Patriots Day
Reenactor 101
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Name: Greg Hurley
From: Arlington, MA
Age: 23

'This is how you fought. It was gentlemanly. You did not go to war unless you looked your best.'
Know Your Weapons

Take note of the explosive gunpowder, sharp bayonets and smoke during the battle reenactments. Learn what you need to know to stay alert and safe in a dangerous environment.

step one | step two | step three | step four

Step One: Understand 18th Century Technology
Find out how battlefield gear affected the fighting. Revolutionary-era muskets like the Brown Bess were slow to load, inaccurate, and could only fire their ammunition short distances. Enemy combatants often charged and fought in hand-to-hand -- or bayonet-to-bayonet -- combat.

musket"The only way to make any solid impact was to mass volley -- hundreds of muskets going off at once, firing into a thick line. Once you got close enough, you charged at each other with bayonets, and the side which held the field was victorious... It was often decided with what we like to call '15 inches of cold steel.' So it was brutal."
-- Greg Hurley


Step Two: Pass Up the Ammunition
Be glad reenactors don't use live ammo! For every shot, a colonial combatant would pack a lead musket ball with black powder down into his gun. The musket ball hooked and curved wildly, but did severe damage when it hit.

musket ball and mold"The ball is a .75 caliber... so it's fairly big. Lots of lead, which is very soft, so when it hits something it just splatters. Actually this is kind of gruesome -- it expands to about three to four inches around. So often you'd see exit wounds on men, just gigantic exit wounds... it made quite a mess."
-- Greg Hurley


Step Three: Study Your Moves
Get in training to master the choreographed troop movements and battle positions. Read the drill manuals and field guides put together by other reenactors, and attend drill practices. When your commander orders you to "Shut Your Pans!" you'll want to know what he is talking about.

soldiers"You have to have some sort of plan -- there's too much chaos out there to go in completely unprepared -- so we all try and keep it as safe as possible, and keep it as realistic as possible... We rehearse charging -- because the last thing you want is someone falling on their bayonet -- and we teach how to fire while making it look chaotic."
-- Greg Hurley


Step Four: Follow Safety Rules
Learn tricks of the trade for looking authentic while being safe. For example, the paper cartridges that you load into your musket will be similar to actual cartridges used by colonial troops -- minus the deadly musket ball.

"You throw the all of the contents of the cartridge down the barrel of the gun and fire it. Load once, fire it, load the next one, fire it, load one, fire it. Often we do this as group so that we keep the amount of lead -- or smoke in our case -- coming out of the line as effective as possible."
-- Greg Hurley


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