THE YEAR IN REVIEW
This year was a banner year for Clan Nan Con, filled with exceptional events, camaraderie, and great memories. We were able to capitalize on our good fortune of coming out of the pandemic years not only with most of our old members but with new friends as well with strong turnouts at most of our events. The unit continues to be well received by our organizational partners and the public, and in our sincere opinion, continues to shine as one of the best living history organizations in the Southeast. Here’s looking forward to another great year in 2023, while looking back on the good times and lessons learned.
March – Scottish Heritage Days at Fort King George
Our flagship event, Fort King George continues to be the unofficial “home base” of our unit and we continue to have strong relationships with the fort staff. For the first time in the group’s memory we had a change of living quarters. Due to a large display from a visiting living history group we weren’t bunked in our usual location of the officers quarters and instead stayed in the Scottish House outside of the fort on the edge of the marsh.
Neil arrived first to be present for the school day on Friday, followed by Cody later that afternoon. John arrived next followed by Daniel, J.P.’s brother-in-law for his first event with us. Clifton and Nan were already on site for the weekend lodging in the Doctor’s house. Lastly, having the longest drive, J.P. arrived and the group spent a comfortable (albeit smokey and cramped) evening together. The following morning we enjoyed a light breakfast of coffee and oatmeal (made with cider, a group specialty discovered last year at Fraser’s Ridge) before the safety meeting. J.P. and John had arranged with the fort staff to hold a roundtable seminar on how to improve your Darien Highlander impression and were excited to share the findings that we’ve been incorporating into our “Standards” document. To our surprise we found ourselves the only highlanders at the event this year, but we plan to try and hold it again in 2023. Afterwards, we retired to camp for “second-breakfast” of bacon, bread, and cheese before starting to drill.
The disadvantage of being in the Scottish House became increasingly apparent throughout the day. We had to repeatedly march back and forth from the house to the fort for musket firings and needed to leave someone behind to watch the gear, tend the fire, and talk to the public. The space was also much too small for five men and all of our gear. J.P, Cody, and Daniel were all packed together in the loft, Neil was in the main bed, and John was on the floor in the far corner. However, we made it work in good spirits. We only had two visiting Spaniards from St. Augustine so the battle was short and lop-sided however, overall we had good interactions with the public and a good time was had by all.
Throughout the day the weather plunged colder and colder and the kilts went from being pinned at the shoulder to being worn as cloaks against the windchill. We prepared our evening meal with John cementing his place as quartermaster. We enjoyed a fine supper of pork tenderloin, wrapped in bacon, cooked with potatoes, onions, and kale, homemade bread, skillet-apples for desert, and all washed down with homebrewed cider and dark ale. All were satisfied, warm, and snug and yet the night was not over! Earlier in the day we were invited to join the Florida Living History Association, the group that was lodged in the officers quarters that evening. We made our way through the cold to the fort where we found ourselves in a large company of people, singing, drinking, and eating with fires lit in both hearths. We spent many hours enjoying what would have been for our fore-fathers the highest form of entertainment and it was a great reminder of why we enjoy this hobby.
That night the temperature plunged further, ending up in the low-twenties (the coldest any of those assembled could recall having encountered in Darien). John was forced to relocate his bed in-front of the hearth and in the morning we had to make sure that Daniel hadn’t frozen in the middle of the night. After coffee and a cold breakfast we packed our things only to have one final adventure before heading for home.
We were invited to participate in the Sunday morning Kirkin’ o’ the Tartan at the First Presbyterian Church of Darien. After receiving some instructions from the church lady in charge we did our part in carrying tartans during the service, and we were rewarded with a luncheon that included some of the best fried chicken as yet ever enjoyed by John, Neil, or J.P. before heading home.
March – Fort Frederica
St. Simons Island, Georgia
Our second event of the season encountered some minor logistical challenges at the start. John arrived first after dark on Friday to find the main gates of Fort Frederica locked. After a brief reconnaissance it was determined that there were no other participants or staff on site. J.P. arrived later in the evening and although he knew of a back entrance to the park, the state of road construction would have made it a nightmare to find. We therefore decided to bivouac in the church parking lot across the street in our vehicles after a celebratory beverage.
After getting breakfast (and more importantly, coffee) we eventually gained access to the Fort and began unloading and setting up camp. The fort staff had actually been kind enough to set up tents and a firepit for us which we gratefully availed ourselves of. Although astoundingly windy, the event was a great success. We had a steady stream of visitors asking questions and engaged in good conversation with other demonstrators, including the Fort Mose and Castillo Garrisons from St. Augustine. Our greatest difficulty lay in firing muskets in windy conditions, the winds were so strong that the sparks and powder were blown from our pans the moment we fired. Starting the fire with flint and steel proved difficult for the same reason. Rather than suffer the shame of using matches however, we managed to light our charcloth using the flintlock of John’s fowler (a practice we felt sure would have been used but discouraged against by officers…)
In the evening we joined the park staff (now off duty) as well as J.P.’s old ℅ from National Guard days at a local restaurant (still in our kit) for food and fellowship before returning to the park for the evening. John and J.P passed the time around the campfire discussing Putnam’s revenge before retiring for the night and departing the next day.
