Our beloved 18th century reenacting hobby suffers from regular eruptions of vitriol and resentment over standards or authenticity, enflamed by our values-laden perceptions of those whose impressions and motivations range from scrupulous adherence to surviving documentation to simply having a nice weekend outdoors in funny clothes. I tend toward the "authenticity conscious" or "progressive" end of the continuum, tempered by the knowledge that documentation is limited and hypotheses are meant to be tested. Also, a good sense of humor has gotten me out of tight spots on more than one occasion in this hobby, most notably the ill-advised “sausages of the Crown” incident of 2011 that launched a score of broadsheets, inspired a ballad and birthed a legend.
With that in mind, I am delighted to discover that Constant Belcher was himself, for brief a time at least, a "progressive" soldier in the 18th century. In late 1774, when Committees of Observation, Inspection, Correspondence and Safety were busy setting up shadow governments across the Colonies, while local trained bands drilled among the livestock on the Commons of New England, one company of Essex County militia in East Jersey appears to have decided to get into the act by going back to its roots. In this, the earliest known entry in the Belcher Journal yet to have come to light, we discover the pains to which these patriots were willing to go for the sake of Liberty and Authenticity.
Dec 14th – To Day did attend ye Committee of Reenaction at Williamson’s Hogshead [Tavern] with a mind to jine ye new Provo Coy / Much debate concerning what Impression to make, de Hart does favour ’62 when the Blues got Yellowjack in Habana whilst Mayor [Ephraim] Tyrell spoke for ’57 when the Regt. was well scupper’ d in thair Batoos / As few old soldjers did survive these Campaigns but little Material culture does remain to inform Authentick uniforms &etc. For my part Father did leave me naught but his Hoern as patrimony graven “Fools Such as We”/ Did offer this Relick to Committee for Inspection, directly they did attest its documentation for ye True Motto to be blazon’d upon ye Colours.
Dec 29th – Still no Resolution, ye Committee makes no progression on ye Provo impression / Word has come from Phila. of the Provincial resolves forNon Importation from Britain, Most distressing to Our Cause as ‘twill deprive us of ye proper K&P Broadcloth needed to clothe the Coy in Authentic Fashion.