Views from the 7th Annual Medieval Tournament - Fort Knox

A Bit of Background

A friend and co-worker in my office, ‘Lord Justin’, is a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) – an international organization dedicated to researching and recreating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe. The SCA's ‘known world’ consists of 19 kingdoms and over 30,000 members worldwide. I have an avid interest in history of all periods, military and otherwise and always have. When I learned that Lord Justin participated in this type of period re-enactment, study & combat skills, we engaged in various discussions about many things medieval. If I had to pick a period in which I consider myself more or less expert from years of research it would be the American Civil War (War Between the States to most good Southerners). I’d served as both Confederate infantry and Union infantry/artillery and re-enacted this terrible period of our country’s history over multiple years as well as lectured, produced articles and conducted living history presentations. However, what Lord Justin was presenting was a different venue altogether and truly sparked my curiosity – the SCA period of interest ended two and half centuries before any rifled musket accepted the first percussion cap...

When Lord Justin informed me about an event open to the public being held at Fort Knox in Prospect, Maine I was definitely intrigued on several fronts. One, just to check it out and observe the period clothing and 'goings on' as a spectator – I’d never really done this because any time I journeyed to an event I was always a participant and one of the guys that was always asked the usual, generally ridiculous questions re-enactors are often asked, i.e., in Gettysburg on a scorching July afternoon - ‘Is it hot in that wool uniform?’, etc., although many people were well versed on the history of the period and presented excellent questions and comments. Secondly, with my interest in photography I thought it would be intriguing or at least out of the ordinary to image some of the proceedings like fencing, heavy weapons combat, the folks in period dress and the attending crowd. I did what was required to clear my schedule as the weekend date approached so I could take the time for the drive up the coast.

Fort Knox Entrance Located on the west bank of the Penobscot River in Prospect, Maine and strategically located on the narrows of the Penobscot River to protect the river valley, Fort Knox was constructed in the period from 1844-1869. This construction was part of an overall national effort commenced to protect interior waterways and harbors in the event of war. Fort Knox was deemed necessary to protect the Penobscot River valley against possible future British naval incursion with an eye on Canada after various northeast border disputes. Research the period after the American Revolution and the War of 1812 and you will be made aware of just how pesky the British were to our country afterwards. Although garrisoned at various times during the American Civil War and Spanish American War, the facility never experienced combat. I would comment that with the commencement of hostilities of the American Civil War and the advent of new and powerful rifled ordnance the days of the granite forts passed quickly enough and produced the end of an era. To learn much more about this interesting facility, visit the Fort Knox State Historic Site & Friends of Fort Knox websites.

Henry Knox (1750-1806) was George Washington’s Chief of Artillery during the American Revolution and later the first Secretary of War of the United States under Washington’s Presidency. In pre-revolutionary times he was an amiable bookseller in Boston and a self-educated individual who among other pursuits, made a study of the military arts. Knox married Lucy Flucker (1756-1824), the daughter of a particularly vehement Tory father in 1774. Washington elevated Knox to this wartime post of honor after Knox retrieved the artillery from Fort Ticonderoga, captured from the British by a daring enterprise in May 1775 by Vermonter Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold. Removal and transport of this artillery was a significant achievement and a marvel of planning and execution. With the heavy weapons placed on high ground, the Continentals expelled the British from Boston at the Battle of Dorchester Heights (March 2-3, 1776). With Boston Harbor untenable and the forced withdrawal of the British, Lucy had to make a choice of allegiances. Lucy’s parents left with the British ships – this was the last she ever saw of them. Henry Knox went on to a distinguished military and civil career with his new country, settling in Thomaston, Maine, still a part of Massachusetts at that time. It is appropriate that Fort Knox be named after such an American patriot...