April – Loch Norman Highland Games
Loch Norman, North Carolina
A new event for us that also included two new young members. J.P. and John were joined by Dustin and Liam, two younger reenacting buddies that had found the group and gotten in touch with J.P. Outfitted with our loaner gear they made a great addition to the group. In 2021, J.P. and John had made the decision to focus our group impression on the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745 when we presented at Highland Games and to highlight the Independent Highland Company of Darien, GA at Fort King George and other events connected to that unit. This would give us an easier point of entry with the public (more people are familiar with the Jacobites, especially with the popularity of the Outlander series) and a new range of starter impressions for new members. Therefore, J.P. presented as a high-status chief/tacksmen, John presented a lower tacksmen, the gentlemen of reputation but not by wealth referred to in highland society, Dustin presented a tenant farmer, and Liam presented a vagabond highland ghillie (a role he relished as a pig in mud), ragged coat and all.
The event was fun and busy, with lots of presentations to the public, musket firing demonstrations, and fellowship with friends we knew from other units such as the Old Mecklenburg Militia and the 84th Royal Highland Emigrants.. The food as usual was exceptional, we enjoyed our staple lunch of bread, cheese, bacon, apples, and walnuts but this time supper was bangers, potatoes, onion, and kale once again accompanied by cider and beer for all those of appropriate age. The entertainment for the evening was provided by Seven Nations an act that J.P. has dubbed, “Celtic Nickleback” so after watching briefly we retired back to the campfire.
The previous night had been cold and long, J.P. and John had survived two winter events using only wool blankets in only mild discomfort only to be defeated the first night in N.C. On the second night, J.P. elected to purchase a heavy sheepskin to sleep on for extra insulation while John had to farb out and obtained his sleeping bag from the car. Its important to note that he was making an 8+ hour drive the next day and being well rested was more of a safety concern than anything else. It is still unclear how the youngins’ survived. The morning dawned with heavy frost and after breakfast and coffee we once again packed up for the drives home.
May – Savannah Scottish Games at Historic Bethesda Academy
This was a welcome return to the Savannah Highland Games for the Clan and John’s first time visiting the Hostess City. Our roster included J.P, Daniel, Cody, John, and Clifton, as well as J.P and Cody’s parents, Catherine and Bill with visiting appearances by J.P.’s wife, Kellie, and son, Lucca. Due to logistical challenges (the group’s phrase of the year) we had to camp off-site at the property of one of the event organizers which was pleasant and appreciated.
After our excellent weather thus far in the season we were sure that the other foot would fall at Savannah; instead we enjoyed warm but not unpleasant conditions all day as we spoke to the public about the Darien Highlanders. The location of the games held a particular significance for the group, as Bethesda Academy had originally been founded as an orphanage for the children of the Darien Highlanders who had lost their fathers during the invasion of Florida in 1740.
The highlight of the weekend though came in the evening. J.P. whose previous time as resident of Savannah, while not officially documented by law enforcement is still a topic of discussion in some of the city’s both seediest and finest establishments, prepared him well to serve as our guide. Still dressed in our kit, swords and all, we ventured downtown, filled our tankards at an Irish pub and proceeded to explore the city’s historical sights which included:
- Toasting over the grave of General Lachlan MacIntosh, son of John Mor Macintosh, leader of the Darien Highlanders, and a General in the Continental Army at his gravesite.
- St. John the Baptist’s Cathedral
- Visiting the memorial to the Chasseurs-Voluntaries de Saint-Dominique, free black French-Haitain soldiers who participated in the Siege of Savannah during the American Revolution.
- A refill of Chatham Artillery Punch at 1790 Inn, which was kindly bought for us by one of the other guests at the bar.
The tour culminated in dinner at Molly McPherson’s Scottish Pub, one of the ancestral “homes’ of the Clan Nan Con (a picture of the group from years past hangs facing into the women’s restroom) where we passed the evening once again with good food, drink, and fellowship before heading back to camp and home the next day.
Also May – Springtime on the Ridge
Ferguson, North Carolina
Following up on the success of the annual “Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming” last October this Scotland-centric event carrying forth the “Outlander Inspired, History Focused” mantra took place for the first time at Leatherwood outside of Ferguson, NC.
The living history area for this event was focused on the two main Scottish periods in the Outlander books- 1940’s and 1740’s. A large WWII contingent representing British Paras as well as the King’s Own Scottish Borders attended complete with period vehicles, heavy weapons, and encampment. On the 1740’s side, our group presented as Jacobites, joined by the 84th. Denis Byrd and the other members of the 71st Highlanders altered their portrayal in order to represent a Highland Independent Company in the employ of the Hanoverian Government. Joining forces with the 84th had the outstanding benefit of Sally Spatz’s incredible cooking which included homemade haggis over the fire, among other many delicious meals.
One word best describes this five-day, four night event- HOT. Despite the high elevation, it was and remained late-May in NC. The afternoons were spent seeking shade and stripping down to what would have been vulgar presentations by 18th century standards.
