Glover’s Marblehead Regiment is looking for a few good men — and women and even children.
The 250 th anniversary of the U.S. Navy is bearing down, and Glover’s Regiment is getting ready to celebrate the key roles it played in those early days of the Navy’s formation and the Revolutionary War.
“We want to start publicizing now so we’re in position to get more recruits,” said GMR Captain Seamus Daly. “We need more recruits.”
Glover’s Marblehead Regiment (gloversregiment.org/) is a group of historical reenactors who portray life as a sailor/soldier, or in some instances, camp wives, living in Marblehead during the Revolutionary War.
Why would Glover’s Regiment celebrate the Navy? Because in the fall of 1775, the Hannah, a schooner donated by Marblehead’s John Glover, became the first vessel to sail under Continental pay and control, making it the very first U.S. Navy ship.
“The American Navy was founded in this stretch of water right here between Marblehead and Beverly,” said Daly, speaking on a cold, damp day in June from Fort Sewall.
But if you’re thinking, joining GMR isn’t exactly your cup of tea, you’re not alone. It wasn’t Daly’s either, until it was.
The accidental sailor
In 2006, Daly had no desire to even attend a Glover’s Regiment event but his wife had been the successful bidder on a weekend encampment with the band of merry sailors.
“And she made me attend,” he said. “And I found I absolutely loved it.”
Daly, decked out in his formal regimental uniform, said it’s the camaraderie, taking part in living history and, he admits, the adrenaline rush from reenacting battle scenes that he loves.
Collin Lawton was similarly smitten from the start. Lawton, who was dressed as a “gentleman soldier,” said he was living in Dorchester with his wife Meaghan Flaherty when he came to Marblehead to visit a friend.
“It just happened to be the day of the summer encampment,” Lawton said. “I stumbled upon the encampment … and it was magical.”
A history buff already, Lawton said he knew he had found a home with Glover’s tribe. He called the reenactment group a great way to reconnect with history and disconnect from modern life.
“History is very cyclical,” he said. “It doesn’t repeat but it does rhyme, and we can learn a lot from our past by reconnecting with it through history.”
Lawton also said, “The fact we get to live just like they did in the 18th century is really special.”
It’s also cool, Daly said.
What it takes
“It is a significant commitment; I believe it’s a worthwhile commitment,” Daly said. “This can’t be done on a whim.”
It can also be expensive.
Daly said it can cost up to $2,000 to kit out a soldier, but GMR maintains a “slop chest” of period-appropriate clothing and accouterments. Daly said potential recruits can borrow items temporarily while deciding if enlisting is for them.
“We help them figure out what personae they want to portray,” Daly added.
Lawton also has a sailor’s “slops” and Daly has three outfits he wears depending on the event, the formal regimental uniform, a sailor uniform and a civilian gentleman’s outfit.
Reenactors are also expected to know their history and their role in it. Daly said one of the coolest things about being part of Glover’s Regiment is the part it played early in the war.
“Particularly in 1776 when Glover and his men save the revolution three times,” he said. “We call it the three saves.”
1. In late August 1776, General George Washington’s men were trapped by the Crown forces in Brooklyn Heights. In a bind, Washington asked Glover to evacuate his men. So, under the cover of darkness Glover’s men rowed about 5,000 men across the East River.
“They were helped by the fact a fog rolled in and the Royal Navy couldn’t see a darn thing, they couldn’t move their ships,” Daly said.
Lawton also noted that since Glover’s Regiment was comprised mostly of fishermen, they were able to navigate the currents, and do so silently.
2. On Oct. 18, 1776 in Pelham Bay, the British landed with a plan to race across the upper neck of Manhattan and cut off Washington’s army. Daly said despite being grossly outnumbered, Glover and his men deployed a day-long battle that held the British off long enough for Washington and his army to escape.
3. The last save was Glover’s most famous. On Christmas, 1776, Glover’s regiment ferried Washington and 2,400 of his troops across the Delaware in brutal weather, marched seven miles to Trenton, fought a 36-hour battle, marched back to the Delaware, and crewed everyone (including about 900 Hessian prisoners) back over the river again.
“That was a long day,” Lawton quipped.
“That’s why it’s really cool to be part of Glover’s,” Daly said. “We rowed Washington across the Delaware. When you’re talking to the public it’s a great schtick, it’s a great hook.”
Joining also includes attending monthly meetings and turning out for events. From Memorial Day services to the Christmas Walk to the summer encampment at Fort Sewall, Glover’s Regiment is a busy group.
“Another thing we absolutely love about Glover’s is Marblehead, the townspeople take us for granted,” Daly said. “The town supports everything we do. I can’t emphasize that enough.”
This year’s encampment will be held July 15, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and includes 18th-century crafts, like blacksmithing, battle reenactments, a children’s drill, cannon firing, sea shanties and fife and drum music.
Daly said Glover’s has about 20 steady members at the moment, including Luna, Lawton and Flaherty’s one-year-old daughter. There is no age limit to join Glover’s but one must be 16.5 years of age to carry and shoot a weapon.
If you think you might want to take part, contact Daly through the website at gloversregiment.org or on Facebook at facebook.com/gloversmarbleheadregiment.
“People should join to relive history and figure out where their country came from and what it took to make it,” Daly said.
And it’s a great family adventure as well, said Flaherty, who also joined GMR.
“This was right up my alley too,” she said. “I was equally hooked and honestly it’s a great place to raise your family. I know many people who raise their families in the regiment.”