Overview of Battery B Emplacements from the Entrance Path

Overview of Battery B Weapon Emplacements

10-inch Rodman Cannon Rodman guns were American Civil War-era smoothbore Columbiads designed by Thomas Jackson Rodman, (1815-1871) West Point class of 1841. These weapons were the primary ordnance employed at Fort Knox. Rodman developed new technologies allowing a hollow casting method as opposed to the traditional solid cast that resulted in production of cast iron ordinance that was much stronger than preceding weapons. Upon adoption of his methods by the U.S. government in 1859 Rodman was assigned command of the U.S. Arsenal in Watertown, Massachusetts. Promoted to Lieutenant Colonel in 1867 and later placed in command of the Rock Island Arsenal he died at his post in 1871, his health broken from continuous years of hard service. The heavy Rodman guns were intended to be mounted in seacoast fortifications, were built in 8, 10, 13, 15 & 20-inch bores and designed to broadcast both shot and shell. The guns were identical in design with a curving soda bottle shape and differed only in bore size.

10-inch Rodman Gun & Carriage

Foggy Morning View of Bucksport from Fort Knox

It was foggy ride up the coast from Portland. I’d planned to be in Prospect about the time the event doors opened, 0900 hours, but ended up doing a few things at home before leaving, delaying my departure. The drive time was stretched out a bit by traffic and later fog and it took nearly three hours to arrive. When I made the turn towards the fort entrance I pulled over by the bridges, old and new and checked the view. The lower bridge cables were in the clear moving into an envelope of fog - a compelling scene. I thought seriously about setting up a tripod to capture the moment but as I was running late, did not.

I’d been to Fort Knox on multiple occasions, some pursuant to Civil War re-enacting endeavors. I recall at one time there was a discussion about a group ‘adopting’ the fort as well as Fort Gorges in Casco Bay at the entrance of Portland Harbor. I suppose nothing came of either for varied reasons. In any event, it didn’t take much prompting for me to plan a return visit – this facility is well worth the time and effort to investigate. The planned Medieval Tournament with all the color and pageantry appeared to be a wonderful event to enjoy at Fort Knox. If you’ve never visited the Fort Knox State Historic Site I urge you to gather up the family to make the effort.

Mom stopped to take a photograph of the siblings so I did also...

Brother & Sister Visitors


Stepping Back in Time...

Seventh Annual Medieval Tournament Activity Map - Fort Knox State Historic Site

Medieval Tournament Activities Map

View of Haus Wanderstamm's Pavilions The Seventh Annual Medieval Tournament was sponsored by the Friends of Fort Knox and the Society for Creative Anachronism’s Shire of Endewearde, based out of Central and Down East, Maine. This Shire is a part of the East Kingdom, which I found covers an extended area - check out the web link, it's well worth investigating further... Other Maine related groups of the SCA’s East Kingdom include the Province of Malagentia – Southern and Coastal Maine including Portland; the Shire of Smithwick, an embryonic shire in Northern Maine and the Shire of Hadrian’s Keep, a proposed shire in Mid-coast Maine. I’m not certain about representation of these various shires at the event but I believe all were well represented besides SCA folks ‘from away’. I talked with one lady who stated she lived in the Canadian Province of New Brunswick (also part of the East Kingdom) and traveled south for this gathering.

After I waited the few minutes to pay the entrance fee and park my vehicle I thought about what camera equipment to carry into the fort. I always prefer to shoot from a tripod but thought this event may not lend itself to this pursuit and didn’t know how active the spectators may be as I was carrying one around. Rather than carry a camera bag and additional gear, I decided to handhold and selected two cameras, the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III with a EF 70~200mm f/2.8L IS lens and Canon EOS 5d with a 24~105mm f/4L IS lens. These were on shoulder straps so if I were using one the other would not interfere and both can be carried in this fashion. The lens choice provided enough reach plus the ability to go fairly wide if I wished to do so. All the photographs exhibited in this account where taken by these cameras. I shot over 600 images at this Fort Knox session in a matter of a few short hours. Many of these were sequential shots during the combat exhibitions; what is displayed here is a small sampling of the overall effort.Should anyone be interested in more information concerning my photographic choices in lenses, cameras & accessories please check out this article on my website, My Canon Photographic System.

View of Haus Wanderstamm's Pavilions in front of the Fort's Granite Walls...

