Sunday, October 23, 2011

Mom Says Post

Beautiful Fort Ticonderoga

I received an email from Mom today with the subject line "Goodbye Irene" which I think is a subtle hint that she's ready to see some different content on this page. So! Where to begin? As with all recent posts, it's not the lack of things to talk about, but the abundance.

About a week after the hurricane, Jeff and I took off with our reenacting group (the Queen's Own Loyal Virginia Regiment; look us up on Facebook!) to New York, to participate in an event at Fort Ticonderoga. If you're thinking "Nicki, you live in Tidewater Virginia, and Fort Ticonderoga is in upstate New York, located on a peninsula that sticks out into Lake George, near the Canadian border, that's an insane amount of driving!" you would be right. We left Thursday afternoon, picked up a few more unit members in Maryland, and arrived Friday morning at 5:30 am. We immediately put the cars in park and took a nap for about an hour, until the local diner opened up and we could have some eggs and bacon for breakfast. (For the record: driving overnight is the only way to do I-95)

The town of Ticonderoga is, in a word, beautiful. It is tucked into a little valley in the Adironack mountains, with pine trees and winding roads rising on either side of it. The road to Ticonderoga winds through several little towns, all with locally owned restaurants, shops and hotels--definitely a place I want to revisit when I'm not busy playing history. Since we arrived a day before the event started, the unit had plenty of time to build a camp and generally unwind and relax after a long drive. The Queen's Own is trying to be a very historically accurate group, and one of the things that is most accurate is the fact that there are no tents when you're a militia unit. So the lads took to the woods, chopping down saplings and gathering brushwood until they had fashioned a lean-to. After scattering a couple bales of straw underneath, we had our shelter for the weekend. Voila.

Camp with a couple of gatecrashers on Friday night. The Queen's Own didn't mix it up too long Friday night, prompting a few comments "wow, those guys are really hardcore..." "No, they just drove through the night, didn't you know that?" Yes, and we can hear you from under our blankets.

I should note that ultimately we want to be able to cary everything into camp on our backs...we were only thwarted in this attempt this time by the addition of a fourteen pound salted Virginia ham. All the food we had was non-perishable, and it was either eaten (ham) or burned (bones). It's amazing how little refuse you leave behind.

The lads receive their orders Saturday morning...we try to run things in a military fashion, apart from the floggings. And even then you can be sentenced to fetch wood and water if you're not prompt.

Overlooking the Fort's guns. There are not any super-awesome pictures of me from this event, this is probably the best one. Also the best because, well, cannons.

Saturday we had visitors (and by visitors I mean "non-costumed civilians") so I was busy cooking for t'lads and answering questions. We were sharing our camp with a group that ate vegan, so it was almost like dueling kettles for awhile. One of our boys volunteered to be tried as a deserter...and he was duly dragged into the "court" by his fellow militiamen, tried and found guilty of desertion. Then the lads went off to the battle (we won), and after supper we went up to the Fort to share some libations with the American rebels.

A deserter in our midst! Get 'em, boys!

The lads advance during the battle...

Fort Ticonderoga was built in the 1750s by the French...the British took it away from them, then the Americans took it away from the British, and then the British got it back until the end of the Revolution. It was manned again during the war of 1812, and even during WWII it served as a radio base. Today it is a living history museum, with costumed interpreters, an EXCELLENT museum, a nifty giftshop and cafe. During the 19th century it was restored by a wealthy family who also built a small hotel down by the waters of Lake George, near the King's Garden. This is near where we were camping...the Americans got to sleep in the Fort. But really, after seeing the hardpacked earth and stone floors of the fort versus our comfy grass and straw beds, I think we Loyalists got the better end of the deal. Fort Ticonderoga was also recently featured in an episode of "Ghost Hunters"...and yes, Nicki is glad she only learned about the ghosts after we went there.

The Fort at night

Discussing the day's tactics with the serjeant.

Sunday I watched the battle, repeated for that day's guests. It was fun to mix in with the civilians, shouting encouragement to "our brave boys in red" and getting the stink-eye for it. Many guests thought I was a history teacher, but I had to correct them and say "no, this is just wicked interesting, that is all." It's hard to describe what a re-enactment battle is like. Most battles try to recreate an actual event, but there are some sites that will just make up battles to demonstrate what eighteenth century tactics looked like. This event was one such. Basically the scenario involved the Americans attempting to hold the fort, and the British rolling them back like blankets. During the Revolution, there was a garrison of Americans here, but they were so few in number that when the British showed up, it was not worth the lives for a pitched battle. The Americans had already removed the cannons, so the garrison surrendered. Both Saturday and Sunday the British forces began near the base of the hill on which Fort Ti is located, then advanced upward. The militia (including the Queen's Own) acted as light infantry, pushing through bracken, muddy water and trees to get the advantage and cover the regular infantry. Also there were cannons and horses. It was a pretty intense battle, lasting from early skirmishing to a final bayonet charge and surrender, all told around three hours of "fighting." Even though no one was actually hurt by a weapon, one of the guys in our unit did sprain his ankle on Saturday. And I've been to other events where there have been powder burns and even a broken collarbone. Reenacting is intense, and it does leave you drained. (Unfortunately, it's hard to take good photos and even videos of reenactments...trying to catch the excitement from afar is difficult, and if you have cameras in your midst you're liable to irritate reenactors.)

So by Sunday evening we were pretty wiped....we had permission to leave around 4pm, and we did so. Packing up involved rolling up blankets, tearing down our brush arbor and putting out the fire, and then we were on our way. Jeff and I arrived back in Virginia at around 4:30 in the morning on Monday. It was probably the best reenactment I had been to...but I was really glad I had taken Monday off.

This is what Jeff looks like...he is going to be mad that I put this on here, but it's my favourite picture of him so far ever.

It's hard to believe that was five weeks ago now! It's been a lot of fun putting up pictures and reliving that trip. I had a great time, even with all the driving, and I definitely want to go back again.

**All photos of Fort Ticonderoga were taken by Kelsey Freeman...she is a professional photographer with our unit who brought her camera along.

After working Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of that week, I took off again, this time for Green Bay. As I mentioned previously, Dad took a fall down the stairs at home. Now he was coming home from the hospital, and I went to try to help Mom get him settled. And by support I mean reinforcing some of the new rules, "Dad, when mom says 'eat' she means it!" Dad was pretty weak from being in the hospital for two weeks, but he perked up (and started eating), as soon as he got home...and from what I hear now, a month later, it's only been uphill. Also, bonus, I got to meet my new niece:

I was thrilled. Nora, less so.

And since returning home three weeks ago, it's been work, work, work. As usual. I signed on to work part time at Busch Gardens Williamsburg in their costume shop. As you can imagine, it's quite a bit different from CW's shop. Also, bonus, I get into the park for free and have discounts on food and souvenirs, which came in handy last weekend when Jeff and I had a couple friends come down for Howl O Scream. Then there was also Prelude to Victory, the rebel answer to Under the Redcoats...I had to go around all day pretending to be a patriot supporter of Mr. Washington, but secretly I was a British spy, gathering information. ("Infantry: 62. Cannon: 1") Then just yesterday Jeff and I were back at an old favourite spot of ours, Smith's Fort Plantation, which is a local history museum. They are having their Christmas Craft Show this weekend, so Jeff and I went in our historical costume and talked a bit about the house. Nothing like being able to drive home after an event in thirty minutes or less!

And that's the update...I hope this will not be the last one for another six weeks!

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