Loyalists have their say about Revolutionary War

By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Stafford - posted Tue., Nov. 20, 2012
Peters’ Corps reenactor Mark Caffazo of Enfield (right) has Stafford Historical Society member Neil Sedlack (left) go through the steps of reloading a Kentucky Long Rifle, used during the Revolutionary War, which could take more than a minute. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.
Peters’ Corps reenactor Mark Caffazo of Enfield (right) has Stafford Historical Society member Neil Sedlack (left) go through the steps of reloading a Kentucky Long Rifle, used during the Revolutionary War, which could take more than a minute. Photos by Brenda Sullivan.

Imagine sitting down with some friends to chat about politics and one of them suggests it’s time to overthrow the government. Once you realize this person isn’t making a joke, and you listen to the rest of your friends as they discuss how it could be done, how would you feel?

Imagine, too, that you’re the equivalent of a middle class family guy – in the year 1776 – and you’ve got a nice piece of land, a home, several children and a place in your community. How enthusiastic would you be about risking all that in a war?

This is the scenario presented by history teacher Brian Zawodniak, who also serves as sergeant of the Peters’ Corps, a reenactment group that preserves the history of a regiment of the Queen’s Loyalist Rangers.

Zawodniak and two other members of the reenactment group – Mark Caffazo of Enfield and Cliff Nichols of Putnam – presented a program for the Stafford Historical Society at the Stafford Community Center on Nov. 12.

That there were a large number of colonists who didn’t want to rock the boat shouldn’t be surprising, Zawodniak said. “Even up until Lexington and Concord, most people were saying, ‘What the hell are you doing?’”

He also challenged the general belief that the Revolutionary War was about taxes. The controversial Stamp Act of 1765, for example, was repealed in less than a year, he said.

Instead, it was the “1 percent” at the top of the economic ladder who saw a revolution as a chance to grab power, Caffazo said.

One of those men was John Hancock, “one of the richest men and best smugglers in the colonies,” Zawodniak said. In fact, another catalyst for the revolt was a desire to open trade with other countries, he said.

And as for those who enlisted on the side of revolution, many of the young soldiers joined for the same reasons they’ve joined subsequent wars – to get off the farm (or out of the small town) and experience the adventure and glory of battle that they’d heard about in their elders’ war stories, Zawodniak said.

The original Peters’ Corps, organized by John Peters (a native of Hebron, Conn.) was a group of about 600, primarily charged with scouting and gathering intelligence, but who also engaged in battle. The regiment was in the thick of the fight at Ft. Ticonderoga and at the Battles of Hubbardton and Bennington.

The regiment served from May 1777 through the Battle of Saratoga, after which about 90 survivors retreated to Canada.

Zawodniak and Caffazo, dressed in the regimental uniforms of the Loyalists, explained that these were pretty rag-tag attempts at copying the British uniform. The idea was to make sure the British recognized these colonists as on their side.

From a distance, the red coats with black trim and large buttons accomplish that task. A close inspection, however, shows that the buttons aren’t functional, the coat has no lining, and the exterior pockets are just patches of material.

Peters ordered 80 of these coats initially. When the regiment grew into the hundreds, they had to furnish their own clothing which likely didn’t look anything like the “red coats.” To identify themselves as Loyalists, they wore a “field sign” in the band of their hat.

Caffazo also led a demonstration of weapons used in battle, including a musket and the Kentucky Long Rifle (or Philadelphia hunting rifle).

The rifle was a step up from the musket with a range of about 50 yards, to a range of more than 100 yards. The disadvantage was that the rifle could take up to a minute to load between firings, versus about 20 seconds for the musket.

The group also demonstrated drills and the use of bayonets.

To learn more about the Peters’ Corps, visit their blog at www.peterscorps.org or find them on Facebook.


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