News and notes from Fredericksburg's entertainment scene
The British are coming!
BY CLINT SCHEMMER
Redcoats marching, camping and drilling where George Washington, father of our country, was born.
Sacrilege, you say?
No, not really.
At least not if understood in context. And that’s the sort of knowledge the National Park Service hopes visitors will get—in additional to having a lot of fun—when British military and American militia re-enactors take to the field Saturday at George Washington Birthplace National Monument.
How better to understand what drove the young Washington to sign up with the Virginia militia—and desire a British officer’s commission—than to rub elbows with men representing those soldiers?
“This is the life that George Washington expected to have, to be a soldier, partly due to family tradition and partly due to his own aspirations,” Scott Sanderson Hill, the historic site’s chief of interpretation, said.
“Had things worked out a little differently, our history would be completely and radically different than what we know today.”
The Westmoreland County native fought bravely in the French and Indian Wars as a Virginia militiaman, but he hungered for an officer’s commission in the British military.
He was driven by his admiration for half-brother Lawrence, who served briefly in the British military in 1740. George emulated Lawrence after his father, Augustine, died when his son was 11, Hill noted. Lawrence served under Edward Vernon and named his Potomac River estate—later George’s home—for him.
Almost every Washington male since the family immigrated to America in 1656 served in the militia or British military, Hill said.
This weekend, His Majesty’s Marines and the 5th Battalion, Cumberland County Militia, will represent those soldiers. The elite re-enacting groups, which emphasize authenticity in uniform and activities, appear at events up and down the Atlantic seaboard. They are based, respectively in Maryland and Pennsylvania.
Their appearance at the birthplace is guaranteed to fascinate and educate all who come, the Park Service says.
“We are participating to help tell the story of the American Revolution, what happened in the Chesapeake Bay—where it was as much a civil war as anything—and the British side of things,” Capt. Jim McGaughey of His Majesty’s Marines said. “Few remember that during the Revolutionary War, neighbors raided neighbors as loyalties to the Crown and the Revolution divided communities and often families.”
From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., visitors can experience the troops’ camp life, smell the fresh-cooked fare that British officers ate, and see infantry in formation firing their weapons.
Musket-firing demonstrations will be conducted at 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. along the path from the visitor center to the historic area.
Younger visitors will be invited to participate in a variety of hands-on activities, such as rolling cartridges for the troops’ weapons.
The site will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, but tours will be suspended so visitors can enjoy the special event. The monument last hosted British military re-enactors in the 1990s.
The event is one of the activities being held throughout 2012 to celebrate the 280th birthday of George Washington and the 80th anniversary of George Washington Birthplace National Monument.
DAY FOCUSES ON CIVIL WAR IN CULPEPER
Saturday, July 21, will pull back the curtain on a big part of the Civil War that had, until recently, gotten short shrift in public programs.
That is, the role of African–Americans—both escaping slaves and United States Colored Troops—in the conflict.
Friends of Wilderness Battlefield and the newly formed African–American Heritage Alliance will host a multipart “Civil War in Culpeper” set of programs, the first of which are free.
Participants will learn why the Battle of Cedar Mountain was fought when and where it was; about the politics that drove 1862’s military decisions; and of slaves’ efforts at self-emancipation against fearsome odds.
In the morning, historians will talk at Germanna Community College’s Daniel Center in Culpeper. In the afternoon, historian Clark “Bud” Hall will lead a bus tour, “The Rappahannock: A River to Freedom,” of wartime sites and plantations. Evening offers a special reception with historians at a private home.
Participants may register for one or all three. Details? Visit fowb.org, or contact Zann Nelson at M16439@aol.com or 540/547-2395.
The bus tour, from the Daniel Center, costs $60 and includes snacks, water and handouts.
Clint Schemmer: 540/368-5029