On Saturday, March 19, 2022, I had the pleasure of visiting a Farmer’s Market in Ponte Vedra, Florida. At this event, the Historic Florida Militia Living History Group was there to teach and perform. This nonprofit group interprets Saint Augustine’s history through live action shows from 1513-1784. Before the demonstrations, performers walked around the crowd wearing historical military clothing to share fascinating history.
The man who approached our group was dressed as a British military man from the 1500s. He explained there weren’t official uniforms at this time, so he wore the highest fashion for men of that time period. He held a large musket, carried a belt with swords, and had a half a dozen reload pouches for gun powder slung across his chest. The more lace and the larger the feather in his hat, the more masculine he would appear. His face was cleanly shaved because in those days people only bathed every 4-6 weeks. It was believed the more grime that clogged your pores, the better protected you’d be against disease. Men’s beards began to have mold growing and old food particles in them, so they opted to shave their faces. In the 1500s, the men had long hair worn down. By the 1600s, they wore their hair pulled back into a low ponytail.
The show started with the actors explaining the history of their clothing, accessories, and weapons of each time period. One of the facts they shared was during a battle, the men would hold extra lead musket balls in their mouths. They didn’t know about lead poisoning yet, so many of them would get sick and not know why. Next, they demonstrated their guns and showed how long it would take to reload. The musket from the 1500s took about a minute to reload. As time went on, reloading took less time, and by the 1700s, it was three times as fast. Another group of men demonstrated sword fighting.
They also shot a real cannon, which was extremely loud. They explained the single cannon ball shot was better for shooting at ships and structures. When it came to the battlefield, this method was ineffective. They started filling cans with about 200 musket balls and shooting those into a crowd of soldiers. The can would disintegrate in mid air and reach 150-200 yards across and 20 yards wide, spreading all those musket balls onto the enemy.
If you’re a gun enthusiast, these events might be of interest to you because of the weapons demonstrations and historical lessons. You can check out the link below to see upcoming events. If you’re not in Florida, you could look up other living history groups and find similar events near you!