Rapier Duels & Fencing Demonstrations - Outside the Granite Walls...

One of the first venues you’d come to when entering the fort grounds is the Fencing and Heavy List Field. This was located in a grassy, roped off area with a terrific view of the water looking over at the Town of Bucksport. I stopped for a time, observed the proceedings & took a series of images.

At the Ready - Participant on the Fencing Field

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 100mm; 1/640 second at f/8, ISO 400

Fencing Participant

Fencing Participant One of the aspects I’d learned about 19th Century clothing was that for the average working people – the bulk of our United States Antebellum population when the economy was primarily agriculturally based, really hadn’t changed significantly since Colonial times. What clothes a farmer wore in the 1820’s or 30’s differed little from a farmer in the 1790 period. As I looked around at the assorted men, women and children in period attire I recognized that much remained familiar. Some of the long coats I viewed on men differed little from Civil War era military dress – a few changes here and there but probably not enough for the average tailor of the time to have to re-learn his or her skill set although I’m sure a study of available period materials would reveal much. This appeared to be true with the ladies day dresses also. There were some clear medieval ‘fashion statements’ you wouldn’t view the average lady of means in 1850 America engaged upon but the basic dresses shared much in common.

On the Fencing Field

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm; 1/640 second at f/5.6, ISO 400

Lord Justin indicated the heraldry on the tabard (the device in view in front on the sleeveless over garment) of the participant below is that of Wolfe’s Dragoons, of which there are two companies - the first being the Dragoons; the second the Privateers. These companies hail from the Province of Malagentia group. The term ‘Dragoon’ is a French Army designation (Dragon) for a mounted infantry combatant trained primarily to fight on foot (generally armed with a carbine in the 17th & 18th centuries – later than the SCA period of study) but also trained in cavalry combat.

 A Woolfe’s Dragoon viewing the action

Fencing Instruction Fencing Exhibition

A short distance away before coming to the fort entrance there were some period tents set up with more fencing exhibitions underway. I viewed this activity for a time and took some photographs as the participants engaged in combat.

Fencing Participant in the Pavilion Area

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm; 1/800 second at f/5.6, ISO 400
Fencing Participant

The Opponent - ready to Engage This image provides a fair view of the blunted weapon in the left hand of this fencer. As one can easily imagine, safety is a primary concern for both participants and spectators and the SCA has strict protocols to be followed at both public and private gatherings.

The Opponent - ready to Engage...

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm; 1/1000 second at f/7.1, ISO 400

Attack & Defense


Inside the Keep...

View from the Casemate...

After viewing the fencing exhibitions for a time I passed through the sally port and into the fort. It was still overcast and the lighting wasn’t harsh although it wasn’t conducive to quick shutter speeds. I walked the fort interior and viewed the displays set up in the casemates.

Do you notice anything unusual about the image at right? You may note the scene inside the port wall as well as the harbor boats beyond are in focus. And no, I’m not a good enough photographer to accomplish this with a single exposure… I took two images, one exposed to focus the view through the port, the second metered on the interior wall. At the computer I exchanged the exterior view through the gun port to create an in-focus composite in Photoshop CS3 using a layer mask. I’m pleased this worked out as well as it did and I like the image – hope you do as well...

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 45mm; 1/250 second at f/6.3 - image 1; 1/800 second at f/6.3 - image 2, ISO 400
View from the Casemate

In the Arts & Science Display Area

In the Arts & Science Displays

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 67mm; 1/60 second at f/4, ISO 400

Armor & Accoutrements A Participant’s Armor
Colors & Weapons


Whittling/Woodcarving Display...

I watched this whittling operation for a time and was duly impressed with the work this woman was creating. It must require a great deal of skill and patience to do this intricate crafting… Check out the spoons on the table and the ornaments around her neck – fine work indeed!

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 50mm; 1/800 second at f/4, ISO 400

Working at the Wheel Medieval Food Selection

Closer View of the Spinning Wheel. This was a beautiful piece of work...

