The War of 1812 is big news in Canada – at least the part along the St. Lawrence River. In the Canadian History books, we are the winners, and the War is a source of pride. And given that this is 2013 – We are in the middle of a series of 200 year celebrations. Spencerville Mill Heritage Days is a part of that – and like most 1812 celebrations – it’s free.
As Napoleonic Reenactors – we’ve come to be a part of the celebrations. On Friday there are dance lessons followed by a pig roast. On Saturday – more dance lessons, a 45 minute skirmish between the Americans (bolstered by a member of the French Imperial Guard), and a series of planned lectures – including one on dueling, another on medical expertise in 1813, and two rather boring historical lectures on clothing. At night will be the Grand Regency Ball. On Sunday the schedule includes more lectures – including one called ‘Petticoats on the Battlefield’, another called “Period Cooking”, visits to sutlers (period correct craftsman and women), and finally clean-up.
We are 3 – my husband who will be re-enacting as Imperial Guard during the fighting, and then coming to the ball as Royal Horse Artillery, I’m doing a period grand lady – Lady Bertram carrying Pug to be specific – for the ball. During the skirmish, I’ll do ‘Vivandaire’ duty – which puts me on the battlefield but behind the troops. Meanwhile, my granddaughter will also be ‘doing’ a grand lady for the ball, and a fellow camp follower during the day.
So much for our plans. How did it turn out? Well parts exceeded expectations – a very good thing. My favorite parts – the ‘medical’ lecture which was so interesting, we actually went twice. Pug even volunteered for brain surgery. He loved the laudanum, and did better at staying still than the next volunteer, who screamed dramatically from the ‘pain’.
And I adored the English Country Dancing! There were probably about 60 dancers in total – many of them with a great deal of experience. This means that it is a lot easier to look good – you can rely on your partner to guide you if you get confused.
For those who don’t know English Country Dancing from Ballet – a quick description. Generally English Country Dancing is done in long lines – men on the right, women on the left – with a caller. The practice sessions differ from the Ball in two ways – first everyone wears period dress to the ball, and second, the caller takes a bit more time going over the dances. So if you’re a ‘newbie’ – you just go to the practice sessions! Another important fact about English Country Dancing – it’s considered very rude to only dance with the person you came with. The idea is to change partners on every dance – never doing a repeat if you can avoid it. This way you get to meet other people – and since it’s the expected way to behave – your partner can’t get upset about it. I think it’s fun!
And my third highlight – the fireworks! They were amazing, done by a local fireworks company called Han Fireworks – they lasted at least 15 minutes – and it’s was finale after finale.
For the skirmish – there were 2 cannons – one on each side – plus our side – the Americans has a Blunderbus – a hand carried musket that creates an unbelievable amount of noise. Unfortunately, the British are the victors – out numbering and overwhelming the Americans – who end up having to flee with they fix bayonets and charge. We tried for an orderly retreat – but ended up fleeing with our lives to fight another day.
Bottom line – fun for the participants – fun for the spectators – and you even got to learn something about living history. The perfect definition of a Win-Win situation.