By Tony Spinelli
Alex DeAndrade, 16, of Ledyard stirs a pot of goulash over an open campfire at the 5th Connecticut Regiment, an American Revolution re-enactment group that encamped at the historic Bradley-Hubbell Homestead on a recent Saturday. Photo by Tony Spinelli
It was just a simple iron pot of goulash, with chunks of stew beef mixed with some minced onions and a soupy tomato base, 1776 style, but 16-year-old Alex DeAndrade of Ledyard stirred it up over an open campfire as if it were the leading entrée from a five-star restaurant.
“It’s delicious,” said Alex, who is one of the youngest members of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, an American Revolution re-enactment group that encamped at the historic Bradley-Hubbell Homestead Saturday for a fund-raiser.
The event, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., drew a couple of dozen visitors during the first hour, and members of the Easton Historical Society were hopeful a lot more would stop by to take in a little living history.
Mike Zap, 62, of Ridgefield drew lots of attention with his replica musket from the American Revolution. The long gun shook the air with a loud crack and emitted a burst of smoke and fire, but was not half as dangerous as the innocuous looking star-shaped bayonet attached to it, he explained.
It seems the Colonial muskets had little accuracy, as far as firearms go. “You were lucky to hit anything,” he said. “That’s why the soldiers stood in line and fired together. They hoped if they all aimed at the same time at least some of them would hit something.”
The real danger was when the fighting got close and the bayonets were used.
“They made a wound that could not be sutured by doctors of the time,” he said, to an astonished crowd of onlookers. “Even if you got bayoneted in the leg, you could bleed to death. Or you’d get an infection and die from that.”
Mr. Zap said the regiment is made up of men, women and children who enjoy teaching living history, by dressing the part and playing the role of the nation’s first army.
He played a guessing game.
“Most of what I have is period replica, but there is one thing about me today that isn’t. Can you guess what it is?” he asked some spectators.
It wasn’t his white shirt. It wasn’t the linen pants, or wool coat.
“It’s my beard,” he said, tackling his neck fur. “The Continental Army were not allowed to wear beards.”
That’s too bad, because they could have used them to help keep warm.
“There were 5,000 who died. Most died from hunger, or from exposure to the weather,” he said, reckoning up a vision of Valley Forge.
The regiment takes its name from a historic precedent. The second formation, 5th Regiment-Connecticut Line, was part of the long-term Continental Army, America’s first regular troops, and was formed in the spring of 1777 under Col. Philip Burr Bradley, according to the group’s literature.
The regiment saw its first action against the better-trained, better-equipped British at Ridgefield in April 1777.
The regiment was also unfortunate to suffer from a lack of food, clothing and clean sanitary conditions, and spent the winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge. The regiment fought at famous battles, including Germantown, Pa., in 1777, and Yorktown, N.Y., in 1781. It dissolved after 1782.
Today’s 5th Connecticut Regiment was formed as a living history unit in late 1974, according to the literature. Once or twice a year, the regiment travels to major re-enactments from Quebec to Virginia.
Under a tent Saturday, brothers Sam Dennis, 13, of Trumbull and Kole Dennis, 10, got a look at some of the smaller weapons soldiers would use and were quite impressed.
“I like the grenade,” said Kole, hoisting a black iron ball stuffed with a fuse, about the size of a baseball. It packed a powerful gunpowder punch back in George Washington’s day.
“I like the tomahawk,” said Sam, who learned that tomahawks came in large and small sizes, one small enough for a boy to use because boys had to learn their role in the world of soldiering and homesteading.
The re-enactment, which also included a cannon drill and an attack from British marines, was sponsored by the Historical Society of Easton and Easton’s Parks and Recreation Department. Admission was $5.
There are more events planned. Richard Tomlinson will speak on “Witchcraft Prosecution: Chasing the Devil in Connecticut” on Sunday, Oct. 19, from 2 to 4 at the Easton Public Library Community Room, 691 Morehouse Road.
The author will highlight three major witchcraft trials in Connecticut history, the Hartford Witch Panic of 1662-63; the landmark prosecution of Katherine Harrison of Wethersfield; and the trial of Mercy Disbrow, the last woman convicted of witchcraft in Connecticut, a case that was contemporary with the Salem witch hunts.
Another event coming up is on Sunday, Nov. 2, at 2 p.m., also at the Easton Library Community Room. Carolyn Ivanoff will discuss “One Family’s Civil War.”
She will discuss the story of the French family during the Civil War, based on nearly 600 letters of Captain Wilson French, Company G, 17th Connecticut Volunteers, who was wounded and captured at the battle of Gettysburg.