“There is a little town in Belgium that is infamous as a French military disaster. There is a little town in N.J. that is similarly named. The potential for disaster was equal.” — James Foran, Metropolitian Regional Newsletter Fall 1974
Historically speaking… this was the “big one”, anybody who was somebody was there! No, it wasn’t a National Skirmish, just biggest dag-gum Metropolitan Regional Skirmish anybody’s seen… at least that’s how the story is told.
You want drama? It was there! You want action? They had that too! Surprises? You bet!
Let’s set the stage: Labor Day Weekend 1974 (yes, this happened two years before I was born), 1st Waterloo Village Skirmish, hosted by Clark’s First New Jersey Light Artillery, Battery ‘B’ and the 5th New York Independent Battery. Skirmish events on Saturday and Sunday, Reenactment scheduled for Monday. Media contacted! Lots of spectators expected!
Here are the events as they were related to me:
The host team arrived on Thursday before the skirmish to prepare, and were met with a downpour, and ended up with a lot of wet equipment and gear. Okay I called it a downpour, they called it “Where the hell am I?” type rains and floods. The team responded like many before them, and enjoyed adult beverages (according to George McDonald, the Skirmish Director, and the man who wrote a private diary on the “events” of the weekend, this was a regular affair).
On Friday, there were missing water mules, a “great white father” (what the heck is that about?!!?), and a bluegrass festival. Barely noteworthy…
Saturday dawns and the fun begins. Individual events begin, just your average weekend so far. “The targets are shooting back!” That couldn’t happen twice could it? Carbine match at noon, ummm… a spectator is hit by a ricochet off the backstop…. work party rounded up, beer picked up, lumber and logs laid (presumably to cover rocks) on the backstop… Barbecue afterwards… Crisis averted… Informal dance held… Monday Reenactment has no insurance, panic ensues…
Sunday was a basic beautiful day. The press is in attendance. A parade was put on before the opening ceremonies, and then the musket match started. Someone noted green leaves falling from the trees behind the firing line. “The targets are trying to get even!” Musket matches canceled, but scheduled events must go on… Dress and Uniform competition held… awards ceremony held in dress uniform in the afternoon… evening promenade and ball began… the rains came, like Noah’s Ark rains…. The party and the people head to the Grist Mill at the village, total pandemonium, and no beer (a problem soon rectified)… Gown judging competition held. In the late evening water starts to pour under the front door of the mill, Waterloo Falls as it was known… Camp is a flooded disaster, breakfast buffet begins…
Monday, Labor Day, No Insurance, No Reenactment….. A parade instead? Yes! Some men pull the cannon in the parade… a regular Polish Horse Artillery if there ever was one! A small battle demonstration was performed, “What for” was given and taken. Next: A Civil War Wedding? You bet! A bit more food and drink, and then the event was over, what a “Waterloo”. Makes you wonder who was victorious!?!
There wasn’t a second Waterloo skirmish…..
Were you there in ’74? Tell us your experience by commenting below!