Letters

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 25, 1789        Bill of Rights On September 25, 1789, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution–the Bill of Rights–and sent them …

Colonial Spymaster (#4) — Polybius Cypher

The Polybius checkerboard, is a device invented by the ancient Greeks Cleoxenus and Democleitus, and made famous by the historian and scholar Polybius, a Greek historian noted for his work The Histories, which covered the period of 264–146 BCE.  Polybius was well known to the Founding Fathers of the United States and was influential on …

Proper Salutes in the British Army

In 1740, the “French salute”, or greeting another by kissing them on the cheek, started to become fashionable in London.  With the Seven Years War (AKA French and Indian War), the “French salute” quickly became controversial, being called unEnglish. Encouraged instead was the “old English” way of “pulling off a Hat. For the British, removing your …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 23, 1779        HMS Serapis captured by John Paul Jones On September 23, the Bonhomme Richard engaged the Serapis and the smaller Countess of Scarborough, which were escorting the …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 22, 1776 – Nathanial Hale is executed as a spy on Long Island without trial.  “My only regret is that I have but one life to give to …

That Guy

That Guy So, we had this event in Littiz, Celebrate America, and I set my tents to represent Fort Mifflin.  Part of our display was the gear of a Revolutionary Soldier and, naturally, I brought my Brown Bess.  Now, you have to understand the nature of this event.  It was not a reenactment nor a …

Is This the Way it Was Really Done?  My Policies on Historical Accuracy.

Okay, we are not LARPing.  I know there are some out there who are gung-ho for the fantasy or mythical reality of the American Revolution but we are trying to teach history so historical accuracy is a must.  At my events, I strive to be as accurate as possible with the following caveats: When being …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 21, 1776 — Great Fire of New York erupted destroying 10 to 25 percent of buildings in the city.  The British Army accused revolutionaries of deliberately setting the …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. Medical Ketchup During the 1800’s ketchup was used for medicinal purposes. Want to Buy Beer from the Colonial Brewmeister? Help us build a Tavern and Brewery. Visit our GoFundMe …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 20, 1777        Massacre at Paoli On the evening of September 20, 1777, near Paoli, Pennsylvania, General Charles Grey and nearly 5,000 British soldiers launch a surprise attack …

Early Meteorology — Predicting the Weather 18th Century Style: scientific beginnings in England

The shift from superstition to scientific study of meteorology began when proper measuring instruments became available in the mid-17th century. By the early 18th century, Daniel Fahrenheit produced accurate mercury thermometers calibrated to a standard scale that ranged from 32 to 96 degrees (i.e., from the melting point of ice to body temperature).  Early work …

Making Whiskey

Whiskey’s origin lies somewhere between 1,000 and 1,200 AD when traveling monks migrating across Europe, introduced the distillation practice into Scotland and Ireland.  Because of the lack of vineyards in these countries, the monasteries turned to fermenting grain mashes and then distilling them into whiskey.  For the next 400 years, whiskey spread throughout the Celtic countries.  …

Basic Colonial Brewing #18 — Proof your Whiskey, Sir

When it comes to arcane historical terms for spirits and other alcohol, proof is one of the frustrating ones.  In our modern vernacular, with the blessing of modern analytical chemistry as support, we simply think of “proof” as two times the alcohol by volume (ABV).  But why is this measure even a thing?  After all, …

Colonial Spymaster (#1) — Codes and Cyphers in the Continental Army

Going into the Revolution, Americans were at a huge disadvantage to the European powers when it came to cryptography, many of which had been using secret offices where sensitive letters were opened and deciphered by public officials for centuries. It was not uncommon for the messages of Revolutionary leaders and American diplomats to be intercepted …

MEXICAN Independence Day

Mexico was a colony of Spain for over 300 years. The native population was oppressed, farmland and personal wealth were confiscated and only Spaniards were allowed to hold political posts. On September 16, 1810, a Catholic priest in the town of Dolores named Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla rang his church’s bell and delivered a speech …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 16, 1779        Failed Siege of Savannah The Siege of Savannah was also known as the Second Battle of Savannah. The year before, the city had been captured by …

Early Meteorology — Predicting the Weather 18th Century Style: old wives tales and superstitions

In the 18th century, families relied on almanacs to help them make many weather and seasonal decisions, such as when they should plant their crops or travel. However, almanacs only gave a long-term idea of what the weather might be based on weather in the past. Furthermore, in an age where all travel, especially by …

“And the Rockets’ Red Glare” – Rockets were originally used AGAINST the British in the 18th Century!

