Yesterday was fun. I made it through “Under the Redcoat”, despite being “taken into custody” once and hassled by soldiers all day. :> I don’t think I’ve actually explained this event to y’all, have I? Well I had no idea of what I’d volunteered for until last week and really had no idea what to expect until I got there!
Under the Redcoat is a program Colonial Williamsburg hosts every year. Revolutionary War reenacting units from all over are invited to participate in the weekend’s events. The year is 1781 and the events portrayed take place during the ten-day period that Williamsburg was under British occupation (by Gen Cornwallis on his way to Yorktown). So, a camp is set up on the market green, barricades are erected everywhere and soldiers (and some sailors) roam the streets. Anyone in 18th century clothing is subject to interrogation and search and those without “papers”, refusing to take the Loyalty Oath or caught with contraband can be detained and even sent to the courthouse to be tried. Behind the scenes there is one unit whose job it is to portray American patriots. There is a designated spy, a few identified deserters and others whose job it is to smuggle arms and other contraband out of town. In conclusion, it is a weekend where a bunch of adults get to play dress up and play war games, all in the sight of and for the education and amusement of the public.
We hadn’t been there long when my “Auntie Tina”, approached a friend of hers, not knowing this friend had just been arrested for not having papers. Tina and I, who didn’t have papers either being unregistered participants, were “taken into custody” and marched off the Provost-Marshal’s post as well. We were padded down, our baskets searched and after declaring loyalty to the King given a pass. Everyone was very nice about it, helped by my Auntie’s flirting and offerings of biscuits no doubt. :> We were stopped constantly through the day though to have our papers checked and our baskets searched, both inside and outside the barricades. Despite our polite compliance, more flirting and biscuit offerings some were pleasant about it and some were not - as Tina said “some people are taking this WAY too seriously” – but we had fun. We toured a few of the buildings, had our lunch of cheese, fruit and fresh bread under a large tree, watched the play in the outdoor theater, had some light refreshments at a tavern and generally strolled about town talking with costumed friends of Tina and the public.
I was complimented on my gown a lot, people being particularly impressed with the effect of the pleated stripes in back, which was very gratifying if unexpected. :> I even had one gal come up and say that she recognized me from my web site and thanked me for the help of one of my dress diaries! That was bit of a shock but I have to admit it totally made my day. I guess it’s pretty hard to miss me in that red stripe, aye? *grin*
Tina’s mom (who was not in costume) took pictures of our arrest, I do hope some of those turn out. :> The weather was of course hot and humid, although we had some cloud cover most of the morning, and I’m feeling the effect of an early morning yesterday, a long day in the heat and a slight case of dehydration today. However I managed to come away without a sunburn – yay! *throws confetti*
I think that next year I’d like to go as a member of the public, to see what it’s like from the other side. The experience did get me thinking about what it would be like to live in an hostilely occupied city though. I watched a movie set in Nazi occupied Rome earlier this week and thought as I watched how horrible that must have been. Having had a little taste of it yesterday was an interesting experience. It brought home a bit how precious freedom really is and how grateful I am to those who had the will and courage to fight for it and those who are still willing to continue the fight today.
To those men and women, past and present, I lift my glass and offer a most humble thank you.