Though not as well attended as the fall events at Leatherwood, the attendees were very engaged and interested in learning more about the Jacobites. Representing our Clan were J.P., Neil, and young Liam who spent the days scouring the sutlers to add to his growing kit. Likewise, Winston Tatum, a new friend and dare we say prospective member also stopped by with his lovely lady and both helped to liven up the toasty conditions at camp. All the new folks added their own perspectives and helped lend depth to the group.
For two of the evenings our group joined forces with the Southeastern Civilians’ contingent, and Ms. Nancy Gaines, Esq., providing a ceilidh-like atmosphere. We sang several Gaelic songs and other Jacobite favorites, including Adeste Fideles, and we shared information about the importance of music as a medium of rebellious expression.
We were joined one morning by Duncan Lacroix, one of the actors from the Outlander series, who enjoyed speaking with us and had some great stories of his own. He even took J.P.’s sword in hand at one point out of a desire to re-live some of his favorite on-screen moments.
The weekend culminated with J.P.’s serving as Master of Ceremonies for a Grog Ceremony for both the reenactors and the paying attendees. The ceremony was incredibly moving with short presentations and additions to the grog being provided by each living history unit as well as attendees with a familial connection to the military conflicts which are explored in the Outlander book series. Some had stories from their own families, others read poems, and very few dry-eyes were to be found in the pavilion as the ceremonial first dram was offered to Mr. Lacroix. He slammed most of it.
The ceremony rolled into a real foot-stomper evening as the Carolina Thunder Mugs led the musical efforts in the living history camp. Here, the true merits of David “Sergeant Major” Gallagher, another new friend and prospective member, were on full display as he and J.P. joined the band for several numbers and several more drinks!
June – Blairsville Highland Games
By June, and the long-awaited return of the Blairsville Highland Games, things were really feeling “back to normal” after several years of pandemic. It was great to be back at a Highland Games that our group has attended since its inaugural year and even better for the Games to have been so well attended. The Clan had a very strong presence with the following in attendance: Chief-Emeritus Britt Brinson, current Chief J.P. Hackney, Clan Bard- Neil Fitzgibbons, the Color-Bearer- Ed Lunderman, Cody Hackney, Bill Hackney, and Dave Stimpson. Camp Followers: Catherine Hackney and Nicole Stimpson + numerous weeans as well as Kellie & Lucca Hackney also rounded out the group.
Larry “Lone Dog” Lynch appeared just long enough to pass along his Michael Sackrison made dog-lock musket. Warren Haire, an old Civil War friend to many, stopped by the camp and has taken an interest in our group and time period. He was already on the way with his kit, and we hope to have him fall in with us in the future.
Overall, it was a very busy couple of days as the public filed through regularly. Unfortunately, no muskets were fired, but tons of information was passed along and the Clan took up its place marching in the parade of tartans for Opening Ceremonies. Due the Clan’s proximity to the stream, Bill was also able to demonstrate his 18th century angling. The evenings were pleasant and the cooking, while not quite to the “Steinmeyer Standard ” was more than adequate to nourish those assembled. Frankly, it was great to have such a pack of dawgs brought together after many years away. The time passage was barely noticed and things picked up right where they had been as many stories (both real and imaginary) were shared about those past times together.
October – Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming
Ferguson, North Carolina
After such a great first experience with this event in 2021, this year really did feel like a “Homecoming” for us as we had the chance to see old friends from the year before. It’s amazing how many of the paid attendees return and are so happy to reconnect with us and share what they have learned and experienced over the last year.
The event began on Wednesday afternoon as Cody & Neil were the first to arrive from Georgia to begin setting up camp. Liam and his father Robby arrived shortly after and were able to pitch in. J.P. got on the road after a full day’s work and managed to slip into camp just after sundown. Last to arrive and rounding out the crew was Dustin Markey who made the trek from his college campus outside Myrtle Beach.
The theme for this year’s homecoming was to present a North Carolina back-country village circa 1775. It was a bit of a stretch for our portrayal, but we intended to display some of the Gaelic-speaking settlers of North Carolina. It was a great opportunity to talk about the Jacobite origins of many of North Carolina’s settlers as well as the mixed feelings in that community toward the revolution.
The days were quite pleasant and the nights were quite cold, but everyone enjoyed some lovely German food prepared by the Mecklenburg Militia/Jaegers who we forted up with for the event. Cody was of particular assistance in the kitchen. J.P. had the opportunity to present his 18th century solicitor’s impression, and Neil took point in sharing information about our unit and the Darien Highlanders. Dustin, Liam, and Robby continued to build their impressions.
We also had the opportunity to once again lead a grog ceremony. The celebrity guest at this event was Graham McTavish who, in addition to his Outlander credits, has also appeared in the Hobbit, Game of Thrones, and the Witcher. When it came time for him to partake of the grog, he decided to add a dram of his own in recognition of his McTavish ancestors captured at Culloden and his father and grandfather who served in the World Wars. He was very gracious with his time and was very interested in our living history camp.
