Tuesday, March 30, 2010


When I was in grade school, I was absolutely besotted with horses. I spent a year earning money to take a set of riding lessons. $100 for 10 lessons - this was about 35 years ago, and that was a lot of money. I managed to wrangle a job at that stable, working one afternoon/evening after school and one Sunday each week (totalling about 13 hours) in exchange for a one hour lesson.

Foxhunting was something I never had the opportunity to try. While I loved horses, I was clearly not of the "horsey set", if you know what I mean. And while I've always thought foxhunting was one of those wonderful traditons found in Virginia, I may have to agree the with following e-mail I received, and work to ban foxhunting .

WARNING - Graphic photo below the jump!

Monday, March 29, 2010

So, that event I was talking about …

Our first event of the season took place at Jamestown Settlement. Military Thorough the Ages is a timeline event, and it is judged. We wrangled ourselves an invitation last year to see what it was all about, and we got hooked. The participants are divided into three time periods: Cold Steel, Black Powder and Modern. Since we portray a British Hospital during the American War for Independence, we were part of the Black Powder group. There are three judged categories for each time period, Best Camp Cooking, Best Camp (Material Culture and Interpretation), and Best Uniform/Clothing Impression. There is also an overall Best Unit Demonstration for battlefield interpretation and a Reenactor’s Choice award.

It all makes for a crazy weekend. We didn’t have as much space to set up as we would have liked so we crammed ourselves into our space with the aid of Vaseline (Oh! Not period correct. Maybe I should say lard) and a shoe-horn. The firewood was green and wouldn’t burn (thank goodness for those who packed the period correct charcoal). There wasn’t any room for the kids to spread out and just be kids so we put them to work. The 11-year-old boy was up interpreting dentistry with the men when we weren’t making him haul water. The 9-year-old girl was helping the cook chop vegetables, and Sweet Daughter took over the coffee display solo when her sidekick was helping in the kitchen.

“These are coffee beans. (Points to green beans.) These are done (roasted) coffee beans. This is how you grind them. (She counts out four beans and places them into the copper hopper of coffee mill.) Be very careful not to get your fingers down there (pointing) or you’ll get hurt. (She gives the handle a couple of rotations.) They look like this (shows drawer of ground coffee.) Then she (points to the 9-year-old) puts them in here (points to Turkish burr grinder) and then they look all runny (??) (points to a bowl of finely powdered, burr-ground coffee.) Yeah, I’m biased, but for “teaching” for the first time at age 4 ½, I think she did a great job.

There were over 2.500 visitors on Saturday alone. Our guys that portray doctors and dentists and surgeons (Oh, my!) love this kind of thing. They can, and do, talk all day long. We’ve got a teacher representing one of the women who followed the army and worked for the hospital. We’ve got our cook. They love to teach. Me? Not so much, and I guess I’m still puzzling out why I love this event so much. The amount of time and effort I put into the planning the minutia of this event drives me close to insane. I think it’s because while our medical staff is the undisputed star of our show, it gives us support-types a chance to shine. The public comes to watch Dr. Mike make suppositories (they were a huge hit), or see The Bone, or hear the details of an amputation. Few really care about how to make covered buttons or how to do a prick-stitched lining in a jacket where the edges of the wool are left raw, or how a hand-rolled hem looks on a cap, or what rice and beans grown in the Carolinas in the 18th century look like. These are all really small, nit-picky details, but they all add up to a better impression. And I like this event because it drives me to better my impression.

Well that, and comparatively speaking, every other event of the season will seem like a cinch to plan.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Six degrees of separation

Remember that Continental regimental I altered for Eric? The one he wanted to wear to IGOLD? Well, wear it he did. As a matter of fact, he was asked to be the Color bearer at the head of the parade.

But wait. It gets better. Eric got to meet Otis. Yes, that Otis. According to Eric, the Illinois State Rifle Association wanted pictures of the two of them together as they were both “revolutionaries”. Eric said Mr. McDonald was a class act and all around nice, nice guy.

Yeah. That’s Otis McDonald next to the regimental I altered. So it’s really only two degrees of separation. I’m such a geek.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bayonets and Bullets

While getting ready for our first event of the season (another post for another day), one of our members, who portrays a civilian following the army, asked if we could run a bayonet through a piece of shirt linen so she’d have a example of the kind of mending that she might be doing in camp. A chance to pull out the pointy bits? Sure thing! Even better if we put a hunk of meat behind the linen to … well you can probably figure that part out yourself.

A piece of shirt-weight linen was dug up, an inexpensive roast was acquired in the name of science, and my British reproduction bayonet was affixed to the end of my lovely reproduction Spanish musket. The roast was place on a mostly rotted stump, and stabbity!

Note the bayonet *and* shirt went through the roast.

The bayonet went right through the roast and into the dirt. And I do mean right *through* the roast. The bayonet was removed, and the shirt fabric remained in the hole. When the fabric was removed, a surprisingly small hole was left in the fabric.

