The Broadside

Volume 1, Issue 2

2003

 

My Journey to Saratoga
October 2002
Mike Connolly
It was raining mercilessly as we drove up the Jersey Turnpike on Friday morning. We had plans to visit Saratoga National Historic Park by three, then move on to camp by five or so. But with the rain, we figured we'd be lucky to make camp by six. And I was not relishing the idea of setting up a tent in the dark during a rainstorm. The weekend was starting off poorly. Rain was in the forecast all weekend. Although I didn't tell Tracey, I was afraid the weather might keep reenactors away from the event. It turns out I didn't need to tell her ­ she was quietly thinking the same thing. This event might be a huge bust.
Shortly after reaching the NY State Thruway my cell phone rang. "Hello?" It was Jim Perry. He was in the midst of packing for the weekend and wanted to know how we were doing. After much cursing about the torrent that some angry god had unleashed upon us, we agreed that he and Glenn would call me when they arrived in camp that night around nine or ten. They were coming up together. Since they were arriving late, I was to attend the officer's meeting that night at seven fifteen. Glenn was a company commander in Ten Broeck's Division, and he asked me to be First Sergeant. Not knowing what exactly a First Sergeant did, I agreed. Big mistake.
The trip, and the rain, continued uneventfully. We finally reached Saratoga National Historic Park around 3:30. The rain let up as we pulled in, and park admission was free this weekend due to the 225th anniversary ­ sweet! Things were looking up! After a quick trip through the visitor's center, we dropped a donation in the box by the door, and set out for a driving tour of the battlefield.
We met some other reenactors at the first stop on the tour. We chatted for a while and they told us we had just missed a couple of modern British officers that were talking with them about the British strategy of the first battle. Apparently they were from the modern version of one of the regiments that fought at Saratoga, and were here to attend the event.
We continued our tour through the large park, stopping at various monuments including one to Ten Broeck and the Albany militia, before finally reaching what I really wanted to see ­ The Boot Monument. The Boot Monument is a marble monument to Benedict Arnold. The interesting thing about this monument is that is doesn't mention Arnold by name ­ there is a law in the U.S. that prohibits carving the name "Benedict Arnold" in stone or casting it in metal. So instead, there is a painted sign nearby that basically says, "that monument over there is for Benedict Arnold."

We finished up at the battlefield, and jumped in the car for the short trip to camp. We were on back roads now, and needless to say, we got lost. But we weren't alone ­ the driver of the car behind us, with telltale tent poles strapped to the roof, was as confused as us. We turned around, tried an alternate route and found the road we were looking for.
We breathed a sigh of relief as the camp came into view. And kept coming into view. And kept coming into view. Whatever doubts we had about the turnout for the event immediately disappeared. The camp was huge ­ a mass of white canvas stretched out before us. Hundreds of people were busy setting up camp. And this was just the American camp. This was going to be cool!
Pulling in and unloading went quick ­ it was well organized. We quickly made friends with our neighbors ­ a couple guys from a New York regiment ­ and we had our tents up in no time.
After moving the car, it was time for the officer's meeting ­ where was it? No one seemed to know. I crashed an officer's tent and realized I just missed the meeting. I was to bring Glenn to the Division Commander's tent later on.
Off to dinner at a nice restaurant in a renovated blacksmith shop in town. Stew and beer. Mmmm. Just what I needed on a damp raw night.
Back to camp ­ not much to do except get out of the rain and wait for Jim and Glenn. It was 9:30, so the wait shouldn't be long. I fell asleep. I woke up at 11:00, checked the cell phone...it was on - no messages. I called Jim. "We just arrived. . .just pulled into camp." I went to meet them. They pulled up right behind my tent. It was raining. We were not setting up their tents tonight. Hopefully, their front seats would be comfortable.
Off to the Division Commanders tent where the liquor was flowing and had been for awhile. . .it's good to be an officer. Or so I thought. I introduced myself as the First Sergeant. They all looked at each other and burst out laughing. Not a good sign. I soon found out why...
"7 am?!?! You've got to be kidding! No way am I getting up that early! Then I have to take roll in the street?!?! Then I have to find guys to "volunteer" for guard duty?!?! Before breakfast?!?! Fill out paperwork too?!?! Both days?!?!" Glenn's life expectancy was decreasing with each new duty I received. This was NOT going to be cool.
Time for bed. 7 am will arrive far too quickly. Tracey was sound asleep in the tent. I couldn't fall asleep ­ "I can't believe they want to post guards by 8 am ­ the public doesn't arrive until 10!" Sometime around 1 am I fell asleep.
5:50 am. Saturday.
EEEKKK. EEK EEK EEK EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK gurgle gurgle rumble.

What the hell was that!

