Tuesday, 17 July 2012

#295: Dress Up and Shoot Muskets

Royal Newfoundland Regiment -- reenactors, all.  Their regiment, from Simcoe, was involved in the (mock) defense of the beach at Niagara -on-the-Lake.   
While we were in Niagara on the Lake we stayed in  the The Old Bank House, a very swish historic B and B overlooking the water.  It was the perfect spot from which to see one of the events commemorating the bicentennial of the War of 1812, a naval battle with 5 tall(ish) ships, 20 longboats and 200 reenactors.

When we made this booking, we had no idea there would be a mock battle across the street, so it was certainly a bonus to sit on the shady veranda in 35 degree heat and see the action complete with guns, cannons, and fife and drum music.

Surveying the these committed volunteers, I was impressed with the number of older participants.  Surely the actual army would not have included so many grizzled faces and paunchy bodies.  These guys were clearly retired -- hobby historians with a penchant for dressing up.  There were older costumed onlookers, too -- "military" men and their well-dressed wives along with ordinary citizens circa 1812 -- all contributing to our feeling of having accidentally stumbled into the past.

No need to shoot a cannon!  Be a townsperson!  This couple looks so cute.  I can totally imagine Bruce in this get-up.  

What a great pastime, especially for a retired couple. I briefly imagined Bruce and myself strolling around in full regalia, but I know that there will be no reenactment events in our future.  It is an expensive hobby ($500 or more for a man's authentic costume which should include shoes and felt hat), but that is not why we would not be participating.  Bruce so rabidly anti-costume that he would likely pay 500 bucks not to wear a bowler.

So that leaves me on my own, a single female reenactor.  I would likely wind up a camp follower -- a lower class, simply dressed woman (the costume is inexpensive and easily sewn) who accompanies the troops and performed "domestic duties" for them.  At best, this could be interpreted as doing laundry and cooking over an open fire

Hmmm. This is becoming a singularly unappealing.  I recall that our daughter Jenny worked for a year as a costumed interpreter.  In midsummer she had to wear a scratchy, voluminous dress while stoking fires in order to prepare (largely inedible) scones.   She hated it.  She pointed out that 19th century countrywomen died as often from cooking mishaps (ie immolation) as from childbirth.

The rocking chair on the porch at the Banks House beckons.  Historic reenactments are nothing without an audience and I think that is where my true talent lies.  Bruce will be so relieved.         


  1. Fascinating! You were there at just the right time and took great photos. Read a little about the 1812 war recently (probably in a NYRB). You;d both look great in costumes of the gentry.

  2. Not my photos but that is what they would have been like -- same outfits, same drills. Very authentic looking!