The end of November always signals the end of the main reenacting season for me, though this year it’s been extended into December with the tentative Boston Tea Party (Depending on my final exam schedule) and the 14 mile death march I agreed to do at Trenton.
On Saturday the 21st, the Rhode Island contingent of the 10th Massachusetts ventured down to Fort Lee, New Jersey to recreate Washington’s Retreat to Victory. (An oxymoron if there ever was one.) We shoved off from Mr. Spark’s house around 6:15 in the morning and made the venture along with Ms. Miggins to the Palisades. After nearly being killed on the upper deck of the George Washington Bridge, we arrived safely at our destination.
The day started off ominously as I attempted to stab Ms. Miggins’ new shoes with the buckles she got. Convinced the leather was actually yeti skin, the buckles bent as I attempted to stab them through! Fortunately, other folks from the RI contingent came to the rescue and fixed the buckle. It took my original 18th century fork to stab through the yeti pelt.
Fort Lee tends to be a repetitive event. I always make big plans for what I’m going to do but those plans never happen due to time constraints. I got there and right away I was summoned to make music with the rest of band. For some odd reason, we mustered the men an hour and a half before the parade started so everyone was stuck waiting around. We tried to keep things lively by giving a concert. Of course, when we played “Chester,” a certain regiment made me start to giggle and I had to stop.
Finally, at 12:00, we set off for the town centre. The march there always goes by the most delicious smelling Japanese and Chinese restaurants and being around lunch time, I’m always tempted to ditch the parade half way through and get real food instead of the infamous Fort Lee Mystery Mush.
After much speechifying and the annual Run for the Donuts a certain drummer and I make, we set back to the palisades for nooning. Things were going well until we hit the steep-ish hill on the way back into the park. As we headed up, the Fife Major (Known as Two Flutes in some circles) thought it wise to drop us from the comfortable speed of about 90 beats per minute to the deathly dirge of 40 beats per minute. Neither of the tempos being the authentic 60 beats per minutes common step and 120 beats per minute quick step, I was not pleased nor found it possible to play at 40. But I dealt, and after much grumbling from the men, we continued on.
The reason I go to Fort Lee each year is not for the pristine historical grounds or the riveting battles. With the GW Bridge looming over us, helicopters flying by all day, and New York City directly across the water, the place is anything but immersive. I also don’t go for the fantastic Mystery Mush. I do go for the people. With no camps, the British and the American forces are forced to mingle. Seeing friends from both sides and from the area is always great. The best part was meeting people I’ve only known online and people everyone tells me I have to meet.
(Yes, somebody actually made an 11 minute video of reenactors eating Mystery Mush. But you can see me in the blue suit at the beginning signal Roast Beef and walk off with a handful of bread.)
After lunch came an awkward and brief music demo that was cut short by the battle. The battle scenario was definitely better than years past. Most times Fort Lee gets very silly after 10 minutes with buckets of water flying out of the block house and tennis balls as grenades. This year it stayed serious and involved a lot of flanking and running. Fort Lee is definitely not an audience friendly place though. I heard from Ms. Miggins that even as close as the ladies were, they saw barely anything. I can only imagine what the actual audience saw. And if we’re not doing the battle for the audience, are we again just burning powder for nothing?
After the battle, the RI contingent shoved off but not before a stop at Mitsuwa to acquire Pocky, wasabi, and tea. We even got to endorse some green tea and acquire tons of free teabags! As patriots, we should have passed on it but alas, we can’t say no.