Dawn breaks early in the Old Guard Bivouac

Historically the Old Guard did not have tents at this point and place in time, but fortunately for me – M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clairmont, the organizers have bent the cardinal rule – ‘It must be correct for the period’ – enough to let us use tents.

And what is inside a tent is private – no peeking by tourists. Thus we can stow in the tents all our non-period correct items – from plastic bottles of water, to food stuffs, sacks of bread, and in the case of our unit of Old Guard – rotten carrots. I’m not sure what the point of the carrots actually was – but rotten they were, and throwing them away was really the only solution.

In our tents you will also find things like sleeping bags and foam air mattresses – but the hardier among us use bags filled with Straw (called Paillaise), sheepskin pads, and wooden furniture. Those tents are left open for tourists to check out – the simple rule – if the tent is open, you can look – if the tent is closed – no looking please!

After what can only be described as a seriously disappointing breakfast – they opened packages of waffle looking things (can you say sugar high), and there was some coffee looking stuff involved – but the lack of milk is a serious problem for me, as is the lack of a chair. I need to sit to eat – and sitting is not an option when there are 40 soliders, 12 chairs – and one Doctor. Despite this – I try to find a seat – and get the hairy eyeball. Hey – that’s my chair – you didn’t even ask to share.

Thanks. Next time I fly – I fly with a chair.

Ah – but creature comforts aren’t what this is about – so I stand tall – and join the army. They are not at all sure what to do with me. The only people I’ve marched with before is Gilles – the Major who does most of the leading of the troops, and Pierre – who as the Collonel is the senior officer, but serves mostly as overview. It’s Gilles who tells the troops to let me alone – and begrudingly they ceed space. But you can tell they aren’t too happy about a woman who is wearing an officier’s uniform (all medical staff are officers).

I’m extremely serious about drill – so I gather my water bottles, hidden in my doctor’s bag, and march just behind the 3rd division. That puts about 70 men in front of me, another 30 behind – as the Docteur, it’s pretty important I be protected – but again with the hairy eyeball. The nerve I have…

A quick word about my doctor’s bag – I don’t just have water inside, I have bandages – both real for emergencies, and ‘fake’ large clothes with blood stains for covering the real bandages. I also have stuff for other kinds of emergencies – medical, and not so medical. I’m a gal of many tricks – all hidden behind my lovely Doctor’s uniform!

I ignore the questioning looks – seen this before – and decide to march closely behind the men. At each repose – I make sure everyone has water. At first most of the men politely decline – but as the drill goes on and the sun comes out – I have more and more ‘Thank You’s’ to my questions – “L’Eau? Water?”

We practice forming and reforming the Square. This formation is specifically against calvary – and our captain clearly fears their effectiveness. We get it down to 8 seconds – from his call to form a square – to a clear square with room inside for the flag and flag bearers, the other officers – and of course the Doctor.

My view from inside the square isn’t great – the spaeurs on the corners are the shortest of the soliders – and they are huge! But that isn’t the point of a square – it’s all about protecting the flag and the eagle on the top.

We break for lunch (sliced sauage (Thanks Crown and Queue), cheese, and bread. After lunch I perform the other part of my job – translator for the re-enactors from the US who speak no french. One of our guys has purchased a musket that will not fire – and I’m going to go with him to the sutllers who have set up shop back near the battle field. Guess I’m doing that 5K walk again!

We manage to buy him a used musket, and head back to camp – just in time to march out for the Friday night battle. This time there’s no cheating by taking a bus or hitch-hiking – it’s march the 5 Km in full kit with backpacks or else. I’m carrying 2 liters of water – and I’ve hidden another 6 liters of water in the backpacks of the stronger soldiers. I’ll refill my ‘period’ bottle as I run low during the fighting.

We drop one man on the walk – he just stumbled – but the result was a bloodly knee that needed my quick attention. My job during the next 4 hours is to be sure the men have plenty of liquid, provide bandages and help with mis-firing muskets as needed, and stay out of danger. I’m the Doctor. At the end of the battle – I need to signal the medical core to come and get the injured worth saving off the field. But this is getting ahead of my story – first we might fight.

The French plan, as I understand it, is to simply run the Brits off the field. After all – we trounced the Prussians just 5 days ago – the Brits are far less experienced. And things go well at first – we form our squares pretty well – and the Allied Calvary fails to break thru.

At one point – to my horror – the allied calvary gets behind our lines – and is riding free – swinging their sabors. Along with Adrien, our adjutant – I defend the back of our men with my epee! It’s like theatening a dinosaur with a needle – the sabors of the calvary would make mince-meat of my attempt at defence – but at least the line realizes the issue, and does an about face. Now I’m in front of the line – and they are preparing to fire!

Do I fall? Do I flee?

Fortunately, the Major recognizes the issue – and calls – form Square! Whew – somewhere for me to run and hide!

Never been so glad to see a square in my life!

But the Scotish infantry have different plans. Instead of just pretending to shoot at the square – they mount bayonets and Charge!

The Square stays as strong as it can – but eventually the Scotish – despite their officer giving other commands – forces some of the elderly Sapeurs aside and attempts to grab our flag. My husband, as Guardian of the Flag, levels his musket and forces 3 Scots back. An actual fight breaks out – complete with bloody noses – until the offciers can get the Scots to back off. I continue to swing (ok – pretty harmlessly) my epee – and while it’s not very scary, the Scots do keep away from me. Is it the Epee? Or is it the Doctor’s Uniform?

The Scots retreat – the battle is over.

We form up, and march off the field. The plan is to continue the battle from this point tomorrow!

I ask permission from the officers to hitch rides for soliders that are too tired or too sore to march the 5 Km back to the camp.

Then it’s Frites and Beer and Bed!

Signing off – M. le Docteur Jean Vivant de Clairemont

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