by Chrystine Beaumont, Grade 10 student
On Thursday, June 3rd, we Grade 10 students gathered out on the fields to witness a historic reenactment of the 1859 Pig War. Complete with a colonel, the students were lead through the army, witnessing reenactments of what a kitchen and basic living quarters would’ve been like, as well as being shown how to shoot a 19th century military-issue rifle.
In the kitchen, one would find the soldier who was assigned the cooking for the week. The students sampled various foods, some opting for more than others, though everyone had to try just a little of the food the soldiers had to eat every day. Or, in the case of spotted dog (or dick, “as said by the coarser folk”), a rare food that soldiers had to sweet talk the cook into making. Students gnawed through hard tack, a staple food for soldiers, and chewed through their cut of the meat, some getting mostly fat and gristle, while others were given more choice cuts, as soldiers of the time would’ve received.
Next to the kitchens was a tent, basic living quarters for the soldiers stationed on San Juan Island. Inside, 15 soldiers would’ve lived, spooning as they attempted to sleep, during the cold, damp BC nights. The colonel, always given the choice spot, farthest from the door, as to avoid the nightly issue of men who had to relieve themselves after drinking their daily ration of beer, would sleep, while the rest of the men had to rotate, taking turns enduring a sleepless night before they had to rise to work.
Which brings us to the rifles. As a soldier, one was expected to be able to load and shoot without needing to see his hands. And, as the students found out on Thursday, even firing blank rounds, this was not as easy as it looked. The rifles were relatively heavy, and though they were given instruction, many students struggled to hold their gun properly, though, most said it was an experience that was worth the trouble.
Through these three different stations, the students were able to witness the conditions a soldier would have to endure during the times they’d been studying for the past few weeks. While the guns were heavy, the tents were small, and the food wasn’t gourmet, the students did learn a lot about the lifestyle of a soldier of the day and time. Which, in itself, made this reenactment a success.