A Comparison of Period and Re-enactor Encampments.

By Colonel Vincent J-R Kehoe, RLRAAC

In spite of the very ordered layouts of 18th century encampments that are shown in the books of Grose, Lochée and others, the paintings and drawings of encampments that one sees, seem to belie these dimensionally geometric patterns, and the erection of the tents and the Officers' marquees appear to be placed in different areas than those of the seemingly regulated strictness of castrametation on a flat plain.

One must therefore suppose that the actual plan of castrametation depended upon the ground selected for the encampment. The Military Guide (see review on page ??) provides examples of both of these theories with the more formalized version on page 9-12 and the explanation of such to page 9-18. Yet on page 9-29 the encampment of the 2nd West Yorkshire Light Infantry Militia at Old Montague House, 1780, showed a definite variance of the layout with the Officers' marquees placed on both sides of the Battalion tenting, while the colored print on page 9-32, demonstrates an entirely different pattern of tenting and placement of kitchens and Camp Colours. Two other coloured prints, one titled The Encampment in Hyde Park 1780, and Encampment at Foreham near St. Edmunds Bury (undated but probably about the same era according to the clothing and uniform fashions), reiterate this evaluation of British military encampments relative to actual castrametation.

As such, how can today's re-enactors set up an "authentic" encampment when the theoretical seems to , in many aspects, contradict the actual? The other element, of course, is that most re-enactment units do not have the numbers on the field to set up the theoretical layout, and must take this into consideration when any unit or organization of units, take the field to set up an encampment. The answer must be that such must be based on the formalized or theoretical, but include in the thinking the number or units as well as the number of people in the various units, as well as the space provided by the sponsor for the encampment. As the pictorial evidence of varietal placement of the tenting in the 18th century allows us a freer reign than was heretofore believed to take place, our suggestions for re-enactors encampments are, once again, suggested rather than theoretical, and the latitude of appearances is far greater and less pedantic. Nevertheless, certain precautions must accompany good sense, such as no fires within the confines of the tenting areas and company streets, and only proper kitchens dug at a considerable distance away from the tenting,must be strictly adhered to and ordered stringently.

As present re-enactors seldom, if ever today, arrive in a cohesive body, and private transportation as well as the distance travelled often shows arrival times at an encampment to vary greatly, certain regulations should be firmly established relative to the castrametation of an encampment. First, and most violated, are the numbers furnished to sponsors or organizations relative to the count of people that are expected, and those who actually arrive to pitch tenting. Whoever is appointed to be the Quarter Master General of any re-enactment organization or representative of the sponsor can have his carefully planned encampment layout drastically encroached upon by the late arrivals not planned for who wish to set up their tenting when they are not within the scope and numbers furnished beforehand. For a proper look to the encampment, the ideal would be to refuse them permission to encamp if they arrive with more people than they submitted. Conversely, some units may decide at the last minute not to arrive at all, leaving a space in the layout that stands out badly.

One suggestion is to assign an unguarded, un-castrametated, and somewhat distant area from the regular encampment for these unthinking people, and possibly exclude them from certain activities that have been carefully planned. This is, of course, a rather drastic step that could be taken, but the miscreants are the offenders, after all! Those units who do not arrive at all for a planned encampment might be excluded in future plans of the organization, unless they can furnish a very good excuse for not appearing. Late comers are also a problem, and possibly a time limit should be set by the organization or sponsor for the latest hour that a unit or an individual can arrive to set up at night. Those arriving after the specified limit should have to wait to set up their tenting until the next day so as not to completely disturb the proper operation of the rest of the encampment. Provost guards should appointed to restrict late comers from violating these strictures. As most encampments will have an arisal time of the first light of day, a time limit of midnight might be a good hour to stop the erection of any more tenting in the designated proper areas. Allowing exceptions to any rules or regulations are up to the Quarter Master General, but he should strictly and adamantly quote the law to all late comers!


In the ART of WAR, is the art of measuring or tracing out the form of a camp on the ground; yet it sometimes has a more extensive signification, by including all the views and designs of a general; the one requires only a mathmatician, the other an experienced soldier. ... Whatever particular order of battle is regarded as the best disposition for fighting, it follows of course, that we should encamp in such a manner as to assemble and parade our troops in that order and disposition as soon as possible. It is therefore the order of battle that should regulate the order of encampment.

Smith, Captain George, An Universal Military Dictionary, (originally published 1779) facsimile reprint (Ottawa, Ontario: Museum Restoration Service, 1969)