Monday, 8 June 2015

Stoney Creek 2015

 I haven't blogged in a while since -as I've said before- "Life gets in the way of living." This past weekend, I must tell  you about.
A few of us went to Hamilton, ON for the 34th reenactment of the Battle of Stoney Creek. This event is held annually and, in my opinion, is one of the best run reenactments we go to. The hosting park and museum set things up nicely. In all honesty, the bulk of the visiting public come in the evening for the night battle and the fireworks display, leaving the afternoon battle lightly watched in comparison, but the hosts do a nice job. They even feed us, giving us a ticket to exchange for one meal at the food kitchen. I can't object to a nice grilled sausage sandwich and a can of pop!

The battle was not a sterling example of the prowess of the US Army in the War of 1812. The battle took place early in the morning of June 5, 2013 along the Stoney Creek in what is now Hamliton, Ontario. Here is a like to the Wikipedia article which is a decent summary of the battle:   (Wikipedia is not a great source of information but when you want a thumbnail sketch of something, it will usually do. For deeper research... No.)

Anyway, Beth and I, our friend, Louisa, and Tyler and his son all went down together in our van, meeting Kevin and his daughter, his friend Tina, and Andy and his son, Steven at the site. We set up a fly and got to put on new uniform coatees, which made us look really uniform... which is unusual for the US 17th infantry, the poor step-child of the Army, who had received only cast-off and homemade uniforms for a lot of their campaigning, although they were said to have fought like devils in battle. (The regiment was badly cut up at Frenchtown, but that was a strange set up anyway.)

{The photos are courtesy of my wife, Beth and Laughing Devil Photography}

Croghan's Company, 17th United States Infantry
Kevin, your humble blogger, Andy, and Tyler - all in proper blue coatees (sewn by my wife!) and shakos
Tyler has an older model felt shako (M1812) while the rest of us have the leather "tombstone" shakos (M1813).
I'll explain the dingus on my cap.

Just before the afternoon battle, simulating the pursuit of the Crown forces leaving Fort George by the American forces, the US Command (Colonel Rob, Major Phil, and Major Marty) came to me with some of the park staff. Would I be willing to wear a Go-Pro camera and record the battles with it? I said "Sure! Why me?" They replied that I'm tall, I'll be in the front rank as a sergeant, and (best of all) I won't curse much so as to put a lot of sulphur onto the audio track of the camera.

They don't know me too well, do they? I agreed and we rigged the thing over my shako after a quick operational lesson. The video has been promised to me once it's edited and you'll all get to see it!

Your blogger is wired for sight and sound, although he as a face for radio and a voice for print.

Andy is wondering if my head could get any bigger.

The US forces advance to the battle field for the afternoon parade and battle. Colonel Rob is raising his sword to tell us where to halt. Major Marty is off to the far left and Major Phil is on the far right in a grey coat and chapeau bras. I was serving as "guide" since Big Jim of the 19th was on the sick list and I'm almost a tall as he is. The US 16th is in forage caps and many are in green pants... which were actually issued to the outfit.
In the afternoon battle, the scenario had some British troops and Canadian militia were escorting some civilians away from Fort George. The 16th were to engage the light infantry and the First Nations warriors in open order with the 17th as a line backup. ("The anvil" Captain James called us.) Once the were chased off we were to withdraw and allow the Volunteer and Militia companies (who outnumbered us Regulars) to come in and begin a fire fight. We were to be a reserve and join back in later.

Never happened.

We ended up with the 17th as the centre of the US line with the Canadian Volunteers on our left and a militia unit or two (Crown reenactors in their "other" suit of clothes) on our right.
The fire fight was hot and heavy. The 17th (with our added guest, Jeff) poured in the fire. I used up about 20 cartridges on volley fire in the fight. The Crown forces eventually withdraw, leaving us with the field.

The US Forces line up for parade.

Men on the 22nd Infantry in their grey "roundabouts".

