“They were furnished with a complete band of music, which operates like enchantment:” Part 1

Back in March, I promised a series of posts on bands of music covering the years leading up to the American War for Independence and the war itself. Well, when I was first looking at what I had in April, I definitely had enough for a couple of postings. A lot has happened since then and I now have enough information for a honours thesis. For the purposes of this little series, we’re gonna scale it back and start at the basics. Part one of this series is going to answer one of the most common questions I get asked: What is a band of music (BoM) and how are these musicians* different from fifers and drummers?

Martial music in the 18th century usually conjures up an images of drummers and fifers but they’re only half the equation. The British, French, Hessians, and Continental Armies all had bands of music with them. Unlike the fifes and drums, these bands are playing harmoniemusik. Harmonie is German in origin, meaning an ensemble of usually 5-8 wind instruments playing music for outdoor or recreational purposes. Music composed for harmonie is called harmoniemusik.

 

J Boydell, HIS MAJESTY REVIEWING THE VOLUNTEER CORPS ASSEMBLED IN HYDE PARK June 4 1799, Artillery BOM, ASKB Military Collection

Detail, His Majesty Reviewing the Volunteer Corps Assembled in Hyde Park, 4 June, 1799, J. Boydell, ASKB Military Collection

So right off the bat, the music the bands are playing is separate from that of the fifes and drums. Bands of music are purely for recreational or ceremonial purposes unlike drums and fifes, used for military duties as well as ceremonies.

Interestingly, bands of music are not official entities within regiments and instead are a luxury. British regulations allowed for one drummer per company, two drummers for the grenadiers (other drummer could be a fifer;  a majority of regiments still recruited fifers anyways). The Continental Army’s regulations stated there was to be one drummer and one fifer per company. If a regiment were to have a BoM, it would have to come (theoretically) out of the officers’ pockets, though some snuck them in on the roll as enlisted men.

So if Bands of Music aren’t playing fifes and drums, what are they playing? Well, it varies by band. John Hancock’s elite militia unit, the Corps of Cadets, had their own band. When the instruments went missing after the Siege of Boston was lifted and the army marched out, Hancock wrote General Schuyler in September of 1776 saying that he was missing “…French horns, Bassoons & other Instruments of Musick.” Hautboys (Oboes), serpents, clarinets, and percussion instruments like the bass drum, cymbals, and jingling johnny are also common to find in returns and descriptions.

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Changing of the Guards in front of St. James Palace, Circa 1790. Note the turbans and Eastern instruments. Anything Turkish or Janissary is incredibly popular in the latter part of the 18th century. There are countless songs on fife called “Turks/Turkish March” or “Janissary’s March.” Having black musicians/fifers or drummers is also considered another showpiece for the regiment.

 

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Detail from above. Note that the band and the fifes and drums are two separate entities, not massed together.

In summary, bands of music are groups of musicians belonging to a regiment (unofficially) that play pieces vastly different than fifes and drums. They are not used for martial duty but instead for pleasure and ceremony. Their instrumentation is vastly different from their drum and fife counterparts.

In the next segment, we’ll take a look at bands of music in America before the outbreak of hostilities.

 

*For the purposes of this series, musicians will refer to members of a band of music and not drummers and fifers.

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I Lack a Title for This.

In my public history class, we spent a week on reenactors and the hobby. We read Confederates in the Attica book about Civil War reenactors. I’ve brought sewing to class (gotta get those coats done somehow) so they all know I’m one of those nerds, just the 18th century version. For those that don’t know, reenactors are portrayed in an okay light in this book, which beats media portrayal of us.

So when my classmates started asking, “Are reenactors as backwards as the times they portray?” I stopped. I said I couldn’t answer it.

I personally can’t stand seeing stuff my reenacting friends post half the time on Facebook. It’s not the “news” stories they post from sites that are obviously some bozo’s blog or pictures of reenactors reenacting 1976 rather than 1776. What grinds my gears the most are the folks stuck in 1950. More and more, it seems like people are beginning to sound like America’s sweetheart, seen below.

Now, I’m all for everybody doing what makes them happy, provided it doesn’t hurt anyone in the process or deny someone their rights. So when I hear things like women should not be the focus at military events or that they should be subservient to men at them, I vomit in my mouth a little bit. If it’s an immersion first-person event and the details have been talked about ahead of time between folks, then go right ahead, play the subservient woman. When the curtain goes down and the show’s over, 21st century standards better go back into place though. But I’ll be damned if a woman does a curtsy to an officer when 10/10 times, the men at arms aren’t passing the proper renders, either.

