We’ve had colder days than parade day lately; we’ve certainly had some weather that those who fought at Valley Forge could relate to but this January 15, 2011, was one of those typical winter days in Tennessee that was crystalline and clear and almost normal. On this day, the Washington Co. Regiment, invited in their own right, descended on Nashville and marched proudly and respectfully in front of all who attended and most notably the new Governor, his family and staff. There was only one other time when the hair at the back of my neck stood up as I watched the men assemble and march and that was last year at Guilford Courthouse. This was the second time. I was so proud of the men, so proud of the ladies who held the banner. You’d have been so proud, too.Friday morning by 9 AM, everyone who was going descended on the Visitors Center and loaded. Daggone, it was COLD! Ronnie took his trailer and all the gear from musical instruments to guns and luggage was stacked in it; this was a terrific idea. There were a number of cars that left and we all ended up at Mongomery Bell State Park, about a half hour west of Nashville. Thanks to Chad, the state comped the group 10 rooms at the resort hotel there. I have to say, I was suprised and impressed. I’ve been to Breaks Interstate Park, for example, and there is a lodge and restaurant on site and I was expecting something similar, a rustic but clean motel with very basic amenities. This place was a hotel, maybe not the Marriot Meadowview Conference Center but VERY close and all the rooms had a scenic view of the lake and full amenities. The food was so good that noone wanted to venture outside the facility so we ate dinner there on Friday and breakfast early Saturday .Most everyone was up by 5 AM and we were all packed and ready to go by 8 AM. The Fife and Drum were in rare form and played a medley while everyone was getting their things together. Those guys stopped traffic. People from inside the hotel came out to listen, and new patrons stopped in their tracks, enjoying the novelty and quality of an early morning serenade. It was Cold , to be sure, a 2 thermal underwear, three pair of socks day, but we were not as cold as we would be during the “hurry up and wait” that everyone in the parade endured later on. Eventually all the drivers got the group to the Coliseum where everyone, and I mean everyone, who was in the parade had to assemble. It was on the ground floor and bands from all the major colleges, universities and local high schools were tuning up. The echo was totally unreal. There were a few other groups looking like us. Of course you know about the SAR who marched in front of us. Adam and Sterling held up their banner, Randy, all business in spite of his high form all weekend, protected the flag for them and all told, between us both, there were a little over 50 people in our collective group. Fort Loudon had a large contingent as well, looking really nice in their madder red, almost pinkish French and Indian British garb. With us and all the costumes of the bands, it looked like a tropical forest with all the birds of paradise fluttering about. The only drab colors were the plentious National Guard members who did an OUTSTANDING job telling everyone what to do and in what order to do it . We waited with the SAR members, got the beautiful and period correct banner Chad and Earl created put together and just chilled out, literally. The parade assembled outside about an hour and a half later and it was another hour and a half standing in the cold but sunny street waiting for the parade to actually move. We all mentioned that we wished everyone in our Militia could have been there but most of all ,everyone wished Bob McCroskey could have been there marching with the men. His height and natural presence would have been an example to others of what’s best in Upper East TN and how a leader in colonial attire should actually dress. Anyway, finally , off we went and I have to say we did look unbelievably good. Everyone listened to Chad as he counted cadence and the Fife and Drum Corp kept time. The most interesting thing was that , in spite of the massive bands that surrounded us (300 member MTSU band, Tennessee College, Austin Peay, the “Pride of the Southland” monster UT band ) in front and behind, and the din created by sound echoing off the buildings in the wind tunnel called down town Nashville, one could still hear, above the cacaphony, the comparatively small Fife and Drum Corp that marked these bands’ first beginnings. Those guys may not have been eagles but, by golly, they stayed with the flocks in their own right nonetheless. The parade route was eight- tenths of a mile, not a long march but a windy one , sudden blasts that cut through us like bowie knives. Every second was a proud moment when everytime one of the public read our sign, took our pictures, waved to us, and listened to the bark of a command and the men shifting their weapons in salute. There were no mishaps; everyone and everything was letter perfect and the best was when MAJOR Chad Bogart made the unplanned decision to halt, ever so briefly in front of the Governor’s viewing platform and the men performed a short drill. I understand from John Large who talked to one of the governor’s staff that the governor who has a keen interest in history “went on and on” about how great we looked, how we added color and flavor to the parade and was so appreciative of our being there. He really waved to us,especially when the men tipped their hats and Sherry Shook blew him a kiss :o) . The Militia made the circle and our National Guard lady told us that a box lunch awaited everone who marched so as we filed by, we caught the boxes that the Guard was pitching to us. It was really funny how everyone piled in to the bed of Ronnie’s pickup to get to the parking lot where the chariots awaited. We packed up, the redneck contingent (not one of ours thank goodness) took a wizz near a trashcan and off we went back home still in our dress. Thinking about this experience, I thought with gratitude how Jennifer let most of her staff (Jason, Earl, Chad) go to this thing, probably making more work for herself and how totally supportive the Park staff is of us volunteers. I’m very proud of all of them and what they do. Also, I cannot understand how anyone wouldn’t be proud of the Militia as a whole . This small group represents where the great State of Tennessee saw its beginnings. The average guy on the street needs all the exposure to his or her own history whenever possible and in any venue offered. On the way back when we stopped for gas, someone asked me if we were from the times of Henry VIII. Sherry was asked if she was Amish and Dave was accused of being a giant elf. Anything we can do to give people a sense of their own history is a good thing.
As people begin to thaw out and share their photos, I’ll post the links here. Check out the photobucket album