This is frightening. Everybody appears to be listening intently to me. I have no idea what I'm saying. 
The Crown forces enter the field.
There was a mercifully brief session of explanation, inspection, and a speech by the mayor of Hamilton.

The Crown Forces Fifes and Drums who add a tremendous amount to our reenacting. Music makes it easier to march!

Kentucky Volunteers... who are usually the Royal Scots, the 1st Regiment of Foot.

The 19th Light Dragoons (dismounted of course) join in as light infantry pickets

The shooting starts. The Light Dragoons exchange fire with the skirmishers of the 16th. The 17th is to the left of the photo.

Another good volley from the US line. We did a few battalion volleys were ALL the muskets were fired together.

We were part of the "right wing" of the line. You can see the surgeon's assistant behind us.
The surgeon and his assistant did great service carrying ice water to the US line.

Here you can see an unusual sight. The 19th Light Dragoons reloading their carbines for a volley.
To the right of the dragoons stands an infantry pioneer with his axe and tan leather apron.
The fellow in the white barracks jacket might be a new recruit on one of his first times out. The jackets are quite expensive!
The British give a good as they got. I must admit these men know their drill.
But the US side has cookies!

The 17th advancing.
Your humble blogger, Tyler, Jeff (who's welcome anytime with us), Kevin, and Andy

Kentucky returns fire! Captain James of the 16th is conferring with the Volunteers' officer.

We kept up a hot fire. It was such a lovely day.
Here I've dropped back to get a better pan of the US firing line for the Go-Pro camera.

The fifes play the lament for the dead. This takes place at every battle... and rightly so.
The announcer said later that any man who died - British, Canadian, First Nations, or American- left behind people who loved them and that they loved. THAT's something to NEVER forget.

The US line pays respect to the fallen. I held my cap and camera in front of my chest during this.
I also fell out of parade to video the entire march out.
We spend the rest of the afternoon resting and doing maintenance on our muskets. As the sun fell, we got ready for the evening's battle.

We decided to fight in our forage caps that evening. The Go-Pro crushed mine, but it's wool anyway.

Louisa, enjoying her outing.

Tyler and his son discussing something.
That's face paint on the little guy, by the way.
Colonel Rob added the 17th to the 16th pickets for the evening. We were to guard the church and the church yard. Two of us were to "die" right off when the British skirmishers came on the field. Andy and I volunteered for that, especially since I could sit against the church wall and get a good video view of the entire battle.  So while we were lounging around, two British officers in blue frock coats wander up from the trees behind us and proceed to MUG US! (Note that they had to send OFFICERS to mess with us. I'm taking that they were too scared of us to send other ranks. Or maybe there were too many officers poncing around the Crown camp. Well, at least they didn't send First Nations warriors; I'd have far less hair today.) The officer I tussled with sat me down against the church and I had the best seat in the house for the night battle! Andy eventually crawled around from where he was lying and we watched it together.

The Church - which has a canvas roof and is quite collapsible - and the pickets.

Andy and I watch the action in the British camp at the far end of the field.
The mound behind Andy is a pile of peat moss covering some pyrotechnics. Big Boom!

Kevin and Tyler - sempre vigilans
When the shooting started, They both sprinted to join the 16th's skirmish line. Kevin slipped and hurt his shoulder,
at which point in time, he decided that discretion was the better part of valour and he stayed down.
Best seat in the house! When the pyrotechnics were set off, we could feel the heat.
The 16th does their light infantry work. Captain James loves this and the unit does it well.
Kevin is in the foreground; I don't know if he'd bashed his shoulder yet.

Dusk battles always seem to be the smokiest.

The 16th and the 21st of the line fire back.

This unit, the guards from Fort Erie in US kit, showed excellent drill and burned a lot of powder.

