Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Fanshawe Pioneer Village 2016

Fanshawe Pioneer Village is an "open air" museum on the north end of London, ON. As such, there are a number of buildings to represent the history of the area and a number of historical reenactment events are held there throughout the year. Last weekend was the "Invasion of Upper Canada" event representing the War of 1812. The ravages of that war did not touch the London area directly. Although there was a skirmish in what is now London and raiders from the US did pass through there, no real battles were fought in or around London. So the attack on Fanshawe and the fights reenacted at the weekend are fictional.

Fictional, but no less fun.  (All photos courtesy of my wife Beth, my daughter Katie, Paul Kelly, Steve Zronik and Linda Lee, and Wilma and John Stephens.)

Following a flag raising on Saturday morning - a warm and somewhat muggy day- a skirmish was held in the town, around the buildings. The US Forces were driven back this time. I was first sergeant for our unit, Croghan's Company, 17th US Infantry and since there were only a few of us - John, Tyler, Peter (a true scholar and expert on the War of 1812 who usually serves as an officer of the Crown forces, but turned out in white summer roundabout with the US today) and myself - we served as flankers and skirmishers on either side of the 22nd US and the Canadian Volunteers. Toward the end of the battle, I was "wounded" and sat down on the tavern porch, talking to Dave, the captain of the Royal Scots. That is, until Tom of the British Indian Department attacked me savagely with his plastic knife. He said he didn't want my liver, but my pancreas...

Cap'n Roy and the British Indian Department skirmishing in the town.
The Royal Scots advance down Concession #1.
More of the 1st Foot wait their turn.
The BID take a short breather.
Steve and a few redcoats on the flank of the reloading Canadian Volunteers.
Here my wife caught me as I rounded one of the buildings after chasing off some of the Native warriors
and Caldwell's Rangers 
Tyler takes advantage of the terrain during the skirmish.
He's dressed in the cotton/linen hunting frock that our reenacted unit was reported as wearing at one point.
It's a life saver in the summer.
... And now it's a hay rake that serves as cover.
The grey-coated Canadian Volunteers await the order to aim and fire.
After the morning skirmish, the order of the day was lunch and meeting up with some later arriving members - Tina and Kevin, and Brandi, Livie, and Jared. We sat in the shade behind the tavern and listened to a grand folk instrument band, Tethera (http://tethera.webs.com/), who were quite entertaining.

Tethera, in the shade behind the tavern.
No better place to be on a summer afternoon.
Livie decided to nap on Tyler's belly... for a few minutes anyway.
Tyler's son was there, buzzing around. Tyler, however, in known for his ability to sleep anywhere, anytime.
He's a student of engineering at a local university and knows the value of sleeping when you can.
Livie, grand lady that she is, decided to stroll with Tina's parasol for a time.
Kevin and I rest our wearies at an old well.
Yes, a can of Coca-Cola is in evidence, but we are 21st Century people dressed as 19th Century people
drilling like 18th Century people.
The afternoon battle was on the field just east of the camps. The US forces went and hid in the woods as the British pickets stood at a fence. My section was ordered to support the two guns that we rolled out of the woods at the beginning of the battle. My section - Tyler, John, Peter, Jared, and I - would advance to fire two or three small volleys while the cannons were being loaded between shots then fall back 5 paces when the cannon were ready to fire. When the Native warriors and Caldwell's Rangers charged out of the the woods to capture a gun, we were to run away then return to the field and join the firing line.

The US assault force hunkers down in the woods.
We were told to be quiet, which of course brought out a dozen Elmer Fudd voices;
"Be vewy, vewy quiet; We're hunting wabbits."
The pickets advance to their post.
... and proceed to remodel the place.
We went to Support Arms at one point.
How long will the pickets stay?
The Royal Scots, the local London unit, now have a real 6-pounder!
Big boom!
The US crews push the guns out of the woods - 2 and 3-pounders.
Their infantry support is being directed into place by their first sergeant.
Preparing to fire.
Between the cannon shots, we added to the fun, noise, and smoke.
Tyler, Peter, John, and Jared show proper form for the firing line.
Couldn't be better guys to reenact with!
I noted that we all moved into almost identical poses to reload.
Tyler responded "Yeah, it's like we drill and train or something."
At one point, our commanding officer, Major Phil ordered the front rank to kneel.
Our small unit sort of faked it.
A larger photo showing the scale of the field we played in.
Now the British line enters to support the pickets.
The BID holding the right flank... right up against the chicken wire.
As the battle went on, the BID skirmishers ran to the left flank.
Kevin (center trooper) served as part of the US rifle-armed skirmishers.
The pickets pull out.
Another good volley.
To the right of centre in the grey coat and chapeau bras is Major Phil.
At one point, Mark took to his heels... as the script required.
I just like this photo - taken by my wife.
The US line has advanced to the rampart.
I, however, am showing signs of over-heating and I dropped back.
The Crown forces were being pushed.
Here Captain Ollie of the 22nd comes out to check with a fallen trooper before the parlay.
The smoke of the battle field can be well seen here, especially when compared with the next photo.
Much clearer! Major Phil stands with 1st Sergeant Mike of the Volunteers to the left of the photo.
Our outfit stayed on the field to assist one reenactor who almost dropped from the heat; he was in his wool uniform. We saw him off the field after soaking a neck-cloth with water and laying it on his neck. He soon had cold water poured on him and poured into him. He was fine the next day and was out in good health. I didn't drop from the heat, but I could only take so much, as this next photo shows. I had also cut my hand in the woods. It wasn't a bad cut, but it bled more than it was worth.

