Tag Archive | "Revolutionary War"

Third New York Regiment Brings the American Revolution Back to Shelter Island

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The Third New York Regiment camped at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island last Saturday, May 3. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The Third New York Regiment camped at Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island last Saturday, May 3. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

By Tessa Raebeck

At two in the morning last Saturday, some people were probably still reveling across the East End, but most of them were not listening to fife and drum music.

But that was the case for members of the Third New York Regiment, a group of Long Island Revolutionary War reenactors who made camp on Friday night at  Sylvester Manor on Shelter Island, and awoke on Saturday morning to host visitors from the 21st century Saturday.

The Third New York recreates the life of the regiment as it existed in November 1775 during the campaign to seize take Canada from British control in the early years of the American Revolution. Its members—men, women and children—recreate the daily routine of Revolutionary War soldiers, their wives, families and camp followers.


A reenactor dressed in the garb of a lady shows off her dress to nearby soldiers. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“We all camped here last night, so I got to stay in the tent here with my daughter,” said Sarah Shepherd, a Shelter Island resident who participates in the group with her daughter, Mary. “It was a lot of fun. We slept on a bale of hay, played the fife and drums till two in the morning and got up and just enjoyed beautiful weather,” she said.

All clothing and equipment worn and used by the regiment are reproductions, not costumes. That means all the materials used are the same that were used during the early years of the revolution.

Ms. Shepherd was dressed in an authentic 18th century dress designed by her friend Collette Gilbert using a signature print from the Daughters of the American Revolution, an organization of female descendants of families that lived in the United States at the time of the revolution, of which she is a member.

All men aged 16 to 60 were required to join their local militia, drilling once or twice a month on “militia days.” Several militiamen were on hand at the camp, chatting by a pig roasting on a spit and showing their guns to children.

Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Commander of the Regiment Andrew McClain described the dress of the militiamen, who represented the soldiers fighting the British and their allied Native American tribes on the Hudson Valley frontier.

“General Washington really liked [this uniform] because the garment gave the impression all Americans were sharpshooters,” Commander McClain said of the green jackets worn by the militia.

The Iroquois Native American tribe in upstate New York was allied to the British during the war, inevitably mixing traditional European garb with their own clothing. British and American men on the frontier would wear Native American leggings, moccasins and even carry scalping knives and tomahawks, said the commander.

“Europeans would scalp Indians too,” he said, adding it was “not a very pretty part of history.”

Jonathan, a drummer boy who recently joined the regiment, was wearing a red coat, but is “American as apple pie,” his commander said. Musicians were dressed differently than other soldiers because when needed, they had to be found quickly.

Despite being ripe for the picking in the midst of the fighting, Jonathan would not have been considered a target.

Sarah Shepherd with an 18th century skep, or beehive. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Sarah Shepherd with an 18th century skep, or beehive. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

“You’ve got to put your mind in the 18th century mind,” Commander McClain said, adding army musicians weren’t killed because it was not considered honorable.

Although being in war without a weapon doesn’t sound like an esteemed position, drummers and fifers were valued for their unique skills. It was easy to teach a layman to shoot, not so much to teach him to play “Yankee Doodle” on the fife while musket balls grazed his ears.

“A fifer or drummer got paid more than the private soldier—they got paid like a corporal,” said Commander McClain, adding there are reports of British drummers and fifers in their 30’s who had been playing for the army since they were 13.

Sunning and fanning themselves on bales of hay near the musicians were Beverlea Walz, Sarah Shepherd, her daughter Mary and Mary’s friend Sarah Mutter, dressed as ladies in thick frocks decorated with flowers in pink and yellow hues.

Ms. Shepherd’s family has lived on Shelter Island for 200 years. She was born, with help from a midwife and doula, on the island and gave birth to Mary on the island as well.

Surrounded by mortars and pestles, plants such as cinnamon, lavender and sage, and 18th century beekeeping skeps, Ms. Shepherd, holding her Bergere hat as the wind threatened to untie the ribbon round her neck, said of her family, “We’re very rooted here.”

Third New York Regiment Commander Andrew McClain with his fife player and drummer. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Third New York Regiment Commander Andrew McClain with his fife player and drummer. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.


The camp of the Third New York Regiment at Sylvester Manor May 3. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

The camp of the Third New York Regiment at Sylvester Manor May 3. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.


Young reenactors Mary Shepherd and Sarah Mutter play in their war camp at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.

Young reenactors Mary Shepherd and Sarah Mutter play in their war camp at Sylvester Manor. Photo by Tessa Raebeck.


Sag Harbor Heroes Honored During Veterans Day Celebrations

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Heller_2013 Veterans Day Parade 11-11-13_1839_LR

By Tessa Raebeck; photography by Michael Heller

In annual Veterans Day celebrations this week, Sag Harbor residents recognized that honoring village veterans is a year round duty, not a daylong event. Whether by visiting a monument, putting up a plaque or rubbing a gravestone, veterans and community members work to celebrate our heroes throughout the year, and those efforts were officially recognized with commemorative events Monday.

From Cub Scouts to World War II veterans, troops in uniform kicked off the holiday at the annual Veterans Day Parade through Sag Harbor Village Monday morning. After the parade, government officials and honored servicemen gathered outside the American Legion Chelberg and Battle Post 388 on Bay Street. Following speeches, about 40 residents headed over to the Ferry Road Cemetery in North Haven to hear village historian Joe Zaykowski present a lecture on the cemetery restoration and the lives of veterans resting there.

