Sunday, October 31, 2010

Frost and Smoke

It is the fall of 1777. The initial successes in battle at the outbreak of the Rebellion, and the signing of the Declaration of Independence in July, have been followed by catastrophe. The British have brought a massive army to American shores to quash the Revolution. General George Washington's army suffered a crushing defeat at New York, and his forces have fought one losing battle after another as they have retreated across New Jersey. As a further humiliation to newly formed States, Congress has had to flee the capital city of Philadelphia as the British army proudly marched into the city. Congress is now meeting in York, Pennsylvania, the capital of Philadelphia is now occupied by the British, and Washington's under-strength army hovers on the outskirts looking for some opportunity to redeem its losses. These are dark days for the American Cause.... The men are encamped. Six to eight privates will share a small tent. Since they average about 5'3" in height, they sleep crossways in the tent, rather then lengthways. With the first frost of the season on the rooftops this morning, they might not grumble so much about the crowding. The "sutlers" and others who help provision the armies bring larger tents of their own, and may even have a bed to sleep on, off the cold ground. This couple spins wool, then the wife knits it into socks, gloves, shawls and hats. Army life can be boring, but at least it is regimented. Each morning the troops march to assembly, for weapons inspection and roll call just to be sure no one has deserted during the night. Regular troops, such as the Illinios Regiment, are provided with rations and one uniform a year. The militia are volunteers, and bring all their own equipment. Gen. George Rogers Clark commands the Illinois regiment, using his own IOU's to pay for their needs when the Commonwealth of Virginia does not pay for their needs. Without Clark and his men, the United States would have been limited to the original 13 colonies along the eastern seaboard, if they existed at all. Drummer boys rat-a-tat the cadence for marching and all activities that must be done in unison. Camp followers provide necessary civilian services to the troops, such as cooking, sewing and mending, laundry, and sometimes ahem. Well, not as much in the Continental armies as the British armies. In the Continental army, wives often follow their husbands to care for them. If the man dies in battle, the woman has two weeks to find a new husband or she must leave. Women receive one-half the rations of a soldier, and children only one-fourth. The smell of smoke fills your nostrils with a welcome aroma of food, warmth and safety. In addition to suppliers of clothes, pewter, buckles, and furniture, entertainers follow the troops as well, relieving some of the tedium with juggling and feats of magic.

Isn't it amazing that a new camera can take you back in time? Well, not really. Locust Grove sponsored an 18th Century Market Fair this weekend, filled with dedicated re-enactors from the Northwest Territory Alliance. These folks dress up in period costume and learn the history of the American Revolution for the fun of it. They sleep out in those tents, and believe me, they looked pretty cold when we arrived at 10:00 am! Some of them said they got started because they like guns (muzzle loaders and old flintlocks), but they must be very careful when setting off the cannons. They don't use cannonballs or shot of any sort, but the bang itself could make you go deaf over time I'd think. We looked at some of their catalogs, and this is not an inexpensive hobby. We were fortunate to have sunny skies. Just imagine what this would be like on a cold rainy weekend! Sometimes reality can get too real!

1 comment:

Kathiesbirds said...

My son had a friend and his dad who did this type of stuff when he was young. Great pics!