There were various non-combat related demonstrations planned throughout the day like ‘Spices of the Medieval Kitchen’, ‘Tablet Weaving’, ‘Tales from the Viking Lands’, period games, Medieval dancing demonstrations, etc., that were interesting. However, when the combatants took the field it appeared to be a significant crowd pleaser…

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 105mm; 1/400 second at f/4, ISO 400
Spinning Wheel View

Youth Heavy Combat Demonstration

Medieval People...

Medieval Wife

Medieval Wife Kicking Back & People Watching While Keeping an Eye on the Armor...

Walking about and meeting the people of Medieval times was interesting. Some stayed completely immersed in period character; others were more lenient in this regard. I know that attending an event of this nature as a participant can be a lot of work and it starts long before you show up at the site. This was only a one-day gathering - I was impressed with the amount of materials displayed and the interest garnered both by the SCA folks and the general public. It looked like everyone was having a great time participants and spectators alike. I talked with the fine Lady viewed here briefly; she indicated she was from New Brunswick…

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 70mm; 1/2000 second at f/4, ISO 400

Medieval Spectator Medieval Band Member Medieval Band Member
Mother & Child Medieval Family Life

On Stage - The Performance of the Minstrel...

Period music was well represented at this gathering – there were a substantial number of musicians in attendance with a plethora of instruments. I’m going to post some of my photographs of them as this article continues but this Minstrel was one of the first musical images I took. Fortunately I took his photograph multiple times because the lighting where he was standing was difficult at best and most of the shots exhibited movement or were blown out – over exposed…

I’d like to comment on the musicians… These folks were excellent in all regards and the performances they were putting on for the crowds were stellar. It was clear to me they are a dedicated group of individuals and committed to this endeavor. I hope one or all of the musicians reads this account so you can know for certain your efforts were much appreciated.

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 160mm; 1/250 second at f/3.5, ISO 400
Medieval Minstrel Performing

The Wandering Monks

The Wandering Monks

My Buds the Monks Hamming it Up...

I talked to the fellows in the view at left and above on several occasions during my time at the Medieval Tournament and enjoyed doing so. When I inquired they indicated they were monks… I stated that from what I know of the period this is an excellent choice of professions – anybody involved with the wealth of the clergy had the ability to look out for themselves much better than the common folk. I’d recently taken a road trip and among other selections, had purchased a copy of William Manchester’s, ‘A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age’ (© 1992), in compact disk format. This volume covered approximately A.D 400 to A.D. 1000, commonly recognized as the Dark Ages… This was coincidental and was some time before I was aware of this upcoming medieval event – I mentioned earlier I have an avid interest in history of many periods… Anyway it was an eye (or should I say ‘ear’) opening experience in multiple respects. I’ve listened to this book about five times - it is excellent - and will do so again if I get on the road anytime soon on a trip. Of course, these guys could only have claimed to be monks – neither of them would be above telling an outright lie if they were portraying monks in period character. However, I had no reason to doubt the veracity of their statement… On the other hand I believe I made an impression - I’m pretty sure the monk in the rear is saying a prayer of salvation for me as he walked along while his fellow recognized me and waved hello…

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 60mm; 1/500 second at f/6.3, ISO 400

Music and Dance Presentations...

Strike Up the Band

Music & Learning - Presenting to the Masses...

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 180mm; 1/160 second at f/7.1, ISO 1600
Music for the Masses

A Portion of the String Section

A Portion of the String Section...

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 67mm; 1/60 second at f/8, ISO 400

Dancing on the Parade Ground

'Master of the Dance' Discussing Period Dance with the Crowd...

After an explanation from the Dance Master to the spectators of what to expect, the band struck up a tune and the troupe engaged in a dance exhibition…

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 130mm; 1/320 second at f/8, ISO 800
Master of the Dance

Dance Exhibition Dance Exhibition
Dance Exhibition

Call to Arms...

The Procession Entering the Parade Ground

The Procession Entering the Parade Ground...

