This was the sort of event that many in our hobby have dreamed about. We had a huge and varied landscape suitable for small tactical engagements and large, freewheeling battles. The Continental Line and The British Brigade provided nearly 80 registered units and made an impressive turnout. We had tremendous local support, especially from our hosts: the family that owns the farm in Lake Ariel, PA where the event took place, and Lt. Col. Harry Stephens with the 24th CT militia. There was considerable mirth and merriment when we weren't doing our best to do each other in. It will be a strong contender for the event of the year, and while I am battered and bone tired to start off the work week, I wouldn't have missed it for the world.
Billed as Escape from Wyoming, this is the second time that Revolutionary War reenactors have been able to use this site. Last year the farmer who made his land available for the reenactment when state budget cuts prevented the use of the usual venue had only one request; "Next year, can you make it bigger?" Tragically, he passed away before seeing his vision made reality, but honors were given at a moving memorial salute over the weekend attended by hundreds of uniformed reenactors and we look forward to returning in future years.
There were so many highlights for me as a journeyman Revolutionary War reenactor that it will require several blog posts to capture both my impressions and the full flavor of the event. Most of my battle pictures were taken facing the enemy (sometimes from ground level), so our Royalist adversaries feature prominently in these. Conversely, most of my pictures in camp came from the Continental encampment (although there was a visit paid to the cooking fly of the Grenadier company of the 35th Regiment of Foot in the wee hours Sunday morning, about which more anon).
I had a new hunting frock for this event, courtesy of Dave at Bell & Company, Traders. I ordered his Longhunter's Frock at knee length in natural linen, and am very pleased with the product. It was good to have on a cool night, and the cape helped keep the sun off my neck when I became a casualty the first but not the only time at Wyoming.
I also had a very special 18th century box custom made for me by Charlie at Charlie's Boatworks, Frenchboro, ME. I cannot say enough about Charlie and his craftsmanship. He usually makes 19th century gear but was willing to collaborate with me on the design of a box suitable for holding personal items in camp. This meant no screws, using wrought nails where possible, and a slightly domed lid with an arch of 11 1/2" radius. The box was made of eastern white pine and came finished with three coats of linseed oil and a coating of beeswax polish. It is dovetailed at all four corners and has vertical Becket cleats with hemp rope handles for carrying, as well as a mortised lock and key.
It is highly functional, strong enough to sit on and designed for use in the field. The external dimensions are 18" by 11.5" by 9": the same size as a carton of copier paper. It is made rough side out and the surfaces are hand planed and sanded. Charlie made this 18th century box for me for a very reasonable $120 plus shipping and I suspect he would be glad to start serving the Revolutionary War reenacting community if you wanted to contact him. I also love that his place of business is an island with 30 year round inhabitants located far Downeast.
Aside from new gear, this was my first very large event as a participant, and it allowed the field commanders to deploy mixed divisions of infantry and artillery. I was in Maj. Vogeley's 1st Division, which included amalgamated Continental battalion, light and rifle companies and Coren's Artillery. Even the battalion or line companies were given instruction in light infantry tactics, which we used in the second big fight to extend our lines and fire by files at infiltrating crown forces attempting to flank us from the cover of trees. That fight ended with two bayonet-less charges that pushed back and ultimately overran a good number of British troops, but they returned the favor with a vengeance in the final encounter where they cut through our center and I had a very good perspective, face down in the grass, of the shock and awe of a Brigade of lobsters advancing with artillery. Frankly, the volleys were so near as I lay between the lines that I could feel the discharge of the cannon coming up through the ground.
The public were very close to the action, especially in the small tactical engagements: a situation that had to be handled delicately. In one case, our adversaries had the public at their backs so we could not fire on them but they could shoot at us. I was briefly a prisoner of the King's Royal Yorkers, who staked out the camp of the Battoe "Moon" that patrolled a nearby farm pond and snapped up stray patriots on their way to the sutlers. All was fair in love and war, and I "took" one of them as well, as this photo will attest.
Camp life, especially in the evening hours, had an epic quality all its own. I knew I was going to have a high time when I heard a rifleman drive up to the event blaring Barrett's Privateers on his truck stereo, who then proceeded to sit in the cab to finish the song. Those of you know know me at all know that I am an irrepressible ham and a fine singer, and the combination was an excellent fit for the evening festivities, that spilled over from the cooking fly of the 1st NJ Continentals to that of the 2nd where Sgt. Skorka held court as master of the revels. There were a fair number of songs of the bawdy, drinking, variety, and while I adore these I agree that there is other 18th century music that we could bring to camp. I did produce a Childe Ballad, "The Cruel Mother", which moistened many a bloodshot eye and prompted a call for more drinking songs. Mind you, the crowd was willing to hear a range of songs of latter eras that sounded period, so along with the aforementioned Barrett's Privateers were renditions of G&S "When I was a Lad"; "52 Vincent Black Lightning", and two airings of "The Hippopotamus Song" by Flanders and Swann. Also, If I recall correctly, "The Rolling Mills of New Jersey" and "The Good Ship Titanic."
I'll have more to say about the evenings shenanigans as well as the more serious side of this merry band of living historians in subsequent posts, but for now, a few more pictures from this glorious weekend will have to serve.