There are a number of roles members can play and each one is a vital cog in the regimental machine. Though for insurance purposes, participation on the battlefield can only be taken by those aged 16 and over. Newcomers and guests are not expected to provide any clothing and equipment. These will be at first loaned by the regiment until such time as the new member builds up their own store. Each gathering or “muster” has a traders row where new and second hand clothing and period paraphernalia is bought and sold. This is hand-made and many traders carry out their craft on site. Here is a brief summary of what our regiment does.
Pikemen provide the backbone of the infantry or foot regiment. Although historically they only constitute about a third of a typical regiment’s strength, they provide the primary fighting arm of the regiment in close quarter hand to hand fighting and protect musketeers from cavalry attacks. The pike itself is a simple spear, 15-18ft long, intended to be used en-masse, by strong, well-drilled men. Although in modern re-enactment, anyone who is physically willing and able (and over 16) is welcome to fight with pikes. This “push of pike” requires contemporary pikemen to wear a helmet, gloves and possibly armour to protect them though a few bruises are to be expected! Unlike many regiments in the Sealed Knot, we fight at point only. Advancing to full contact with pikes in the front ranks lowered toward our enemy by the command of “charge your pikes”. We believe this method offers a more authentic, logical and entertaining re-enactment spectacle for the 21st century audience.
Musketeers are equipped with a smooth bore, muzzle loading, black powder matchlock musket. During the Civil War these weapons fired a ½ -1 ounce lead shot. Although 17th century muskets were notoriously unreliable and inaccurate they could deliver a devastating blow to the enemy, if fired at close range in massed volley. The modern reproduction weapons are made to high specifications. Contemporary musketeers are statutorily required to possess a shotgun licence and black powder certificate, though it is possible to participate without powder and a “dummy” musket in order to try out the role. Musketeers will often engage in hand-to-hand combat using reversed “clubbed” muskets as well as swords, knives and even fists. Nowadays these encounters are strictly choreographed as the Sealed Knot is proud of its safety record.
Camp followers were the civilian men and women who followed the 17th century army on the march. Although many of the women who join us choose to take part in the battles as “male” soldiers, those that elect to be camp followers provide water, sustenance and encouragement to the soldiery. Unlike their 17th Century counterparts, who would have been a thoroughly disreputable bunch, the camp followers of today enjoy playing this highly challenging role and are hugely appreciated for it, although a few might still considered just a little bit disreputable!
Officers are historically the ranks from corporal and above, with those of sergeant upwards displaying their office by the wearing of a sash. Beyond sergeant most officers, almost exclusively, were gentleman and wore their own clothing instead of uniform. They would have means of fiscal support other than the very irregular army pay. Often, officers and Generals paid from their own pockets to raise and equip their regiments or companies. To become an officer in any Sealed Knot regiment involves rising from the ranks and is a job that involves a lot of time and dedication away from the battlefield which is often unseen and under-appreciated.
Musicians were the drummers and fifers who provided audible signals for orders and music for marching and morale. Drummers were part of the regiment, but other musicians were paid directly by the officer hiring them. Musicians were often educated men and could read and write, which served them well in their role as messengers to the enemy in parley situations, during which times they would often spy on the dispositions and the quality of the enemy forces. On the contemporary field they are non-combatants and are a good way for members to add to the battle and see it from close quarters without the requirement to actually fight. Under 16’s of a musical disposition can sometimes march to the field of battle with the army but must remain on the field thereafter.
Ensign is one of the junior officers, but with special and extremely important responsibilities. His main duty to carry the flag or colour of his company and to make sure it is kept safe and secure at all times, even to the point of laying down his life. Occasionally the colour is carried by a flag bearer, a trusted soldier who takes on the same responsibilities for the security of the colour as would the ensign. The colour would often act as a point of rally during battle. In modern re-enactments, the colour remains the same symbol of regimental pride and should only be taken by prior consent…. otherwise bad things may happen! Ensign is a position of honour.
Children are welcome at the Sealed Knot. For them it is an exciting and stimulating experience. The members campsite for tents and caravans is usually enclosed and barred to the public with the entry/exit guarded 24 hours-a-day by burly soldiers so it is safe, even if children wander off. Regiments camp together and everyone looks out for each other. Younger children love the experience of dressing up and the spectacle of battle re-enacted. As they get older they get chance to socialise with others their own age in a safe and controlled environment. Kids who grow up as SK are often “Knotters” for life.
Dogs are also welcome, indeed most regiments have some paws in their ranks. They need to be tethered while at the campsite as there is often tempting snacks and smells nearby! Although there is likely to be somewhere safe for your pooch to let off steam and meet new furry friends. The campsite is not usually too close to the battlefield and most dogs soon become accustomed to musketry and cannon fire. Usual doggy rules apply, scoop up poop and make sure the animal has access to food, shelter and water when tethered.
Other specialised roles in the Sealed Knot include: medics, artillery and cavalry. Though these require specialist training and equipment…. or a horse!