I wasn't in terrible shape, but it was hot out there and no mistake!
Beth, Katie, and I went home for dinner and a good night's sleep. It rained and thundered during the night and we were glad to be home. The next day, the camping reenactors said it wasn't bad. We slept in a bit and went up later in the morning. (Katie had the night shift to go to at her work.) The day was a bit cooler and there was a stiff breeze to make it better yet. Kevin, Tina, Tyler, Tina, and Jared could not make it back on Sunday, so John (loaned to us by the Royal Scots) and Peter and I were joined by a few other men of the 41st Foot who have US kit to serve as artillery guard for the afternoon's battle, starting at the rail fence. Beth put on her own "battle suit", picked up her rifle, and came out in her Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) female warrior persona for the day. She tried to kill me more than once.

Peter and the boys of the 14th fire at British messengers running along the wood line.
John and I held back some as the firing began.
Once a certain thing happened, the pickets were to fall back to our position.
This was "The Certain Thing", the capture of the left-hand gun by the Natives and Rangers.
From another vantage point.
The right-hand gun continued to fire. 
I look less-than-busy, but I was actually performing field maintenance on Peter's musket.
It wasn't sparking, so we traded muskets until I got his flint in a better position.
Ordnance Sergeant, at your service!
The Crown line advances with two new recruits! Twins, no less!
They'll soon be passing my dead body. I went down after my flint cracked.
Major Phil leads the final US charge
The US line gives a volley. I'm waiting for the proper moment to fall - just after a Crown skirmisher fires.
The US cannon crew retreat while in the centre of the photo, Tom of the BID charges the US line with his knife!
He said "They won't retreat? I'LL MOVE THEM!" and he did.
Willow of the Lenni-Lenape with the BID (Ryan, Tom, and Roy)
More field maintenance while the BID swop stories.
Beth lets loose a war whoop as the US forces run off. Major Roy seems quite pleased.
Tom has returned from his knife attack.
The outcomes are scripted but the "getting-there" is often a mash-up. At the end of the battle, Beth came with Roy and Tom and stole my shako, wearing it as we all left the field. It was only four sizes too large for her. All this took place after a time of silent remembrance of all who died in the actual war.

The final exercise of the day (which I didn't take part in) was the lowering of  the US flag and the raising of the Union Jack, showing that the Crown forces were once more in charge of the village.

The US forces on the square.
Preparing to retire the colours in front of a transplanted Anglican Church
that is considered to be a great example of "Carpenter Gothic" Church architecture.
The Union Jack is run up and saluted by the Royal Scots grenadier company.
And more random photos:
For the younger folks, the Scots ran a "mini-militia."
An artillery display on Sunday afternoon/
John and I plot further mischief as we await the Crown advance on Sunday.
Jill and John - a grand photo
Reenacting isn't just gunpowder. Many of the ladies dress up in their Regency finest.
The original owner of Fanshawe Pioneer Village as quite present both days.
And he brought his entire extended family.
One of Sunday afternoon's activities was a "frying pan toss" where cast-iron cookware
is thrown for distance. You can't break the cast-iron so you just fling it!
Mike, the first sergeant of the Canadian Volunteers with some of his men
and a few of the 22nd Infantry in their grey roundabout jackets.
Major Phil - obviously the best-dressed man on the field.
the second best-dressed man on the field - Kim or Many Strings.
His headpiece is both functional and fashionable. 
Dave, the captain of the Royal Scots Grenadier company.
Ollie, captain of the 22nd US Infantry
Part of the US camp and what the camp is for.
If you happen to go to a reenactment, don't hesitate to ask a reenactor questions about their impression. They'll have answers, and the smart ones will tell you that they don't know and direct you to someone who does. All of the reenactors - military or civilian, Crown, US, or First Nations - work hard on their impression and we're usually happy to field questions. To be honest, we'll probably tell you more than you wanted to know.

Summer is closing; one more reenactment scheduled. I hope it'll be cooler.