Originally published in Castine Patriot, July 31, 2014
Life during wartime
Encampment offers slice of revolutionary soldiers’ daily life
Families of the 74th Highland Regiment accompanied privates who joined the King George III in the Revolutionary War to Castine in 1779. The Wilson Museum in Castine, Maine hosted the encampment reenactment on July 26, 2014.
by Anne Berleant
“I’m just an enlisted man,” said Paul Smith, an English fowler laid across his lap. “The Americans would get a hold of any guns they had, from British guns to French Charlottesvilles.” He was the sole representative of the war’s eventual victors at a reenactment of the 74th Highland Regiment encampment at the Wilson Museum on July 25, 26 and 27.
Smith set his tent up on one side of the lawn, across from the Scottish Highlanders. Together, they offered a glimpse of daily life during wartime, for the soldiers and the families who accompanied them to Bagaduce, now known as Castine.
Back in 1779, when Scotland joined with the forces of King George III, the 74th Highland Regiment sailed to the Bagaduce, and set up camp where the golf course is now, while the American rebels camped in the woods at the edge of Dice Head, explained Captain John Campbell of the 74th (as reenacted by Bill Siebert). The Germans also had two regiments in Bagaduce, the Anspach and the Brunswick.
“It was a bustling town,” Siebert said. “And the town itself was a hub for spies.” Highlander sentries were instructed not to talk to anyone who came on shore “but to bring them to headquarters for debriefing.”
To help establish their post and defend it, the Highland Battalion built Fort George, which has kept its name over the centuries although its uses have changed.
Women suffer, too
For the Highlander privates, joining King George’s forces and sailing to America meant bringing the whole family, otherwise the wives and children “probably would have starved,” said Ann McDougal, portraying a private’s wife.
The regiment muster lists 123 men, 32 women, and 47 children under the age of 10.
The wives performed the domestic tasks of the camp: cooking, sewing, spinning, weaving and laundry, plus working in the town, as they only received half rations at camp. “We had to work hard,” McDougal said.
In addition, if a husband died, Siebert said, the wife “had 30 days to find another husband or they kicked you out with the clothes on your back.”
The reenactment is part of the Wilson Museum’s “Revolution Downeast” series, with its accompanying exhibit about a sunken privateer. For more information, see wilsonmuseum.org/calendar.html.