Battle of Sunset Lake is Gearing Up for Big June Event

2016-03-19 03.29.23
Lauren Seyler and Keith Stratton show off the Revolutionary War costumes she made for their wedding last year. They met through re-enacting in New Jersey and have recently moved to East Lansing where she is a post-doctoral candidate in the geology department at Michigan State University. They plan to attend the Battle of Sunset Lake encampment in Vicksburg on June 25 and 26.

By Sue Moore

Revolutionary War fighters are coming to Vicksburg to re-enact the British march from Lexington to Concord (Massachusetts). This is where the “shot heard round the world” was fired in April, 1775, which led to war with Great Britain.

The host unit of re-enactors from the North West Territory Alliance (NWTA) is the 84th Regiment of Foot, 1st Battalion, Royal Highland Emigrants. Today they are led by Sergeant Tim Gora and Corporal Gene MacDonald, both of Illinois, with the assistance of Stefan Sekula who lives in Nashville, Mich. He is the liaison to the Vicksburg Historical Society, the sponsor of the event scheduled for Saturday, June 25 and Sunday June 26 at the Recreation Park off Sprinkle Road.

It is ironic that this particular group of re-enactors volunteered to host the Vicksburg event, according to Ted Vliek, president of the Historical Society. The 84th was actually billeted in Michigan after the war at Fort Michilimackinac. The many other military units coming to the re-enactment were located in the East and Midwest, but not necessarily in Michigan.

The public is invited to visit the encampment at the Recreation Park on the weekend. There will be entertainment beginning with the trooping of the colors at 9 a.m. on Saturday to the closing colors at 4 p.m. on Sunday. One of the big events on Saturday will be the march on Lexington which will be staged in the Historic Village at 2:30 p.m. The 84th Scottish Regiment will be in charge of the re-enactment and has recruited many of the other uniformed members of the NWTA to this event.

Once the mock battle is over, the re-enactors will be treated to a meal at the pavilion provided by area church groups who have agreed to cook for the 200-plus soldiers and their complement of camp followers at 4 p.m. Saturday. It is rumored that an army is most effective on a full stomach. The men will form up to parade to downtown Vicksburg at 5:30 p.m. from the Depot Museum. They will be led by the River Valley Fife and Drum Corps which will also be performing at the Recreation Park at various times.

This group of re-enactors and musicians will join with the Taste of Vicksburg offered by the Chamber of Commerce. The Celtic Band of Father Son and Friends will take the stage to entertain from 6-7 p.m. at the main four corners of Vicksburg as a kick-off to the Taste event.

The 84th was formed in the mid-1770s in Quebec and New England, according to Sekula. They came together as veterans of the French and Indian War in the 1750s, composed primarily of Scottish emigrants and loyalists. Some recruits were born in New England. Their militia unit was guaranteed land in Nova Scotia as an inducement to join up. They are credited with wounding Gen. Benedict Arnold as he fought on the Plains of Quebec on Jan. 1, 1776. Arnold failed and retreated back to Vermont to lick his wounds and rejoin the Americans before eventually joining the British.

As a militia unit, the men lived in their own homes, had no uniforms, and went to work every day. It was documented that recruits had to be 17 years or older, (drummers could be younger), at least 5’3”, appear healthy, have all limbs, no ruptures, not troubled by fits, and have at least 2 teeth that met.

In the 1770s the 1st Battalion was stationed in Quebec and manned the Great Lakes trading routes coming into Quebec. This battle in Quebec is generally considered the one that drastically affected the war insofar as the saving of Canada as a British possession was concerned. The 1st Battalion also saw service at forts on the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain area, Montreal, Ontario, and Michigan.

Visitors to the camp site at the Recreation Park will be treated to many more tales of British and Continental units who fought in the Revolutionary War. Each re-enactor chooses a person to emulate and stays in that character for the entire two days in camp. They enjoy spinning yarns about their service and the hardships they encountered.

A schedule of events and more details about the encampment are available on the web site, http://www.battleofsunsetlake.org. The funding for the entire weekend has come from several sources with grants were obtained from the Vicksburg Foundation, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, and the Michigan Humanities Council an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Vicksburg Rotary Club and Lions Club have also contributed funds along with area churches including St. Martin of Tours Catholic Church, Vicksburg United Methodist Church, Lakeland Reformed Church and Chapman Memorial Church of the Nazarene.

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