It was getting on towards afternoon and beyond by now and probably the largest groups of public visitors were on the grounds to enjoy the proceedings. During some of the exhibitions on the parade ground I’d located myself on the upper deck looking down on the activities. From here I had a good vantage point and enough reach with my lenses to obtain a decent image scale on the participants. It was turning out to be a nice day and warming up some as the fog burned off. A procession was formed and the medieval folks involved with the heavy combat exhibition paraded in with pomp and ceremony to commence the Pas d’Armes Tournament of Knightly Combat…

The Proclamation and opening of the Activities...

A proclamation was read explaining the rules of engagement and other pertinent information pursuant to this activity. I remained on the upper level and was in a good position to obtain a line of sight below although there were quite a few people around viewing the proceedings. I’d been looking for Lord Justin and assumed he wasn’t on the grounds at this time – which was correct. He did make it in time for the heavy weapons combat in the end result.

The armored warriors were introduced and each made a brief declaration explaining who they were and why they were on the field this day…

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm; 1/640 second at f/8, ISO 400
The Proclamation...

Combatants on the Field
Lord Griffin - Armored Warrior 'Bison - Armored Warrior Lord Tristan - Armored Warrior
Syr Cedric - Armored Warrior Lady Astrid Sigrun Ulfkillsdottir, the Valkyrie
Bijorn - Armored for Battle Lord Justin Battle Ready

View from Topside

View from Topside...

The spectators had all found acceptable vantage points to view the combat exhibition by now and anticipated the action soon to commence. I took this photograph from my observation point. It indicates the group of people above the action, the cobblestone ramp to the parade ground below and the Penobscot Narrows Observatory structure breaking the horizon at right of center. After a time I moved off the upper deck and by walking up the ramp was able to get nearly eye-level with the action, which offered a different perspective. This wasn’t as easy as one may assume – there were quite a few people bordering the scene of action and finding a spot to get a shot between the spectators and guidelines roping off the area presented a challenge. I’d spotted my friend Lord Justin on the field by now lately arrived. I also presumed that the The Valkyrie of Malagentia in her combat accoutrements, being the only woman prepared from combat, was his ‘significant other’.

Canon 5d/24~105mm f/4L lens at 24mm; 1/800 second at f/8, ISO 400

Overview of the Field of Endeavor

Views of the Pas d’Armes Tournament of Knightly Combat

Weapons & Standards on the Field of Chivalry...

The image at right exhibits some banners and weapons used on the field. The banner at left rear displays the device of Lady Astrid Sigrun Ulfkillsdottir, also known as the Valkyrie of Malagentia. She was the only Lady engaged in combat this day and can be viewed in some of the preceding & following photographs. The banner at right is the device of the Province of Malagentia. You may also note that Lord Justin displays this device on his purple helm in the combat photographs. I was informed of an interesting tale concerning the Malagentian device and the name of the province... According to legend and a ship captain’s log of the period, one moon-lit evening as his vessel and crew scudded along the coast of Southern Maine homeward bound, the mariners observed a group of Native Americans on shore greeting them with a ‘moon’ of their own. This prompted the Captain to state in the ship’s log, ‘there are bad people here’. Hence the smiling moon was adopted as the province’s device. The name, Malagentia, translates literally to ‘Bad People’ in some language or another. I offer two comments here – I didn’t verify the facts or investigate the above story although I enjoyed it. Secondly, I don’t know why the color purple was chosen but would state this was the color of royalty in ancient times...

On the weapons rack from left to right can be viewed a buckler (French, bouclier - 'shield') a small shield gripped in the fist; it was generally used as a companion weapon in close combat during the Middle Ages. The buckler’s size made it poor protection against missile weapons but useful in deflecting blows from an opponent’s sword or mace; a Polearm - a long shafted, two-handed edged weapon in which the main fighting component of the weapon is placed at the end of the shaft extending the user’s effective range; a shield belonging to Syr Cedric, a sword, a mace behind - a club like weapon employing a weighted head in multiple designs on the end of a handle used to deliver a powerful blow to bludgeon or spike an enemy, another buckler, two matching swords, the sword and shield of Lady Astrid, another polearm and a great sword (the term great sword - 'Grete Swerd' - refers to an example of any of a number of large swords used in medieval Europe).