Okay. Time to crank it up to the next level. What were the chances of someone getting bayoneted in his sleep when all he was wearing was a shirt? It was much more likely that one would get run through on the battlefield. So I dug into my giant tub of scraps and pulled out piece of wool left over from making a regimental, some linen lining fabric, wool flannel used for a waistcoat, more linen lining fabric, and shirt-weight linen. I stitched around the outside to hold the layers in place and viola! A cross-section of clothing.

It was duly stabbed. Notice how the fabric was also shoved into the roast when it hit the tree stump. The British bayonet, being a reproduction and not properly heat treated, bent. Time for the Spanish bayonet. It had a much smaller diameter – about as big around as my finger, and was rounded instead of having three sides. After about three stabs, it also being a reproduction (and not properly tempered), snapped. It left an even smaller hole.

This is the British bayonet.

But then, if you’re being bayoneted, the guy on the other end of the pointy bit is probably under the influence of a wee bit of adrenaline, and you will meet your end as the result of being folded, spindled and mutilated. The true power of the bayonet is that people don't tend to stick around to get stuck. That's how the Brits managed to break to Continental line often early in the war - it's a terror weapon. The 18th century Spanish musket drill even has a step where your brandish your shiny, pointy bayonet at the enemy before affixing it to the end of your musket.

Three bayonet holes - one from the British bayonet, and two from the Spanish.

Next step? Why shoot a lead ball through it, of course!
About .65 caliber. Unlike the bayonet holes, notice the difference between the entry and exit openings.

See how the fabric is frayed? Guess where all that fabric ended up? That’s right. In the wound. It was believed that the resulting infection was there in part to clean the foreign objects out of the wound. When that didn’t go as planned, amputation was the next step. No pre-op medication because the only thing that would take away the pain would also take away your ability to breathe, and alcohol makes you bleed faster, the only option was speed. An average of 3 – 5 minutes from slice to thump. And no. No hot pitch applied to the stump. What are you, a savage? A torso wound? Sucks to be you.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

I'm not dead.

I’m not just resting, either. Lots of projects going on to prepare for our first big living history event of the season. I’ve been doing lots of sewing … so much so (hahahah) that repeatedly pushing the needle through the fabric and into my finger has given me a tattoo of sorts. And a heck of a callous.

The closest think to a tattoo that I'll ever have.

This next event is very hands-on for the public, so I picked up a coffee grinder that had an 18th-century look to it. It also looked like the bicentennial threw up on it, but I figured I could always repaint it as a last resort. It’s not an original, but then, I won’t have aneurysm if someone drops it.
Before - with a stunning color scheme.

I think it cleaned up rather well – much better than I had hoped. The stain color was achieved by mixing together about 3 different sample packets I had. It kind of looks like cherry.

More posts next week - including what happens when you run an 18th century bayonet through a shirt and into a pot roast. Try to contain your excitement.

Friday, March 5, 2010


Really, really want.

The iPod/mp3 player can be connected on the outside of the A-BOX as well as the inside so you can listen to your tunes while running around with the A-BOX for example or just protecting your iPod from bullets and stuff.

But at these prices, I may have much better luck asking the office engineering genius if he’d like to build one.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Reworking a Regimental

I lurk on a Yahoo group that focuses on the American Revolution. A guy – let’s call him Eric, because, well, that’s his name – asked for some help in shortening the length of a Lottery Coat he’d picked up. He simply wanted to know how far above the knees the skirts should be as this coat wasn’t custom made and was too long. Now this group takes its research seriously, and for the most part they honestly just want to help others avoid mistakes they’ve made. In this case though, it felt like Eric was taken to task for buying suboptimal coat. Sort of like a school of piranhas descending upon a cow carcass. In defense of his acquisition (he bartered for it) Eric mentioned that he simply wanted to wear it to IGOLD and not look like an idiot. Or words to that effect.

At that point, I contacted Eric, told him to mark the alterations and send the coat to me and I’d take care of it. This was a completely selfish move on my part – I didn’t want an ill-fitting regimental reflecting poorly on reenactors or to have him show up on the 6:00 news in that story about those wacky gun-rights advocates looking like he dressed up in a costume from the community theater.

The coat arrived and I was … not impressed. Not only had the seams not been pressed during (or after) construction, the fabric didn’t appear to be pressed – ever. The lining was cheap cotton osnaburg. So, I cut out the lining from the waist down and replaced it with linen. I left the wool edges raw, and turned under the linen. I shortened the cuffs. I replaced the hooks that held it together at the front. I added the missing pleats in the skirts. I just wish I’d had time to rework all the button holes and make the pockets bigger. Eric will be replacing the brushed aluminum (!!) buttons with something appropriate in pewter.
New linen lining on the skirts.
And more pictures later - they're not downloading tonight.

So, if you’re at IGOLD next week on the 10th, and if you see a gentleman in a Continental uniform waving a Gadsden flag, please go up and complement him on his turnbacks. He's promised to take lots of pictures.

Thanks, Eric, for letting me use your pictures and your story!