Monday, 10 March 2014

A Reenactor's Privilege

As a War of 1812 reenactor, I get to "play" a lot in a reproduction uniform, fire a reproduction musket and make a lot of noise and smoke, learn the drill of the time, and generally spend some of my day in the 19th Century.
However, once in a great while, my comrades and I get to do something real. 

This past Saturday, March 8, a group of us (Nick, Jared, Justin, Jeff, Beth, and myself along with Jon who came to take photos) went to Wardsville, ON to take part in the Battle of Longwoods Bicentennial Commemoration. This was put together by the Upper Thames Military Reenactment Society as a way of commemorating the battle on the actual site. On March 4, 1814 in about 30cm/12 inches of snow, a detachment of the 1st Regiment of Foot - the Royal Scots - attacked an American raiding party consisting of troops of the US Army and the Michigan State Militia at a hillside now called Longwoods. The attack was repulsed with 16 dead from the Crown forces and about 50 wounded and 5 dead and a number of wounded on the US side. Both sides withdrew without burying the dead, and the US commander forbade his men from looting the dead and wounded of the Crown forces as a tribute to their bravery.
The dead were not buried and received no funeral. The local militia came out later in the spring and burned the remains, which had suffered from being left to the wild animals.

On March 8, 2014, those dead received their proper funeral with military honours.

Reenactors from Canada and the US met on the field and reenacted the battle. This was followed by a military funeral with the reenactors in attendance as well as a unit of 31 Combat Engineering Regiment ("The Elgins"), a Canadian Reserve Force unit, a colour guard from the Kentucky National Guard, chaplains from the reenactors and the Kentucky National Guard, representative of the First Nations bands on whose land this took place, some local politicians (who did not speak), and the public. Following the drum-head service, a new monument was unveiled and a reception was held. There was a dinner and dance later in the evening, but the bunch of us preferred to go home.
It seemed right to my wife and I that we should be part of this historic occasion. It was a true funeral, not a reenactment. Troops whose heritage reaches back to this battle and war stood together as allies along with reenactors from both nations who work to keep the memory of this conflict alive without being in conflict.

It was a good day.

(All photos courtesy of my wife, Laughing Devil Photography, Dave Westhouse and the Royal Scots Light Company)

British advance picquet

The US line - Nick is all wrapped up in the middle and Jeff is next to him in the grey greatcoat
The Scots advance
The US Army replies

The advance continues over a small bridge. This is the EXACT spot of the battle.

The troops advance up hill. The sergeant in the foreground is a reenactor of the Newfoundland Regiment. Almost all of them had those fur "Mad Trapper" caps. They were prepared for the weather... lucky devils!
Captain Johnstone falls (Dave Westhouse at his theatrical best)
The US side says very few Crown reenactors fall - especially officers.
This is photographic evidence that that slander is not true!
"He'd dead, Jim." (Isn't that what red-shirts are for?)
Two US Marines drag off the Scots' bugler as a captive. I  never saw him again.
The Crown forces keep up a hot fire.

... even as they retreat down the hill.

Somehow I looked over at the camera as I tended an index finger cut by my flint. It bled for two days.

Our good friend, Major Marty Land from Fort Meigs, OH, as he surveys his wing. 

Marty's wife, Tammi, smiles for the camera... without knowing the camera was there.
The Fort Meigs crowd portrays the 2nd Artillery, Cushing's Company, but often serve as infantry.

The 17th US Infantry, Croghan's Company in the column as we march off to the hollow square.
Jeff in the great coat, Nick in the cap and scarf, myself with my mouth hanging open, Jared behind me,
and Justin just behind Jared.

Our friends from the Tennessee Ranger (aka The British Indian Department)
Roy, I still owe you your Snickers® bar!

Colonel Rob Trumbull and his commanding presence.

The altar of drums is prepared.

The Rev. Brian McKay, Fr. Mark Sergent, and Chaplain Major Bill Draper, Kentucky National Guard led the service.
Brian is a reenactor and a pastor, Fr. Mark is a Catholic priest and a retired Canadian military padre, and Major Draper serves in the National Guard. 
Lt. Col. Smith of the Elgins receives the salute of the Sergeant Major and takes command of the parade.

Chaplain Draper lays the Flag of the United States on the altar of drums.

The First Nations counsellors in attendance.

Justin served as sergeant for the 17th.
Nick kept as warm as possible. He said the backpack helped.

Chaplain Draper

Don't kid yourself. It was a cold day...

... and it was quite a hill.

Names of the Deceased:
     British casualties:                                                      U.S. Casualties:
Captain D. Johnstone                                                       Pvt. Philip Beard
Lt. P Graeme                                                                   Pvt. Levi Brunnell
Sgt. James Savage                                                            Pvt. Joseph Donahoe
Pvt. John Bunn                                                                Pvt. Thomas Watkins
Pvt. William Shaw Condon                                                Pvt. Eri Wooden
Pvt. Thom Connors
Pvt. John Hazeldine
Pvt. James Hogan
Pvt. Thomas Jones
Pvt. Thomas Murphy
Pvt. Wm Shaw
Pvt. James Sheldon
Pvt. Alex Smith
Pvt. Abraham Taylor
Pvt. Uriah Trimm
Pvt. Lawrence Wall