September & November- Mother Nature’s Reckoning
After a full spring of good weather the other foot finally dropped resulting in not one but two event cancellations due to Hurricanes, Cumberland Island’s 50th Anniversary and Fort King George’s Fall Encampment in November. However, J.P. and John decided to take advantage of FKG’s cancellation to instead participate in the Battle of Camden in South Carolina, a Revolutionary War Event, with the Mecklenburg Militia. We are proud to report that although this was outside of our usual wheelhouse we both presented as some of the best dressed and equipped participants of the event and were well received by all.
December – Colonial Nightwatch
St. Augustine, Florida
Finally, the year drew to a close with a small showing at the Colonial Nightwatch in St. Augustine, Florida. John and prospective new member Steve Quick participated for the day, fighting the holiday crowds in St. Augustine to get to the Colonial Quarter across the street from the Castillo De San Marcos. After some initial confusion from other reenactors thinking that John’s demo kit was a blanket sale we spent a fun and productive day presenting about the Darien Highlanders. One of our group goals for the future is to put together a first person interpretation for the Castillo’s candlelight guided program, “Enemy at the Gates” showing the 1740 Siege of St. Augustine.
Notes on Successes and Things we Learned and Practiced This Year
- J.P. and John committed to embracing period bedding for most of the events and we encourage others to as well. For most fair weather events, 2 blankets and a ground cloth are sufficient for sleeping. Cold weather events can be done without sleeping bags but ground insulation (sheepskins, straw, etc.) is important. Embrace the strenuous life!
- John cemented his position as Quartermaster and Chief Brewer of the group. Our standard lunch continues to be bread, bacon, cheese, apples, and walnuts which allows us to eat in between presentations while remaining in period. Our culinary endeavors for dinner continue to be historically accurate, varied, and delicous.
- Every member should have their own eating and drinking vessels, preferably a cup/tankard, bowl, spoon, knife, and canteen. We all have spares for new members but everyone should be responsible for acquiring their own.
- Camp should have a designated person (possibly the Quartermaster) who is in charge of keeping an organized appearance, especially when we are at Fort King George. We have a tendency to lay out all of our gear, regardless of whether it is needed. We should try to present an actual military (or home) presentation when we are in buildings.
- Staying in communication with event organizers is always important; although none of our logistical challenges were our faults we should always remember to continue to maintain relationships and be proactive in communicating.
- New insights on footwear; although at times frustrating, J.P. and John were able to learn some new insights on highland footwear from one of the Jacobite Reenacting Facebook groups that will be included in the next update to our Impression Standards.
- Small Victories; J.P. found a primary source from Daniel Boone mentioning using a gun’s flintlock to start a fire in the wilderness. Exciting vindication after our own experiment in trying to start a fire in windy conditions back at Fort Frederica.
Fraser’s Ridge Homecoming
Leatherwood Mountains, Ferguson, North Carolina
This was a new event for the Clan and it was truly a wonderful time. This event was a paid weekend where fans of the the Outlander book series by Diana Gabaldon (and also the Starz television adaptation) were able to immerse in the sights and sounds of those stories. The event is billed as “Outlander inspired, history focused” and that was certainly our experience. The Clan encountered so many folks that were incredibly excited to visit and learn from us. The length of the event allowed everyone to justify the long haul up to the North Carolina high country. There were certainly challenges putting on demonstrations at the scale requested in the time of COVID. Overall, we enjoyed dipping into this particular world related to our chosen period and culture.
Panthertown Valley, Cold Mountain Trailhead, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
“I wish to preach, not the doctrine of ignoble ease, but the doctrine of the strenuous life, the life of toil and effort, of labor and strife; to preach that highest form of success which comes, not to the man who desires mere easy peace, but to the man who does not shrink from danger, from hardship, or from bitter toil, and who out of these wins the splendid ultimate triumph.”
― Theodore Roosevelt, The Strenuous Life, Essays and Addresses
After a decade+ hiatus, Clan Nan Con returned to the backcountry this past weekend to immerse in history by undertaking an overnight trek. The Clan had previously completed several treks in the Cohutta Wilderness in Northwest Georgia, but it has been many years since the Clan has tested its gear and skills in the wilderness.
The goal and intent of the trek was to simulate conditions as they may have been encountered by highlanders roaming the backcountry prior to the 1745 uprising. We thought of this as an overnighter that may have been undertaken as warriors made their way from their home glen to rally to a chief’s call to arms or to track down some cattle rustlers.
The trekking party gathered at the Cold Mountain Trailhead northwest of Lake Toxaway in the late morning hours of Saturday, June 5. J.P. Hackney was first to arrive, along with his trusty pointer, Gunner. His younger brother Cody was next to pull in and John Steinmeyer followed shortly. As each man prepared his kit for departure there was a great deal of discussion about what to bring and what to leave. In much the same way as the highlanders of the 18th century, each man faced some choices that had very real consequences in terms of weight and comfort.
For those interested, here is a general breakdown of what each man carried (clothing not included):
-Haversack with rations, Quaich, wooden spoon, knife, extra water
-Knapsack with an extra wool blanket and small broiler pot
-Sporran with Sporran things in it . . .
