Fort Niagara – After Action Report 2016

Posted September 6, 2016 By Tom Birkenbach

The following after action report is from Sgt. Cooper of Gower’s Coy. of U.S. Riflemen, 1st Regt.


After Action Report – Old Fort Niagara
2-4 September 2016
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Sergeant and Mrs. Cooper, C.M. and Lawson Charron, and Sergeant and Mrs. Wilkins of the 2nd Artillery attended the event over Labor Day weekend. Having not been to the Old Fort in the past, I was not clear as to what to expect for this event. We did anticipate meeting with Forsyth’s Company of U.S. Regiment of Riflemen as this even was relatively close to their headquarters; regrettably, they were not at the engagement.
Sergeant Cooper made contact with the event coordinator who allowed us to forgo packing canvas and we resided in the North Redoubt (10) for the weekend. Ironically, this was behind the Crown Forces camp which was between the Millet Cross (11) and the flag poles (9). The American camp was near the Hot Shot Battery (3). The fort provided us breakfasts and dinner on Saturday, while the Log Cabin (4) sold meals for lunches.  Two sides of a temporary barracks had been erected in front of the American camp and the French Castle (1); this was a representation of the “Red Barracks” present during the War of 1812 and stood on the original foundations.
The staff was friendly and helpful. They were pleased to have American Riflemen present as a large portion of the Crown Forces were 60th light infantry (Loyal American). It was made apparent that Riflemen were a rarity at this event. Major Phil Edwards held command of the American Forces and was very pleased to utilize us in a proper fashion.
Most of the participants on both sides were Canadian. Elements of the 23rd, 25th, USMC, 3rd Artillery, Canadian Volunteers, U.S.S. Chesapeake sailors and Genesee County Militia (ununiformed) made up the rest of the American Forces. The Crown Forces had a large contingent of 41st from Fort George for Saturday, 60th, Incorporated Militia of Upper Canada, and De Watteville Regiment. It was commented that this was the first event several could remember that the U.S. forces outnumbered the Crown.
The event is not heavily scheduled with activity. Morning Colors saw both sides on the parade grounds at 1000 followed by drill. Volunteers were asked to be part of a short uniform presentation at 1100. Scheduled battles took place at 1400 both days, but both were entirely different. The highest anticipated event was the battle at 2000 on Saturday reenacting the taking of the fort. The day battles had the riflemen being riflemen, screening the army, skirmishing, advancing and retiring, etc. All of the battles were great power burn fests with each of us blowing through a cartridge box or more. Saturday’s battles were inside the fort while Sunday, we moved on the Glacis (16) with the Brits coming out from behind the Ravelin (14). A battery emplacement was the focus of the engagement in front of the Visitor’s Center (17).
The fort is heavily trafficked by tour busses. This is due to a largely Asian company having entered into an agreement with the fort. The company purchases tickets in lots of 10,000 and brings around 150,000 visitors to the fort annually. Most of the visitors spoke very little English but were avid photographers. They are a great benefit for the site, but did not seem to be scheduled during the battle times; the audiences then being regular tourists.
There is not a great deal of non-military activities scheduled at this event. There is a short dancing session around 1800, but it was more of a demo than a dance. More than likely the lack of activity is due to a diminished female presence. The fort did provide an open bar to the participants Saturday night featuring wine and beer.
Two major factors contributed to the high quality of the weekend. First, the site is beautiful; the original stone buildings and lake views make it a great place to visit. Second, the weather was fantastic for this year; low humidity and highs in the low 80s.
All in all, everyone had a great time and are talking about returning. Weather will always be a factor, but the location, mock battles, and good folks make it worth the trip.
In addition, I would like to mention our surprise and joy at seeing Mr. and Mrs. Swearingen at the event…now if we could just get Ruth and Gerret there…

Camp of Instruction at Historic Cragfont

Posted May 4, 2016 By Tom Birkenbach

Michael Cooper, Craig Charron, Gerret Swearingen (and Mrs) and I went to a “camp of instruction” this past weekend at Historic Cragfont near Gallatin, Tennessee and we had a magnificent time.

The theme of the weekend was not only company and battalion drill, but also a competition, one where 3 sergeants worked with squads pieced together from all the attending companies, challenging them to work with soldiers of various levels of expertise and experience.  Saturday was spent with some battalion drill and lots of time for squad drill, with final review and scoring/judging Sunday late morning by the officers.

Michael was “one of the lucky ones” to be chosen to drill a mixed-company squad. Officers and musicians were available as resources if so desired, which meant I had my nose buried in the Smyth manual, assisting Michael in deciphering specific commands.  Despite being left alone, we (mainly and mostly Michael) managed to learn and accomplish a lot. We also managed to utilize a reluctant fifer musician who told me that fifes don’t work so well when it comes to maintaining a marching beat, AND he didn’t have any drum sticks.  After fetching our kitchen ladle and spatula, we put him to work having him bang those together. The musician was amused by our ingenuity and then happily assisted.

At the end of the competition, Michael did not win first place. Scoring was VERY close with final scores being 51 (first place), 50, and 49.5.  I’m not sure how a 1/2 point got in there.  This shows how close it was.  Each squad had unique challenges, such as those with little to no field experience and a few with physical disabilities which limited ranges of motions and speed of execution. Each sergeant met their challenges in their own way, making best use of their squad and their own expertise.

