Gregory J. W. Urwin has been involved in living history since 1974, when he was a sophomore in college. Urwin finds that reenacting has aided him in better understanding the material culture and social history of the American soldier and his enemies. It has also increased his appreciation of historical tactics and other practical aspects of military operations. It is one thing to read period tactical manuals, but it is something else to actually learn how to form line, column, and square in the manner performed by armies of the past. Familiarity with period weapons -- their strengths, weaknesses, and other peculiarities -- can be of immeasurable value to a military historian. It is also illuminating trying to survive for a weekend or longer using only the period items carried in a soldier's knapsack or the regimental baggage train.
In 2002, Dr. Urwin joined Colonel A. C. Vivian's Company, 23rd Regiment of Foot, Royal Welch Fusiliers in America. This is a living history re-enactment group that recreates the life and times of the soldiers and camp followers in one of George III's most elite regiments serving during the American War of Independence. The Royal Welch Fusiliers in America (RWFIA) was founded in 1964 in preparation for the American Revolution Bicentennial. It has performed for Presidents Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan and served as the honor guard for the Queen of England and the Prince of Wales. Its members have also participated in the filming of documentaries and major motion pictures.
The Colonel's Comapny draws its members from Connecticut, New Jersey, New York City, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania. Membership in the Colonel’s Company is open to all persons. Any able-bodied person 16 or older may fight in the ranks. Musicians (fifers & drummers) may join at 14. Minors must have written parental permission to participate. All members pay annual dues for the operation of the "Regiment."
The Regiment holds itself to the highest standards of accuracy and authenticity. Each item worn or used by the Regiment, from the uniform to camp equipage, has been thoroughly researched and can be documented to the Royal Welch Fusiliers or the British Army in 1775. Patterns and materials are copied from existing specimens or contemporary paintings, drawings and descriptions.
The recreated 23rd Foot has the honor of being recognized by the Royal
Welch Fusiliers in the modern British Army as their official representatives
in the United States. As such, the reenactor unit is designated the
Royal Welch Fusiliers in America (RFWIA). Our members have
the privilege of belonging to the Colwyn Bay Branch of the Royal Welch
Fusiliers Comrades Association.
The 23rd Royal Welch Fusiliers on parade in Quebec, July 31, 2004.
The Regiment is a member of the Brigade of the American Revolution and the British Brigade, national organizations dedicated to the accurate portrayal of all soldiers that served during the war.
All necessary clothing and equipment can be purchased from suppliers recommended by the Regiment. Each member is responsible for the purchase and maintenance of his own “kit,” which must be completed within one year of joining. A limited number of loaner items are available to help new recruits get started.
Families are encouraged to participate in most Regimental activities. During the Revolution, families often accompanied their men on campaign and played a crucial role in camp life. Patterns and sources are available so that wives, girlfriends and children can assemble or buy authentic costumes.
Each year the Colonel’s Company attends six to eight Revolutionary War
reenactments and other living history events, principally on the East Coast.
HISTORY OF THE REGIMENT, 1689-1784
The 23rd Regiment of Foot was originally raised in 1689 by King William III to oppose the deposed Catholic king, James II, and his French allies. The Regiment first saw action in Ireland at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.
During the War of Spanish Succession (1700-1712) three regiments were specifically selected to become “fusilier regiments”—one English (7th), one Scottish (21st) and one Welch (23rd). Their duty was to protect the artillery trains and they were armed with “fusils,” which were early flintlocks. These were much safer around loose gunpowder than the matchlocks then in use. Under the command of John, the Duke of Marlborough, the 23rd established its reputation for bravery at such battles as Blenheim, Oudenarde, and Malplaquet.
On April 23, 1713, Queen Anne elevated the 23rd Foot to the status of a “Royal Regiment” in recognition of its exceptional service during that conflict.
The 23rd also served with distinction in Europe during the Seven Years' War (1756-1763). Its role in the lopsided victory over the French at the Battle of Minden is celebrated by the Regiment to this day.
The Regiment was deployed to America in 1773 as part of the standing garrison
in the Thirteen Colonies. After the outbreak of war in April 1775,
the Royal Welch Fusiliers participated in all the Revolution's major campaigns
except General John Burgoyne’s in Canada and upstate New York. The
23rd Foot's Revolutionary War battle honors include Lexington and Concord,
Breed's Hill, Long Island, Brandywine, Monmouth, Charleston, Camden, Guilford
Courthouse and Yorktown. Much of the Regiment was surrendered at
Yorktown after a gallant and successful defense of the Redoubt that still
bears their name. The Regiment was the only one in the Yorktown garrison
that did not lose its Regimental Colors. Two officers wrapped them
around their bodies and smuggled them home to England when the 23rd was
repatriated in 1784.
For more information about Colonel A. C. Vivian's Company, contact:
Gentleman Volunteer Jeff Morgan
P.O. Box 79
Pt. Pleasant, PA 18950
For more information on the Royal Welch Fusiliers in America, visit the regimental web site at: http://www.rwfia.org/