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Von Steuben, Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, a 1792 edition

And who says women’s roles can’t be highlighted at military events? Some sites, like Fort Ticonderoga, the Rhode Island Historical Society, and countless other sites, organisations, and reenacting groups I can’t name off the tip of my tongue or am just unaware of, are bringing the daily lives of the often nameless and detail-less women to life there. The mundane is fun. Not everyday the army went out and shot at things. They’re spending most of their time drilling, attending an insane amount of assemblies, and at the sutlers. Some may say, “The number of women at events isn’t correct.” Well, neither is the number of old and overweight men let alone what and how the men reenact it.

To top it all off, anybody that tries to counter the arguments of the majority is ganged up on almost immediately. They’re attacked like they just announced they murdered 10 babies.

They’re told now’s not the time. 

They’re told it’s not really a problem.

They’re told they’re whining.

They’re told to silence themselves.

Is this not tyranny by majority? Aren’t we just behaving like those against the 19th Amendment, and countless other women’s rights bills in the 19th century world? More importantly, how the hell do we solve the issues if we can’t even have a civilised discussion about them and instead press the caps lock key and just key-smash?

 

 

I Blog as Often as George III’s forces in America Trooped Their Colours on Campaign

Well, if I really blogged as often as England’s forces trooped their colours on campaign, you’d never see a post. That’s beside the point.

As my readers may notice, I’m notorious for taking long leaves of absences in between events or projects. I swear, stuff is going to happen but just to give a small taste of what’s been up:

1. There’s gonna be some (dare I say) nifty posts on Bands of Music. This will probably be a series of posts covering the years leading up to the American War for Independence and the war itself. Expect some parties, fireworks, and funerals. Not in that order.

Pennsylvania Evening Post, published as The Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania) • 02-02-1775 • Page 19

The Pennsylvania Evening Post. (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.) 02-02-1775. Page 19.

2. A new coat has been sewn! This one didn’t take a year and a half to finish like the blue suit; only a month. I’ve dubbed it the Les Misérables coat (For reasons to be discussed) and it’s been kept a secret except for a few individuals that helped the project come to life. Not that the coat is anything amazing, I just wanted to do a post that showed the process from start to finish and I promised myself no progress posts this time.

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One front panel ready to rock and roll

3. To continue with the theme of music, a two-part posting on drummers and fifers through desertion and recruitment ads is planned.

[THE] Freeman's Journal, OR New-Hampshire Gazette. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire) • 09-07-1776 • Page [4]

The Freeman’s Journal, OR New-Hampshire Gazette. (Portsmouth, New Hampshire.) 09-07-1776. Page 4.

4. To top it all off, I’ll be venturing up to Fort Ticonderoga for their opening weekend where the Les Misérables coat will make its grand premiere at “Carry on the Works in the Northern Army.” Expect a post on the bad-arsery of this event and the amazement as I see the place for the 1st time.

Stuff will get done, just not until school ends. With the end of the semester approaching, a paper on causes of the Russo-Japanese War and a critical book review of the Memoirs of Elisabeth Louise Vigée Le Brun take precedent over sewing and yes, blog posts. Definitely expect #2 in the first half of April before things get too crazy.

Until then kids, I am Your Humble & Obedient Servant,

Mr. Hiwell

Boston Massacre 2016, or, The Biggest History Hard On. Ever.

With my voice finally on the mends from Saturday and some deep thinking complete, I can finally write about my Massacre experience.

The night and the early hours of the morning before, I found myself making a brown waistcoat out of an old garment. I took the sleeves off my Stamp Act 2014 coat and it made a lovely late 60s/early 70s waistcoat.

Waking up was painful at 8:00 AM after finishing the garment and other prep around 2:00 AM but I put on my big boy breeches, had a coffee, and got ready to go with Miss Miggins and Low Spark.

The day began in Rogues Island, attempting to give Low Spark some sort of hair. Alas, my efforts failed as my wig just wouldn’t behave and his hat was too small. Miss Miggins frantically tried to sew a new gown to get rid of the bedgown but alas, time was not on our side.

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The Tool(s) of the Trade

We arrived in Boston on time and with little stress. (Besides my panicking as navigator in the car.) Rehearsal was at 1:00 and it was comforting to arrive on sight and see other funny dressed people. Besides Trenton, this was my “coming out” to Boston Society, the elite of the elites. The Original Gangsters, if you will.

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See? We can get along!!

Rehearsal was quick and painless and only left my voice slightly raspy. We then moved on to what reenactors do best: eat and drink. Lunch was at the Union Oyster House where we drank to the health of the “Glorious 92” and John Wilkes.

