Sunday, March 22, 2009

Cavalry, Dragoons and Hussars

Been WAY too long since I last posted. Sorry to all who check this blog occasionally, if anyone ever will again! Sorry about that...

Anyway, last November we hosted a nice little "Civil War Cavalry Camp" here at Tilbury, mostly to accommodate a couple of friends who want to get back into it. Of course they didn't show, but my other friends who usually do Mediaeval and Renaissance equestrian activities did. And what was most astonishing, they showed up in Civil War uniforms, no less! Bully for them, I was impressed with their industry in doing so. Also friend Stewart who generally does British Engineers came over as well, dressed to the nines in his Victorian "undress" officer's kit. Very nice!

Since then I've been delving back into my studies of the American Civil War and most especially the years leading up to that conflict, mostly in the West. I got into contact with a gentleman who runs the living history program at Ft. Steilacoom, near Tacoma, and thus I've thrown myself headlong into a study of the various Indian-European conflicts in Washington state. And of course even though Ft. Steilacoom was entirely garrisoned by Artillery and Infantry troops, I HAVE to do a Dragoon impression. I even found that there was an ill Dragoon in the fort infirmary during the inspection of 1853, so I think I'm safe in portraying a transient courier from Ft. Vancouver. So here I am portraying a Dragoon from the 1st United States Regiment of Dragoons, ca. early 1850's.

Of course, throwing myself headlong into the 19th Century like this wouldn't be complete without my branching out a bit too. So the afore-mentioned Stewart has somehow maneuvered me into getting rather interested in his own group to study, the Royal Engineers Columbia Detachment. The "big event" to date for the RECD fellows is presently the Pig War event on San Juan Island in July. This year is the Big Year, the 150th Anniversary of the militarization of SJI by the forces of the United States and Great Britain over who owned the San Juan/Orcas islands. The treaty of 1846 merely stated that the boundary between the US and British Columbia was to be along the 49th Parallel, and then through the shipping channel between the mainland and Vancouver Island. The question of course was "which one?" Several channels there, and of course each country chose the channel that best suited it's interests. Things came to a head over the shooting of a Hudson's Bay Company pig by an American settler, thus "The Pig War".

Now, before you start thinking that I've gone stark, raving mad in that I'm actually pondering the idea of picking up a spade and portraying my Irish roots with a will, forget it. As it turns out, the Royal Engineers Columbia Detachment, under Colonel Moody, was supplied with not only Engineering troops ("Sappers"), but also two men from the Royal Artillery, and interestingly enough two Non-commissioned Officers from the 15th (King's) Light Dragoons (Hussars)! Col. Moody thought it might be necessary to organize and train loyal subjects of the Queen as militia cavalry to combat the American Juggernaught, thus the two Cavalry NCO's. Never mind that British Columbia is hardly what one might consider "cavalry country", but still, there they were. And there it is, then! So now I can with a clear conscience portray a Hussar in the wilds of the Oregon Country! Amazing stuff, what?

So now off into the wild and woolly world of researching into the details of just what on earth these fellows may have worn to British Columbia. Would they look like they just got off the boat from the Crimea two years before? Or would they have fully adopted the new clothing and equipments of the regulations published in 1856, just two years prior to their sailing? Ah, the joys of research! It ought to be rather interesting, and it should fill my time rather nicely, I shall presume. Wish me luck!


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