A First-Timer’s Experience of Under The Redcoat
Two weeks ago I had the good fortune to finally be able to attend one of the events that is on my “reenactor bucket list”, the list of events I really want to do before I eventually become too old and out of shape to participate fully in the hobby. The event in question was Under The Redcoat, known colloquially in the hobby as “UTR”, a large-scale event put on by the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
For the event, the entire town becomes alive, even moreso than it is on a daily basis. The town is occupied by an invading force of British redcoats on their way towards Yorktown, and the town is put under martial law. There are checkpoints, a jailing system, spies trying to get information past said checkpoints, requisitioning of supplies and property from the locals, all kinds of mayhem. In addition to the soldiers who take up the town common with their camp, many reenactors come to portray civilians in the occupied town. The whole thing lends an amazing ambiance, and the only thing that would make it better would be if the hordes of tourists weren’t there!
The event is a fun one for reenactors, because it allows many of us to engage in “first person” interpretation, something we don’t always get to do, especially not towards each other. We also have a lot of leeway to portray characters that fall outside our usual repertoire, and so many folks really have fun with their impressions.
Our Loyalist unit, the Queen’s Own Loyal Virginia Regiment, was not attending in any official capacity, but at least half of us attended the event as individuals citizens of the town, and many of us participated in both the tavern night and the cricket game.
Marc and I attended the event as a local solicitor (lawyer) and his servant. Marc became “Marcus” the solicitor and I became “Wilson”, his servant. We had quite a blast, saw many good friends, and I even got arrested at one point because I was carrying a knife in my knapsack (“Marcus” came to my defense and got me out of jail). I personally enjoy doing first person interpretation, but I don’t often get a chance to do it, so I really enjoyed the opportunity to engage in some witty interactions with my “master”. Modern folks are often unaware or uncomfortable with the realities of class in the 18th century, and it can be fun to watch the tourists squirm a bit when they see the way that an upper class member of society would treat his indentured servant.
In the afternoon, after most of the tourists had left, there was even a period-correct game of cricket, played by some of the reenactors. In the evening we visited Chowning’s Tavern, which was given over to the reenactors in the evening for one giant party, with much singing of period songs, free-flowing beer, and general revelry.
Despite the high temperatures and high humidity that soaked my clothes with sweat, I really had quite a good time – in fact, the only thing that would have made the event better for me was if I had been able to attend for more than the day and a half that I was there (the event is a full three days). I definitely want to attend for the full duration next year.
Since I wanted to be able to participate fully most of the time, I only had access to my cell phone most of the time, and only had my professional camera gear with me for about an hour and a half’s worth of the event, but I will post my shots from the event soon. Keep your eyes peeled!