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Photo Credit to Tim Abbot

We then made our way to the Granary Burying Ground to pay our respects to those who died in the Boston Massacre. With tobacco left on their stone, it was time to recreate the Rope Walker Brawls which started on March 2nd. First thing we were told was not to take the hats of the redcoats. We never took them but it seems they all fell off once we started beating on them. (You can view part of it here. WARNING: Not safe for work language thanks to some drunken people watching)

After that, we had time for one more drink at a Boston institution. When I think of bars any self respecting Bostonian would go to, it was this one. That’s right reader, you bet your bottom dollar we went to Cheers! And not even the original but the cheesy one in Faneuil Hall. It was the only place we could get a spot in and kill some time before we had to report back to the Old State House. (Here on out the Towne House.)

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Photo credit to Tim Abbot

We got to the Towne House and got a little talk about thanking us for coming and all the usual things. In the mean time, we got to look at John Hancock’s very lovely velvet suit and explore the museum which I had been dying to see for awhile now.

As night fell, the feeling began to change. A large crowd had gathered outside about an hour and a half before 7:00. Night also gave us an added challenge: Why am I outside? I came up with an excuse that my master kept me out late running an errand for him and I was on my way home. Women had a harder time, which ultimately lead to me escorting two women on my arms at once across the square and another one back over. I was getting some major street cred in Boston. There was also some time for some public interaction. Thanks to some book suggestions from a very nice hat maker, I was armed with some knowledge on sea captain’s apprentices did.

7:00 came around and the show got rolling. The begging starts off a little corny. The context had to be established for the audience, I get it. But public debates at night and on the street just doesn’t make sense to me. But when it came time to beat up our dear friend and honourary Rhode Island Contingent member, who lacks a nickname but shall be known in this post as Lobstah, stuff got real.

Words cannot describe what happened or what I felt in the 10 minutes or so that I was a part of this. There was a hell of a lot of screaming and pushing. When the muskets went off, I felt scared. But when I dropped and began to let out my screams, things felt real. The terror on the faces around me felt real. I actually thought for a split second that I had been hit judging by the look of the people standing over me. I’m going to let the next two videos show what I went through, if only part of it, since words are lacking. Maybe you’ll feel the same emotions I felt.

 

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Photo Credit to Stowe Minutemen

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Photo credit to Tommy Trignale

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Photo credit to Greg Theberge

I may say this a lot but this IS the finest collection of reenactors ever assembled. Period.

Making a Massacre: Preparations for A Crotch Shot

In a little over a week, I’ll be participating in the annual reenactment of the Boston Massacre. This has been 8 years in the planning for me. Well, more like a month but it’s been a dream of mine for 8 years. This is looking to be the most challenging event I’ve taken a part of for a variety of reasons. High authenticity levels, complex characters, and school life has created a deadly concoction these past few weeks. In between sewing clothes and researching who I’m portraying, I’m forced to read thousands of pages for my classes and prepare for midterms, which are conveniently placed the week of the event. This has left me with WAY less time to prepare than I’d like. For somebody who’s done oodles more character development than me, check out my dear friend Tim Abbot.

Skip to 10:40 for the good stuff.

I’ll be portraying John Clark (Clarke) the day of. I didn’t expect to get an actual role my first time going so this is a pretty big honour. Unfortunately, John Clark has been a bit of a mystery to me. No doubt, there are probably more things about him in print but thanks to school, I’ve been trapped at home and only have internet access for research.

So what do we know?

  1. He was born 10 June, 1752 and died 6 May, 1778 in Medford, Massachusetts.
  2. He is the son of John and Mary Clark.
  3. He has a twin sister named Mary. (Obviously, his parents weren’t really original with names.) John Clark Birth Record MA Town and Vital Records Medford
  4. We have the following from the Boston Gazette on 12 March, 1770:

A lad named John Clark, about 17 years of age, whose parents live at Medford, and an apprentice to Capt. Samuel Howard of this town; wounded, a ball entered just above his groin and came out at his hip, on the opposite side, apprehended he will die.

That little snip-it gives us a nice chunk of info but not enough. Now we know his trade: a captain’s apprentice. Everyone thought he was gonna die, but he didn’t…well…just not right away. Did he die like his fellow massacre victim Christopher Monk many years later because of his wound?  We don’t know.

But what about his master? This has been a HUGE pain in the arse for me. Samuel Howard isn’t exactly the most unique name and finding stuff on him has been impossible for me. At first, I was advised to look at a Samuel Howard born in 1752. This guy would later take part in the Boston Tea party. Obviously 1752 is a bit young to be a master, it’d make him the same age as John Clark. As we’ve seen, passing down names is a pretty common thing in the 18th century so maybe Samuel Howard could lead us to the right guy. Well, it didn’t. And any search for Samuel Howard brings us right on back to the Tea Party Howard. For the time being, this is a dead end.

