Jacobites Invade Old Bedford Village
By Chris Timm
Originally published in Smoke and Fire Magazine
The weekend of September 3 to 4 witnessed the Army of King James take over Old Bedford Village in Bedford PA for a 1745 rising event. This particular re-enactment centered around the events of the Jacobite invasion of England in 1745 with scenarios and battle schemes being drawn from it.
On Saturday, Bedford was occupied by the Jacobites and King James declared at the Market Cross on the village green. Numerous buildings were taken over as quarters for the occupying army, while a headquarters was set up as well for Prince Charles. In addition, one building was converted for the weekend into "The Bad Bean" Coffee House where not only were refreshments served but also a healthy dose of gossip as well. It was this and other incidents that led to the challenge of a duel between a paroled English officer and the Prince's personal bodyguard Captain Keith Enoch. The duel was held in the Jacobite camp following the proper protocol for settling such matters among gentlemen. In the end the Captain had a steadier hand and sharper eye, dispatching the belligerent Englishman in the end.
As part of the occupation, the attempt to take the village was opposed by the local militia, bolstered by troops of the regular army. They endeavored to stop the Jacobite advance at a river crossing. The troops loyal to King James had to fight, across then reform and sweep King George's troops out of the forest that flanked the village. After successfully doing this, the remainder of the army, plus the camp followers, was able to enter into Bedford to set up camp.
All was not martial though this day. The ladies of Clan Cameron held a garden party in honor of the Prince, inviting the English women of the village to meet him. As well, a period concert was held in the evening in the church by the talented mother/daughter duo of Karen and Carrie Smock. Meanwhile, the English troops were plotting the recapture of the village at their own dinner honoring the Duke of Cumberland.
With the decision having been made the previous evening to quit England and return to Scotland, plans were made to abandon Bedford Village. First though, being Sunday, a public worship service was held, led by Bill Jeffrey, chaplain of the Army of King James. A number of wounded and sick Jacobites were left behind which the red coat troops attempted to find and arrest. Zealous in their efforts they caught a number of young lads, accusing them of spying. Holding them in the town jail for questioning the rumor flew through the village that children were being arrested. This led a great number of women to rush the jail in protest, demanding the release of the young. In the confusion that ensued, a number of Jacobites were able to slip in and free the prisoners captured, spiriting them away and back to their line. In the end, one hidden man was not caught, since he had been buried in a pile of coal outside the blacksmith's shop, earning him the moniker, 'John Coal'.
Finally, the Jacobite rear guard was ready to pull out after the main column had left. Many of the villagers now expressed their true sympathies by berating the followers of Bonnie Prince Charlie, even throwing vegetables at them. As the advancing red coats pressed the Jacobites they caught up to the baggage train made up of women and children. The reaction of fright from the non-combatants was evident as they panicked causing their escort of a young Ensign and trooper quickly lost control. This compelled the rear guard to hold while they regrouped and began to move again to a friendlier location. In the end, while the women and children were moved to safety the Jacobites were compelled to withdraw in the face of superior red coat fire and movement. Once more Old Bedford Village was restored to peace and quiet under the reign of King George.
Thanks to Roger Kirwin, executive director and all the staff at Old Bedford Village for a fantastic event. The site is extremely re-enactor friendly and was a pleasure to work with.
Our next major event, "The Battle of Culloden Grand Encampment", will be held the weekend of May 19-21, 2006 at Fort Loudon, PA. All Red-Coated supporters of King George and Scots Jacobites are invited to participate. For further information on this event or the 1745 Jacobite Rising time period visit our website at: www.1745rising.org