-Sword & Dirk
–Knapsack with extra wool blanket, oil cloth, copper broiler, trivet, extra hose, rations, wooden bowl & spoon
-Sporran with tinder kit & whistle
-Tin kidney canteen
-Sword, Dirk, Targe, Neck knife, Sgian Achlais
-Haversack with rations (for himself and Gunner), horn spoon, knife, wooden noggin, and map
-Leather Snapsack/Sausage bag with rope, small cordage, extra hose, tin trekking cup, candles, tinder kit, and “Farb Bag”.
-Sporran with whistle, compass, tinder kit, and bodkin
-Tin half-moon canteen
-Sword, Dirk, Targe, Sgian Achlais
What rations did they have?
Glad you asked! Each man carried 1 1/2 cups of oats, three bannocks, and some dried beef.
What was in the “Farb Bag”?
Not as happy you asked about this, but for safety purposes a modern first aid kit, cell phones, and vehicle keys were stowed in the Farb Bag. A modern lightweight water purifier was also meant to be in this bag, but was left at home.
43rd Highlanders marching through Germany, circa 1743 [National Museums of Scotland]
After everyone’s kits were in order the group gathered for a portrait from a nice hiker leaving the trail and then set off!
The trail began with a quick downhill and Gunner set a good cadence which all of the men followed.
Some of the highlights along the northern arc of the tail included a lovely swimming hole and beach along Panthertown Creek as well as a overlook that offered sweeping views of Blackrock and Little Green Mountains.
Unfortunately, the party took two unnecessary detours at each turn in the route, but it only resulted in an additional four miles total!
Waterfalls and granite cliffs abounded along the route. The men had ample opportunities to provide impromptu demonstrations to various groups encountered along the way and even assisted a group who had gotten lost and did not have a map. It is a tricky valley with a network of trails that criss-cross with inconsistent marking. In total, about 11 miles were covered by the trekkers on Saturday before making camp at a great spot along a stream.
Once a campsite had been selected for the night, the men set about preparing the area. However, the first order of business was to drop some gear and soak some tired feet in the cool mountain stream water. It was most refreshing. Revitalized, John and J.P. set to gathering wood and building a cook fire while Cody minded Gunner.
A hot meal consisting of oatmeal and dried beef was prepared along with ample whisky to wash things down. The lads also had to boil and strain water in order to have enough to drink for the next day.
After dark, a large fire was enjoyed briefly then allowed to burn down to coals. Everyone turned in pretty early, but it would not be an easy sleep as drizzle prompted construction of a too-close-for-comfort shelter and subsequent diaspora to previous sleeping areas. Gunner alerted camp to the presence of something in the wee hours of the morning. The cause of the disturbance was not identified and remains a mystery. Just prior to day break, courting pair of owls began very loudly pitching woo to one another making the inevitable rise with the sun come that much earlier in the morning.
As the sun did rise, the men geared up and set off to cover the final .6 miles to the vehicles and return to the 21st century and home.
What we learned by “walking [approximately 12] miles in the shoes” of our ancestors:
1. Targes may not seem heavy at first, but they weigh you down very quickly.
2. Highlanders would have gotten tough feet very quickly. Collectively, our biggest complaint was the state of our feet. John and J.P. wore currans and Cody wore footwear similar to Clark’s desert boots. Modern hiking boots or trail shoes > 18th century shoes.
3. Canteens are loud. It is doubtful these would have been carried other than when marching in military formation. We hypothesized that most highlanders would have sipped from streams.
4. Dogs are a value add.
5. Bring an extra blanket. It got down to the low fifties overnight. We do not believe just a great kilt would have been sufficient in temperatures much cooler than that.
6. A little oats goes a long way.
Highlanders’ Encampment Weekend
Fort King George- Darien, Georgia
Due to ongoing concerns and directives related to COVID, Fort King George was forced to cancel the annual Scottish Heritage Days traditionally held in March. However, Clan Nan Con was invited to come to the fort to occupy the space and provide a living history for the Park’s regular weekend crowd. Our presence was minimally advertised, but John and J.P. both attended and were able to take ample time to work on our programming and take pictures for our “standards” document that is still in progress.
John and J.P. both arrived early on a cool and pleasant Friday evening around 1800. The boys set to preparing the doctor’s house that would be home for the duration of the weekend. Once pallets were laid out for sleeping a good cooking fire was built, they began preparing a delicious Lenten meal of poached salmon and snippets with a butter and white wine sauce. It was most excellent. The highland gentlemen enjoyed the remainder of the evening catching up and scheming for the next year’s events. They caroused until all of the candles were burnt and then passed a relatively uneventful night (albeit there was a disturbance by what was believed to have been a whooping crane or possibly a pterodactyl).
After a slow start to the morning, the men prepared a demonstration area for the impending visit of the public. They had weapons inspected and then prepared a three tables. One table contained weapons, another campaign gear, and lastly a table was laid out with the tools needed to maintain a flintlock.
Michael Putnam, one of the Park Rangers, donned his great kilt (in State of Georgia tartan) and helped bolster the Clan’s numbers. For those who do not know Michael, he is very knowledgeable concerning the Darien Highlanders and provided some much needed assistance to us. For a “non event” there were pretty substantial crowds. Due to reduced capacity, there were several points throughout the day where the visitor center/gift shop was operating on a “one-in, one-out” basis.
