10th Massachusetts, 18th century, Brigade of the American Revolution, common soldier, living history, Reenacting, Revolutionary War, Saratoga, weekend
Wow. Yet another learning experience up on the Hudson River this past weekend. It was as up-and-down a weekend as the rutted field in which we were camped, where walking felt more like swimming over the ground, and social calls were well nigh impossible. Also, we had considerable wind. By Sunday, Mrs P said we should feel grateful we never camp with a dining fly, because we knew it was wrong to feel smug that we hadn’t had to chase a fly down. Yes, every possible pun of “fly” got an outing.
The coats turned out quite well, and there would have been one for the Young Mr if only I had not spent the past two weeks on a petticoat and patterning a gown for What Cheer Day at work. I have some regrets about that, just because they looked so very well in those unusual coats. They weren’t just a fashion statement, either: I know Mr Cooke answered a lot of questions about them, and I did, too (women ask women about the guys…). They’re a really good interpretive hook to talk about supplying the troops, and the differences in uniforms over time, and the kinds of documents historians and costume historians use in their work. Also, those coats are just plain handsome.
The Battle, well, there was chaos on the public side of the battlefield, and it was difficult to see. The wrenching ground made visiting difficult (and we don’t have much of a parlor in our camp) so I did get to meet Cassidy in person but not much more.
My friend Mrs H and her husband, Mr H, and I walked back from the battlefield to work on dinner. I’m not sure what we’re contemplating here, but the kettle is on and we’re thinking about something (probably what to add next).
As you can see in the photo, we had no iron “s” hooks. I don’t know what box they’re in, but they weren’t in the kitchen box. Mr FC made us hooks from branches he discovered on the way back from his car. They held up well, and were even better and more authentic than the “s” hooks would have been. With this, we were all delighted and not at all smug.
After dinner and washing up, we participated in the hospital vignette for the public tours. (By ‘participate,’ I do sort of mean ‘first person bombed’ the scenario.) In working this out, the Adjutant wondered which of the men was the smallest and lightest. His first thought was the Young Mr, but Mr S and I soon disabused him of that notion, and after I said, “It’s you, Mr C,” and we determined that even skinny Mr S was 5 pounds heavier than Mr C, we had our victim: Mr C. He became the wounded captain carried up by Mr S, the Young Mr, Mr FC and Mr McC on a litter made from a tent and poles. I carried the lantern.
At the hospital tent, we demanded attention for our wounded captain, who had taken shot in the groin, ‘near the back.’ (We covered the wound with a coat.) The men and I were insistent upon the Captain receiving attention, despite the enlisted men requiring attention to their head wounds and amputations. Although he was given laudanum, and the ball removed (ba-thump, yes, we’re here all weekend, tip your waitress), the captain developed a fever. We demanded rum and water, but he vomited upon the very noisy private with a head wound, while down the line another private cried out, “Why, captain? Why did you do this to us?”
After he vomited, the captain’s delirium increased, and the doctor bled him. He called for his wife, and reached for me, though I am but the lowly woman with the army. I held his hand and stroked his head to ease his passing while he talked of his wife and his son, “with the angels now.” After he died, the men were summoned again to remove him from the hospital and they carried him away.
The captain’s story may have been too quiet and subtle for the public to see in the dark, but around us nurses and doctors were busy and patients were yelling, and the scene presented was one of chaos and misery (and some humor). I’ll have to analyze it more later, because there’s a strand for the reenactors and another for the public and it’s hard, sometimes, to know if they combine satisfactorily for all. I know we were pleased with our dying captain, and the boundaries it pushed for those of us newer to the first person world.
On Sunday–well, less said the better, perhaps–some of us failed to eat or drink enough and felt quite ill until mid-morning and a second cup of coffee. It’s a lesson in having protein bars stashed in pockets and haversacks, and in how wretched the soldiers and women must have felt, and how limited their decision-making capacities. That’s the argument for officers getting better food and accommodations: they make the decisions, so they need fuel and rest for their brains. The rest of us just go where we’re told.
Nancy N said:
I sent warm dry thoughts your way all weekend, especially Sat night, when the Shawangunk valley was awash with a heavy windy rain, and the temps slid from warmish/humid to cooler and WET. We drove slowly (wonky wipers) from the theater home to our (higher, thankfully!) plateau. When I saw good weather at sunrise on Sunday, I hoped you were able to dry out enough to enjoy it??
I will admit to being smug about our tent: it came down once, but when restored, remained firmly in place despite the wind and rain. We stayed very dry and satisfactorily warm under wool blankets, with the addition of my cloak and the Andes Candies coat, though Mr S wrapped his head in his hunting frock. That rain was torrential! But we made it through with just slightly damp feet in the pre-dawn run to the necessary. A friend was not so fortunate, and woke up with his hip in a puddle. In the “cold raking light of morning,” the Adjutant could see the tent had been pitched over a ditch, but then again, the one with the wet hip decided NOT to set up the spare tent, so reaped what he hand not sown.
In the end, two thumbs up from everyone, even the kid.
Nancy N said:
You guys are the bomb! I could never pretend to be an ardent camper, but it sounds like you’d make it fun even for an old curmudgeon like me!
I’m sorry we couldn’t spend more time together! The wind was dreadful, and I am the most awkward person in the universe. But it was really nice to finally meet you.
That wind was diabolical! I was glad to meet you, too!
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