Revo­lu­tion­ary War fes­ti­val draws hun­dreds in nod to past



— You’ve prob­a­bly heard some form of the phrase, “I won­der how they did it be­fore … ,” maybe re­gard­ing elec­tric­ity or the in­ter­net or gas-pow­ered en­gines.

Few places lay out an an­swer to that re­flec­tion more clearly than a his­tor­i­cal re-en­act­ment site. This week­end, the Mount Har­mon Plan­ta­tion hosted its own nod to the past with a Revo­lu­tion­ary War fes­ti­val, the sixth time it has done so. There were au­then­tic camps for both the Con­ti­nen­tal (Amer­i­can) and Bri­tish armies, lines of mer­chant stalls and live bat­tle reen­act­ments com­plete with horses, mus­kets and can­non fire.

To get to the plan­ta­tion, you have to drive through miles of ru­ral land­scape to the south­ern edge of the county. Then there’s a onelane gravel road lead­ing some two miles to the 18th­cen­tury manor house, for most of the way with trees arch­ing over­head. For the fes­ti­val this week­end, vol­un­teers di­rected cars into a park­ing lot some ways away from the camps them­selves, and from there a trac­tor trans­ported visi­tors to the tip of the Con­ti­nen­tal camp.

Sev­eral hun­dred re-en­ac­tors from around the midAt­lantic re­gion came out for this fes­ti­val, and quite a few of them ex­pressed a deep­rooted per­sonal in­ter­est in his­tory. That’s not sur­pris­ing con­sid­er­ing the lengths they go to recre­ate the way colo­nial set­tlers lived some 250 years ago.

A group from New Jersey roasted a pork loin over a fire Satur­day while dis­cussing their at­tempts to keep all el­e­ments of the week­end true to the pe­riod. They ar­rived Fri­day night and set up their sim­ple, white cloth sleep­ing tents. They had re­cently set out an ap­ple pie, which had been cooked


Drew Red­mond, owner of Val­ley Forge-based G.G. God­win, Inc., stands with his mer­chan­dise at the Revo­lu­tion­ary War re-en­act­ment on Satur­day.

over the fire ear­lier in the af­ter­noon, to cool.

“I do a lot of back­pack­ing, and it’s nice be­cause ev­ery­thing’s so light now,” said Manny Boc­cini, who was there with the New Jersey-

based Motts Ar­tillery. “But this stuff here re­minds me of camp­ing as a Boy Scout. It’s a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, but not in­cred­i­bly dif­fer­ent.”

In­stead of a sleep­ing pad, for in­stance, a re-en­ac­tor lies on hay, he said.

This at­ten­tion to de­tail is em­pha­sized to an even greater de­gree dur­ing bat­tle re-en­act­ments. Ac­cord­ing to Tom Vo­ge­ley, who served this week­end as the over­all com­man­der for the Con­ti­nen­tal forces due to rep­u­ta­tion and ge­o­graph­i­cal prox­im­ity (he lives in Bowie and has par­tic­i­pated in re-en­act­ments since 1973), quite a bit of prepa­ra­tion goes into the bat­tles, long be­fore they hap­pen.

In Au­gust, he and the com­man­der of the Bri­tish forces spent time at Mount Har­mon to dis­cuss bat­tle sce­nar­ios. They wanted to for­mu­late a way to best uti­lize the slop­ing fields.

“There’s quite a lot pre­plan­ning,” Vo­ge­ley said. “If some­one gets hurt, that’s on us. It’s our re­spon­si­bil­ity to run the bat­tle safely.”

Satur­day’s bat­tle went like this: The two armies started fir­ing some sev­eral hun­dred yards away from each other, ev­i­dently not hit­ting much of any­thing. Af­ter a short time, Con­ti­nen­tal sol­diers be­gan ad­vanc­ing un­til they were close enough to fire more ac­cu­rately. Sev­eral on both sides fell to the ground, pre­tend­ing to be in­jured from the gun­fire (in re­al­ity, of course, they were fir­ing blanks). Then the Con­ti­nen­tal forces, seem­ing to have sus­tained greater losses, re­treated, and Bri­tish sol­diers fol­lowed them.

Even­tu­ally, the Con­ti­nen­tal line sit­u­ated it­self ad­van­ta­geously atop a small hill, where its sol­diers could fire down upon the Bri­tish. At this point, hav­ing re­al­ized an ad­vance would cost them more sol­diers than they wanted to lose, Bri­tish com­man­ders called a re­treat, and the two armies re­tired for the night.

“You cow­ards!” called a man from within the Con­ti­nen­tal ranks, as the Bri­tish uni­forms slinked back to­ward camp, the lines be­tween past and present blur­ring for a mo­ment.

Hun­dreds of spec­ta­tors came out to watch Satur­day’s bat­tle, and an in­ter­est­ing scene de­vel­oped even within them. Clumps of peo­ple in clothes nor­mal for 2016 in­ter­spersed with those in 18-cen­tury at­tire, and many in both groups took pic­tures of the bat­tle with their cell phones or dig­i­tal cam­eras.

We weren’t quite in the past, just close to it.


Mem­bers of the Con­ti­nen­tal army led by Tom Vo­ge­ley make their way back to camp af­ter a re-en­act­ment bat­tle Satur­day.

Dee Thomp­son, of Mount Holly, N.J., holds an ap­ple pie she made over a fire.

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