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Occupation of Annapolis

By late October, the Brigade had regained its strength and was on the move to Annapolis, the capital of His Majesty's rebellious colony of Maryland.  Our orders were to occupy the home and grounds of William Paca, signer of the so-called Declaration of Independence, and general rabble rouser.

After arriving in town, a detachment of Guardsmen led by Captain Sheffer conducted regular patrols to ensure the colonists did not rise above their average level of agitation.

 The estate and grounds of William Paca, traitor to the King.

The estate and grounds of William Paca, traitor to the King.

Those present for garrison duty include Serjeant Theis and Guardsman Patchak, as well as a detachment of His Majesty's Marines.

 The Captain, enjoying a brief respite from harassing local troublemakers. An ensign and private from His Majesty's Marines were also stationed in the area.

The Captain, enjoying a brief respite from harassing local troublemakers. An ensign and private from His Majesty's Marines were also stationed in the area.

Following several hours of manning our designated post, as well as enjoying our fair share of rum punch absconded from Mr. Paca's kitchen, the Brigade retired to a nearby tavern.

 The Captain and Serjeant confer on how best to put down the incitement of a local rally against the King.

The Captain and Serjeant confer on how best to put down the incitement of a local rally against the King.

Unfortunately, said tavern was owned and operated by a known rebel sympathizer (and Irishman). As we concluded our meal and exited the premise, the good Serjeant was sure to make clear to the local crowd that the long hand of the British Empire would be there to stay in Annapolis, at least for the time being.

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On English Accents

How many times have we as British reenactors been asked "where's your British accent"?  Paired with our habit for 20th century anachronistic phrasings, the lack of an obvious accent surely takes tourists "out of the moment" of living history. Orders shouted within British units, using our distinct American accents, surely can't be historically correct….

or could they?….

To explore the issue a little deeper, let's first consider what we Americans consider to be the proper British accent. It's actually called "Received Pronunciation" (RP), with received meaning in this case, "accepted". It can also be referred to as "BBC English" for its standard use in the mid 20th century broadcasting, or the "Queen's English" (even though this is technically a reference to dialect and grammar and not pronunciation).

The truth is that only about 2-3% of modern British people speak RP. So aside from our standard mustache-twirling villains of shows like Turn, it's very rare outside of refined circles. 

I'll be the first to admit that I'm not an accent expert, and won't pretend to guess if the British officers in Turn are speaking with a pure RP accent or with a mixed accent that incorporates their own local backgrounds. But it's certainly easy to tell the difference between Turn's RP and an American accent. One key aspect, the pronunciation of the "r". Rhotic accents (ex: modern American) pronounce it, and non-rhotic (ex: most modern English, especially from the south of England) do not.

Here's the problem, though. Most scholars believe that the standard English accent of the 18th century (if a "standard" accent for the language existed at the time) was rhotic. This means that 18th century English may have had more in common with the modern American standard accent than with the modern English accent!

So what did English used to sound like? Let's take a little trip back in time - a bit further back than the Brigade of Guards - all the way back to early 17th century. The following clip from Open University is a great example of what experts think a rhotic English accent of roughly four hundred years ago would have sounded like.

So it's fairly obvious that when speaking English in 17th century London, the "r" was most definitely pronounced. But what of the late 18th century, the time period portrayed by the Brigade of Guards?

Well, that's where things start getting interesting. Even in 1757, RP wasn't around when Dr. Johnson wrote his A Dictionary of the English Language (although he did acknowledge there was a wide range of existing accents at the time). In 1780, English writer Thomas Sheridan remarked that the /r/ "always has the same sound, but is never silent." It wasn't until the 1790s that things really seemed to have changed. In fact, Americans returning to England after the War for Independence were reportedly surprised by the changes in fashionable pronunciation. By the early 1800s, John Walker, in his Principles of English Pronunciation noted how the times were changing when he commented that:

[R] is never silent…In England [R] is never silent … In England, and particularly in London, the r in lard, bard, card, regard, etc. is pronounced so much in the throat as to be little more than the middle or Italian a, lengthened into laad, baad, caad, regaad … if this letter is too forcibly pronounced in Ireland, it is often too feebly sounded in England, and particularly in London, where it is sometimes entirely sunk …

Sheridan's remarks seemed to imply that non-rhoticity was undesirable at the time, but nonetheless it soon became the norm. This might make sense because linguists believe it may have originated from the East Midlands before traveling down to London and gaining traction there. At some point, this burgeoning trend to drop the "r" became the fashion rather than the faux-pas. Therefore, linguistically, one could say that RP developed from a changing London accent that incorporated elements from the East Midlands, Middlesex, and Essex.