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 185mm; 1/1250 second at f/7.1, ISO 400
Weapons & Standards...

Views of the Pas d’Armes Tournament of Knightly Combat

A Marshal on the Field

A Marshal on the Field...

The SCA has strict protocols for combatants of all types within their organization. The obvious intent would be safety first and from what investigation I’ve done there is little that is not specifically addressed and detailed in their regulations. This can be anything from general behavior to weapons standards, armor requirements, acknowledgment of blows to combat injury procedures. Marshals on the field have been trained to oversee combat activities for the purpose of regulating safe procedures.

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 200mm; 1/1250 second at f/3.2, ISO 400

Lord Justin Receives a Combat Adjustment Refit, Rest and Battle Repairs

Views of the Pas d’Armes Tournament of Knightly Combat

Lord Justin & Lady Astrid Lord Justin Viewing the Combat After Action Review

After the armored combat I looked at my watch and thought about making the drive back to Portland. It had been an interesting day at Fort Knox and I was pleased to see so much public support both for this event and the park. I took these last shots of Lord Justin and his Lady Valkyrie warrior as the assembly marched off the field of honor and on to other pursuits for the balance of the day. You can tell from these views mock combat is hard work indeed…

Lord Justin After Action Lady Astrid the Valkyrie After Action

Return to the 21st Century and the End of the Photojournal...

Shortly afterwards I meandered towards the parking lot and my vehicle, checking out the people and activities along the way. Because I’d taken multiple bursts of the combat action I’d just about filled the stock of 8 Gigabyte compact flash cards I’d carried along. My 1Ds Mark III camera in Raw format produces large and detailed files. This also relates to more time at the computer when culling and rendering an image group. However, I just can’t bring myself to do digital capture in JPEG mode because Raw format offers more control over the final image. Plus I just never know when I’ll get that one excellent image which I’d use to produce a 16X24-inch print...

Although only a spectator at this wonderful event, I deem it appropriate to thank the many participants of the Society for Creative Anachronism, particularly the host sponsor Shire of Endewearde; the co-sponsor organization - Friends of Fort Knox and the Fort Knox State Historic Site staff for taking the time and effort to promote this event and for making it available to the public at large. It had been an entertaining and worthy endeavor and one I thoroughly enjoyed...

Canon 1DS/70~200mm f/2.8L lens at 130mm; 1/320 second at f/8, ISO 400
'Vey' Leaving the Field


A note from the author ... My primary photographic efforts in ‘daylight’ consists of nature images – birds, which I have posted on my website in a separate ‘Bird Photography Index’, other animals from insects to gators to mammals, macro photography of flowers, mycology images and any other related subjects that may draw my interest; landscapes and photojournals of travels with my cameras to various locations in the United States and Canada. Most of these images appear only in photojournals on my website. Please feel free to check out my 'Writings and Articles Index' if you’d like to investigate further on what I’m referencing. I’ve been imaging the night sky through telescopes and specialized equipment for multiple years, thus the premise of my website – 'A Shot in the Dark', which has been expanded over time to include many topics I find of interest. You are invited and welcome to visit our private facility, Starburst Meadows Observatory in Brunswick to share some nighttime views - contact me about this should you choose. I rarely photograph people so this Fort Knox event was a bit of a departure from my usual workflow. I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did plannning and creating it...

October 2008

A note about the photography...All images in this account are by the author. Any images viewed that are digitally framed and labeled have been added to my collection of works for sale. These are displayed when at shows and events either packaged on foam core, professionally framed or ArtiPlaq™ mounted as a final for purchase. The web versions are nice, but a full resolution print significantly enhances the beauty of these images; all are ©2008 Photography by Kirk M. Rogers - any reproduction, publication or transmission of this content without the written consent of the author is prohibited. Please contact me should you have an interest in obtaining any of the images.

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