The group was able to answer myriad questions concerning the equipment and the Darien Highlanders. They also conducted several iterations of our Gaelic musket drill. The crowds were so numerous, that neither John nor J.P. managed a substantial lunch. We also met David Haney, a long time friend of Michael’s. He is a retired law enforcement officer and lives in the Darien area. He has a keen interest in the history of the Highlanders and we are planning for him to fall in with us at the next opportunity.
As the heat of the afternoon began to take over, Michael, John, and J.P. marched over the “Scottish House” opposite the marsh from the Fort. There they were able to work on some hand-to-hand combat and sword play out of view (and reach) of the general public. The Park’s naturalist, Al Roeske, used this opportunity to take some excellent pictures which will be used by the Park for its website and other promotional material.
As visitors began to leave and the sun began to sink, John and J.P. set to task building the fire back up for cooking supper. Unfortunately, no candles were to be had. NOTE: FORT KING GEORGE WILL NO LONGER BE PROVIDING CANDLES FOR EVENTS (SO STOCK UP BEFORE YOU GO). Much of the cooking was conducted in the dark, but this certainly helped to ensure an authentic ambience. A fine supper of pork chops, hominy, shallots, and peppers was heartily enjoyed. Another great evening of story telling, light singing, and planning was passed.
All were up and out of the fort the next morning before the clock hit double digits (despite the “Spring” forward).
Overall, it was an excellent weekend and our organization is fortunate to have such a good relationship with Fort King George that we are given such access to the facilities. We will endeavor to continue to assist in providing quality programming for them in the future. I know we all look forward to getting back down there and battling the Spanish soon!
Northeast Florida Scottish Highland Games & Festival
Clay County Fairgrounds- Green Cove Springs, Florida
After a brief hiatus, members of the Clan took it upon themselves to go out to the Northeast Florida Games and help to educate those in attendance. John Steinmeyer and Dave Stimpson made a small but powerful showing along with one of Dave’s reenactor buddies.
John had these notes:
- Two clan members and one guest portraying an upper and middle class persona.
- Operated a weapons booth demonstrating examples of bladed weapons.
- Made new connections with other highland games, and secured an invite to Charleston’s games.
- Tried out the question starter chalkboard, the question; “why did highlanders like the full moon” prompted lots of interaction from passing women. The real answer is that it was good weather for cattle raiding.
- Event organizers were very happy to have us there, definite possibility of building the relationship back up to include a larger demo area and camping in the future if we desire.
Scottish Heritage Days
Fort King George- Darien, Georgia
The annual Scottish Heritage Days at Fort King George were held March 13-14, 2020. The weather for the weekend presented the first hot days of the year, but clear skies and a cool breeze off of the water made for some very enjoyable days.
Neil Fitzgibbons was the first man to arrive on the evening of Thursday, March 12. He moved in to the officer’s barracks within the walls of the fort, and he quickly made preparations for the Clan’s occupation.
Friday, March 13
J.P. Hackney was next to arrive coming in early on Friday morning. Fitzgibbons and Hackney spent Friday morning educating the two schools groups that came to visit for the school day event. Fitzgibbons provided an engaging presentation about the Darien Highlanders and also taught the children his Gaelic song about the different pieces of clothing. Hackney was enlisted to assist the cannon crew manning the worm. Our old friend, George Strickland, was the gunner. Following the cannon firings, Hackney gave a solo performance of our Gaelic musket drill.
Valarie Ikwhan, Park Manager, has expressed to us that school participation on the designated school days has been on the decline in recent years. The park’s numbers for field trips have been steady, but many groups are foregoing attendance on the days with planned events. If you know of any teachers or schools planning to take a trip to South Georgia, encourage them to contact Fort King George ahead of time so that the students can have the best possible experience.
Presentations to the school groups wrapped up around 11:00 a.m. Hackney and Fitzgibbons set about improving the officer’s barracks, doing light weapons maintenance, and discussing some of the Gaelic demonstrations to prepare for the next day. Hackney also took up needle and thread to finish sewing buttons and button holes on a new heavy linen shirt.
The Stimpson sept of the Clan arrived early in the afternoon. Dave, Nicole, and the four bairns made quick work of filling the southern half of the barracks. Andrew Bellacomo also arrived Friday afternoon. Fitzgibbons and Hackney made quick work of getting him outfitted as a Highlander. The afternoon was generally low-key as the group only had sporadic visitors from the general public. Everyone was afforded the opportunity to visit with our fellow reenactors at the fort.
As the sun dropped low, the fire was built higher, and everyone began to make their way to sleep. However, John Steinmeyer arrived around 21:00 and quickly got unloaded and caught up with everyone. Conversations continued for a few hours before everyone found their way to their beds.