We are left with a 17 year old captain’s apprentice and that’s about it. On one hand, I’m frustrated with myself for not being able to go further but passing the semester is slightly more important than one day. On the other, I desperately want to do a good job and getting nowhere provides a sense of failure. Once spring break begins next Wednesday for me, I’ll be kicking it into high gear to put 10 fake buttonholes on a coat and trying to fill some last minute gaps in John Clark’s story. Until then, here’s a sneak peek at what he’ll be wearing, give-or-take blonde hair and either a striped blue and white waistcoat or a solid blue waistcoat. And of course, without the ATM.

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“Massacre the History?” A Brief Perspective from a Caucasian Male

Source: Massacre the History?

First and foremost, if you haven’t taken the time to check out Our Girl History, do so now. Her blog is beyond better than mine can ever hope to be.

But recently, a discussion started over this post. Though Our Girl History (OGH) uses the Boston Massacre event as her example; make no mistake, she references a larger issue in the hobby.

I’m fortunate, both in my modern life and my 18th century life, to be a white male. When looking at 18th century events, military or civilian, you can almost guarantee that a white, 20 year old male was present. So I’m pretty much game to show up to anything.

But looking at the Boston Massacre, there’s only two documentable women present in the “inner mob” (Those closest to the soldiers). The organisers of this event have put SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO much research into this that most academic historians could take a lesson from these people on how to do primary source research and put it to use. Our dear Aunt Kitty once said to me, to paraphrase, that just because children and families like coming to reenactments doesn’t mean it has to be dumbed down. A good impression or event can and should be just as researched and nuanced as any scholarly writing.

OGH isn’t here to pick on the event. She’s looking at the gender divides in the 18th century and how by modern standards, they suck. Thanks to Title IX and numerous other efforts that are lengthy to write out in this post, women no longer have to be kept out of what was considered a “boys only club.” Nor should they have to be.

But when we portray 1770, Title IX doesn’t exist and neither do all the feminist achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries. Instead, we’re left with a heavily gendered world where men play their roles and women play theirs.

Having to exclude someone just because of their gender goes against everything I and a large chunk of the population have been taught. But to our 18th century counterparts, this is nothing new to them. It hurts our 21st century selves to not be able to take part in something in the 21st century because 18th century gender roles say so.

OGH brings up a really big point:

I want to help recreate the events faithfully, but to do that, I should really just stay home.**

I come up against this problem a lot, and it bothers me. A lot. There is a part of me that thinks, “to hell with it. Would it hurt to re-write things a little to depict a slightly fairer past?” and there is another part, of equal size, that thinks the idea of falsifying history for some theoretical, ideological “good” is morally reprehensible. I do not know the solution, I just know that sitting at home, wondering “how the boys are getting along at the event” feels like crap, and so does standing around at the event explaining how “as a woman, I probably would not have actually been here”.

I crave a solution where I have a sense of ownership over the parts of my history that my culture values. However, since those parts tend to be dominated by male figures, I fear I may need to get used to disappointment…

**Don’t worry, I’m not going to. (I’ve lucked out and have a documented “part” to play.)

At what point do we forsake authenticity to appease our 21st century selves? Some may say let the women dress as men to participate. Others may lobby just let the women come in and we ignore it all together. Some say keep to the documentation. Like OGH says, there is no easy answer whatsoever. It ultimately depends upon the person you ask and what time of day it is. The topic is similar to politics. Every reenactor has an opinion on it and no matter how much you argue or how right you think you are, the other person isn’t going to change their views.

On one hand, I can never fully understand how women feel about the issue. This blog post is only me trying to scratch the surface of the surface at the larger issue. On the other, the discussion posts like the one made by OGH start lead to some really big eye openers, for me anyways.

The Boston Massacre has been my dream for a long time. Ever since I got into the hobby 8 years ago, I wanted to take part. At first I never had the right clothing and on top of that, the standards are high. But this is one of the events that inspired me to up my game so I can be a part of it. In no way are the organisers of the event trying to be purposefully exclusive to women. They’ve planned countless activities for the bulk of the day in which women are welcome to attend and take part in. I can’t say I know much about how this event is run and I can only try to imagine how much work has been put into it. From what I’ve seen just from pictures and internet contact, this is the most well planned, well documented, and highest standard event I will ever take part in.

