Monday, July 14, 2008

Scallywags for Freedom

Today I drove up to Marblehead to visit my friend Nil. She told me about a Revolutionary War encampment at Fort Sewell not far from her house, right in Marblehead Harbor. The 14th Continental Glover's Marblehead Regiment had set up camp there for the weekend.

We discovered this hardy unit of sailors from Marblehead, Massachusetts were responsible for rowing General Washington across the Delaware on that frigid, Christmas Eve in 1776. They also aided in overtaking the many drunken Hessians fighting for the British, to recapture Trenton. The Glover militia was also involved in Yorktown.

One soldier gave us a fantastic tour through the encampment. We learned many interesting facts.

1. At the beginning of the Revolutionary War, the officers on both sides wore red sashes, which made them easily identifiable on the field. In the style of the times, however, it was a 'gentleman's' war, and it was forbidden to deliberately target officers. Pretty soon the Americans grew tired of being gentlemen and started shooting at British officers. Soon the red sash became less often used.

2. Scurvy was combated by the British with limes, which they imported from the Indies. That's why the Americans called the Brits "limeys." The Americans were blocked from access to trade, so they concocted lemon-grass mixed with sugar plum. The surgeon at the camp let Nil and I try some 'scurvy paste'. It was very good; it tasted like vitamin C. Surprise, surprise!

3. At the beginning of the war, the muskets the Americans had were originally bought from England. Needless to say, this supply of muskets was soon curtailed. Later, the Americans got a supply of superior muskets from France, called the Charleyville. Basically, we can thank France for our independence. (Eat up those 'freedom fries,' dudes).

4. We also learned that the phrase "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite," comes from Colonial times. The mattresses were held up by rope, which had to be frequently tightened, or you would unfortunately sag in the night. (Especially if you were sleeping with a very fat sailor). As for bed bugs, well, I guess they were common in straw mattresses.


Nil said...

This was a very nice way to spend the afternoon! I am still wondering how 6 sailors could sleep in such tiny tents, but then again I am reminded of how skinny they were compared with people at this time in history! -- Nil

the baron said...

I forgot about that little fact--- six to a tent!