Saturday, March 14
The morning dawned with a great deal of mist and fog, but with the sun quickly rising into the sky. As everyone stirred, Hackney and Steinmeyer set to making breakfast and coffee. Mrs. Stimpson also began cooking for the Stimpson boys. J.P.’s parents Catherine and Bill Hackney arrived a little bit after 08:00, and J.P. got his father situated into his Highlander kit. The whole crew made their way to the Park’s theater for the morning briefing from the Park staff. It was at that time that everyone learned the Spanish would not be making the journey from Florida due to concerns over the “wee beasty” (COVID-19).
The lads made their way back to the barracks to get things ready for the public. John and Nicole finished cooking breakfast and everyone took in some food. J.P. managed to finish up making coffee in a new pot using traditional 18th century methods.
Bill Hackney added a new demonstration to the group’s repertoire- 18th century angling. He had prepared poles in various stages of construction and also brought along hooks, flies, and snoods to display. He tried his hand down at the river. Unfortunately, he experienced more “fishing” as opposed to catching.
The Clan was joined by Dr. Ed Hendricks. He was new to the event but brought a long a great kilt, and he shared with us that the targe he carried was the first one that Alex Cameron made. His presence rounded out the group Adam Young, a professional living historian, also came dressed in a kilt and fell in with our group at various times.
As the morning progressed, the Clan formed its battle line and conducted the musket drills in Gaelic until the group was reasonably proficient. Neil, as always, was a great resource for the Gaelic commands. The drill itself is coming along very well. One area requiring improvement and additional practice are the facing movement commands.
The Clan moved out to the ramparts and conducted several iterations of the Gaelic musket drill with cartridges.
After marching back to the barracks, Dave and John set up a display table to talk through the various aspects of the Highlander’s material culture.
The middle Stimpson boys, Cole and Clay, demonstrated full-speed highland charges for the public (occasionally with assistance from J.P.).
There was a steady public presence, albeit a smaller crowd than normal.
The Clan conducted additional musket drills in the afternoon. In lieu of the typical afternoon tactical battle, a culminating cannon firing from the blockhouse and group musket drill was conducted for the crowd.
Following the final event, the crowds began to disperse. Valarie addressed all of the reenactors and thanked the Clan for its participation. Unfortunately, the limited agenda on Sunday, including the Kirkin’ o the Tartans, was cancelled. It sounds like the Fort has some big plans for the next year, so stay tuned for some new things for the calendar.
The Stimpsons and Mr. and Mrs. Hackney left the premises on Saturday evening. Andrew, John, J.P., and Neil spent the afternoon and evening visiting with the other reenactors. In particular, the men enjoyed discussing 18th century weaving with Prof. Caroline Hughes. She is a S.C.A.D. graduate and college professor specializing in textile art and historical dress. Most germane to the Clan, she wove her own plaid and wore it as an arisaid. She provided some great information about the time and techniques needed to make a piece of tartan. The men spent another night at the fort and were joined by the sailors who graciously shared their supper. Saturday Evening was spent around the hearth fire in the barracks sharing stories and discussing history.
Sunday, March 15
The morning dawned bright and sunny, and the Clan packed up quickly. Everyone was on the road by 09:00.
Colonial Night Watch
St. Augustine, Florida
December 7, 2019
After Action Report:
This was the Clan’s first appearance at the Colonial Night Watch in any official capacity. After many years of invitations from our Spanish compadres, we decided we should help support this event. It was well worth the trip!
John Steinmeyer led the charge and arrived to St. Augustine Friday night around 21:00. As it turned out, No Name Bar, situated next to the camping area of the Colonial Quarter, kept its band turned up to 11 until a little after 02:00. Consequently, John decided to bivouac in his vehicle rather than fight the noise of mediocre Lynard Skynard covers.
J.P. Hackney arrived Saturday morning just as the Christmas parade was beginning. John and J.P. managed to get canvas up, registered, and establish camp just in time for weapons inspection. As it turned out, John’s weapon required some maintenance, and due to humidity and other factors, misfires were a common occurrence for both men throughout the day.
Musket drills were performed every couple of hours and a very steady stream of public visitors interacted with our Highlanders. These visitors included John’s uncle and his family who were very welcome guests in camp. Throughout the day various period skills were demonstrated for visitors:
- J.P. set to making a pair of pre-cut bag hose;
- John poured lead for musket balls;
- John demonstrated assembly and disassembly of a flintlock;
- John prepared coffee, bacon, and potatoes;
- J.P. made some minor leather repairs to his belt and sporran; and
- J.P. demonstrated various sword-fighting techniques.
The men also managed to befriend the neighboring camp of East Florida Rangers as well as El Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico (a group of reenactors based at the Castillo in San Juan, PR).
As darkness fell, the Highlanders were called to the Castillo de San Marcos across the street where they joined with groups ranging from Highlanders representing the 42nd Regiment (Black Watch), British 60th Regiment and other British regulars, East Florida Rangers, South Carolina Militia, The St. Augustine Garrison, a British Naval crew from the ship Falcon, the Garrison from Fort Mose, El Regimiento Fijo de Puerto Rico, and a large group of Choral Singers.
