Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Know Your Enemy

The sight of a recreated company of properly-dressed, shaved, 18th-century soldiers emerging from the woods their ancestors fought over never fails to thrill. These New Englanders covered 16 miles in two 80+ degree days in New Jersey. Historians among them regaled the others with the actual events of the 1778 Battle of Monmouth, a deluxe battlefield tour.

Camp followers marched with them: stays adding an extra layer of misery to the process. Monmouth County was a wasteland in the late 1770's. The long coastline allowed the British to come and go at will. Escaped slaves were armed by the Crown and returned to torment their former owners. Whigs gave up fighting openly and began secretly retaliating against anything vaguely Tory (including Quakers.)

The Pine Barrens hid a den of horse thieves, pirates, and smugglers. Old religious and county grudges returned. A group of civilian reenactors attempted to recreate this strife for the march, but were thwarted. The lesson is no plan survives first contact with the event site.

At first glance, volunteers/employees and historic interpreters have much in common. They share a love of history and feel strongly about surviving objects and buildings. Sadly, humans fear change and are hostile to outsiders. Negotiations sometimes fail. The volunteers are at the site every day. It feels like home to them. Interpreters can appear arrogant when told a metal bread cooking device can be operated with the feet (hence, toe stir) or a pair of fireplace tongs are for when cows choke (cud-puller.) It's hard to relate to someone who says: "just stand there and don't touch anything." Hours of kindness can sometimes gain trust. In the end "the plan" never trickles down to the people who spend every day on site. The event planners need to be flexible and understanding.

  On a more positive note, here is the buckram Federal neck stock with checked cotton whipped over it. The buckle can be found here, but needs to be removed from it's mount. Another piece of buckram is used for the tongue. The body is lined, and some originals have soft leather chin guards to keep the cloth from fraying.

Next up: a band with a faux bow to complete the project.

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