Monday, 9 June 2014

Stoney Creek 2014

Last Saturday, a number of us travelled to Hamilton, ON for the annual reenactment of the battle of Stoney Creek. In my opinion, it is one of the better managed reenactments, with a meal ticket for each pre-registered reenactor, allowing us either a hamburger, a hot dog, or a sausage with a cold drink. Other parts of the experience seem to be well thought out as well. Since Beth was still using her crutches because of a broken leg and an air-cast, we didn't take any tentage and just sat down in the shade of a tree. We had to park the car somewhere in what seemed like Nova Scotia, but the shuttle bus made it a little simpler.

The reenactment includes two "battles", one of which is a night battle at about dusk. The afternoon battle represents the British/Canadian retreat from Fort George and the evening battle represents the attack that surprised the US forces at Stoney Creek. Our unit, Croghan's Company of the 17th US Infantry, was represented by Lyle (who served as corporal), his son, Andrew (who's on his way to the Royal Military College in Kingston later this summer), Kevin, Tyler, Andy, and myself. The US forces are generally outnumbered in these event and this held true here.

The afternoon began with a brief ceremony honouring the dead of this battle and of the Normandy Landings in WWII since those landing were 70 years prior to the day. One of our reenactors, the first sergeant of the 22nd Infantry admonished us to do our best drill in memory of those soldiers. He is a former paratrooper himself... and we did our best. He appeared satisfied.

With Beth on crutches and hurting from her fall, we did not have a camera at our disposal, so I've gleaned the photos I've used from a number of sources. including Laughing Devil Photography, Alex Cuberovic, Cannonfire Image Works, and Deb Lewis Brown. I thank them for the kind use of these pictures.

The Royal Scots Light company prepare for the battle.

I believe the commands are "Make ready!  ... Present!  ... Fire!"

Our good friend, Aaron, known as White Turtle relaxes before the ambush by the warriors.

Our friend, Raiffe, serving that day with the artillery, hoists the sign that the gun is loaded.

Musket smoke obscures things quite well.
In the afternoon battle, the US forces "win" driving off the Crown forces. The weather was perfect for firing muskets; I shot off about 14 rounds and only had one misfire. The rest of the crew did as well. The Colonel in charge of the Crown forces came forward with his chapeau off and declared they'd "had enough." So we held the field and marched off first to drink water and sit under a tree. Perfect or not, the weather was still hot, for me anyway.

In the evening battle, the US troops are caught napping. The actual battle started at about 2:30am with only the US pickets and bakers awake. Eye witnesses noted the field covered with blankets and discarded gear. We were told to go out with partial kit, i.e. leave your bayonet or jacket or shako or whatever in camp. As last year, I asked the question "Must we wear pants?" This year, I was told that one fellow in particular was required to wear his pants, but the colonel didn't care about the rest of us. Modesty got the best of us and we went out without coatee or shako or some belting. Kevin laid aside his jacket and marched out in his jacket and vest (still looking rather dapper). Andrew and Lyle laid aside their shakos but just unbuttoned their jackets since their suspenders (not usually seen) were more modern. I left my shako with Beth but I won't be without my water bottle! (It seems that putting on the uniform dehydrates me.) Major Phil, our adjutant, told us to join the battle when the Canadian Volunteers were engaged. We were to run down the hill and line up to their left. Lyle saw to that while I reported to Captain Hanna, their officer. My musket was out of order in the evening so I gave orders, shouted encouragements, and shared my cartridges with some of the crew. At one point, Phil gave us order to got to "independent fire", with everybody firing in their own time rather than volleys. After a few minutes of this, Lyle turned to me and exclaimed "This is FUN!" The boys kept up a hot fire from either the standing or kneeling position. However... we were pushed back and in fact were overrun. A unit of redcoats charged past us and took one of the US cannons. Shortly after that, the word came "Save yourselves!" As first sergeant, I told the 17th "Sauve qui peut! Run for it, boys!" We took off for the trees at the back end of the battlefield. Since I can't run and Andy'd rather not run, we formed the rear guard and were ignored by the Crown forces. Either we were too fierce, too ornery, or too insignificant to bother with. I'll let you choose.

US Artillery firing early in the battle. Colonel "Fightin' Rob" Turmbull reclines in the background.
As the evening darkened, the firing of guns and muskets is more spectacular.

Dusk came on, the gun smoke settled on the ground, giving it all a rather surreal feel. Very atmospheric!

With the British camp in the background, the evening battle becomes hot and heavy.

After capturing the gun, this light company turned on the flank of the US forces. Here, they face the Canadian  Volunteers whose line has bent back to face them. The 17th had already "skidaddled."

The British line "at the twilight's last gleaming" to quote Mr. Key in a well-knon song/poem of the period.
A view from behind the US lines.

Following the battle, a number of us took part in a remembrance ceremony. The names of all the casualties of the battle were read and a reenactor stood in line to represent the fallen. We stood at "Lean on arms" or "Mourn arms" while the name, rank, and unit of each of the fallen was read. I stood as one of the three American sergeants who fell. After "casualty call" and the ceremony, we left the field and the fireworks display took over.
All in all, a good day with a long ride home at the end.

A few more photos:

Grenadiers defend the breastwork during the afternoon battle.

A mixed group of Canadian Volunteers and US Regular Infantry serving as light infantry, return fire.

The Kentucky Volunteer rifles and the 16th Infantry push back the redcoats.

Lyle gets off a shot in another good volley.

Tyler and Kevin choose their targets.

Croghan's Company (unfocused in the foreground) fires another volley.
From the left - Lyle, Kevin, Andrew, Tyler (obscured by Andrew), Andy, and your humble blogger.
the 19th Light Dragoons were present.
The British Colours

The 22nd Infantry and their colours. The 17th is to the left, the Volunteers to the right.

Major Phil and Captian Ollie (background) at "Mourn Arms"

The 17th advances on the left of the colours in the afternoon battle.
Lyle and Andrew are right on the end - looking good!

"Steady, boys!" Captain Ollie lines us up in the afternoon.

One last thing I didn't tell you before... As we entered the field for the evening battle, something was hanging in the air. I learned it was a photographic drone! I'd never seen one before and I was amazed. (I guess I'm such a hick.) It took some amazing video which I'm sharing here:   Battle of Stoney Creek 


  1. I forgot the high points of the battle for me:
    Watching Jim and the 16th race across the battlefield at a dead run. I found out later that the hindmost had to buy the case of beer!
    The following conversation: (I says) "Go out this evening in half kit... and we have to wear pants." (Andy says) "Our own pants?"

  2. Great pictures, but that 'drone' movie was something else again! Who knew that muskets could blow smoke rings? I was also surprised at just how much smoke came from the powder charge in the pan. That must have been very nasty, firing into a stiffish breeze...
    Very educational.

    1. After every reenactment battle, I develop a terrible thirst. The wool uniforms or the strapping we all wear, the gun powder, and the gun smoke dries me out unmercifully! I was drinking a tremendous amount of water after the afternoon battle. Lemonade goes well to cut the nasty stuff that seems to line my mouth.
      I'm glad you enjoyed the entry. I'm still impressed with the drone shots.

    2. The bird's eye view was amazing.Ditto re smoke rings,I had no idea..

    3. I enjoyed writing the blog almost as much as I enjoyed the reenactment.

  3. You are more than welcome. Michael @ Laughing Devil Photography