 

 

“Can you give me a history hard-on…?”, or, Trenton 2015

I’ve always said it takes a special kind of person to want to reenact. To want to sew out of date clothing, wear it, then let random people take pictures of you in it requires something that most people lack. But to agree to a 14 mile march, this takes some sort of mental deficiency.

The story of Trenton, for me, goes back to October when I went to Germantown, PA for a battle. Upon visiting with one of my favourite regiments, the 3rd New Jersey Greys, the good sergeant mentioned to Low Spark and I that they were planning on following Washington’s route and do a progressive camp. We were immediately intrigued and decided we’d do it.

The next two months saw two training missions. One Low Spark and I did by ourselves which was about 7 miles, or half the distance we needed. We did pretty well with that and only ached at the end for a few hours after. The other one was done in conjunction with our Aunt Kitty. This one ended up being about 8-8.5 miles after a couple of wrong turns on the trail but was done at a force march tempo the whole way due to Aunt Kitty aka Captain Sobel’s long legs.

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A week before the event, musicians and their roles were being discussed on the Facebook group for the event. I completely forgot about a fifer named John Greenwood’s account of Trenton. In it, he mentions how he gets armed with a musket for the battle and at the end, he even grabs a sword off of a dead Hessian. On one hand, I had absolutely no desire to carry a musket 14 miles. In fact, for about 30 minutes after remembering this account, I contemplated dropping out of the march altogether. But then I remembered, I wrote a rather heavy post berating the state of music in the hobby. If I am to critique the portrayal of musicians and then go about incorrectly portraying a documented account for an event, I would become everything I preached against. I decided to do it and experience what this fifer went through so I could better understand what a musician went through.

Capture

Fifer John Greenwood, complete with musket, cartridge box, fife case, and Hessian sword.

So, here we are, at the present. Low Spark and I have now done two marches that kind of sort of prepared us for Trenton. We set out the morning after Christmas around 8:30. We took the dreaded I-95 through CT with relative ease and then passed through a land filled with strip malls in New Jersey. We arrived at the Thompson-Neely House around 1:30 and were greeted by the ladies of the Greys. The site is really amazing. The Delaware River was right along side our camp and the canal trail nearby was gorgeous. There was very little modern amenities near us which provided a huge boost to the immersion factor of the event.

The camp was kept simple, only a fire and some tin kettles. In one was a beef stew with the other containing some rice and beans. The ladies made some fire cakes consisting of flour and water which were a billion times better than my ship biscuits I made from the same ingredients. There was even some bacon but that was for the officer and to eat would land you in deep water. But I was the one who cooked a large chunk of it so I placed a piece between two fire cakes and made a bacon sandwich which tasted really good.

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The brave ladies of the Greys with their patented Bacon Tree!

The men drilled for a bit while I watched the fire and cooked our ensign some bacon. I was going to rejoin the company once the ladies returned to watch the fire but I was called off to prepare for the ball that evening.

I’ll skip over the details of the ball simply because it was nothing amazing. At all. Though I did look incredibly French in a powdered wig and makeup.

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Perhaps the only photo of me at the ball. Taken before a dance that involved so much spinning, I felt a tad nauseous at the end.

I arrived back at camp, depowdered and bummy once again, around 9:45. The drummer and I played the taptoo and off to bed we went on hay and a blanket with everyone around the fire. Just as I closed my eyes, rain started to fall. I quickly went to move the guns and my sheet music into the car. Since it was raining, I figured I’d take a seat and rest my eyes for 5 minutes in the car until it passed. Turns out, that 5 minutes turned into about 4 hours and at 3:30, I was woken up by Low Spark and told to get moving. Fortunately for me, it seemed I was the only one who got any sleep whatsoever.

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What the camp would have looked like at 3:30 AM provided there was sun light.

I fell in with the company, in the pitch black at 3:50 AM. I was placed at the rear of the line. The march began for me on an ominous note. Just as we were about to hit the trail, my stocking began to fall down. I quickly undid the buttons near my knee to fix it but my knee buckle fell off. I fell out of line and attempted to scramble in the pitch black fog to find it. The column zoomed ahead without me and I could no longer see them. I gave up on my buckle and ran ahead with my stocking at my ankle. Fortunately for me, I remembered I threw an extra pair into my market wallet before we left just in case of an emergency. My dear friend Vanilla Bean Latte attempted to fix them but it was impossible to see and the column was moving all too quick. I marched the first 5 miles, which were done at an incredible 120-130 beat per minute forced march, with my stocking at my ankle.

These first 5 miles were some of my most immersive moments the whole march. It was dark along the canal route and all I could see was the men in front of me and the Delaware on the left. The fog added a level of mystery to it all and the spirits were high, like Greenwood mentioned in his account.

