FAIRLEE — An upcoming re-enactment of the Battle of Caulk’s Field will mark the day, 200 years ago, when Kent County militiamen turned back a British night attack during the War of 1812. The event will be staged on the bicentennial, Aug. 31, and on the same battlefield where the action took place.
Expect a historic re-creation of the battle, complete with cannons, horses and soldiers, along with fun-filled and associated educational activities in the county seat of Chestertown and on the battlefield. Also expect a ceremony recognizing the human sacrifice that results from war.
The Battle of Caulk’s Field took place in the night of Aug. 30 and early morning hours of Aug. 31, 1814, sandwiched in the week between the burning of Washington and the attack on Baltimore.
The field, named for Isaac Caulk, owner at the time of the battle, remains almost unchanged 200 years later. A memorial, dedicated in 1902, is close to the roadside as a reminder of the battle that took place there. Each year since 2012, on the anniversary, a ceremony has honored the fallen. Now two flags, the Union Jack and the Stars and Stripes, fly there.
The ceremony planned on Aug. 31 this year again will involve British and Maryland military officials and special guests. Two new monuments will be unveiled at that time.
Planning for the battle re-enactment has been under way for more than a year through the Kent County Office of Tourism & Economic Development, in conjunction with the Star-Spangled 200 Chesapeake Campaign. The re-enactment will include nearly as many men portraying both the 21st Regiment of Maryland Militia, and British Royal Marines and sailors. There also will be dragoons and artillery, in order to make the re-enactment as historically accurate as possible. The battle, planned in the afternoon on Aug. 31, will be staged on about 35 acres of the original site, which now is owned by Tulip Forest Farm. Activities on the day of the battle re-enactment will also include encampments, exhibits, demonstrations, music, food, vendors, VIP recognition and living history.
There will be lots of history, the re-enactment comes on the heels of two archaeological surveys undertaken by the state of Maryland in the past two years. The artifacts, along with the corresponding historical review, documents more clearly the paths taken by the British in the attack and the course of the battle.
The re-enactment is supported by Star-Spangled 200 grants, which also partially funded, with cash and in-kind matches and other grants, the establishment of the Chesapeake Independent Blues, formerly the Eastern Shore Militia, a volunteer living history military interpretive unit equipped to resemble as authentically as possible the uniformed militia companies raised on Maryland’s Eastern Shore during the War of 1812. Augmented by other volunteers from across North America, the Chesapeake Independent Blues will be the core unit taking on the roles of the 21st Regiment of Maryland Militia in the re-enactment. In addition, a grant also partially funded a “Walk Through Time” array of 10 educational kiosks that will be on the battlefield on Aug. 31.
“The bicentennial commemoration of the Battle of Caulk’s Field will offer the public a rare opportunity to witness and interact with a diversity of interpretive elements representing the War of 1812, including American infantry, field artillery, and mounted dragoons defending their families and communities, British Royal Marines and seamen defending their country’s rights to Canada and command of the oceans, and private merchant ships and privateers that once sailed the waters of the Chesapeake Bay and the global seas,” said Mark Dubin, a weapons safety officer for the Chesapeake Independent Blues and member of the county’s Battle of Caulk’s Field 2014 committee. “Unlike any other period site in the mid-Atlantic region, the uniquely preserved Caulk’s Field battlefield, coupled with eyewitness accounts and a recent state archeological investigation, will enable military living history interpretive units from across North America to faithfully recreate the actions that occurred on that fateful night.”
Chestertown also is involved in the battle commemoration. On Saturday, Aug. 30, there will be a parade down High Street, with dragoons leading a large cadre of the re-enactors paced by a period fife and drum unit. A 15-star flag raising and wreath laying, at the War of 1812 monument in Monument Plaza will follow.
There will be a militia camp at the 18th-century Customs House, where 1812 military camp life and military drills will be demonstrated for the public. Activities, period music and interpretive programs will be offered at the foot of High Street.
The Historical Society of Kent County is planning a display of Caulk’s Field artifacts and guest speakers, including archaeologist Julie M. Schablitsky, who led the Caulk’s Field surveys. Pride of Baltimore II, and Sultana will be on hand for tours and sails. Other activities are being considered.
The cash match portion of the Star-Spangled 200 grants is being accrued with fundraisers, in coordination with the Friends of Kent County War of 1812, the county’s original bicentennial organization.
A vacation trip raffle is in the planning stage and a limited number of tickets will be on sale, with the winner announced at the Aug. 31 battle re-enactment.
A special fundraising reception is being planned for June 28 and will take place at the Caulk’s house, where Isaac Caulk lived.