Monday, 18 May 2015

The Road to Culloden

 This past weekend saw a rather different sort of reenacting event. After long and meticulous planning on the part of the developers, the Scotish Jacobite War/rebellion of 1745 was reenacted at the Backus Page House Museum grounds in Wallacetown, ON. Beth and I were able to go out to the event on both Saturday and Sunday. Beth was a volunteer for the museum and I was a reenactor, kitted out as an irregular Scots militiaman on the Crown/Hanoverian side. (More folk want to be Jacobites than "Government" at these events. In previous events, some reenactors came out as French since the French sent some troops to the Highlands during this conflict. They sent Scots and Irish, so no big surprise there.)
The grounds of the Museum are a great place to play. Originally dedicated to showing the agricultural life of southwestern Ontario at the time of Confederation, the Museum has also hosted other events, such as a War of 1812 education day for local students. This summer, they'll be hosting a "time line" event with reenactors coming out in the kit of troops from about 1750 to 1950. I'll blog that one when it takes place.
On Saturday - which was a nice breezy day in rural Ontario - an number of reeactors turned out, with the Jacobites out-numbering the Government forces. The public came out in fair numbers and everybody who was there appeared to enjoy themselves.

(Photos are courtesy of my wife, Jaimee Claeys, and Bard Judith. If I have missed someone whose photos I've used, send me a note and I'll make it right.)

First some Jacobites -- Our friends, Dan and Tom as a clansman and a clan chief who stood as chief of Clan Maclachlan,and he had the clan banner to prove it.

Nick and I discuss the dog's summer "puppy cut" with a mutual friend.
Nick is an Anglican canon, recently retired, I'm a Lutheran pastor, and our friend is the church musician
and youth minister at a local Roman Catholic church. His dog isn't into dogma.

Sheep! Lambs brought by one of the Jacobite fighters. He brings them out to any number of events.

Our good friend, James and one of his boys. James is dressed as a troop of the 60th of Foot, the Royal Americans.
This outfit was recruited in North America and contained quite a few German settlers from Pennsylvania. The officers were mostly German, Swiss, and Dutch... and maybe an Englishman here and there.

James and Jonesy with their respective followings.

Andre, the overall Government commander.
He usually commands the Crown artillery, but this weekend he was made supreme commander.
For some unspeakable reason, he named me infantry commander.
I'm still drunk with power.

Our friend Dan in a belligerent mood. You get a good view of the targe here. He also carried a musket for the battle.

Safety check for the Government muskets. With 4 militiamen and 3 regulars and a gun crew with a 3-pounder, we were
out-numbered, BUT not out-played. We had a load of fun and put on a great show for the public.

The forces of the Crown before James and Jonesy showed up. Nick is in the uniform of the 15th of Foot who fought at both Culloden and Quebec. The militia are in the simple red jacket of the Sutherland Independant Company.
I'm too irregular to discuss.

The Noon Gun. The gun cres demonstrated the firing of a cannon. Note the ammunition box is kept at quite a distance from the gun itself. Ball is never fired, but the cannon still takes 2 ounces of black powder - enough to make a nice "Ka-Boom!"

As Andre fires the cannon, the "powder monkey" shows the proper way of protecting one's hearing.
NEVER stick you finger in your ears. That inceases the pressure on the eardrum. The best way is to cup your hands in from of your ears to direct the sound past your ears. If you want to go further, open your mouth to equalize the pressure inside and out.

Engaging the public for questions and answers. You can also see the length of the musket and bayonet.
(I'm 6' 3" or 190.5 cm)
The best question of the day: "Do you know of Brown Bess?"
The answer: "She's right here, in front of you... with her bayonet."

Lunch! Open to both public and reenactors. Hunger knows no era!

A "pur Helan' wretch" pledges fealty to Bonnie Prince Charlie. Of course, that wretch is actually one of the planners and
the all-day voice/MC of the weekend, our friend Shaymus!

His Highness, Charles Edward Stuart, speaks to the crowd. Shaymus is on the far right while Mike, head of the Prince's Life Guard glares at possible assassins.

James and his daughter go shopping.

4 and 20 Blackbirds - purveyor of cakes, cookies and fine lemonade.

The fencing master explains both fencing techinques and various types of swords.

The gun crew's powder monkey. The charge is carried to the gun in the red leather carrier on her hip.

Jamie and Shaymus prepare to demonstrate the care, feeding, and shooting of the fabled
blunderbus... which sounds like a cannon when it's fired.

The Government troops and gun take their place on ridge for the battle. I believe this was to be the battle of Prestonpans.
We were to defend the flag, but James and Jonesy planned to barracade themselves in the outhouse and sell their lives dearly.

The outhouse and the entire mass of Government infantry. Terrifying indeed!

The 3-pounder opens the ball while the militia deploys in open order to the right of the gun.
Jacobite skirmishers can be seen on the far left of the photo.

Reloading all the weapons!