The first break was taken at Washington’s Crossing site where I was FINALLY able to bring my stocking back to where it belonged. I’m happy to report I had no other issues with them the rest of the march. While there, a certain French sailor mentioned to me about Greenwood’s account. He said, “Can you give me a history hard-on by taking a Hessian sword?” I then decided from that moment on, I had to fulfill the Greenwood prophecy.

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The mist was so bad that the flash captured it all. This was right after we crossed the Delaware (via bridge)

The march continued on. Up until that point, we had been on dirt paths and we were fresh out so things were great. We were all in good spirits and were traveling ahead of schedule. But then, we switched to paved roads and this is where all hell broke loose. Feet began to hurt, blisters formed, people began to drop. Our speed decreased drastically while our complaining increased.

With breaks few and far between, the company morale began to decrease but we all kept plugging along. With many feet bleeding, it lead one soldier to proclaim, “It hurts so good!” And to think, we all had shoes and the temperature was probably in the upper 50’s with some fog and heavy mist. Imagine if we did this in a raging snow, hail, and rain storm and no shoes.

We plugged along though and I remained with the column. We came to the conclusion that our officer took cocaine or some sort of drug since he was always about half a mile ahead of us and never complained once the whole way.

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Our corporal is quite the rebel. We may have entered a private country club just to walk on the grass because our feet ached that bad.

After awhile, the pain just became normal and we learned to live with it. We began to sing songs like the theme from Mickey Mouse Club and tell jokes that never end and have no punch lines. All the while, begging for the Sunoco gas station to appear because that meant we were going back on dirt roads. But before getting there, we passed by the Trenton Psychiatric Hospital. Many of us were convinced we would be told to left wheel in since we were obviously crazy for making it this far.

The gas station came and we climbed up a large hill and met up with another unit doing a 10 mile march. With combined forces and spirits renewed by the prospect of being so close (and the sergeant passing around a bottle of extra strength Tylenol) we continued on at a quicker pace.

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One last break before the final push to the end.

The last 2.5 miles went by quickly. I had forgotten about my massive blisters and aching legs and wanted to get to the end so I could finally sit down.

When we finally arrived at the monument, we all collapsed. I was ecstatic that I and the rest of gang made it. To celebrate, the drummer and I broke out the instruments and decided to play a few tunes to pass the well deserved hour rest until the battle.

The battle was nothing too amazing either. It was some street fighting in a modern setting. The coolest part came at the end when our company of militia decided we would capture the Hessians. The same French sailor decided he wanted a mitre cap and I still needed my sword. We formed a circle and captured about 30 of them. Two tried to run but I and another gave chase and got them back in with the rest. I grabbed my sword and wore it with pride. The drummer and I took to the front of the column and Rogues March’ed them down to the Old Barracks.

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Complete with my captured sword, we picked up a few extra souvenirs to take home.

As I’ve stated on other sites, this event was the best event I’ve ever attended. It combined everything I love: site based, time based, and a touch of first person interpretation. It was researched by others and we combined our efforts in order to make it the best we could. The bond we had formed by the end of the death march was incredible. As I type this post, my body aches from my shoulders down but if I was asked to do it all again, I’d say yes. If you had asked me yesterday, it would have been hell no.

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Some of the best bunch of guys this hobby’s ever seen. And then there’s moi.

Boston Tea Party, or, La Ville de Déception

Last night, members of the RI contingent headed up to Boston for the annual reenactment of the tossing of the tea into the harbour. After doing the research on Garrick, I found a website where I could search apprentices in Colonial America based on trade and town. I found a lesser known wig maker in Boston named Richard Carpenter with an apprentice named James Melvin. Not wanting to take on a character such as Garrick, Melvin became my alias for the evening.

We arrived at the Old South Meeting House a little after 4:00 thanks to traffic and some parking garage mess ups. (We may have tried to enter a secure Federal parking garage but the security attendant was very nice.) Low Spark and Miss Miggins got jobs assigned to them but fortunately for me, the people in charge seemed to have forgot I was coming and didn’t assign me anything to do! I had the leisure of lounging around and doing things as I pleased.

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Mr. Melvin provided a double curled wig for Mr. Copley during the evening.

We had friends there but for the most part, this was a crowd I hadn’t seen before. I kind of knew what I was getting into. The script for the reenactment read a little hokey. I had seen pictures of previous years and the clothing left a little to be desired.

The clothing, I think, was the worst part. Mr. Hancock and Mr. Savage looked spectacular. Low Spark in the borrowed rugg coat also made an impression. There were definitely many more highlights but there was some horrendous mountain men there. I have never seen so many sets of full length gaiters in my life. Not even at military events. So why are civilians in Boston wearing them? I didn’t ask for my own sanity.

