There are many ways of experiencing history. In Redcoats & Revolutionaries, our volunteer 18th century re-enactors share their passion for history by recreating aspects of the American Revolutionary War through traditional crafts, battle re-enactment, experimental archeology and dramatic performance. There is no other historical activity that offers so much hands-on experience!
As a professional society, our members aim to:
- Engage and entertain members of the public at events throughout the UK and further afield by performing in dramatic presentations, interactive living history displays and battle re-enactment.
- Research and recreate, with close attention to historical accuracy, the people, crafts and pastimes during the American War of Independence (1775-1783), and the broader Georgian period.
What do we do?
The primary goal of the group is to Educate and Entertain at events around the UK. As with any voluntary organisation, there's a certain level of commitment necessary for this to happen, for safety and for the quality of the end product. This means engaging in various displays and attending meetings where possible.
At events, we set up a camp and wear our period-reproduction costumes, engaging with the audience in displays, acting and demonstrations. Our monthly social meeting is a great place to catch up with other members, and we arrange private training events to hone our displays (we call it "chips and gunpowder!"). In addition, we have training for using black-powder safely, applying special effects, performing military maneuvers, bush & camp craft and more.
But that's the business end. After the site is emptied of the paying audience, our fantastic members enjoy a break: eating and drinking together, playing silly games and getting ready for the next day of activities.
To be a re-enactor is to share and protect our heritage, and at the end of the day fool around with a bunch of good mates. It's an eccentric, electric, entertaining and often absurd hobby — in one word — fun.
Is it Expensive?
In short, yes. As with most hobbies, collecting stuff can be expensive and time consuming. A full set of soldier's uniform with a firearm can run to about £1800. However, we have strategies to help!
First, we have lots of loaner kit — shirts, shoes, hats, muskets and more! We can usually outfit a couple of new members at events, if not more. We can arrange to bring spares to events for whatever you need. We want you to know that you want to do it before you buy anything.
Second, we don't expect you to get all your kit at once. We can guide you on the essentials so you are getting the most important stuff in the right order, from the right suppliers, over a number of years. Some impressions (civilian for example) can cost far less.
Lastly, you only need a full set of kit for public events. At our private training weekends and social meetings, we value the participation in activities more than a checklist of items. So starting out is cheap.
Just like the soldiers and craftsmen we portray, the members of the group are normal working people, with all the troubles that comes with it — cost is a factor, but we'll try very hard to accommodate everyone. Whether that is lending kit, or car pooling, or communal food. Please don't be put off from enquiring about joining.
We have 3 military impressions to choose from, but you can always participate as a civilian: be it a tradesman, artisan, pastor or... vagrant. For your civilian impression, just talk to us about your ideas! As long as it's in-keeping with the group aim of portraying the ordinary people of the time, you can let your imagination go wild.
Civilian Trades & Crafts
For our military impressions, here's what we're currently working on.
1st Pennsylvania Regiment of the Continental Army, 1777
Initially drawn up as a company of riflemen, then the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion, the unit was finally reorganised into the Continental Army as the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment in early 1777. Like much of the continental army, supply was an issue and state support was patchy. A large supply of materials was captured by the British in late 1776, so the regiment may have still been in their green hunting shirts going into the new year 1777, and deserter reports suggest that cheap natural or 'drab' coloured coats with red facings were worn through the beginning of the Philadelphia campaign - amongst other mismatched clothing and accouterments.
What they lacked in uniform equipment, they made up for in courage, being involved in many actions throughout the war, and holding the 'post of honor' on right flank in a number of actions.
His Majesty's 17th Regiment of Foot, 1776-1779
For our 17th impression, we're concentrating on the regiment during th New York and New Jersey campaigns in 1776 through to the regiment's capture at the Battle of Stony point in July 1779.
