Saturday, February 16, 2013

A detour in time — the Regency Assembly

I tried to pay a visit to the Revolutionary War, but an ice storm landed me in 1813.

A group of Revolutionary-era re-enactors planned an encampment at the High Point Museum. However, ice and bitter cold descended on the Piedmont. Schools and churches started cancelling events left and right.  Fortunately for me, one of those cancellations left me free to shop the High Point Library book sale in the morning and follow deserted, but clear roads to the museum that afternoon.

I found a few diehard re-enactors huddled in the Hoggatt house, sitting by the fire in their 18th-century woolens. With the cold seeping in and sparse audience attendance, several had slipped home to enjoy modern central heating.

Inside the museum building I found another group, the Regency Assembly of North Carolina. Since my writing is set in 17th-century Ireland to colonial America, I hadn't paid attention to this event on the museum schedule. Happenstance turned unplanned changes into a delightful day.

Regency Assembly members say, 'Costumes admired, but not required.'
According to their website, the Regency Assembly enjoys and re-enacts "the period some call the Regency Period (1811-1820), some call the Federal Period (1789-1820) and others, the Napoleonic Era (1793-1814)." 

Whatever the name, the events of this era mostly overlap "Jane Austen's life (1775-1817)."

Members especially like to dance. When I peered into the meeting room, about eight people were dancing one of the English country dances I had seen in Pride and Prejudice

They welcomed me, inviting me to stay for tea. Mind you, some were dressed in elegant costume, while I was wearing North Carolina "snow gear" — sweatshirt, jeans and hiking boots. So I slunk in and sat at a table while they finished another dance. 

As they stopped to catch their breath and enjoy tea and biscuits (shortbread! what had I done to deserve a warm drink and yummy sweets?), two men gave reports from the war and suddenly we were in the current day, but in 1813.

Jim Tate, dressed in the green coat of a British sharpshooter (not a Hessian as I'd first assumed), represented a member of the 95th Rifles Division. Rifles had longer range than muskets, but required more time to reload. The sharpshooters had more training than the infantry and carried their own fine powder in their powder horns, along with a cartridge box.

English passport, front
English passport, back
Jim told us about his Dutch ancestor, Jan Noldus de Vin Pronk, who travelled extensively and ended up in New York. He showed us original passports for de Vin Pronk, an English one signed in 1806 and what appears to be a Dutch one, under Napoleon's name, signed in 1807.

Jim Greathouse represented a sailing master, "currently" captain of the gunboat, Alligator. He explained that his costume is rather plain for someone of his rank.

Our hosts, Ruth and Franz Verbunt, presented each of us with our own "passports" — one from the United States of Ameria signed for President Madison by Secretary of State James Monroe, and one from the French Empire.

They invited everyone to come back next month. And then the dancing began again!
Ruth Verbunt and Jim Greathouse


Amy said...

Talk about time travel! I love that you just stumbled upon this gathering. It may not fit your writing now, but who knows? Maybe it will spark something later.

Barbara Morrison said...

English country dancing has become popular across the U.S. and Canada. I love it! I've been doing for 37 years. Friendly people, beautiful music, and easy exercise. Check out to find a group near you.

Elizabeth Saunders said...

Serendipity is great writing fuel, Amy. And the sequels to my sequel will work forward in time... :-)

Elizabeth Saunders said...

You must love dancing to have done it for 37 years, Barbara! Thanks for the info.