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.

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Friday, August 01, 2008

Urban Encampments in August

The summer is usually a great time to enjoy military reenactments and encampments, but often those take place well outside the city. After all, the landscape out there looks a bit more like it did two centuries ago. But this month we’ll see some encampments within easy walking distance of subway stops.

Saturday, 9 August, 12:30 to 3:30 P.M.: Glover’s Regiment will set up camp on the front lawn of the mansion that became George Washington’s headquarters in 1775-76, now officially known as Longfellow National Historic Site. The regiment from Marblehead that this group reenacts used that same estate soon after the Revolutionary War began, before the new generalissimo moved it. The reenactors will sing sea shanties, demonstrate the manual of arms, and talk about life during the early days of the American Revolution. (Visiting the encampment and the grounds is free; there’s a small fee to tour the house. The nearest T stop is Harvard.)

Saturday, 16 August, 9:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M., and Sunday, 17 August, 9:00 A.M. to 2:00 P.M.: The Freedom Trail Foundation will host the first reenacted British army encampment on Boston Common. British regiments arrived there in May 1774 as part of Parliament’s plan to pressure Boston into repaying the East India Company for its destroyed tea. Those troops were in barracks by late fall, but the arrival of more regiments in the early spring of 1775 and the start of the war meant the Common returned to being a military encampment until the end of the siege.

The foundation,, which is celebrating the Freedom Trail’s fiftieth year, describes its plans like this:

The ongoing scheduled program includes: drills and black powder firing demonstrations, mock tents and bed making, shoemaking, a medical tent, cooking, clothing and uniforms; a cricket game, court martial, stocks, music, and confrontation with colonial militia men. Children can dress in typical colonial dress and experience camp life and have their photo taken.

In addition, sutlers—dry goods merchants who frequently accompanied British camps—will be on hand with their re-created 18th century inventory of historic cloth, games, clothes, hats, accessories, and household items.
Some of the reenactor regiments participating are His Majesty’s 10th Regiment of Foot; 1st Regiment of Foot Guards; 5th Regiment of Foot; 9th Regiment of Foot; 4th or King’s Own Regiment; 21st Foot R.N.B.F.; and the 24th Regiment. The Freedom Trail Players will be on hand to interpret. Units will start setting up around 3:00 P.M. on Saturday, and folks can visit those areas until sundown, but there are no programs planned until the weekend. (Visiting the Boston Common encampment is free. I don’t know whether Park Street or Boylston will be the closer T stop.)


Anonymous said...


Thank you so much for your work on this blog. I am a teacher and just finished professional development on this period of time through a federal grant.

I came upon your blog in researching Christopher Seider. Thank you so much for not only a wealth of information about him, but also for an engaging blog about this facinating period of history.


J. L. Bell said...

Thanks, Susan! It was in fact little Christopher Seider, whom I first read about in Bill Fowler’s biography of Samuel Adams, that got me started on dedicated research into the American Revolution in Boston.

Robert S. Paul said...

I just got back from the other event you mentioned earlier, down at Old Sturbridge Village. I was very impressed, even if the town itself is slight anachronistic for the period.

And I made contact with the 1st NH, so thanks for letting me know!

I should have some pictures up on my own blog by tomorrow, too, although I wasn't terribly close to the action.

Incidentally, your blog really made me want to correct some kid who kept yelling at the Redcoats, calling them "Lobsterbacks." :p

J. L. Bell said...

Glad you enjoyed the event! As for the kid, he’s only following what his schoolbooks probably say. It’s pretty amazing how strongly kids want there to be good guys and bad guys.