This past weekend, Talya and I fell in with our friends in Crane's (3rd Continental) Artillery at a Revolutionary War event in Dighton, MA. This was unusual for us in a number of respects. We are both members of Col. Ogden's 1st NJ (Continental) Regt. which can generally be found at events south and west of Manhattan. Living in northwestern CT, we are well placed to take advantage of reenacting opportunities in New England, but had not had the chance to do so prior to this weekend.
Neither had I served on a gun crew before, and I must admit it didn't feel right packing the car without my musket and accouterments so in they went, though they stayed unused in our tent.
Finally, the forces of the Crown were greatly outnumbered at Dighton and lacked artillery of their own, so Crane's was "galvanized" and took the field as the Royal Irish Artillery, making me a blue-coated redcoat for this event. We had a marvelous time, and what follows are my impressions informed by the novelty of the experience.
Dighton celebrates its 300th anniversary this year and the reenactment was staged as one of the highlights of the tricentennial. Sponsored by the Town and the 13th Continental Regt. the planned military actions at the event were billed as a hypothetical Battle at Segregansett scenario that could have taken place had the Ministerial Forces pushed north from their stronghold at Newport, Rhode Island in 1778.
There were several hundred reenactors present from units based in southern New England, with perhaps a 3 to 1 advantage going to the patriot forces. There were very few units that we recognized as having fought beside (or against) us at engagements in the mid Atlantic states, but among these were two members of the 1st NY (Continental Line); the United Train of Artillery; Crane's Artillery and the 2nd Mass. Regt. This last group seems to fill the singing niche occupied after hours by the 2nd NJ Regt. in the Mid Atlantic Region, and I shall have to ask Sgt. Skorka and co. whether they can take credit for the proliferation of the "I'm thirsty!" call and response we heard coming from their campfire.
There is a highly developed fife and drum culture in eastern MA and its environs, and it was much in evidence this weekend. Not only that, but there were a number of instrumentalists of other sorts in camp as well, and one was seldom out of earshot of musicians rehearsing or performing. Not to be outdone, the Light Infantry Co. of the 64th Regt. of foot had a hunting horn player, and to top everything off on Saturday Night there was a grand performance by The Jolly Rogues with a poly-instrumental piper/accordionist/flutist/violinist sitting in.
The encampments themselves were not laid out on strictly military lines, which caused some initial confusion for me (which I may never live down) as we set up our tent with Brits only to find that Crane's were set up somewhere else. There were a few sutlers present, most of whom were based locally, and a couple of "rural characters" among the civilians in camp, including a dead robbing crone and a fellow with an extraordinary blue and red wagon bed. Several of the camp followers also picked over the battlefield and retrieved the wounded (or their belongings) at the close of the fight. It was good to see Bob Allegretto, Chairman of the Continental Line, visiting the encampments on Saturday evening as well.
We were generously welcomed by the members of Crane's Artillery, and made a number of new friendships. Some of my comrades in the infantry kidded me beforehand that I would be little more than a dragrope man at this event, but I was able not just to serve the field piece but to fire the morning gun. Crane's is the Revolutionary War impression of the Artillery Company of Newport, RI, the oldest chartered militia company in the nation. They have four original cannons (and full documentation) that were cast in the 1790s for Rhode Island by Paul Revere's foundry. As Crane's 3rd Artillery, they take the field with an iron 3 pounder they have christened "Baby Tyga", and she makes a mighty growl.
The artillery coats worn by Crane's are dark blue with red facings and rectangles of mustard yellow tape around the coat buttons. These are very close to those worn by the Royal Irish Artillery, and allowed us to stand in for them at this event. On Saturday we were at the center of the line in a reconnaissance in force of British and loyalist infantry. We had the Light Bobs of the 64th Regt of Foot on our left and the 54th Regt. of Foot amalgamated with some Royal Marines on our right. Butler's Rangers and King's Ranger's guarded our flanks. Arrayed against us were a large number of patriot militia from various units, members of Rhode Island, New York, and Massachusetts Continental Line regiments, mounted and dismounted dragoons, and a two gun section of the United Train of Artillery. That is all I could identify in the fog of battle, but it was more than enough to contain the Royalist Raiders. Still, we gave a very good showing, and then I and the rest of Crane's returned to our allegiance after the smoke had cleared.
It was a fine weekend with especially fine weather though cool indeed at night) and both of us plan to heft a rammer or sponge with our friends in the Artillery when our regular campaign schedule with the Jersey's permits, most likely this year in mid October. Our thanks to Low Spark, Mike, Leslie, Steve, Kathy, Craig, and the two Kellys who made us feel so welcome. It was an honor to serve with you. "Three huzzahs and a Baby Tiga!."