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.

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Some Revision Required

It’s that end of the semester rush. I’ve been locked in my room these past two weeks writing papers ranging from imperialistic perspectives in British media covering Rhodesia’s UDI to modern contestations to the Falklands’ sovereignty. My fingers are itching to get back to sewing next week. That frock coat WILL be finished by the end of May. The breeches by mid-June (Knowing me, probably not.) and some sort of a waistcoat by July for L’Hermoinee.

As I write these papers, I notice the amounts of revision I have to do. My first attempt is close-ish. My second attempt is closer. My third attempt is pretty good. Hopefully my fourth attempt will be an A. But I notice this same pattern in my reenacting hobby.

My very first uniform was 18th century-ish. You could tell I was aiming for 18th century with my local militia company but stuff wasn’t quite there. The coat is totally wrong. The breeches, gaiters, and waistcoat are all way too big. But this was my very first uniform and I had no clue about anything 18th century. I was an 8th grader at the time after all.

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The beginning of my “never look into the camera” phase. This would be a Continental Soldier circa 1976.

My second attempt was getting better. I was getting closer, that’s for sure but it still wasn’t great. I’d give this a C. I’ve ditched the coat but instead I’m wearing the season’s hottest night gown (hunting frock), ill fitting breeches, modern shoes, and bad stockings. But the ideas are getting better!

josh

My third attempt was probably a C+, maybe a B-. The colour of the small clothes was off (Red when they should’ve been white.) But this is where I made the most improvement. I ditched the Velcro neckstock and changed to black silk. I stopped wearing the ill-patterned bearskin cap and switched to a cocked hat towards the end of my stay with that regiment. The fit of the clothes though were really good.

54th Regiment of Foot

54th Regiment of Foot: Take One

Attempt 3.5. My last event with the 54th. Probably the closest that kit was to being better.

Attempt 3.5. My last event with the 54th. Probably the closest that kit was to being better. Note: The feathers pointing straight up was me goofing around.

Now at my fourth attempt, I still wouldn’t give myself an A. I’d say a solid B is in order. The rope on my fife case cord is gonna be switched to hemp. I need to make a hunting frock like the one I’m wearing, a better waistcoat, and some osnaburg overalls. And the hat has to be made but lets not push it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with my wool overalls. They fit really well, that’s for sure and they’re nice and toasty. But osnaburg is more appropriate for this impression.

10th MA Light Infantry Fifer circa 1781

10th MA Light Infantry Fifer circa 1781

My point here is that reenacting is a learning experience. Almost nobody starts off at the A level. Like writing a paper, you need a rough draft. That draft is gonna be really crappy. Then your paper improves and becomes more nuanced. You should never judge a final draft based on what the first draft looked like. Stuff evloves and ultimately becomes a completely different thing. For some people, their impressions change in the course of a year. For me, it’s been almost 8 years of moving forward.

Just doing what you do right can inspire people to make changes. I remember the first time I saw my current regiment in the field. It was 2012 at a BAR show at Nathan Hale Homestead in Coventry, CT. Watching men in cut-down coats and leather caps come storming out of the corn field looked like a blast and I wanted to be a part of that. I had no clue that they had research behind their clothing. That was my first battle even firing a musket so fit of clothing was the last thing on my mind. But in the back of my head, I knew this group had something going on. About 2 and a half years later, I drank the Kool-Aid and joined them.

Besides this post being a timeline of my evolution through puberty, it’s shows me maturing through the hobby. I like research now. I love learning about uniforms and music. Eighth grade me would think I’m nuts, spending all my hours in databases looking for articles and images. Hell, college sophomore me thinks I’m nuts. That’s not the point though. I would argue I’m a different person than I was then and most people would agree and can relate to that. So, if you meet a former or current “farb” who wants to improve or has done so, treat them as you would anybody else. If it wasn’t for all the people (and there’s so many) guiding me along the way, I would never have gotten to where I am. You might not see the effects of your help right away. They may take eight years to show but eventually changes will start to show.

Ignorance Truly is Bliss

I’m off to some “Reenactor Professional Development” this weekend at New Windsor Cantonment. The site is small and quaint but it still ranks as one of my favourite places. The home to the semi-permanent encampment for Washington’s army at the end of the war. It was here where Washington’s men heard that the war was over and were sent home. Complete with a recreated Temple of Virtue, a small room with a fireplace, and an original officer’s hut, the site just about equals with Saratoga and Yorktown in my books.

Outside the Temple of Virtue waiting to assemble the troops for the Trooping of the Colours

Outside the Temple of Virtue waiting to assemble the troops for the Trooping of the Colours

Besides looking at nice buildings, the goal of the weekend is to learn; to improve your impression. The BAR’s School of Instruction often presents new information. Last year, the main talks focused on haversacks and hunting frocks. This year it’s a back-to-basics kind of weekend as I’ve dubbed it. On the schedule is how to start a fire, write with a quill, play 18th century games, and food for camp. These are things (besides the quill thing, though I did write a letter once in camp last season) that reenactors do at almost every event but still get wrong.

Learning about military musicians at the school in 2014. It got pretty rowdy when 2 fifes and a drum blasted away in a hollow, wooden room.

Learning about military musicians at the school in 2014. It got pretty rowdy when 2 fifes and a drum blasted away in a hollow, wooden room.

Folks in the front row had to cover their ears. Was our playing really THAT bad?

Folks in the front row had to cover their ears. Was our playing really THAT bad?

I honestly don’t like knowing something I’m doing is wrong. I recently left a regiment for that reason. When I first joined, I knew practically nothing about British musicians besides it was a damn nice uniform. As I talked to more people about what they knew, I found out what I was wearing was wrong. Then I found out our camping situation with a dining fly and tons of furniture was wrong. If I had not known what was incorrect, I probably could have gone on living in that unit. When I confronted the unit about wanting to improve, they said they were comfortable with where they were at. And that’s perfectly fine. Every unit has its own standards and acceptable levels of comfort. With that unit, the fit of the clothes and quality was generally pretty good. Research into the clothing and camp situation wasn’t their strong suit. That’s simply what they wanted and that’s great for them.

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But wanting to improve can often be a difficult and drawn out process, besides costly. Now that I’m in a new unit, I’m attempting to put together a new kit. I’m in need of a new pair of overalls and a hunting frock but my blue suit is taking up all my time and money. There’s nothing egregiously wrong with my old stuff. My wool overalls fit well and judging by the temperature this weekend, they should work well but my frock is a bit too white and the research has shown the shape should be a little different.

I’m already having pre-event guilt thinking about wearing it. I feel like I’m not doing my best to represent the people who fought the Revolution. Not only that, I feel like I’m letting my new unit down. They’re known for their attention to detail, their coat of the month, and dirt stew so falling in with them adds some further pressure and awareness to clothing. Coming out in something not quite up to snuff goes against the School of Instruction’s idea yet it goes along with it. Just acknowledging that it’s wrong and wanting to improve is a step in the right direction.