Philadelphia Campaign of 1777. That’s where I was last weekend. While all rational reenactors in this area were at the Prelude to Victory in Williamsburg a crazy few of us (about 50-ish total) were in Middleburg on the beautiful Welbourne Farm. It was cold, we were wet, it rained, I was miserable. I can’t wait to do it again!
Things we DID have:
1) A blanket
2) A creek
3) Four chickens on strings. (Yes they were alive.)
4) Only what we wanted to carry
5) A bog
6) Trees and brush
It started Friday night. I got to the Continental camp around 7 and found out that I was the only one in my unit brave enough to camp two nights. Although “camping” is putting it loosely. “Camping” implies a tent. We had a blanket. And the ground. Fortunately there were two other camp followers from another group and they took me under their wing. They taught me how to make a bed roll which I had never done before and they helped me cut what I was carrying down by half. So that night I slept fully dressed in my blanket (which I learned does NOT cover my feet) and my cloak. I was rather cold.
Saturday morning we marched out around 0800. We forded the creek right off the bat. The creek was about 15 feet wide and knee deep. We were smart and took our shoes and stockings off for that. The men went off to find the British and the three women headed toward the house. We were stopped by one British picket who questioned us extensively and looked very suspiciously at what we were carrying. They didn’t search us though and even gave us an escort for a while so we didn’t get fired on. Once we got to the house we proceeded to take a much needed nap in the sun. We caught back up with the men around 2 o’clock-ish. They had slaughtered the chickens and made a soup with rice. It was quite delicious really. And hot.
We then marched with the men back to the creek area where we found a very nice sheltered area to camp (it was supposed to rain Saturday night so tree cover was important.) We settled in, made a few fires, boiled some eggs, made coffee, etc., while the men did pickets and patrols. Around 9 or 10-ish the Lieutenant in charge decides that we are in a tactically unsound area and that we had to move to a cold camp (ie no fires allowed) up the hill. He was right, we were at the bottom of a hill in a place where the British would surely find us but as someone pointed out, we’d rather be warm and killed with fake bullets. But we followed orders and tromped through the bog, up the hill, in the pitch dark, to a place that no one had actually reconned. We didn’t know WHAT we were sleeping on (there was poison ivy and stinging nettle all over the farm). But we were too tired to care at that point and fell asleep all squashed together in a line for body warmth, my now wet feet still sticking out below my blanket. I had one apron around my shoulders, the other around my head. I think I slept until midnight-ish then I’m SURE I didn’t sleep for the rest of the night. Around 5 it began to rain. Thank goodness for wool!
At 6 Sunday morning the watch realized we were surrounded so we practically ran out of there. The women went back down to the creek to wait out the battle. We then had to wade back through the creek which had risen to thigh high from the rain. I didn’t bother to take my shoes off this time. They are now filled with mud. I’ve never been so happy to see my car.
Things I learned:
1) Buy a second blanket
2) Make a wool gown and petticoat. The linen I was wearing was way to light weight.
3) Buy wool stockings
4) Shorter petticoats are better. For some unknown reason I always hem mine long. BAD idea.
5) It was totally worth it. Although next time, I intend to be a little more prepared.