The sharp “crack” of musket and flintlock rifle fire, accompanied by clouds of black powder-generated smoke, could be heard and seen during the final day of the Brigade of the American Revolution Encampment in Marietta’s East Muskingum Park Sunday.
The firearms exhibition, followed by an artillery demonstration, were among highlights of the weekend encampment that was attended by hundreds in celebration of the 225th anniversary of Marietta’s founding.
“We’ve had a good number of visitors during this encampment-and it’s been a very engaging crowd,” said Chris Watkins, 51, a Revolutionary War soldier reenactor from Jackson, Ohio.
He was among several fellow reenactors who gave Sunday’s crowd a close-up look and demonstration of the type of weapons used by colonists during the American Revolution.
Brigade commander Bob Cairns of Canton gave a presentation on the flintlock and muzzleloader rifles as other reenactors demonstrated the firearms.
“Powder was poured into the barrel of a muzzleloader, while a flint and steel mechanism was used to generate a spark to set off the powder in the flintlock rifles,” he explained. “After firing the soldiers could reload every 3 1/2 minutes.”
He said the muskets many soldiers carried were only accurate within 25 to 30 yards. Other rifles could fire a round about 200 yards, but sighting in an enemy at that range would have been difficult in the late 1700s.
The vast majority of reenactors during the weekend event were colonists, which made the redcoat worn by Bill Hunt, 56, of Charleston, W.Va., stand out all the more.
“I just joined the Brigade recently, but have been a Revolutionary War and French and Indian War reenactor for more than 15 years,” he said, noting he often does reenactments for schools in the Charleston area.
“The first thing kids ask is if I’m British, because I wear a red coat-and I am,” Hunt said. “But this is a sergeant’s uniform that would have been worn during the very early part of the war, in 1775 and 1776. Later the uniforms became more suitable for battle in the wilderness.”
Hunt said he’s always been interested in the nation’s early history, so becoming a reenactor was no stretch for him.
“Back in school when all of my friends were playing with Matchbox cars and trucks, I was reading about the Revolution and French and Indian Wars,” he said.
It may be surprising to some to learn that women played a big role in the field during the Revolutionary War.
“I find a lot of people don’t understand that women had no legal standing in those times-either a father, brother, husband, or other male relative had to sign documents for them,” said Holly DeJordy, 25, of Columbus who has a degree in history from Ohio University.
She said colonist’s homes and farms were often destroyed by the British or Indians, so families might follow the army from camp to camp.
“There were women contracted by the army to be laundresses or nurses-usually doing very dirty type work,” DeJordy said. “The women didn’t cook-most of the men did the cooking. But when it was time to move on it was the women who packed up the camp on wagons, then they walked to the next camp location.”
Faith Rice, 72, of Cleveland, has been a reenactor with the Brigade for 35 years now.
“I’ve been interested in this since I was 8 years old,” she said. “I didn’t just want to know the basics, I had to know the details about the Revolutionary War and drove my parents crazy until they finally took me to see Colonial Williamsburg.”
Rice was dressed in ragged clothing, and wearing deerskin moccasins, noting that most women of the time were not wealthy and would have worn their clothing as long as possible.
“And I’m wearing ‘heathen shoes,'” she said. “They’re Eastern Woodland Moccasins that were worn by the Indians, but were also much cheaper than leather buckled shoes of the time. She noted letters written by women at Fort Niagara during the war called the moccasins ‘heathen shoes.’
Among those visiting the Revolutionary War encampment Sunday were Bobby and Lisa Almond of Reno who homeschool their three kids, Danielle, 17, Jarrett, 15, and Chase, 11.
“They’re seeing ‘hands-on’ history, which teaches much better than school books,” Lisa said. “They can actually learn what a musket or the clothing looked like. This generation is so hooked up electronically they don’t often get the chance to know what life was really like in early America.”