Warning: Word heavy post ahead!
If you were at the Battle of the Hook weekend before last you know just how epic the event was. I wish I had pictures but I was never in a position to take them. So I apologize for the extremely wordy post but it was too amazing an event not to share.
The buildup was almost as taxing as the event since my unit was hosting. We build earthworks that were approximately 300 feet long as well as a reproduction farm of sorts. Four of us built a full size farmhouse (18’ x 12’) with chimney, outhouse and pig sty. The clap boards were milled by us at the Claude Moore Farm. Everything was coated in pitch just like the farmhouse at Claude Moore. We built the house out in Leesburg, VA and then transported it to Gloucester. It was all placed in a corn field (the battle field) with a split rail fence around it, pumpkin patches around it, and harvest corn strategically placed. The result was absolutely amazing.
I think this event was the biggest I’ve ever been too. We had over 1500 reenactors, 8 boats, ~10 artillery pieces, and 30 horses. We did amphibious landings on both Saturday (Continentals landing) and Sunday (British landing) mornings which was something many of our linemen had not done before. On Saturday evening the Continental line stormed the earthworks in the dark. While not as cool as the two main battles it was neat not being able to see anything but muzzle flashes.
The two main battles were the most fun and quite unique due to the house being in play. Saturday there were 8 of us, all women and children in the house. I played Mrs. Elizabeth Seawell Whiting. Mrs. Whiting was the widow of Colonel Thomas Whiting and Colonel Tarleton was particularly enamored with her. Just before the battle in Gloucester the Duc de Lauzon rode by her house and spoke with her. She told him that Tarleton had just passed by and was interested in meeting the French Duke. He then found Tarleton and the battle ensued. Our Lauzon asked me if we had suitable cover and I said that we did; we would hide in the house. So the 8 of us hid in the house and waited to see what was going to happen. About a half an hour later the Jaegers knocked on the door and in a very think German accent told us that we needed to leave and that they were going to take over the house. It was actually perfect because this wasn’t what we expected so we went relatively peaceably but we were so confused we all went different directions and kept looking back at the house like we had no idea what was going on (which we didn’t). We went through the corn field and around to the other side where we just watched the rest of the battle.
No matter how much fun we had on Saturday nothing compared to Sunday. Again, there were 8 of us in the house. A man, two women, and five children. Basically we were portraying a farm family. The scenario started with Loyalists telling us they were going to take our crops. We fought them a bit but they had guns so we hid in the house. They take our corn and pumpkins before the farmer runs them off. Then we hear drums getting closer. Before we knew it there was gun fire and artillery fire all around us. We were peering through cracks and we were completely surrounded by both British and Continentals. The farmer ran out yelling at them a couple of times. One of our children ran out and he went to drag her back to safety. After a while British officers banged open our door and found us huddled in the corner of the house. They rip away the husband and take him away. Then they tear the rest of us apart and forcibly drag us out of the house kicking and screaming. We were herded to the fence where we hunker down in fear and turn around just in time to see them torch the outhouse and farmhouse. And boy did that house burn beautifully. It was engulfed in flames in seconds, and then became just a glowing and smoldering frame. By the time we were escorted all the way over to the earthworks the frame had collapsed and it was just a smoldering heap of ashes. The battle continued raging all over the field. There were skirmishes going on behind the corn and some beautiful moves by the Dragoons. The Continentals pushed the British back to the earthworks and at that point the British requested parlay.
The whole thing was downright emotional. And the interesting thing was that while it was going on we felt most of the emotions that we would have in a real situation like that. It was tempered a little by the fact that we knew it was staged but the panic and uncertainty were quite real. And it was also interesting that the audience was dead silent. Usually we hear cheers periodically. Dead silence. Someone DID say though that when they torched the house the audience booed the British.
I’m not sure any reenactment will be that powerful ever again. To not only be a part of the battle but to be right in the middle of it and feel the things that they would have felt was an experience that doesn’t come along very often. I was also glad that I helped build the house. I felt possession and when they tore me away from it and torched it they were in fact torching MY house.