Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Battle Royal

Ever a sucker for military history, I made my third pilgrimage to that great corridor of 18th century conflict, the Lake George/ Fort Ticonderoga region of New York state.

I had to drag Kelly, the kid, bloggerette, and the canine -all four kicking and screaming- along with me, in order to force-feed them some of the history o' struggle that brought forth this great nation... And get some grand scenery in to boot; Lake George was beautiful as always.

There was a titanic classic car show going on, with vintage autos roaming the streets and taking up nearly every parking space in town.

We did a quick run around the downtown area and checked out the tourists, classic cars and some other kitchy, touristy stuff going on along the main strip... we soon had to go. We were at the southern end of mighty Lake George, and an hour's drive away up along the coast was the primary destination for the day: the huge battle reenactment going on at Fort Ticonderoga, at the northern end of the lake. First shot was supposed to go off at 2 pm, and there was no time to lose.

After a hectic journey north, during which time we learned there are absolutely no major banks in the lakes region (long story), we arrived promptly at 1:55 pm. I emptied the vehicle of children, animals and significant others near the ticket booth, and frantically set out for a parking space, finding a spot in the far parking lot, just a shuttle-bus trip away. I parked and gnawed my fingernails as the bus driver patiently waited for every straggler in the lot to board, then creaked slowly back up bumpy dirt roads to the fort.

Springing off the bus, the kid already had the tickets purchased, and we made haste down to the battlefield, to find our brave militia already in the thick of it with the dastardly redcoats.

A healthy crowd was in attendance for this last day of the show; and possibly the best battle and camp reenactment in the northeast.

Many of the camp reenactors came down to join their 21st century brethren in viewing the fight.

And the fight was a good one. Though not a play by play reenactment of any of the actual battles of the Revolutionary war, this was more of an instructional on how the battles were fought back then.

The disciplined acting, devotion to character and just sheer number of participants (some 700 or so) make this one of the most realistic-looking scenarios I have ever seen. (Although there was an occasional blurp in the time/space continuum...)

The action was narrated over a PA system, as the audience was directed over the massive battlefield, from a large meadow on the left where soldiers lined up to die in the fashion of the day, the wooded and brushy land to the right, where snipers, Native Americans and smaller guerrilla units skirmished with equal ferocity.

The tide of battle ebbed and flowed but the colonials were slowly getting the better of their imperial counterparts, who had begun a gradual retreat, turning to fight now and again whenever they had recovered their composure.

But the squeeze was on. The dead had begun to litter the field, with a decided prominence of red coated casualties.

The British continued to retreat until they were finally backed in and cornered, and the assault came from three sides.

But still, the greatest army on earth valiantly fought on...

...until at last, it was too much. The raised hat of a cease fire was swung above the heads of the remaining survivors, and the deafening thunder of rifle and cannon came to a halt.

A short meeting between commanders ensued and the British survivors were allowed to vacate the field with their guns inverted, in a show of capitulation.

The Continentals had taken the day.

Back at camp, the defeated British licked their wounds with talk of winning the next one, and the eventual destruction of the rebel scum.

Soon after the fantastic battle, the 21st century began to creep back in, as the reenactors began disassembling their massive camps where they had been living in the time period all weekend. I wish we had come earlier to get a closer look at the mechanizations of the soldiers' camps, with their gear, food, furniture, and womenfolk, which were just as realistic and fascinating as the battle itself.

Hopefully we'll time it better next year, and maybe even stay in the region for an overnighter.

But for now, the sun was setting fast and we had to get back to our own corner of space and time...

...and leave the past behind...


Elizabeth said...

Very cool! I grew up in that area, and we made many a trip to the lake and the fort when I was a kid.

Mary E.Carey said...

What a fun post!

Tony said...

It is really nice up there, I hope to explore deeper into the Adirondacks in the near future...