The Jacobite skirmishers try to draw the fire of the militia and the gun.

The regulars give fire.

A diversionary force crosses through the valley below the gun, attempting to flank our position...

... but not if the regulars have anything to say about it!

A view of the field from a distance. The Jacobite diversionary force began far off to the left
and ran across the valley to the woods where they took up a position... hiding behind blades of grass.

The Prince prepares to have his main force of Highlanders charge the Government position.

The Highland Charge puts the gun crew and all the Government forces to the sword.

The Jacobite forces replace the Union flag (which they call "the Butcher's Apron") with the St. Andrew's Cross flag of Scotland.

The victorious (on Saturday at least) Jacobites leave the field.

The forces of King George stand in review at the end of the day's battle.

James' son served as powder monkey for the battle and so he had to "kiss the sponge." Andre "anointed" his cheek with the cannon swab which left a filthy smear on his face. He was supposed to leave it there for 24 hours, but I wasn't going to check. This does mean that he is now a veteran. Huzzah!

On Sunday, Beth went out early while I came out to the site after worship at church. It was an oddly foggy day, but that proved to be "atmospheric" for the reenactment of Culloden. Much needed reinforcements arrived for the Government.

Early in the day, His Highness walked around the site, greeting his people and suffering an attack on his person from one of my militiamen  - who was soundly thrashed by the Life Guard.

The 15th of Foot arrives in force and in style.

Andre briefs the assembled regulars of King George. Two of the fellows were in the uniform of the 28th of Foot -  also a yellow faced regiment. This filled out the King's contingent to 8 muskets and an ensign. Add to that the three militiamen and we could take on anyone!

The day's safety inspection continues.

The perfect family photo!
Matthew, Josh, Andrew, and their father, Lyle. Matthew often serves as a "runner" for officers in War of 1812 reenactments. Sunday he was an ensign (an office with the King's commission no less!) and carried the colours. This might be Andrew's only reenactment of the summer; he's a cadet at the Royal Military College and his schedule is quite full.
You can also see how foggy the site was - even in the afternoon. The stuff continually rolled in off Lake Erie but seemed to go not further inland than the Museum site.

The Jacobite force and their families retreat across the field.

The rear guard with the flag of Clan Maclachlan engages the advancing Redcoats.

The 15th + enters the field.
Justin (on the far left) commanded the "hatmen." He knew the drill manual so I asked him if he would take care of the commands for the Regulars. Andre fed me the commands and I passed the word down the line.

The Life Guard take up a position to hold off the Government advance and to allow the Prince to get to safety.

The line is reinforced.

The regular troops give fire while the militia skirmish to their left.
Some of my militiamen's muskets were being troublesome.

Mine was doing fine with fresh flint.
A fine volley!
Fall back! Save the Prince!

The wives came out to treat the wounded. That was our signal to make a bayonet charge and be - as we were ordered to before the battle started - "right bast@rds" and butcher everyone, women included.  Andre points out targets and militiaman Shawn takes his orders. Appearently at Culloden, there were few surviving Jacobite wounded; the Government forces bayoneted everyone. In the "Highland Clearances" that followed, many Highlanders were sent to Canada and many settled in the area of the Museum, hence the name "Wallacetown."

Andrew picked up a Scots broadsword and hacked a few up. That IS a smile on his face.

The field of battle and the cost of war - never to be forgotton and we'd hope, never to be repeated.

A solemn moment: The piper plays the lament for the fallen and we all remove our head coverings.
Andrew still clings to the broadsword.
The Forces of King George leave the field to pass in review.

Justin, Josh, and Andrew head the column.

Yes, I'm slow, but I got there. Shaymus introduced me as a "not-necessarily-traitorous Scots Militiaman."
It felt like a promotion.

The Prince leads his troops to pass in review.

Dismissing the victorious regulars and militia. Well done, guys!
The organizers hope to have this event yearly after this and they'd like to use the Backus Page House Museum grounds for it. It is a grand place to have such an event and I wouldn't mind seeing this happen. I don't suppose we could order the fog and mist every year, could we?

A few more photos:

Brandi, Jared's wife, and their daughter, who is without a doubt our favourite reenactor!
She was a hit with all the crowd.

Making a friend with a sippy-cup.

"I'm going this way, Mom!"

Note the fog and mist as Shaymus announces the artilllery demonstration on Sunday.

A collage from one of our friends. Too bad it wasn't of a better subject.
Jared and I and the lads of the militia, Tom and Shawn, with Jaimee.

The regulars advance while the militia guards their flank and reloads.


  1. Outstanding! The weather looked like it cooperated completely, thus adding to the authenticity :)

    1. Indeed it did cooperate. Everybody I talked to felt it was a success.

  2. Fabulous to be able to see the shots from Sunday, and the detailed description of events. Also thrilled to learn this might become an annual event. I'll get my flour sacks and start sewing now...

  3. Wonderful blog! Wonderful pictures! Fantastic weekend! Huzzah!!