Friday, June 25, 2010

The British Are Coming! Colonial Williamsburg

Our summer project as a family is to obtain a better understanding of American History from 1760 through the 1780s.  We've been reading books and coming up with an itinerary of places to visit...
This weekend in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, the British are taking control.  While Colonial Williamsburg is a living museum as a British Colony, this weekend emphasises 1781.  Described as:

Experience Williamsburg under the control of invading British forces. Watch British soldiers, commanded by Lt. Gen. Lord Cornwallis, as they plan their advance. Interact with the townspeople as they struggle with the loss of liberties after the British impose martial law. Witness drills and exercises, mounted troop and artillery demonstrations, and surgeons caring for the wounded in a military field hospital. This weekend reenactment of a 1781 struggle is like nothing you’ve ever seen!
Events begin Friday afternoon, June 25 and last through Sunday, June 27.
Click here for more information on Colonial Williamsburg's Under the Redcoat
There are many events throughout the weekend.  We just stopped in for the end of the day.  We walked down to the Court House, across the street from the Magazine, and on the green there the British were pitching tents.  There are three regiments, a Scottish Regiment, His Majesty's Thirty Third, and the Royal North Carolina Regiment.  Because the North Carolina Regiment is acknowledged or something like that, under the crown, they are awarded special uniforms and so on.  I am not sure what these are though.  The gentlemen enacting the Scottish regiment had their tents pitched, and were standing about with their bonnets on, one remarked on the dog "is that a bear madam?" and so a conversation began.  First, they are bonnets not hats.  Secondly as is typical they apologized when I said I'd married a Campbell.  And then I asked why some of the tents were different.  An officer explained.  Back row was the kitchen tents.  Then officers row.  Then the enlisted personnel. 

The Scottish Regiment Officer's tent. (above)
Kitchen tent (above)
Enlisted men's tents.
I noticed a remarkable number of women and some children milling about.  So I asked one of them who was from North Carolina in real life and was with her husband who was part of the North Carolina Regiment.  She said they (the characters) were camp followers.  That her husband had left to be in the Army, and was paid (but money was taken out for his uniform amongst other things) but she had no support so she followed.  Camp Followers were seen as baggage by the Army and worthless so anything she had she had to carry.  If she brought a wagon or a horse it would be confiscated by the army.  They were using an old tent left over from the British/French conflicts and her husband could stay with her and the children.  It was interesting to talk to her.  
This woman is pregnant, has a child dressed for his part as a camp follower, and another child.  She cheats and brings an air mattress to sleep on.  The children sleep on sheep skins.  They go to an enactment about once a month although she'll cut back when it gets closer to the baby's due date and then for several months after.  her kids enjoy it and get excited when she says "we are going camping."  Her in-laws are also part of the enactment and her father-in-law sometimes portrays John Adams as well.  So interesting!
We also spoke to a gentleman with His Majesty's 33.  They were absurd hats that look like Santa hats or Sleeping hats, red with a big 33 on the front.  I asked who he was portraying and he said 'himself."  hmmm.  He is a soldier named McGee and his family were farmers, farming sheep for wool.  But the most popular color for dying wool is indigo.  Sadly indigo fades easily so it is set with arsenic.  Once the color is set the wool dyers turn the dye into the river.  All the sheep are dying but nobody knows why.  When his father's sheep died and the farm failed Mr. McGee enlisted in his Majesty's army.
I googled the 33rd for kicks: 33rd Regiment of Foot, Light Infantry Company and here sited as Under the Command of General Henry ClintonSearch for General Henry Clinton  

Victory on Sullivans Island-The British Cape Fear/Charles Town Expedition of 1776

in front of the Scottish Regiment.

the thirty third

soldiers and presumably their wives in period dress

resting in the shade
I love this photo of Colonial Williamsburg, the Fife and Drum Core coming out of the mist.  There was a picture like this 10 years ago and 1/2 the core in the photo were young men I went to High School with.  
It is kind of a neat and unique place to grow up from that perspective!

1 comment:

FoxyMoron said...

That was so interesting Caillin, your area has such a rich and fascinating history.