Missiles and missile rocket technology is a mainstay in the modern military.  In fact, most modern fighter aircraft have dispensed entirely with guns and typically are armed with various offensive and defensive rocket powered munitions.  While we are all familiar with the Chinese invention of fireworks, it was actually the INDIANS who turned these interesting …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 13, 1759 — Battle of Quebec, also called Battle of the Plains of Abraham, was decisive defeat of the French commanded by Marquis de Montcalm by a British …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 13, 1788 – The US Congress chooses New York City as the Federal Capital under the new US Constitution.  Through the American Revolution the Continental Congress met in …

Basic Colonial Brewing #17 — Make an 18th Century Toast

 “To drink at a table without drinking to the health of someone special, should be considered drinking on the sly, and as an act of incivility.” Throughout history, toasting began after a meal and could last for hours.  Toasts would solidify the bonds of groups, not only through the competitive element of drinking, but by …

INVASION!

Well, yesterday at Chadds Ford, I was asked “How come we never see you in red?” Perhaps we should address that. The Regimental Brewmeister is less active as a soldier of His Majesty’s Army that in years gone by. Part of that is my focus on keeping the Army supplies with Spruce Beer and part …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 11, 1777        Battle of Brandywine The eleventh of September was greeted with a heavy fog.  Washington received reports of different contents about the movements of the British troops. …

A New Name for the New Nation

On September 9, 1776, the Second Continental Congress formally renamed our nation the United States of America. This replaced the term United Colonies, which had been in general use. In a declaration dated September 9, 1776, the delegates wrote: “That in all continental commissions, and other instruments, where, heretofore, the words ‘United Colonies’ have been used, the …

Does Anybody Know what Day it Really is? 1752 was a really Bizarre Year.

In accordance with a 1750 act of Parliament, England and its colonies changed calendars in 1752. By that time, the discrepancy between a solar year and the Julian Calendar had grown by an additional day, so that the calendar used in England and its colonies was 11 days out-of-sync with the Gregorian Calendar in use in …

I need a box of rocks

For years (decades actually but whose really counting), my wife and I have shared this little joke. Driving stresses me brutally especially in places like NYC, LA, and Houston. I have often quipped that I planned to equip my car with a BOX OF ROCKS so that when people follow to closely I could “toss” …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 8, 1780           Battle of Eutaw After receiving reinforcements, Major General Nathanael Greene of the Continental Army resumes offensive action against Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Stewart and the British soldiers …

“Run Away!” – Revolutionary Deserters

One of the fundamental problems with the Continental Army was that the State Legislatures were reluctant to establish a European-style professional army with long-term enlistments for fear of a strong military leader seizing the government. Without a professional attitude, soldiers were much more likely to be casual about remaining in ranks for the full term …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 6, 1780           New London Burnt and Fort Griswold taken In September 1781, one of the British Army’s newest generals — Benedict Arnold — was eager to prove himself …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 5, 1781           DeGrasse enters the Chesapeake with the French Fleet When Adm. François-Joseph-Paul, comte de Grasse, arrived in the West Indies from France in April 1781, he had …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 5, 1778           Grey’s Raid — British incursion into New Bedford and Fair Haven As part of British operations in the American Revolutionary War, Major General Charles Grey raided …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 4, 1774           1st Continental Congress The First Continental Congress, which was comprised of delegates from the colonies, met at Carpenters Hall in Philadelphia in 1774 to devise an …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 3, 1783           Peace proclaimed – Treaty of Versailles Following the disastrous defeat at Yorktown and subsequent sequestering of British Forces in New York City, the British peace commissioner …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 3, 1783 – The Treaty of Paris was signed by John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Jay formally accepting the British capitulation and ending the American Revolutionary War. …

If we tried to have a revolution today, would we succeed?

If we tried to have a revolution today, would we succeed?  Do we have what it takes?  I hear boasts at reenactments all the time and everyone thinks they have what it takes to rebel but are we willing to “dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,”[1] or are we more likely …

US Treasury Department Founded: September 2, 1789

During the American Revolution, the Continental Congress had no power to levy and collect taxes, nor was there a tangible basis for securing funds from foreign investors or governments. Left with no real money, the delegates resolved to issue paper money in the form of bills of credit, promising redemption once the war was won. …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 2, 1752 (sort of) – The British Empire ended their use of the Julian Calendar, switching to the Gregorian resulting in a 12-day shift.  The next day on …

Making Rum

Rum’s origin lies in the 17th century Caribbean Islands.  The first distillation of rum took place on the sugarcane plantations, located on the island of Barbados.  Slaves from the plantations discovered that by fermenting molasses, a byproduct of refining sugarcane, they could create alcohol.  Then by distilling this alcoholic drink, they could create a concentrated …

