Friday, May 30, 2014

First Siege: Memorial Day Weekend at Fort Meigs

This year's First Siege weekend was at its customary three-day Memorial weekend dates. Here's a reenactor's view of the action:

 Experienced reenactors know to take shade where they can find it. Our regular infantry company grabbed a nice spot to wait out the initial probe of the light infantry towards some suspected enemy positions.

 The regular Rifles and Volunteers with the battalion colors, eager for action, stayed out in the sun a bit longer than we.
Eventually most of them came and joined us. "Hurry up and wait" is usually the order of the day while skirmish lines and artillery exchange pot shots.
 Price's Co, Light Artillery, wait to get into action.
 The scene inside the fort as civilians stroll over to see the ruckus unfolding along the south wall.

We had enough time to sit for a portrait. That's me at left, with a volunteer in the blue frock and regular rifleman to the right.

The survivors of Dudley's Defeat straggle into line. We were complimented on how thoroughly we bungled the operation.

As a rule, flintlock weapons tend to be temperamental and have good and bad days, depending on the humidity, fouling on the lock, and the sharpness and size of the flint. My musket, for once, was going off every time I loaded and pulled the trigger. I had chosen the magic flint! Even though we were supposed to lose, and most of my platoon went down with imaginary wounds, I kept at it until the barrel and lock became too hot to handle (when you see a leather sling on a musket, it's best use is as a potholder-- the barrel isn't red hot but it will scorch like a simmering tea kettle!).

We were surrounded and the gig was up, so at last I took a hit and staggered to my knees with a non-fatal wound. Another private from the 17th Infantry spotted me and helped me off to safety. We were the only survivors of the regular company... We made it back to the motley ranks of the volunteers, who promptly surrendered. It was that or run off into the parking lot.

Our formidable foes, a Centre company (I think) of the hard bitten 1st Battalion, 41st Regiment of Foot. We overran some grasshopper guns representing the Indian battery, but had to relinquish the gunners you see at right in exchange for our parole.

Back Rank! You don't get as good a view of the action being stuck in the back rank of an infantry company, but the problem soon solves itself as enemy musketballs find their mark. In the dense woods we happened to form a 2x3 column that could fire in three ranks by the flank (forwards) or by two ranks to the front (right face). It's hard to explain to non-infantrymen, but great for close action so long as the front two guys remember to kneel when firing. Otherwise, as period tactician William Duane noted, you stand a fair chance of the third rank man blowing off the head of his front rank file mate.
 On Saturday evening, we call off the war for the night and have a hoe-down on the most convenient dance floor to be found: the Grand Battery.

 My musket exacted a bitter price for working flawlessly for three days straight: I burned my hands in the first fight, split my thumb open on the flint in the second, and bled profusely. The situation called for a decidedly non-period remedy.
 Memorial Day itself is considerably more laid-back. Most First Siege participants go home (Canada has a different Memorial Day weekend) and we have a ceremony midday to honor the dead.
A stack of arms. Muskets have the amazing capacity for self-storage as long as you have the other two musket owners present again when you need to retrieve your portion of the tripod.

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