ST. MICHAELS - They started drilling right away and when it was all said and done, a total of 13 recruits signed up at two meetings earlier this month for the Eastern Shore Militia re-enactment group. The group is being formed to help celebrate the War of 1812 bicentennial.
About a dozen people attended a meeting that started at noon Jan. 12 at the Miles River Yacht Club. John Wyman, a seasoned re-enactor led the discussion of what will be involved in the organization.
The War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and the Eastern Shore Consortium, with support from Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne's counties, are funding 15 "kits" gear, including flintlock muskets, for the organization. A complete outfit, created from historical records of standard state militia for a line company will also include such items as a wood or metal canteen, haversack, coat, vest, pantaloons, round hat, shoes, shirt, bayonet, belt and cartridge box.
Wyman wore a full uniform. Assisting him was Tom Scoufalos, of Red Lion, Pa., who was also dressed in period militia attire. Also attending were members of the Friends of Kent County, Maryland, War of 1812 committee and St. Michaels Historical Society.
"Re-enacting is a journey, not a destination," Wyman said, adding that a person would get out of it as much as they were willing to put into it. But, he said that no one would be asked to do anything they didn't want to do or were physically unable to do. He said that more re-enactors were being sought than the number of kits because of "re-enactor math" based on the fact that not everyone can participate in every event.
Dozens of recruits will be needed to fill the ranks.
Training will involve how to march, handle the muskets and sample the organizational routine of a historically accurate company of militiamen. Emphasis will be on safety, and a number of guidelines will be in place to teach and monitor the proper use of the muskets.
Many re-enactors like to purchase their own accessories, and some may already own their own rifles. The preferred type of replica musket is the 1795 Springfield, Wyman said. The French Charleville, like the one carried by Scoufalos, is acceptable. The British "Brown Bess" is discouraged but accepted, he added.
Only replica muskets are allowed for safety reasons, original antiques are not permitted.
"1812 re-enactors units are small. They are usually less than 10 men." With more than 15 members, he said, they will be able to train more effectively for solider and company drill.
Enrollment forms were given out during the discussion and afterward, four joined Wyman and Scoufalos outside to sample basic drill techniques.
Of those who attended, nine filled out forms expressing their interest in joining.
Later in the afternoon, Wyman led another meeting at the Queen Anne's County Library in Centreville where four people signed up. One of those is a certified black powder expert, he said later.
Attending that meeting were Diane Daniels, a member of the Friends of Kent County, War of 1812 committee, and Mary Margaret Revel Goodwin, of the Eastern Shore Consortium.
Another six people signed up before the meetings, making a total of 19 recruits so far.
The unit is being formed to participate in re-enactments, living histories, parades, ceremonies and presentations to help demonstrate what military life was like 200 years ago. Events already on the calendar include a re-enactment, May 5, of the British attack on Fredericktown and Georgetown. That will follow at the end of that month with a Memorial Day parade "somewhere," within the five counties that are supporting the unit. Other dates on the horizon include an event marking the Aug. 13, 1813, Battle of Slippery Hill when the British attacked Queenstown; the attack on St. Michaels; and a militia camp and the re-enactment of the capture of Joseph T. Mitchell, at the Inn at Mitchell House, near Tolchester, Aug. 31.
The first training session for the new recruits is being planned for Feb. 9, at Wilmer Park in Chestertown.
The Eastern Shore Militia is a project of the Eastern Shore War of 1812 Consortium, made possible with funding from the State of Maryland's War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission and the counties of Caroline, Dorchester, Kent, Talbot and Queen Anne's. It is being administered by the Historical Society of Kent County in cooperation with the Friends of Kent County, Maryland War of 1812, and the Eastern Shore War of 1812 Consortium.
Applications are still being accepted for volunteers. To serve as a soldier and handle weapons, members must be at least 18 years of age. For more information, contact John Wyman at 443-350-6277 or email winderranger1comcast.net.