News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
Relive history in Port Royal
BY JIM MASON
FOR THE FREELANCE-STAR
For the first time, African–American Civil War re-enactors will be cast in living-history roles at Port Royal’s Independence Day celebration.
Bonnie Cannon of Bowling Green, chief planner of the celebration, announced the addition of the re-enactors from the Fredericksburg-based 23rd United States Colored Troops for the patriotic event in Port Royal.
She added that Mattaponi Indians also are expected to attend, along with Confederate and Port Royal militia re-enactors.
A board member of Historic Port Royal Inc., Cannon sees the re-enactors as an important addition to such holiday gatherings.
“I enjoy being a part of living-history events. They are more hands-on, and I have always had a love for history and enjoy working with the public,” Cannon said.
Port Royal, in Colonial times a bustling river port on the Rappahannock River, lies hidden behind a commercial strip along U.S. 301 less than a mile north of the U.S.
17 intersection—about 20 miles east of Fredericksburg.
“We will all be coming together as an American family for the celebration,” said Cleo Coleman, president of Historic Port Royal, referring to Wednesday’s holiday gathering in Robert Bryan’s big tree-shaded backyard on Water Street.
“Our celebration reminds us all where we came from in becoming Americans,” Coleman said.
While town residents and visitors will be “having fun, our celebration offers a teachable moment,” she said. “Colonist” Michael Newman will read aloud a copy of the Declaration of Independence delivered by “town militia.”
It was on July 4, 1776, that leaders representing the 13 American Colonies declared independence from British rule, in a document propelled by Thomas Jefferson’s enduring words:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Steward T. Henderson, a park ranger and historian with Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, is president of the 23rd re-enactors unit.
“The 23rd USCT were the first colored troops to fight against Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia,” he said.
Richard Rossmiller, captain of the Company A, 13th Virginia Confederate re-enactors, said the original company was formed in Orange County as the Montpelier Guard and became the 13th Virginia’s Company A when the Civil War began.
Richard Arlen Chapman Jr., another Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park ranger and historian, will serve as the keynote speaker.
“I will be talking about the 9th Virginia Cavalry, which has ties to the Port Royal and Fredericksburg area,” he said.
As in last year’s Fourth of July celebration, the Richmond-based St. Andrew’s Legion Pipes and Drums will perform.
Picnic-style food—including hot dogs and hamburgers, bottled water and sodas—will be sold on the grounds beside St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on Water Street, across from the holiday gathering.
WANT TO GO?
What: Port Royal Independence Day
Where: Tree-shaded lot on Water Street
When: Wednesday, July 4, 10 a.m. until 3 p.m.
Info: 804/742-5406, historicportroyal.com
Jim Mason is a freelance writer who lives in Caroline County.