For as long as I could remember, I’ve always been drawn to military history. In third grade, while learning about New York State history, a portrait of a New York continental caught my attention. His cocked hat, regimental coat, and the hanger at his side seared interest into my brain. Having Fort Niagara (ca. 1726) literally down the street from my house helped fuel that interest, no doubt. By that summer, the 18th century replaced the Civil War as my favorite thing to learn about.
Fort Niagara, however, was held by the British during the American War of Independence; so the redcoats, not the continentals, became my hometown team. These soldiers became my fascination. I spent my summers spending hours at the fort, soaking it all up and talking to the interpreters there. I read my first scholarly book on redcoats in fifth grade, starting a path to absorbing all I can about these men and their army. It was the private soldier, not his leaders or the campaigns he waged, that hooked me. I often feel that overlooked in the red and blue lines on battle maps and the numbers in tables is the individual man that comprised them, and he has his own story to tell.
In 2012, I finally did something I’ve always wanted to do and became an AWI reenactor. Two years later, I was hired onto the fort’s interpretation staff. As my boss puts it, “you’re our best Brit guy.” These have been pivotal as methods to learn and relay the lives of individual soldiers. Whether at Fort Niagara or other sites and reenactments, clad in my red coat, I strive to teach people about America’s 18th century wars – mostly about the common soldier who often travelled far from home to fight them.