J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

Follow by Email


Sunday, July 27, 2008

Revolution Comes to Sturbridge?

From Old Sturbridge Village comes this news of a military reenactment on 2-3 August:

The Village is transformed into a military camp focusing on what life was like during the War for Independence. Camped in the fields and pastures from the Common to Freeman Farm, hundreds of Revolution-era troops will be drilling and marching, fifing and drumming, cooking and camping in 18th-century fashion, along with civilian tagalongs—including doctors, wives, and children.

Kids will be invited to learn to march, cannons and muskets will be booming, and there’ll even be a military “fashion show” to enjoy.

On Saturday evening (August 2) from 5 to 9 p.m., join the troops and their families for a Twilight Encampment and gain insight into camp life beyond the daytime focus on military activities. Free for Village members and the day’s front gate visitors, the evening encampment is also open to walk-ins for a late-day admission fee.
The O.S.V. website promises updates on what reenactor units will attend. In addition, Hitchcock Academy in nearby Brimfield is hosting a U.S. Civil War reenactment on the same weekend, and visitors to either event can receive a discount on visiting the other.

Of course, a Revolutionary-era event in Old Sturbridge is an anachronism. The village is a recreation of a New England town from the 1830s, and displays buildings (the bank) and technology (the carding mill) that didn’t exist in New England during the Revolution. But it’s also a lovely landscape with excellent collections, so we just have to think hard enough not to lump all historical periods together as “yore.”


Larry Cebula said...

OSV is a delightful place--we had a lot of fun there this summer with our 8-year-old. But is is an odd duck in the first place--a recreated village that never existed in the first place. My impression was that OSV is tron between trying to accurately present the history of an era and giving tourists what they want, which is a bucolic vision of the past, a Currier and Ives print come to life.

I blogged about our visit here, with tons of pictures.

J. L. Bell said...

Yes, Old Sturbridge Village wasn’t created from the remnants of a real town, like Colonial Williamsburg, or made in the model of a lost settlement, like Plimoth Plantation. It was a collection of interesting historic buildings the founders collected.

Originally, tourists were supposed to drive around in their cars, looking at those structures and enjoying how much better their lives were with modern technologies. The physical shape of the central village is still set by that model, with an oval path around the green unlike real New England villages.

I think every historic site on that scale is trying to balance the dictates of history and “heritage,” or a feel-good past which usually brings in more money.

When I was there this month, one of the horses pulling a stagecoach (possibly one pictured on your blog) fell down. Some visitors who knew horses coaxed it back up, and it returned to the stable, apparently okay. But that sort of sight, and the droppings the horses left behind, were useful in reminding me of how much of the past Currier & Ives chose not to preserve.

Robert S. Paul said...

Regardless, I think I will attend this. The 1st NH is there, and I'm interested in joining.

Plus I haven't done anything "historical" since moving here.

J. L. Bell said...

I didn’t realize you’d made the move. Welcome to New England!

Anonymous said...

I'll be getting there Saturday night. Should be fun!

Robert S. Paul said...

Thanks. :)