What if I don’t play an instrument?

We are glad that you have decided to give our organization a try. The 1st Michigan is an organization that encourages family involvement. Other options for family members who don’t want to play the fife or drum are ensign, musketman, and campfollower.

What is an ensign?

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The ensigns and their flags (known as “the colors” in the 18th century) are the first part of the Corps seen by an audience, and have the greatest visual impact. There is nothing like seeing a line of flags waving against a bright blue sky. They were the rallying point for the regiment and defended to the death if in peril. To carry the colors was an honor, and to lose them was a disgrace. To read an account of surviving American colors that were captured by Banastre Tarleton’s British Legion at the Battle of Waxhaws, please click here.

The ensigns are trained in the flag drill of the period, and have to demonstrate their knowledge of this to march in the ranks.

What is a musketman?

Our musketmen represent the 18th century equivalent of the modern color guard. They are dressed in white hunting frocks to indicate that status – the regular soldier would have worn a brown frock, as you see on the musicians. They carry flintlock muskets and the necessary accoutrements – cartridge pouch, haversack, canteen and bayonet. They march with the ensigns and fire blank cartridges when appropriate. They are trained in safety and the Von Steuben drill developed by the Baron von Steuben at Valley Forge. This training is what allowed the American army to stand up to the British at the battle of Monmouth Court House in 1778. It isn’t widely known, but most of the major American victories during the Revolution were won using “European” tactics on open fields (such as Cowpens,) or French siege techniques, as at Yorktown.

The musketmen supply their own uniforms and equipment, and we have a list of suppliers and patterns for them to use. After training, they have to demonstrate their knowledge of the safety procedures and von Steuben drill to march in the ranks.

Our guys are on the left…

Niagara Muskets and Modern Army

What is a campfollower?

Historically, campfollowers were the wives and children of the soldiers, along with sutlers and other non-combatants. Sometimes the families were able to work for rations, other times they weren’t. They endured the same hardships as the men. Life was not easy with the army, and many families chose to stay behind and try to keep their homesteads rather than follow the troops.

In the 1st Michigan, the campfollowers serve as our support group. In parades they march behind the Corps in 18th century clothing and give water to the members, drive the van, and provide information to the audience. During concerts, they stay by the corps and give water to the musicians.

How do I become a campfollower?

Parents and siblings of performing members who are interested in joining the Corps as campfollowers need only express an interest in doing so. The Corps has clothing available to lend to new campfollowers, but, over time, it is the responsibility of the campfollowers to secure an outfit for themselves. There are a wide variety of styles, colors, patterns, and accoutrements available to the campfollowers. Clothing and accoutrements are available for purchase online and at historic events, or it can be made at home. Wearing and using items you’ve made yourself can be very gratifying. Source material is available to assist each campfollower in choosing and documenting their clothing. We are happy to assist in choosing outfits, and each outfit must be approved by the quartermaster, so it’s best to ask before purchasing or making an article.

Specific interpretations are very welcome. We’ve had trappers, scouts, tailors, and even a minister. There are many online resources available for research into these different roles, but one of the best ways is to attend a living history event and talk to the participants. We love talking about our hobby, especially with interested people.