Revolutionary War encampment gave glimpses of soldiers' lives

Aug 12, 2018

The smells of campfire and gunpowder wafted across the field near the concession stand at Silvershell Beach as soldiers from another century took up residence for the weekend, offering a living history lesson to anyone visiting their encampment.

At least four Colonial War reenactment groups participated in the two-day Aug. 11-12 encampment under clouds, thunder and intermittent showers. The Fairhaven Village Militia host group was joined by the Wareham Militia, the Yarmouth Minutemen, the 13th Continental Regiment from Rehoboth, and some individual reenacters who came solo.

"If the King doesn't see reason, there could be a shooting war," Yarmouth Minuteman cannon master Doug Butler, who portrays a typical Cape Cod sailor from 1774, said after teaching a group of boys from Marion Boy Scout Troop 32 how to shoot and maintain a cannon.

A walk across the field and visitors likely bumped into poor Widow Lopes, who lost her husband and sons in the Colonial War. She's in a dreadful state.

"I'm now forced to fend for myself," a smudged, bandaged and barefoot Anne Lopes of the 13th Continental Regiment from Rehoboth said. "The Army has displaced me because my husband and sons have died, and they need their provisions for the other soldiers."

Lopes did nothing to make the troubles that befell her happen, but for those that were up to mischief, the colonials' treatment was swift and harsh.

"This is a pillory," Michele Bissonnette, a cook with the Fairhaven Village Militia, said pointing toward the socially ostracizing device. "The stocks was worse."

She explained that, with the stocks, the accused were forced to sit on an inch-thick metal bar with their arms extended in clamps in a stretching fashion for a set amount of time depending on the infraction.

"It really hurt your butt, your whole body really," Jody Dickerson, a cook with the Fairhaven Village Militia, said.

In between musket and cannon firing demonstrations, visitors got to see some of the tradesmen at work, including candlemakers, tinsmiths, cooking, seamstresses and tailors of Colonial War era uniforms.

"I've made everything on this table," John Garcia, a tinsmith with the Fairhaven Village Militia, standing before shiny tin accoutrements of the 1700s.

Garcia, who in his alternate life is the Marion Police chief, is passionate about his Colonial reenactment activities. He said he learned tinsmithing at several workshops he's attended in Historic Eastfield, located just over the state line in New York.

"I'm not a tinker." Garcia corrected a visitor's misconception. "That would have been an insult to call me. Tinkers fix broken things. I'm a tradesmen. My skills were in demand in the 18th century."

Organizers for the event said turnout was steady during the two-day encampment. This is the second year for the encampment in Marion. There a plans to hold another one next year, they said.