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Big hair, silk suits, and rugg coats. Who could ask for anything more?

 

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One of the members of the 10th Mass Light Infantry as John Hancock. The suit is amazing, but the greatcoat he came with, even better.

The women really raised the bar though. Stays were worn and the impressions were really different. Come to think of it, I don’t think I saw one set of sleeveless bodices the whole night. Miss Miggins sold second hand clothing while another sold ginger biscuits and drams of gin. Surprisingly, the gin was ACTUALLY gin.

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The second hand clothing lady chatting with the gin and biscuit lady.

But back to the meeting. The hokey script sounded better live than reading it. Despite my intent on being a patriot for the night, it seemed I resorted back to my loyalist ways in order to support the outnumbered crown supporters. There were a few times Mr. Copley and I got really into it and I forgot we were in the 21st century, despite the hoard of tourists surrounding me and the mountain man in my pew.

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You can just make me out next to Mr. Copley in the red, standing and yelling.

But after the surprisingly good meeting, we marched to ships. My arch nemesis waited for me outside: three fife and drum corps. Full on, continental army coat wearing, two-piece fifes, 19th century song playing fife and drum corps. But this is not the post to complain about that in.

We strolled from the Meeting House to the ships. This is where it all went down the drain, or dare I say, into the harbour. Organisation was kind of lacking. The reenactors were told to go to one place, told to back up, go forward, back up, and then finally to stay put. The script got even worse here and the historical inaccuracies came flying out of the cargo hold. They dumped tea for what felt like a good 30 minutes. It got so long and monotonous they lost the audience and they stopped cheering. I know, the folks paid good money so you want to give them a show, but don’t give them a boring one. Not only that, you couldn’t see anything from just about any vantage point. I instead stared at the back of a mountain man’s haversack and ignored this part.

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Yeah…I wasn’t joking. Literally the only time I could see the ship.

The event ended with a neat little reception. They had tea with leaves from the same province in China that was on the ships that night. If the tea in the 18th century tasted anything like what was in those kettles, it’s a good thing they dumped it. I thought it tasted like smoke from a fire. Miss Miggins said it reminded her of sweaty petticoats. Mac and Cheese was ate, ale was consumed, and talks of more marching events in RI were discussed.

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Remember kids, don’t HUZZA too hard, or this can happen to you!

All in all, I enjoyed myself. The historical aspect of it left me wanting more. A little less hokey, a little more history. But it was great seeing friends from Boston we don’t see very often. Will I go back next year? Probably not. Despite my love for site based, 1st person interpretation, this just didn’t cut it for me. Low Spark and I agreed, once was enough.

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From left to right, myself, Low Spark, and one of my many idols in the hobby. Who not only dresses well, but is willing to give you research and sources for good wigs and fabric.

 

Mr. Hiwell’s Do’s and Don’ts of Character Development

On Wednesday, Low Spark, Miss Miggins, and I are joining some of our Boston friends for the annual Tea Party reenactment. Looking at the script, (which I’m told by a very reliable source hasn’t been changed in 10 years) I’m a little hesitant. The initial set up seems kind of hokey, like something I expect out of the opening of a Disney film.

But I’m going in with an open mind. It’s 1st person so it has that going for it. The three of us got to the game kind of late so we don’t have major roles like we did at Stamp Act. We’re just going as generic citizens. Since the event is first person I began to think at 10:00 on Monday tonight, “Gee, I should I really have some sort of an alias.”

So, let’s take a trip into my process for developing characters.

1. DON’T develop characters a day before the event like I’m doing.

Yeah…just like my papers for college, I like to procrastinate. Granted, we didn’t know for sure if we were going until last week. Still, character development takes time to research and rehearse. This isn’t my first rodeo and a theatre course plus years in drama have made it so I can memorise lines relatively quickly and can improv.

2. DO think about what you feel comfortable with portraying.

Step 1 is deciding what you want to be. For once, I’m not playing the loyalist this weekend. My dear friend is portraying John Copley and mentioned he lacked a proper peruke to use. Fortunately for him, I have a second I can do up for him. This sparked my desire to portray a wigmaker on Wednesday.

But not everyone can portray everyone. Obvious reasons aside, it depends on your level of comfort with that character. Maybe indentured servant or prostitute is too much for someone. Sometimes the villain can be difficult with the constant barrage of fists and slurs coming at you. Pick someone you can handle being in their skin for a few hours and everyone else feels comfortable being around.

