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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Revolutionary War Reenactment: Guilford Courthouse....and some caches!

The still before the storm
Redcoats!
It got pretty smoky
Dragoons
March 16, 2013 was a beautiful, warm Spring Saturday in the North Carolina Piedmont. My wife was busy studying for her Spanish PRAXIS test so she was ready to get me out of the house. I don't have to be shoved too hard to get the idea that it might be time for me to go geocaching. We had both planned to go to the Revolutionary War reenactment at Guilford Courthouse National Military Park but the demands of study meant that I would have to go it alone. This celebration marked the 232nd anniversary of the battle. I loaded up some cache locations into my GPSr and hit the road. We live in High Point, NC close to where British General Earl Cornwallis and his men camped the night before the battle. The ten-mile drive to the battleground was easy until I hit the backed up traffic of all the folks just like me that were coming for the reenactment. I couldn't help but think what it must have been like for the British troops, rolled out of bed at 2 a.m. and force marched beyond New Garden Friends Meeting place to where they encountered General Nathaniel Greene's Patriot Army. In 20 minutes I'd covered what took them about six hours. I bet they would have wished they had GPSrs too. I followed instructions, parking in the Country Park area and began my 3/4 mile walk to the site of the mock battle. On the way I stopped into the reenactor's encampments and browsed through the small tent shops. They were selling wares such as candles, wooden swords, all the way to flintlock rifles and period clothing. After snapping a few pictures I moved on to the main event. As I got closer to the location for the mock battle the crowd grew. I estimate that we were maybe 500 people gathered behind the roped off area looking out into a large sloped open field bordered by trees on three sides. A gentleman dressed in a British officer's uniform was presenting some basic information on the activities that led up to the battle. Right at 2 p.m. a small contingency of dragoons (scouts on horseback) representing British forces rode into the field. They sent one scout out to see if there were enemy in the woods. The volley of musket fire was his response. Soon British regulars came from the east to join the battle. Each sub-unit fired separately so that the entire regiment wasn't reloading at the same time. Volley after volley was fired and the air was full of smoke. Then came the cannons. Although the reenactors operate with a significantly small force, the maneuvers and and fighting tactics portrayed today were true to the time of the Revolutionary War. Finally the British charged the first of three defensive lines that General Nathaniel Greene had organized. The first line was North Carolina Militia. The narrator was kind to say that they regrouped to the rear. Although it is true that Greene planned for a rapid disengagement in order to fight another day, history tells of the North Carolina troops breaking and running when the British regulars fixed bayonets and charged them. As the first line withdrew quickly into the woods and up the hill towards the second line of Virginia troops, the reenactment for the day ended. "Come back tomorrow to see how the battle ends", said the narrator. We all applauded the performance by reenactors from both sides. They continued with their chores of removing the wounded and the dead from the battlefield. Later I learned how they knew who was to fall in battle and who wouldn't. I was told that when you ran out of ammunition you were to fall down wounded or dead.

My favorite of the day!
With the battle over for the day I pulled myself up off the ground where I'd been sitting and headed out to find my first cache in the area. The first cache took me outside the National Military Park (there are no caches allowed here) and onto the grounds of the adjoining cemetery. I made a quick find at one of the gates to the cemetery, then in a small picnic area in a small park. I tracked to the GZ, finding that it was occupied by a young mother with her children. I sat down on a bench to wait and began double checking my readings. Sure enough, the cache had to be where they were. Finally I couldn't wait any longer. My presence was probably already a little strange. So I asked her permission to look under the metal picnic table. She agreed and immediately asked me if I was playing that Internet game. I told her I was and that it is called geocaching. She said she'd heard of it. She and her little daughter joined in on the hunt at the table. Finally the young mother came up with the cache. She was surprised at how much she enjoyed this. I explained the game and wrote down www.geocaching.com for her to learn more. 

Now it was time to back track back through the park. I'd come through an apartment complex and up a hill full of briers to get to these two caches. It was the same to get back. I crossed the cemetery, hit the trails in the battleground and was soon out the other side into Country Park. One of my favorite caches of the day, one that gave me a little headache to make the find, was Mother Nature's Stepson (GC3RHT8). It was a fun cache! I looked in all the obvious places for this small container. It just wasn't showing up at all. I began to extend the radius of my search. Still nothing. "It can't be", I thought. It was just found a few days ago. I returned to the GZ and crawled on hands and knees back into the bushes to look some more. I thought I'd looked everywhere when suddenly something that looked natural turned out to have a wire connected to it. I found it! I'm sure glad I didn't give up on this one too soon. 

There were two more caches in the park to be found. I head out after them. The last one was called Student Driver (GC217R6). It was a straight forward ammo box hidden in the most obvious place. I guess the name had to do with the mountain bike trail nearby. My only dilemma was that somewhere over the last kilometer I'd lost my only ink pen. I thought about taking a picture to send to the cache owner and asking permission to log it since I couldn't sign the cache. Then I looked down and saw that a brier had snagged my left wrist and I was bleeding ever so slightly. You got it. I stamped my blood onto the log sheet as proof of my presence there. I wrote this in the on-line log and hope the cache owner will be ok with my blood stamp. I guess if others have their fancy stamps I can have mine.

As I headed back to the car I was racing the clock. Numerous signs said the park gate would close promptly at 5 p.m. I drove out the gate with 15 minutes to spare. What a fun afternoon. I got a piece of history through seeing the first phase of the Battle of Guilford Courthouse reenacted. I also found six caches in and around the park. Thanks to all the cache hiders that make days like this possible! And thanks to those who reenact these battles.
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