogether,  for,  I believe,  upwards of eighteen miles;  so that I can't think but it must have been a preconcerted scheme in them,  to attack the King's troops the first favorable opportunity that offered,  otherwise,  I think they could not,  in so short a time as from our marching out,  have raised such a numerous body,  and for so great a space of ground."
As many as 3,500 militiamen firing constantly for 18 miles killed or wounded roughly 250 Redcoats,  compared to about 90 killed and wounded on their side.  The dead militiamen were heaped on an ox-sled and sent home to their various towns,  while the children looked on.  Joanna Mansfield recollected the sight of the American dead piled high,  their legs stiff,  and each wearing  "heavy stockings of gray homespun."
Mary Hartwell said,  "I could not sleep that night,  for I knew there were British soldiers lying dead by the roadside;  and when,  on the following morning,  we were somewhat calmed and rested,  we gave attention to the burial of those whom their comrades had failed to take away.  The men hitched the oxen to the cart,  and went down below the house,  and gathered up,  the dead.  As they returned with the team and the dead soldiers,  my thoughts went out for the wives,  parents,  and children away across the Atlantic,  who would never again see their loved ones;  and I left the house, and taking my little children by the hand,  I followed the rude hearse to the grave hastily made in the burial-ground.   I remember how cruel it seemed to put them into one large trench without any coffins.  There was one in a brilliant uniform, whom I supposed to have been an officer.  His hair was tied up in a cue."  
The Concord fight,  with all of its unequaled and un-eclipsed glory,  was won by Massachusetts militiamen.  We weep over it,  but we cannot alter it.  But not so,  thank God,  with  "Concord Fight"  - and by  "Concord Fight,"  I say here,  for fear of being misunderstood,  I mean by  "Concord"  all the transactions of that day.
"Concord Fight"  broke the ice.  "Concord Fight,"  the rush from the heights at North Bridge,  was the first open marshalled resistance to the king.  Our fathers,  cautious men,  took there a step that they could not take back if they would and would not if they could.

So this year of 2022 marks the 8th year of my own personal Patriot's Day commemoration at Greenfield Village.
In just a matter of three years we will be celebrating the sestercentennial  (250th anniversary)  of the American Revolutionary War.  
And with the success of recent shows as AMC's  "Turn: Washington Spies,"  HBO's  "John Adams"  mini-series,  and the play  "Hamilton,"  and to a lesser extent,  "Outlander,"  we are seeing a pretty strong resurgence of interest in the period that produced the Declaration of Independence.  I have had many patrons come up to me at reenactments and comment on how they've seen at least one of the above shows and it piqued their interest in the era.  Or,  in some cases,  re-piqued.  And this is why they come out to our events:  to see history up close and personal.
That goes to show you that TV shows and a play are not enough. 
Your host for today's activities.
As I have often said,  it is unfortunate that Patriot's Day is only celebrated  "officially"  in four states:  Maine,  Wisconsin,  Connecticut,  and, of course,  the state in which it all happened,  Massachusetts,  where the Battles of Lexington & Concord are reenacted annually.
Oh,  yeah,  then there's that Boston Marathon.  I still can't figure that  out. 
And for years I have been doing my part to spread the word here in southeastern lower Michigan  (and in this Passion for the Past blog)  by dressing in period clothing and venturing out to Greenfield Village to pay a sort of homage to our founding generation.  Sometimes I go alone,  while other times I am with a few living historian friends.  Either way,  I feel this is my way to pay an honor to not only my own ancestors,  who have been in this country since 1710  (shhh! They were Quaker Loyalists!),  but to those who I side with today - the Patriots who protested and then fought for what they believed was right.  And to be there surrounded by houses that were standing in that era in which the events had occurred leaves me with a strong  spirits-in-the-walls  feeling.
That's when I realized I could do more:  why not put on an actual reenactment - yes,  here in Michigan - commemorating such an event.
So,  to continue our commemoration,  I would like to present here a few more photos taken on this day:
Lynn Anderson as Mrs.  Buckman and Charlotte Bauer as one of her servers.

A few of the good folk who made up our 1775 populace.

The good doctor Bertrand explaining 18th century medical practices.

Doc Tripp explains 18th century medical procedures to visitors as well.

Sewing,  knitting,  and even spinning with a drop spindle:
Drop Spindles were in use before recorded history.  Most historians agree that the practice of spinning fibers into yarn or thread existed over 10,000 years ago.  The drop spindle could have been used for over 9,000 years before the spinning wheel was invented in India during the late Middle Ages.

