I participated in my first reenactment since the early 1980s last week, attending both days of the Battle of Monmouth commemoration with my regiment, the 1st New Jersey Continental Line. Here I am, free from facial hair for the first time in decades, and without a uniform coat or hunting frock as the day was warm and I am currently without either garment. Otherwise, my clothing and equipment have really come together. I bought a pair of leather garters to go with a new pair of knitted linen socks.
This was the shakedown cruise for my gear and garb as well as my impression, and I am gratified by the good results. I am still learning the feel of my long land pattern Brown Bess musket and how to get optimal performance from it, but it still fired about half the time I pulled the trigger so I think this will improve with practice.
I am very happy with tinsmith Carl Giordano soldier's cup, which as you can see is still shiny enough to shave with but now has a couple of satisfying dents from my landing on it when I became a casualty on Saturday
I will be sewing the buttons on my gaiters much closer to the leg, as they were nowhere near tight enough for me to wear them last weekend. My canteen did not leak, my salt pork did not give me trichinosis, and best of all, the blue breeches made for me by the Captain's wife were comfortable and a good fit. She insists on making a couple of minor alterations before she will be satisfied, and I cannot refuse such a gracious lady, so she has them for the next couple of weeks and promises to mail them to me before the next engagement (July 17th-18th, Wyoming Valley, PA).
The camaraderie in camp and interaction with the public were highlights for me. People want to know what we are doing, and standoffish reenactors at public events miss the opportunity to engage their curiosity. One does get strange questions - "Do any of you know how to use a camera?" - but historical interpretation is the best chance for keeping funding for historic sites and living history museums, especially when visitorship is declining and public money has been cut.
I spent the first night in an enlisted man's tent, and discovered that while I can sleep on a wool blanket and half a bale of straw, just about everyone else makes consessions for modern comfort behind the flaps of a wedge tent. I wanted to set the bar pretty high for myself the first time out with the unit, and with the exception of camp food - the Jerseys know how to eat - and more thorough cleaning of my musket by modern means after the public has left for the day, I am unlikely to make nonperiod adjustments to my camp gear.
As for the engagements themselves, this was a much smaller battle than 2010 Monmouth, which was a featured event of the Brigade of the American Revolution that year. Even so, the American forces this time around - a few amalgamated battalions of Continental Line and Light troops, dismounted and mounted dragoons, militia and two cannon - greatly outnumbered our Royalist adversaries. Sunday's event was lighter still, and yet we managed to put on good show. I was in the front rank and the file on the far right on the second day, which meant everyone dressed the line off my position and I stuck like glue to my sergeant. I am the fellow in the red weskit in the left side of the picture of the Jersey's reloading after a volley. My barrel is depressed in a way that would make Von Steuban swear "Scheise bey Scheise!" but I needed to dump powder after a flash in the pan. I had one case of a double shotted round and not even the flashguard deflected the blast from the pan from my sergeant's cheek, but he did not hold it against me and besides, the NCO hanger at his side kept sticking me in the leg so we are all even there.
I had a dear friend in the audience who took some of the pictures that follow. Enjoy.