Benedict Arnold was not Alone in his Treason

Colonel Rudolphus Ritzema was an American officer in the New York Line during the American Revolutionary War, and later changed sides, serving as a lieutenant colonel in a British regiment. On June 30, 1775, Ritzema was appointed lieutenant colonel of the 1st New York Regiment. In July he seized British armaments in New York City. On November 28, 1775 he was …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. September 1, 1764 — Currency Act The colonies suffered a constant shortage of currency with which to conduct trade. There were no gold or silver mines and currency could …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 31, 1786 – SHAY’S REBELLION:  Enraged by high debts and Massachusetts increased efforts to collect taxes, Captain Daniel Shay (Continental Army) led an armed mob to disrupt the …

“New Wales?”

Pennsylvania isn’t named after William Penn. And if you’re confused, he deliberately wanted you to be. William Penn preferred the name “New Wales” for Pennsylvania to avoid the appearance that the commonwealth was named after him. It’s pretty to think that Pennsylvania was named after its founder, William Penn, who started the commonwealth as a …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 27, 1776 – BATTLE OF BROOKLYN – Following the evacuation of Boston by the British, General Washington relocated the Continental Army to New York City.  The British landed …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 27, 1776                Battle of Long Island After the British evacuation from Boston in March, the British general Lord William Howe moved to occupy New York City under the …

The First Steamboat Sailed on the Delaware

The era of the steamboat began in America in 1787 when John Fitch made the first successful trial of a forty-five-foot steamboat on the Delaware River on August 22, 1787, in the presence of members of the Constitutional Convention. Fitch later built a larger vessel that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey. …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 26, 1776              British take possession of New York City Having defeated the Continental Army on Long Island and pursuing them into upstate New York, General Howe established a …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 21, 1777                General Howe enters Chesapeake and lands 16000 men The largest armada ever assembled in America set sail off of Sandy Hook, New Jersey. It was carrying …

Basic Colonial Brewing #15 — Necessary Anachronisms in Colonial Brewing

One question I frequently get asked at reenactments is “is that the really the way beer was made in the 1770’s?”  For the most part, the answer is “yes” but there are some very necessary exceptions.  Not all “Colonial Beers” are good and some of the methods used in the 18th Century were unsafe by …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 16, 1787 – BATTLE OF CAMDEN:  Despite the proliferation of dysentery among his men, General Horatio Gates engaged General Charles Cornwallis’s army at Camden, SC.  The American Army …

Beer Recipe: Nightingale on a Stone Wall

The British army punished its soldiers mercilessly. The purpose was to inspire terror by setting an example. Soldiers were frequently whipped leading to the derisive moniker “bloody backs” by which Redcoat soldiers were frequently known. The most common offence was drunkenness, which could merit 100 lashes. The sentence was carried out in front of the …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 6, 1777                   Battle of Oriskany and St. Leger The Battle of Oriskany occurred on August 6, 1777, when the local Tryon County Militia attempted to come to the …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. August 2, 1776 – Fifty-five members of the second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia to formally sign the Declaration of Independence.  Benjamin Franklin is oft quoted as having said …

Phlogiston and Fire — The Isolation of Oxygen

In the mid-18th century, the most pressing issue in chemistry and physics was to determine what exactly happens when something burns. The prevailing theory was that flammable materials contained a substance called “phlogiston” (from the Greek word for burn) that was released during combustion.  The theory held that when a candle burned, for example, phlogiston …

The Yeast Ring

This year, I am adding a somewhat archaic bit of brewing equipment to the gear brought out by the Regimental Brewmiester.  The yeast ring or gjarkrans is a piece of traditional brewing gear from medieval Sweden and Denmark.  This tool resembles a complicated wreath of small pieces of whittled wood.  Yeast harvested from one batch …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 30, 1742       Faneuil Hall erected Built as a gift to the city by Peter Faneuil, Boston’s wealthiest merchant,  Faneuil Hall is a meeting hall and marketplace. Boston was in …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 28, 1779                       Americans defeated at Penobscot The British sent about 700 men aboard three small warships to land in Penobscot Bay. They intended to establish the province of …

Congress establishes the State Department, July 27, 1789

The Constitution of the United States, drafted in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 and ratified by the states the following year, gave the President responsibility for the conduct of the nation’s foreign relations. It soon became clear, however, that additional resources and formal structures were necessary to support President Washington in the conduct of …

Birth of the US Post Office

On July 26, 1775, the Second Continental Congress declared “…that a Postmaster General be appointed for the United States, who shall hold his office at Philadelphia, and shall be allowed a salary of 1,000 dollars per annum…”  Benjamin Franklin was not, however, the first Postmaster in America nor was this the first time he would …