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See? Even babies love the Customs Collector!

After you decide who/what you want to portray, get your butt to this. Our dear Aunt Kitty made this presentation at the BAR School of the Soldier a few years and it’s stuck with me ever since. It was probably the first thing that made me think that 1st person interpretation was feasible. I have all the documents saved on my computer just so I can access them whenever, that’s how helpful this resource is.

3. DO the research.

After finishing my last final exam on Monday, I dove right back into the databases looking for information on wigmakers in Boston around 1770. Initially I found a few immigrant wigmakers from London and Ireland that came around 1729-1730 in one source. Taking their age as a factor, they’d either be rather old or dead. I’m 20 so they’re out. I was looking for a wigmaker no older than 35.

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I then found a guy named John Piemont who was making wigs in Boston in the 1770’s. His apprentice is the guy who starts the Boston Massacre. Piemont ran a pretty good business, making wigs for Governor Hutchinson and the British officers garrisoned in town. He must’ve been doing well because he even hired one of the soldiers to work for him.

I was all ready to play Piemont (Even though he was past my age) but by June of 1773, he’s getting called a loyalist and hauls arse out of town to Danvers to run a tavern. Which means he wouldn’t be in Boston in December.

Now what? We hit a dead end. But not quite. There’s still his apprentice, Garrick. There’s a fair amount of research done on him already by those of the Boston Mob which makes my job so much easier. Even better, in 1770, it’s suspected Garrick is in his mid to late teens so by 1773 he’s my age.

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My only issue here is that he’s kind of a big name. It’s not like I’m addressing the assembly but still, I’m not looking to draw undue attention. So, here I am, late Tuesday afternoon, still potentially looking for wigmakers in Boston.

4. DON’T incorrectly portray your character.

1st person based on an actual person, to me, is treading into s”sacred ground.” We’re choosing historical people, that actually lived and have names and taking them on for a few hours. For me, I feel a little more pressure to get things right. That means not vilifying the person but not making them into something they’re not.

When looking at John Robinson during Stamp Act, we knew that after Newport he goes on to Boston. While there, he gets into a fight with a man over some comments about his character. That fight ends in John Robinson putting a hole in the man’s head with his cane. You read that right. His cane. So we can assume Robinson is a strong man with maybe a little temper. This allowed me to yell a bit and get angry back   at the rioters.

Garrick is an interesting kid. Looking at John Adams’ minutes from the Boston Massacre trial, Garrick gets mentioned indirectly at one point.

“and 5 lives sacrificed to a Squabble between the Sentry and Piemont’s Barbers Boy.6 A sawcy Speech in the Boy.”

The tiff begins when Garrick was (falsely) calling out Capt. Goldfinch of the 14th Regiment of Foot in the streets for not paying his bill to Piemont. Right there shows some sort of, for lack of a better term, balls in the boy. Then, when Private White, the sentry on duty, calls him over for slandering an officer, he retorts with “I’m not afraid to show my face.”

I don’t know about  you, but a soldier with a musket isn’t the guy I want to sass. So White takes the butt of the musket and whacks him in the head. One could argue if he deserved that or not but that’s not the point.

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So, we know Garrick is a young man doing young man things with his fellow apprentices. He likes the ladies. He also likes to backtalk authority.  I’m in agreeance with the esteemed blogger that it’s not the soldiers he dislikes, since he went to the barracks the night before to converse and officers felt comfortable around him, but it’s really money he’s after.

After all this, where are we? We have a young man likely in his 20’s by the time of Tea Party. We can’t confirm nor deny he’s still in Boston since he (smartly) keeps a low profile after it all. He’s got a slight attitude. He likes ladies. He likes money, perchance to impress the ladies. My oh my, how stuff has changed in today’s youth. 

Garrick is the backup for the moment. I may do a composite character. An apprentice to a Boston wigmaker I know was in the are but with a little less fame. I may use parts of Garrick’s attitude but with a made up name. Until then, the search continues!

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Basile, c. 1750

Dirges, Deaths, and Diet Coke: Fort Lee 2015

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.

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A portion of the RI contingent with Ms. Miggins’ lovely leaves.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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I can’t say no to furry things, especially muffs. Our friend Wigzilla had to fight me in order to get her muff back.

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?

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10th MA as militia in the centre and I’m off to the left near the tree with the 3rd New Jersey Greys.

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Some more 10th MA action, this time you can see them a little bit clearer.

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Myself and my friend in his fantastic new coat on drum with the Greys.

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.

McDonalds

I may or may not have had to fight the folks at McDonald’s at a Connecticut rest stop in order to get the sandwich I ordered corrected.