We are very proud of our Sgt. Cooper. Despite what he’ll tell you, he did an amazing job. When next you see him, be sure to remind him he’s a magnificent sergeant, especially when it comes to herding the “cats” know as Riflemen.

Craig Charron and his contributions to the winning squad are also to be recognized.  Craig and the winning squad were each given a star that can be put on their uniform sleeve, signifying excellence. Be sure to congratulate him when next you see him, and shake his hand and know you’re in the presence of a “chosen man”.

Special thanks to Steve and Cinda Abolt, David Bennett, James Lundgren and multiple members of the 7th US Infantry to organizing the event. We learned much and are eager to pass on what we’ve learned. Also thanks to Historic Cragfont for housing the event. What a great location! If you’ve not been there, I recommend it. Be sure to check out their site for a few pics and a video of pictures of the weekend activities.


Fort Mackinac – Turnover and Peace Commemoration

Posted July 20, 2015 By Tom Birkenbach

Gower’s Company was glad to participate in the July 18, 2015 bicentennial commemoration of the turnover of control of Fort Mackinac (on Mackinac Island, MI) from Britain to the U.S.A.  That same day was a peace garden dedication to 200 years of peace between Britain/Canada, American Indians and the U.S.A.  We also had a rare opportunity to visit the yet unfinished Fort Holmes.  While there are some finishing details to be completed, it looks fantastic and ready to defend our national history and heritage.

A special thank you to the Mackinac State Historic Parks for hosting an excellent event and for allowing us to participate where we know Riflemen were onsite.


Fort Meigs Saved With Help of Riflemen

Posted May 26, 2015 By Tom Birkenbach

Our annual pilgrimage to Fort Meigs in Perrysburg, Ohio for Memorial Day weekend was had decent attendance by Gower’s Company of Riflemen and camp followers who all enjoyed themselves immensely.  Much thanks to the Fort Meigs staff and volunteers for another enjoyable event.  The weather was very cooperative this year, allowing for comfortable temperatures (expect for Friday night, which was quite cold), a pleasant breeze both days (Sat. and Sun.) and taking home dry canvas, which is always appreciated.

Gower’s Coy. was also happy to meet Ted, friend of Sgt. Cooper, who tried out being a Rifleman for the weekend.  It’s possible we made a positive impression.  We hope that Ted returns to us for future fun and excitement.  We also met Rich from Holland, Michigan who expressed interest in the group.  He spent time speaking with various group members and didn’t run away screaming or bewildered, so our ranks may be further bolstered at future events.

All in all, another fine weekend with our extended family of re-enacting friends.  Thanks to all and we look forward to seeing you at our next event.


Siege of Fort Erie2014 – After Action Report

Posted August 12, 2014 By Tom Birkenbach

Being a bicentennial event, the Seige of Fort Erie 2014 was very well attended with just over 300 British and around 250 Americans on the field.  The days were busy, but the battles were spectacular.  Even the weather was cooperative and managed to NOT rain Sunday.  As an added bonus, the regimental colors (national and regimental flags) were trooped during the Saturday morning parade and taken with the battalion during the Sunday morning memorial service.  It was a memorable and grand weekend indeed.


Battle for Mackinac Island

Posted July 30, 2014 By Tom Birkenbach

The battle for Mackinac Island is nearly uppon us. Riflemen from multiple groups will be there to participate in this unique opportunity and bicentennial event. We hope to see you there this weekend on Mackinac Island, Michigan.


Seige of Fort Meigs 2014

Posted May 27, 2014 By Tom Birkenbach

Memorial Day weekend at Fort Meigs for their “Siege” event went very well.  The weather was very cooperative providing a dry weekend, cool weather with a slight breeze, just the way we like it.


Riflemen attendees: Tom, Michael, Alex, Dave G., Larry, Dave T., Gerret, Craig, Doug, Tony

Camp followers: Heidi, William, Jonathan, Rebeca, Sherry, Cindy, Nancy, Ruth, Claire, Lawson.


Rebuild In Progress

Posted February 9, 2014 By Tom Birkenbach

I’ve been able to retrieve much of the content. Formatting is still messed up as well as all of the picture links are broken. It’s a long process, but progress is being made.

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Rebuild or Resurect; The 2nd Coming

Posted January 31, 2014 By Tom Birkenbach

This site was taken down by a virus and the hosting service was gracious enough to block/ban this site so it couldn’t be accessed to be fixed.  As such, it’s in the process of being re-built rather than repaired.  This will be a lengthy process.  Your patience is appreciated.

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Season Kickoff at Fort Meigs

Posted May 19, 2012 By Tom Birkenbach

For most of Gower’s Company, Memorial Day weekend at Fort Meigs will be the first event of the season, a season that will prove to be historic and chock full of re-enacting opportunities.  Anyone in the 1812 community, and anyone that can do basic math, knows 2012 is the bicentennial anniversary of start of the War of 1812. Last year there were a few bicentennial anniversaries for events that led up to the declaration of war. Looking forward, there are far too many opportunities in locations spread far and wide for this group to attend, despite desires and interests. Being a locationally diverse group, we’ll make every effort to field Riflemen at any 1812 event that will have us. I hope to see you at Fort Meigs (in Perrysburg, OH) this Memorial Day weekend and/or at future events.

-Tom Birkenbach