Beer Recipe: Common Sense Cherry Pils

Although little used today, pamphlets were an important medium for the spread of ideas in the 16th through 19th centuries. Before the era of radio communication and television, when you wished to convey a message to a large audience, you published it. Originally published anonymously, “Common Sense” not only advocates independence but explains how the …

Basic Colonial Brewing #13 — Keeping Track of Time

I have a pretty good internal clock but like all brewers, keeping track of time, especially when talking to the public can be a challenge. Boil and mash times are relatively long and it is easy to get distracted. It is, therefore, important to objectively measure not just experience and guess about time. Unfortunately, like …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 15, 1779       Stony Point taken by General Wayne In a well planned and executed nighttime attack, a highly trained select group of Continental Army troops under the command …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 15, 1715 – The Riot Act took effect in Britain.  Assemblies of more than a dozen people could be forcibly dispersed in order to maintain the peace.  The …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 14, 1789 – BASTILE DAY:  The crowd gathered outside the Bastille, a medieval armory, fortress, and political prison near the center of Paris, calling for the surrender of …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 13, 1787       NORTHWEST ORDINANCE The Northwest Ordinance provided for the settlement and sale of lands acquired from Quebec in the Treaty of Paris.  The ordinance required the land …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 11, 1780       Washington meets with Rochambeau in Hartford France supported the American war effort with money and material and formally joined as an ally in 1778. The French …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 11, 1780                       French Fleet arrives at Newport Approximately 5,000 – 6,000 French soldiers commanded by Rochambeau arrived at Newport, Rhode Island.  The code name given by the French government …

The Evil Gerrymander

In March 1812, the Boston Gazette ran a political cartoon depicting “a new species of monster”: “The Gerry-mander.” The forked-tongue creature was shaped like a contorted Massachusetts voting district that the state’s Jeffersonian Republicans had drawn to benefit their own party. Governor (and future vice president) Elbridge Gerry signed off on his party’s redistricting plan …

Slavery

The acquisition of indentured servants and slaves began with the earliest days of the settling of America. Before 1680, the most common form of bound labor was the white indentured servant. Up to two-thirds of the English migrants who came to Virginia between 1630 and 1680 arrived in servile status. In return for the cost …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 9, 1790 – RESIDENCE ACT was passed by Congress creating a new national capital on the Potomac River in a site selected by President George Washington and carved …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 8, 1776 — The citizens of Philadelphia were summoned to the State House Yard by the bells of the city. At noon, Colonel John Nixon publicly read the …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 8, 1780         American and French forces join at Dobbs Ferry Expédition Particulière was the code name given by the French government for the plan to sail French land …

Beer Recipe: Act of Parliament — Small Beer

In the days before proper sanitation, drinking water could be very dangerous. There are many waterborne parasites (like the amoebas that cause dysentery) and pathogens (like cholera) and as people formed settlements and cities, these diseases were easily spread. Fear of drinking the water was so strong that in 1620 when Puritan settlers arrived in …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 6, 1768– The Vice Admiralty Court Act — gave Royal naval courts, rather than colonial courts, jurisdiction over all matters concerning customs violations and smuggling.  The Vice-Admiralty Court …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 6, 1779                         Fairfield and Norwalk burnt In July 1779 during the American Revolutionary War, British Major General William Tryon and 2600 men raided the Connecticut ports of New …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 4, 1798         Aliens and Sedition Acts The Alien and Sedition Acts were a series of four laws passed by the U.S. Congress in 1798 amid widespread fear that …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 4, 1776 – a document formally enumerating the justification for separating America from the rule of the Crown and Parliament was formally adopted by the Continental Congress.   This …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 4, 1789 – TARRIFF ACT was the first major piece of legislation passed in the United States after the ratification of the United States Constitution.  This act had …

Independence Day

On Independence Day, EVERYONE should read, aloud, the Declaration of Independence. Remember…. Declaration of Independence IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.  The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen United States of America, When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and …

Target Practice?

When you visit Copp’s Hill Burial Ground in Boston, you will see gravestones with pockmarks from musket balls, made when Redcoats used the graveyard as a target range. Yes, soldiers didn’t just point their muskets, they took aim and most of the King’s soldiers were surprisingly accurate shots given the limitations of smoothbore muskets.  A …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 3, 1778                         Massacre at Wyoming On July 1st, John Butler’s force of about 1,000 regular British troops, Loyalist irregulars, and Indians, marched into the Wyoming Valley and seized …

Historical Tidbits

When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few. July 2, 1776 – “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. —I am apt to believe that it will …


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