RP then really came into its own in the 19th century as a socially exclusive accent being taught in elite boarding schools and at Oxford and Cambridge. The actual term for RP was coined in 1869, and it received wide recognition in 1924 when Daniel Jones adopted it in his second edition of the English Pronouncing Dictionary. Two years previously, though, the BBC adopted it as their broadcasting standard.

Indeed, one school of thought holds that the accents of America, Australia, and Canada are "snapshots" in time for an evolving English dialect. Sure, each went on to develop their own regional accents and dialects, but their overall nature is a reflection of the point in time they left the "mothership" of jolly old England. For Americans, we retained the generally rhotic accent of pre-Revolution, while Australians (who were colonized after the accent shift to non-rhotic) generally do not. And Canadians, well, they're somewhere in the middle of it all.

As for us in the 4th Coy - we like the put on a show as much as the next King's man, but let's not sweat our R's too much...

Cheers.

References:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhoticity_in_English

http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/sounds/case-studies/received-pronunciation/

http://dialectblog.com/2012/10/07/was-received-pronunciation-ever-rhotic/

Fisher, John Hurt (2001). "British and American, Continuity and Divergence". In Algeo, John. The Cambridge History of the English Language, Volume VI: English in North America. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 59–85.

Crystal, David (2005), The Stories of English, Penguin

 

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Skirmish at Mount Vernon

Following the Battle of Boone in August, the Brigade returned to its main base of operations in Northern Virginia in an attempt to cut off a major Continental offensive for the Autumn campaign season.

On the evening of the third of September, Crown Forces entered the estate of General Washington with the objective of obtaining provisions. The estate offered a fine area for bivouacking, and provided access to the nearby Potomac River.

 Washington's mansion as approached from the northwest.

Washington's mansion as approached from the northwest.

 Serjeant Theis and Corporal Galus exchange a ribald jest while guarding a small group of prisoners captured earlier in the evening. The captives would later yield valuable intelligence once subjected to the enhanced interrogations of Guardsman Sahlin….

Serjeant Theis and Corporal Galus exchange a ribald jest while guarding a small group of prisoners captured earlier in the evening. The captives would later yield valuable intelligence once subjected to the enhanced interrogations of Guardsman Sahlin….

Our small detachment of Guards was brigaded with His Majesty's Marines and positioned on the Bowling Green directly northwest of the Mansion.  Shortly after seven o'clock in the evening, we encountered a mixture of Rebel forces consisting of two companies of line and two artillery pieces. Royal Artillery was immediately brought up and an artillery duel ensued for nearly ten minutes.  Serjeant Theis then deployed a skirmish line to engage the Colonial Riflemen forward of the enemy's left flank.

 Crown Forces at rest while guarding Washington's greenhouse.

Crown Forces at rest while guarding Washington's greenhouse.

After the skirmishers encountered significant opposition and came under artillery fire, 4th Company regrouped for a furious volley up the Continental center. Continued casualties forced several regroupings and re-engagements, until ammunition began to run low. The call was given to charge bayonets, and the Crown Forces silently and heroically forced their way up to the Rebel lines, only to be cut down by a thunderous volley from the enemy. We were forced to give up the field, but were not pursued as the daylight had by then vanished.

All told, the unit suffered significant casualties - although none were fatal. Corporal Galus (First Guards) was knocked down several times, but continued to fire volley after volley into the enemy.  Guardsman Patchak (First Guards) and Serjeant Theis (Coldstream Guards) both fell during the final bayonet charge, but managed to escape the field with minor flesh wounds. Recruit Ingram (First Guards) and Guardsman Sahlin (Third Guards) acquitted themselves well and live to fight another day.

Brigade surgeons do not anticipate that any amputations will be required.

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