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion

VFW Commander Roger King addresses the crowd at the American Legion.

At the American Legion Hall, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9082 Commander Roger King, who served two terms in Iraq, spoke of veterans’ “sacrifice for the common good,” and the symbolic significance of this year’s restoration of the federal holiday to November 11.

Veterans Day is always observed on November 11; however, in 2012, for example, the official federal holiday fell on November 12 because it was a Monday. King recognized the significance of the holiday returning to November 11 as it coincides with Armistice Day, which marks the settlement signed at the end of World War I on “the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month” of 1918.

Post Commander Marty Knab said the day’s events were intended not only to thank those who fought in battle, but also to thank and honor all who have served honorably in the military in any capacity, be it wartime or peacetime. While recognizing the ultimate sacrifice of those killed in battle, Knab hoped to also underscore the fact that all who served have made huge sacrifices for their country.

“Not all veterans have seen war,” Knab told the crowd. “But a common bond that they share is an oath in which they express their willingness to die defending this nation. Perhaps most significant in preserving our way of life are the battles that America does not have to fight, because those who wish us harm slink away in fear of the Coast Guard cutter, the Navy aircraft carrier, the Air Force Fighter Squadron, or the Army soldier on patrol.”

“Our country finds these men and women in the many small communities around our country, like our own Village of Sag Harbor,” he continued.

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion

World War II Veteran Robert Riskin speaks in front of the American Legion.

Local writer and World War II veteran Robert Riskin, whose officer encouraged him to pursue a writing career, spoke of his visit in September to the World War II monument in Washington, D.C. Riskin’s trip was facilitated by the Honor Flight Network, an organization that honors veterans by transporting them to visit their memorials.

“I was not very excited about going,” admitted Riskin. “And then I thought, ‘Well, it’s free…so what the hell? I’ll try it.’”

Accompanied by Knab, Riskin enjoyed a motorcycle escort, bagpipe serenade and a welcoming reception from Naval Academy plebes on the daylong trip to Washington.

“I almost broke down, it was just such an incredible feeling of love,” he said, adding, “the memorial itself is just about one of the most fantastic things you’ll ever see … the emotions that it brings up are very, very strong.”

After the veterans’ speeches, New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. presented a proclamation, “the state’s highest honor,” he noted, to Sag Harbor Village Mayor Brian Gilbride and dockmaster David Thommen commemorating Sag Harbor’s heroic moment in the War of 1812. Two hundred years ago in July 1813, British troops stationed off the Long Island coast attempted to invade and pillage the small seaside village of Sag Harbor, as they had done to countless towns across the island. Greeted by a group of residents and militiamen on shore, the British quickly retreated, recognizing that whatever goods they could plunder were not worth a battle against the spirited community.

New York State Assemblyman Fred Thiele, Southampton Town Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst, Justice Julia Schiavoni, Sag Harbor Mayor Brian Gilbride and Sag Harbor Village Board Trustee Ed Deyermond honored David Thommen (second from right) for his work restoring the monument honoring the site of a Revolutionary War fort in Sag Harbor

Local officials honor Village Dockmaster David Thommen (second from right).

“We repelled the British. They never returned again until the British invasion of 1964,” Thiele joked, referring to The Beatles.

The assemblyman spoke of his own childhood playing around the old fort on High Street, but he never knew the story behind it.

“We all know it today and it’s because of the single-handed volunteer efforts of David Thommen,” said Thiele of the village dockmaster, who revitalized the fort – and the community’s knowledge of its own heroism — by dedicating a plaque and raising a flag there last July.

“This is about the veterans from the first militias in 1620 to the returning soldiers today,” said Thommen, accepting the proclamation.

Following the ceremony, North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski gave a presentation to a crowd at the Ferry Road Cemetery on Route 114. Zaykowski successfully restored the gravestones there and, in doing so, unearthed the stories of some of North Haven’s earliest residents.

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski

North Haven Village Historian Joe Zaykowski at the grave of Revolutionary War Veteran John Payne, Sr.

Zaykowski spoke of the life and lineage of John Payne, Sr., a veteran of both the colonial French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War, who died 200 years ago in November 1813 and was laid to rest on Ferry Road. Payne’s gravestone was ineligible, cracked and scattered until Zaykowski’s restoration.

Zaykowski spoke extensively on the history of North Haven, with specific knowledge of lineages, burial techniques and even houses — several of which remain in the village today. His brother-in-law, Philip Reynolds, played period music from the Revolutionary War era on his saxophone.

In 1781, Payne received nine pounds, 19 shillings and one penny for his service in the Revolutionary War, according to Zaykowski.

“I cannot tell you that John Payne was a so-called war hero,” Zaykowski, himself a veteran of the Vietnam War, told the crowd. “That’s not important; He served his country, served it well I’m sure.”

In attendance to hear Zaykowski’s talk was Alexandra Binder, who lives on Shelter Island with her fiancé Beau Payne, a direct descendant of John Payne. Eager to learn more of her new family’s extensive local history, Binder was ecstatic to have the aid of Zaykowski, who has traced the Payne’s lineage all the way back to England prior to the colonization of America.