My son Robbie - like his Pops,  when he does things, 
he does his best to be as accurate as he can.

Before we close out today's post,  I have a question:  why do so many people automatically believe memes without question?  Is it because they may be written with such an authoritative hand that they  *must*  be true?
Is it because they use a picture to accent the text therein,  so,  again,  it must be true?
Memes are great for fun...for jokes.
But if you see one that claims to state something as fact,  there is a very good and probable chance it is not I would recommend looking it up - do some research - from more than one source (and preferably from  *reliable*  sources without agendas).
Now,  that being said,  is this meme true or not?
Below the meme here I wrote whether it is fact or fiction:
Hundreds of militia men from nearby towns came to harass the British as they retreated to Boston. 
Samuel Whittemore left his field in Menotomy,  gathered his old weapons and positioned himself behind his stonewall.
When the regiment passed by,  Samuel Whittemore stood and shot point-blank at a British regular with his musket.  Then he took out his dueling pistols and shot two more soldiers to death.
The old farmer then grabbed his ornamental sword to fend off the British soldiers who swarmed over him.  It didn’t go so well.  The British shot him in the cheek,  bayoneted him and beat him with the butts of their rifles.
Samuel Whittemore then fades from the historical record until his death on Feb. 2,  1793,  at the age of 96.  He was laid to rest in the Old Burying Ground in Arlington.
So,  in researching this unknown person after reading the meme,  I found out that…yes,  it absolutely IS true!  I located the information from reliable sites such as the New England Historical Society and The Journal For the American Revolution.  
Not long before he died,  Whittemore was asked whether he regretted his actions on that day in April,  and he must have been disgusted to be asked when he replied,  “No!  I would take the same chance all over again.”
Whittemore lived long enough to see his hopes and dreams reach fruition.  He lived to see the the US declare independence,  the ratification of the U.S.  Constitution,  and saw George Washington become our nation’s first president.  And, best of all,  he lived with the sure knowledge he’d always fought courageously and tirelessly for what he believed in.  And that,  my friend,  is the mark of a real American hero:  honor.
By the way,  the Massachusetts Legislature declared him the official state hero in 2005.
So---before posting  “factual”  memes,  all I ask is please do some actual research.
Remember:  please don't blindly believe the folly spewed on Facebook and elsewhere without researching for yourself.  Yeah,  even those who you believe to be historians often have mistaken information or may have an agenda - unfortunately,  media-based in too many cases.
I am honored for the large amount of participants.
Truly honored.
And humbled.
There's a lot to putting on a historical event.  From finding a location willing to host it,  to finding the right people to help you put it all together,  to getting excited participants willing to take part,  to planning out the scenarios,  to finding volunteers willing  wherever they're needed,  to praying for decent weather to putting up with naysayers and complainers,  to...well,  you get the idea.  But in the end we find it has all been worth it when a job well done by all has been accomplished,  and you come home with a smile on your face,  gazing at so many wonderful photographic remembrances that hit your Facebook page afterward.
So worth while.
The shame would be for such a major event as the sestercentennial anniversary of the birth of our country to be forgotten about with little mention.  To be honest,  I haven't heard much talk at all about it,  which causes me concern that there will be little fanfare.  I mean,  look at the meager remembrances for the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812  (the War that gave us the  "Star-Spangled Banner"!).  Greenfield Village gave a commemoration for two years with hardly any advertising at all.  The media all but ignored it. 
So what will happen for the 250th Revolutionary War anniversary?
Well,  it is my fervent hope that there will be the same vim and vigor that occurred for the 150th Civil War,  with tons of historical reenactments,  real and true programming,  and a national celebration of which will not be seen for another 50 years.  Maybe even border the frolicking festivities that occurred nearly 50 years earlier in that bicentennial year of 1976!
And hopefully it will be a celebration and not a condemnation as what seems to be so popular in our culture today.
Only time will tell.
My wife and I thank you for stopping in.

Until next time,  see you in time.

Besides using my own pictures,  a big thank you to many others for contributing pictures:
Lynn Anderson,  Barb Baldinger,  Charlotte Bauer,  Leanie Bayly,  Susan Hansen,  Bob Jacobs,  Lenore Jordan,  Rick Mikulak,  and my wife Patty.  

Some of the historical information came from the books  "Taverns of the American Revolution"  by Adrian Covert and  "Soldier of the American Revolution"  by Denis Hambucken & Bill Payson.
Also,  the patriotism of spinning women comes from  "The Age of Homespun"  by Laurel Thatcher Ulrich.

Visit the real Buckman Tavern through photographs and a virtual tour HERE


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