Tuesday, July 2, 2013

A Busy Few Weeks


It's been a busy couple of weeks for me. Two weekends ago I participated in a living history event in Franklinton, near downtown Columbus. The event was hosted by the Franklinton Historical Society and featured a recreation of the historic conference between Wyandot Chief Tarhe and Major General William H. Harrison. The meeting helped pave the way for an American victory in Ohio by securing the support of the Wyandot, Seneca, Miami and Shawnee tribesmen during the War of 1812. 

The French 46th Regiment of the Line attempts to run off the Austrian Advance Guard in the preliminaries to the Battle of Wagram, July 5-6 1809.
This past week I've been working on battalion-scale rules for a tabletop wargame. Thus far, I've been using bits scavenged from Battlecry!, Risk, and other games. The rules are similar to those I've written for company-level gaming, but with reduced hit effects (ie., you can't destroy a whole battalion with a single lucky volley), and reduced range for muskets and rifles. I tried the system with two scenarios: Lundy's Lane in 1814 and the opening skirmishes  of the Battle of Wagram in 1809.
The Battle of Lundy's Lane, 25 July 1814.

I've also been tinkering with the company-level rules. To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Beaver Dams on 24 June 1813, I created a scenario where Colonel Boerstler's column gets jumped by 400 Kahnawake and Mohawk warriors. The Americans actually did better than they did during the historical battle, but they were still forced to retreat with serious losses.

This week, I'm driving up to Perrysburg, Ohio for the 4th of July Celebration at Fort Meigs. Every year, the Fort commemorates the 4th in the same way that the garrison did in 1813, with an 18-gun salute and toasts given-- we even have the actual text of the toasts.

What were they toasting with? Probably fortified wines, such as sack or port, which were popular with the upper classes, or perhaps bourbon-style whiskey. But if you really want to celebrate the 4th in high spirits, my suggestion is to have a mint julep. After all, that drink was popularized by Speaker of the House Henry Clay, the most prominent Kentuckian of the 19th Century who had an instrumental role in starting (and finishing) the war. 

You can either have the modern version of the mint julep, or try the recipe that I found in a diary from 1814 describing the "Virginia Julip" as drunk by Colonel James V. Ball of the 2nd US Light Dragoons before breakfast:
It is made of Rum water and a handful of mint pressed into it, and from the taste the spirit must have exceeded the water... These gent. think a mint patch near an encampment, as a great treasure. I heard the story very often told that the Col. had discovered a fine patch 3 miles from the present encampment; for which the whole company seemed much indebted to him.
 This, of course, was during an era when most working men drank whiskey instead of coffee early in the morning-- and the average American drank the equivalent of a barrel of whiskey every year. Whiskey was a good way for American farmers to convert their crops into cash, especially in the western states where it was harder to export wheat and corn. Rum, as seen above, was also still common in America-- even in central Ohio's frontier general stores you could still buy rum, imported from the West Indies and British blockade be damned! 

Perhaps the Victorian-era temperance movement can be seen as a gigantic, collective hangover from the heavy drinking of the Federal era...