The military units made the approximately 3/4 mile march from the Castillo to the town center through old town St. Augustine led by torchlight. Upon reaching the town square, the actual Mayor of St. Augustine, the Honorable Tracy Upchurch, provided some context for the events and charged the various units with conducting the night watch. Subsequently, three musket volleys were fired with each unit performing its own musket drill in sequence. The volleys were followed by several Christmas Chorals. Then the units gave a loud cheer and dispersed.
After making their way back to camp, the Highlanders shared some stories with their new-found Puerto Rican friends and secured a standing invitation to demonstrate in San Juan. This was followed by the “Jollification” provided by the Castillo which included libations as well as traditional Spanish fare including arroz, frijoles, meat similar to Ropas Veiejas and barbacoa, maduros, and rolls. The Highlanders enjoyed catching-up with prospective recruit Drew Smith and his wife.
When the Jollification seemed to be winding down, John and J.P. made their way back to their campfire for what they thought would be a final drink before retiring. Instead, it appeared that all those reenactors desiring to continue the event congregated around the young Highlanders. As the night wore on and the fire burned, discussion ranged from battles and living history events of the past to spirited debates over early 18th century politics and firearms. The campfire was kept roaring until well after 01:00, doing its best to compete with the still raging guitar amps at No Name Bar.
The night was cool but not cold, only the covering provided by the folds of the great kilt was required for easy sleep. J.P. and John awoke to a light drizzle on Sunday morning, but they managed to strike camp before things got too wet.
Overall, a great event and one which others should consider attending in the future!
1. Continue recruitment efforts among fellow reenactors;
2. Continue period skills demonstrations during events; and
3. Continue to plan and prepare on-site meals.
1. Weapons maintenance between events;
2. Better understand scheduling and logistics of the event prior to arrival; and
3. Improve and rehearse Gaelic Musket drill.
Fall Encampment- The Debatable Land
Fort King George, Darien, Georgia
November 8-10, 2019
After Action Report:
The event began Friday with the “school days” portion of the encampment. Clan Bard, Neil Fitzgibbons, presented information about the Darien Scots to school children as they trickled in. Recruits, Dave Stimpson and Drew Smith, also made their way to the fort on Friday.
Saturday dawned with ideal weather for the encampment. Dave was accompanied by his wife Nicole and their four sons. Drew’s wife, Martha, also joined for the day. After completing work in South Florida, John Steinmeyer also made his way to fort. The whole complement of the Clan was billeted in the Officer’s Barracks and a steady fire was kept burning throughout the weekend.
All the new hands were well-read and well accoutered. They were a great addition to the group. The day was passed speaking with a relatively small, but engaged, public crowd. Neil also provided instruction to all assembled in the Gaelic Musket Drill.
Overall, a great presentation was made. Later in the day, the fort was attacked by a raiding party of Spaniards sent North from St. Augustine. The Highlanders were tasked with holding the gateway, while the English regulars and militia were crouched behind the cover of the fort’s ramparts and manning the artillery in the blockhouse. The Highland Independent Company made a valiant stand, but was briefly overrun.
A great time was had by all, and we are looking forward to the next gathering.
Photo credits to Dave and Nicole Stimpson.
Savannah Highland Games- Bethesda Academy- Savannah, GA- May 2018
Limerick Burn- Fort Frederica- November 2017
Fort King George- English Garrison Weekend- November 2017
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, GA- June 2017
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George- Darien, GA- March 2017
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, GA- June 2016
Georgia Military Timeline- Kennesaw, GA- May 2011
Frederica Festival- St. Simons Island, GA- February 2011
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, GA- June 2010
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George- Darien, GA- March 2010
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, GA- June 2009
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George, Darien, GA- March 2009
Foothills Highland Games- Hendersonville, NC- November 2008
Blairsville Highland Games- June 2008
Taste of Scotland- Franklin, NC- June 2008
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George- March 2008
Frederica Festival- February 2008
Blairsville Highland Games- June 2007
Savannah Highland Games- Bethesda School- Savannah, GA- May 2007
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George, Darien, GA- March 2007
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, GA- June 2006
Savannah Highland Games- Bethesda School- Savannah, GA- May 2006
Culloden Highland Games- Culloden, GA- April 2006
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George, Darien, GA- March 2006
Frederica Festival- Fort Frederica- St. Simons Island, GA- February 2006
Foothills Highland Games- Hendersonville, NC- November 2005
Folktales of the Rails: Georgia History Timeline- Kennesaw, Georgia- October 2005
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, Georgia- June 2005
Savannah Highland Games- Bethesda School- Savannah, GA- May 2005
Culloden Highland Games- Culloden, Georgia- April 2005
Scottish Heritage Days- Fort King George, Darien, GA- March 2005
Federal Law Enforcement Training Center Military Timeline- Brunswick, Georgia- 2004
Blairsville Highland Games- Blairsville, Georgia- June 2004
Filming History Uncovered for Fort Frederica and the National Park Service
March on London- New Bedford Village, PA- 2003
Highlanders & Hanoverians
Frederica Festival- Fort Frederica- St. Simons Island, GA – February 2001
Darien to Fort Frederica Period Boat Trip- 2001
Holding the Right Flank- Culloden 2000 (USA) Northern Ohio