Saturday, October 20, 2007

North Carolina's Benedict Arnold - Michael Quinn

This weekend, the North Carolina Maritime History Council held their annual meeting in scenic and historic Edenton, NC. Lectures included shipwrecks, tombstones and noted figures from Edenton's past. However, one lecture that caught my eye was presented by Dr. Larry Babits with ECU's Maritime History Department and Josh Howard with the NC Department of Cultural Resources titled "Our Captain Quinn: The British Raid in 1781 on Edenton". Dr. Babits' portion of the presentation dealt with the wreck of one of the ship's raided by the General Arnold, a row galley commissioned by the British and captained by Captain Michael Quinn, formerly of the NC Continental Line. Josh took over at this point and told the history of Captain Quinn, detailing how he went from an officer in the 5NC to switching sides and commanding a boat that terrorized Edenton and the surrounding area during 1781. Why did he switch sides? As he served during a period of British successes, he may have felt that the American cause was doomed and wanted to make sure he was on the winning team. This and other questions remain a basis of supposition with nothing written in stone. What is written in stone is the fact that after he was captured in Edenton bay and subsequently imprisoned at Halifax, NC, he was eventually murdered by guards under the command of a Continental Line officer who had served with Quinn. Murder and mayhem, who knew it happened in our backyard! Keep a lookout in future issues of the NC Historical Review for rest of Josh's story!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

On the road to after Williamsburg

I had a ball! I'm sore in places I didn't know existed as we marched and marched and marched...well, you get the picture. That being said, it all had purpose. The activity that stuck out in my mind was participating in the Battalion drill as part of the Carolina Brigade. It was the first time since beginning reenacting that I could get a real sense of what it was like to be in the midst of battle. While we weren't engaging the enemy, marching along side of artillery pieces that were firing at the same time you were was outstanding. Realize when I say this, I am usually teaching rather than out "burning powder". This was truly a learning experience for me. As for the remainder of the activities, they were well planned. For the weekend, the 5NC fell in with the 6NC who opened their doors to our meager few and made us feel like part of their family. Thank you's go to Tom Bojanski, Richard Avery, Hank Brown, Carol Sherwood as well as the rest of the 6NC for making this happen! The funny thing is, I felt almost as much at home as I do with my merry band of brothers. Their camp was very open to visitors and many of their members didn't hesitate to engage the public, answering their questions and correcting the myths that have been taught in the schools for years. It was truly a good blend of both living history and reenacting. I've been bit folks! I can't wait until the next event.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Williamsburg " A Prelude to Victory"

I'm heading up to Williamsburg for their "Prelude to Victory" program being held this weekend. My fledgling AmRev unit, 5NC, has graciously been invited to fall in with the 6NC by one of our friends, Hank Brown. I am really looking forward to the program as Williamsburg is just too cool, I get to place faces with a whole bunch of names that I have interacted with via the phone or email and we get to hone our skills under the tutelage of some great living historians. Doing infantry has been a challenge for me as up to this point my focus has been on learning how to navigate ships, construct ironclads or blow up the enemy with "infernal machines". While I have been exposed to the manual of arms of the WBTS, the drill, whether it be the British 1764 or Steuben's, is more complicated and definitely different. However, those differences actually make it a much more attractive drill to watch being performed (especially the 1764). We actually began to work on our drill in August at the Caswell program but it will take many, many painstaking hours to really become proficient. Stay tuned next week for a run-down on all the happenings.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

How many Yankees does it take to have a battle? (Or Tarboro's Battle of the Town Commons)

All in all, Saturday was a good day at Tarboro. For the third year, my shipmates and I from the Ship's Company of the Roanoke set up living history displays describing and demostrating things such as small arms, ropework, torpedoes and navigation. Our shipmate, Gary Riggs, set up a Confederate army hospital complete with amputations and the like (another shipmate likes to call him "Granny Grossout"). Our justification for potraying CSN sailors here was that an "Albemarle" class ironclad was being built here and was burned in the stocks before she was afloat. In terms of specators, we feel that we probably engaged well over 1500 people which kept us very busy throughout the day. For the most part, the event was ok even when taking into account an 18th century to early 19th century vessel being berthed beside us and 1870's Buffalo Soldiers camped across the green from our displays, both being the only non-civil war setups at our location (the latter done to placate the local town council who were afraid of a racial backlash). The only thing that disturbed me was a skirmish (and I use this word loosely) at our location that involved too much Confederate artillery (Note: I know all the units and consider them all friends. This should not be taken as an affront to them!) and too little Union calvary. If you don't have the proper mix of troops and the proper numbers to make it look at least somewhat realistic, just don't do it. Call it a demonstration not a "skirmish". Another issue involved too little preparation in terms of safety (no barriers whatsoever). My compatriot, Andrew, and I were trying our best to keep people out of harms way from our side of the commons but sometimes folks just don't understand that horses will hurt you and cannons are loud and will deafen you! I think that this year grew so much from the previous years that they were not prepared for the logistics. Hopefully, next year will be better.