Their equipment was in mostly good order when it embarked from Dublin to Boston, which was under siege, landing there on New Years Day 1776. Typical of most 'marching regiments of foot,' they wore the distinctive red coat and black 'cocked hat' of the British army. General orders for the army in spring 1777 has them fitted out with trousers during the summer months, and long black leggings in the winter. They likely adapted their leather waist belts, which carried the bayonet, to sling over the right shoulder for better access. Find out more.
Le Régiment Gatinois, 1781
Following the disastrous experience of the French Army in the Seven Years' War, a number of reforms had been introduced to improve the operational effectiveness of French forces. Part of the process involved the creation of many new regiments which, in 1776, included the Gatinois — featuring violet facings and buttons giving its regimental number, 18. The regiment was sent to Saint-Domingue and issued weather-appropriate clothes. Whilst this did make them well-placed for deployment on the east coast of America, the regiment suffered in the cold winters of Georgia in 1779 and Virginia in 1781, with vestes and culottes ill-prepared for such poor conditions.
Because of the various uniform and equipment regulations introduced in quick succession, for simplicity our impression focuses on the Grenadiers as they likely were at Yorktown. This features the 1779 habite, chapeau, and other clothing, but with leatherwork practically unchanged since the 1760s. Find out more.
His Majesty's 4th Battalion, Royal Artillery
Coming soon with development underway.
The Royal Artillery were involved in nearly every action of the war, with smaller 6-pounder and 3-pounder guns detached in pairs to accompany infantry battalions. We will demonstrate the use of a light 3-pounder, a small piece that could fire almost as far as a 6-pounder for the same damage, but be carried, hoisted and otherwise easily maneuvered to provide extra firepower to a battalion. Find out more.
His Majesty's 40th Regiment, Light Company, 1777-1778
The Light Company of the 40th Regiment was detached into the 2nd Battalion of Light Infantry of the Light Infantry Brigade. Light battalions performed most of the army’s march security, guards, and scouting duties. It was dangerous, specialised work for men of “strength, size and courage” and “spirit and alacrity.” Men who could not meet the demands were sent back to their battalion company.
Our impression focuses on the Philadelphia campaign. Due to poor supply, and for practical reasons, the company was outfitted with a sleeved-waistcoat, and their hats were cut down. It was a very practical uniform, much better suited to the dense woodland of North America than the long coats of the regulars. Find out more.
How do I join?
That's easy! Head over to out contact page and fill in the form. Alternatively, email email@example.com and tell us:
- Where are you from? We only recruit in the UK, and most of our members are based in the East Midlands. It's not essential that you live in this locality, but it helps.
- What are you most interested in doing? If you pick one of our units, or have an ideas about a civilian role, let us know and we can get the right people to talk to you.
We'll get back to you as soon as possible with information about our next meeting or event, and how you can get involved.
Much of our communication is done on our Facebook group, so feel free to join us on there.
- How old do I need to be to Join?
- You need to be 18 or older. Parents or Guardians who are members may bring children to meetings and events, and they may participate where it is safe or reasonable to do so. Our youngest 'member' was 4 months old! Teenage children may participate in a more hands-on fashion.
- How much does it cost to join?
- We charge a £15 per year membership fee to cover the cost of insurances and other ongoing costs. However you don't have to pay anything for the first 3-months. We want to make sure you like the group before you pay any money!
- I identify as female, can I still be a soldier?
- Yes, absolutely. When we dress up we portray a character, much like an actor would. You can play a male role — it doesn't necessarily have to be soldiery either. We have several members who 'bob' up (sorry, we're Black Adder fans).
- I'm not of 'White British' descent, what can I do?
- The same philosophy applies as above. You can play any character you'd like as long as it fits the group's aims. This isn't to say we wouldn't welcome challenging impressions from a past that dealt in the human misery of slavery, the oppression of native Americans, and persecution aplenty, but it will never be a demand based on your background or skin tone. Some people just want to dress up and play soldiers!
- Do you support x political opinion or y religion?
- We are a non-political and non-religious organisation. Our members can hold whatever political views, or worship whatever they want (as long as it doesn't contravene UK statute law, or our constitution), but our group is not driven by any affiliation, only our love of history.