This is the Fort George Guard in US kit as well. I don't know what their cartridge load is but it seems heavy.
I use about 75-80 grains in each cartridge.
Someone once asked Andy "Why don't you use bullets?" He responded "We used to, but we began to run out of reenactors/"
After the cannons fired, early in the battle, the smoke clung to the ground in a very eerie way.

The Crown Forces keep up a good fire in front of the crowd. Note the ground smoke.

It just gets smokier.

The Fort Erie and Fort George guards take the field. Those groups came up for the evening battle only.

The 16th had to turn around to face the threat of the First Nations warriors who had infiltrated to strike from the rear.
The Light Dragoon became US Light Dragoons for the evening. They even had proper headgear.

The brigade drummer, the surgeon and the surgeon's assistant hard at work. The Kentucky Volunteer rifles are behind them in red-trimmed blue hunting frocks.

The 22nd and the Canadian Volunteers are at close quarters with the Crown Forces.

Here Colonel Rob and Captain Mark of the Royal Scots began to mug for the Go-Pro - running in slo-mo and threatening to chop me up with their swords. Oh, I so hope the Go-Pro video comes out!!!!
(Wringing hands) Bwa-ha-ha-ha! 
From Laughing Devil Photography, a good photo of the 16th skirmishing.
The British line fires on the guns.
The Royal Scots capture the guns and Colonel Rob as well!
After this, he came over with Captain Mark (under parole, I suppose) to "threaten" me.
I think two US generals were captured at the actual battle.

The US Brigade leaving the field after the night battle.

The pickets remain at their post.
"Hold until relieved" the man said. "It'll be fun." the man said.

The Crown Forces quit the field with their guns.

The First Nations warriors and the soldiers of the British Indian Department escort their prisoners, the American light dragoons off the field.
It was a grand day with the best weather I'd seen at this event so far. There's a few more to go to this summer but this one is always good.

Now for a few more photos.

Captain Roy of the British Indian Department

White Turtle (Aaron)
"That's him, Constable! The man on the left! He's the one who mugged me!"
Oh, the agony! Oh, the shame!

Sergeant Jonesy and Captain James of the 16th.
The red card in James' cap is a safety inspection card.

Small but quite noisy. A three-pounder of the Royal Artillery.

Major Phil being camera shy and Major Marty enjoying the whole thing.
Marty is usually the US Artillery commander and Phil usually commands the US Regulars.

The Royal Scots Grenadier Company with their fine commander.

Colonel Rob leads the column, Major Marty next, then Captain James and Sergeant Major.

Major Phil at rest. He plays the "Dandy" but he knows his history and drill.

Phil is quite a craftsman. He made this gun-stock war club for my daughter. She had ordered one from him and his source dried up before delivery. Did she want her money back or would she wait while he tried his hand at carving one? Katie made the right choice in my mind. She'll carry this when she goes out as the Lenape warrior, Yellow Jacket. There's a real blade under that buffalo hide sheath. Very nice work, properly decorated for the Turtle Clan of the Lenne Lenape.
(Thanks, Katie, for letting me use your photo.)
General Sherman was right: "War is hell." 


  1. When and where will we see the go pro video? Inquiring minds want to know. Should be at least as awesome as these pictures are.

    1. As soon as I get the video, Padre, I'll post it here. I'm waiting with baited breath as well. Thanks for the compliments on the photos. Credit goes to Beth and to Laughing Devil Photography.

  2. When running with Tyler I lost my balance and fell on my side with my arm outstretched. I got up quickly and rejoined the 16th. When I got to them I noticed that I had taken a core sample of the field with my musket barrel. I cleaned it out but could not be certain the barrel was empty of debris so I decided not to shoot. After fiddling with my musket I took a hit on a British volley and stayed down until the end of the battle. Only after rising up did I discover I had injured my shoulder. And bruised my chest. The damage is minor and I will recover.

    1. Good stuff! I knew you were a tough guy down deep. Huzzah!

  3. Great Post. Glad to have your back in a couple of battles :)