EEEKKK. EEK EEK EEK EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK gurgle gurgle rumble.

What is that! Is that a rooster? Is that a &^%@#*& rooster! *&^@#&^!! (*^@#$*&^!! It's not even six o'clock! *&(^#$(*&#^$!

EEEKKK. EEK EEK EEK EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK gurgle gurgle rumble.

Where's my bayonet?

EEEKKK. EEK EEK EEK EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK gurgle gurgle rumble.

We're having chicken for dinner. So help me, we're having chicken!

This wasn't the type of free- range rooster that is indigenous to upstate New York farms. Oh no. Some nut brought this horrid creature with him on purpose. It was in a wooden cage and left it in the tent behind ours! Of course, the offending individual was not sleeping in the tent and probably was nowhere to be found. I guess in theory, having a gamecock in a camp could be a neat thing for the public to see. But in practice, it's not the best way to endear yourself to your fellow reenactors.

The bird continued to squawk until it was time to get up. I managed to take roll, although I didn't have much luck with volunteers for guard duty. No one had much enthusiasm for it ­ not even the officers ­ imagine that! I completed my paperwork and we began the day. My duties weren't that bad so, being a magnanimous fellow, I decided to grant Glenn a pardon. We drilled, we marched, we stood around in formation. It was damp but not raining. We had lunch.

We had one of the best battles ever.

Then we were issued rum rations by our commander. It was to celebrate one of the finest performances on the field that any of us had ever seen. Ten Broecks was a HUGE group of men, working together extremely well. From all accounts, we looked awesome! Ten Broeck's was one of the finest divisions out there. It was a great afternoon.

Dinner was great ­ courtesy of Jim Perry. Saturday night there was dancing and drinking at a barn party behind the British camp. We met a lot of people there that we knew from outside the BAR and Outwater's, including our friends from the Cecil County Militia. Then back to camp for continued revelry with the 3rd Connecticut who formed up with us that afternoon. They brought some homemade cider with them, which we all enjoyed immensely. Soon it was time to turn in. We had it all to look forward to again on Sunday. It had turned out to be a GREAT weekend!

6:20 am. Sunday.
EEEKKK. EEK EEK EEK EEEEEEEEEEEEKKKKKKKKKKKKK gurgle gurgle rumble.

Well, maybe not that great. . .

We cook a rabbit...and a chicken!


Remembering The Hero of Saratoga
The Sign Leading to the Boot Monument
"While Morgan's Light Corps, the 5th and 6th Massachusetts Continentals and other American troops attacked the Breymann Redoubt from the front, the intrepid Benedict Arnold ­ without a command of his own ­ joined a handful of Americans in a daring assault from the rear. Near this spot Arnold was shot in the leg. The nameless "Boot Monument" symbolizes his bravery as well as his subsequent treason."
The Boot Monument
"In Memory of the most brilliant soldier of the Continental Army who was desperately wounded on this spot, the sally port of BURGOYNES GREAT WESTERN REDOUBT 7th October 1777 winning for his countrymen the Decisive Battle of the American Revolution and for himself the rank of major general."

 

RECEIPT FOR CAMP OR KITCHEN
(From "At The Hearth, Early America Recipes" by Mary Sue Pagan Latini)
ROASTED APPLES
Great for breakfast or a fall dessert.
Mix _ cup butter, _ cup sugar, and _ teaspoon of cinnamon together. Partially core cooking apples and spoon some of the above mixture into the hollowed core. Arrange apples in a pie pan. Set the pan in a preheated Dutch oven, cover and place oven on a bed of coals. Pile coals on the lid. Bake about 30 minutes.
You can also use a tin apple roaster if you have one. Set the apples in the roaster and place in front of the fire. Turn them when they have browned. The apple drippings will collect on the roaster bottom. Save these to spoon over the apples. Or serve with cream.


BACKBONE WITH DUMPLINGS
Glenn cooked something very similar to this authentic camp meal at the Red Mill event this year.
DUMPLINGS
Mix 2 cups flour, 4 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 cup milk into a dough. With a fork and spoon drop the dumplings into the backbone pot.
PORK BACKBONE
2 lbs. fresh or salted backbone, fresh ground pepper, pod red pepper, 1.2 teaspoon sage (fresh or dried).
If using salted meat, wash several times in cold water. Put the backbones, salt peppers, and about 1 gallon of water in a kettle. Hang kettle from crane above fire.
Cook until meat is done and falling from bones, and water is reduced to about half. Add the sage and cook for a few minutes to mingle flavors.
Drop dumpling mixture in pieces about the size of a walnut into the boiling backbone pot. Cover pot. Let boil rapidly for about 10 minutes without uncovering the pot.
Serve with plenty of hot cornbread.

 



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