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Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Redcoats and Rebels at Old Sturbridge Village

Farm Vista at Old Sturbridge Village
If you are planning a trip to Old Sturbridge Village, check their website to find out if your visit coincides with one of the many historical events that take place there every year. For the price of one admission you’ll be getting two attractions (or three if you are able to take advantage of the free second visit).

Military buffs and anyone interested in learning more about the American War of Independence should definitely check out “Redcoats and Rebels” (R&R), New England’s largest reenactment event held at Old Sturbridge for two days in August.
Close to 1000 enthusiasts portray, in full battle dress, the Colonial, British, French, Hessian and Native American troops who took part in the conflict over 230 years ago and Sturbridge itself is transformed into an encampment with the units’ white picket tents pitched in regimental fashion on the village green.

In addition to mock battles, special demonstrations related to R&R include:
Camp tours: Explaining how soldiers of the time lived in camp during campaigns, including how they slept, what they ate, how discipline was maintained and what type of non-combat duties they were expected to perform.
Drill and safety inspection.
Drilling and Inspection: These are important not only for their value as reenactments, they are also a vital safety requirement to ensure that the arms being carried onto the field are sound and their barrels free of any obstructions.
Fife and Drum Sessions: Highlights the role marching music played in keeping the troops on the move and maintaining morale.
Canon Demonstrations: Keep those earplugs handy!
Children might like:
Making a Tri-Corner Militia Hat
Children’s Musket Drill
Reconnoiter with a Ranger 
The highlight of the show is of course the battlefield reenactment which takes place in the afternoon in the Freeman Farm Fields. (Try and secure your spot in the shade early).
Around 300 British Redcoats together with their Hessian allies advance on a fortified emplacement of Colonials and French, under a barrage of musket fire.  Both sides are supported by deafening heavy artillery and pretty soon the battlefield is shrouded in gun smoke.
The air is filled with the blasts of the canon, the crack of muskets fired in unison, the shouts of the officers calling the shots and the battle cries of men charging the barricades.

It is obvious that a lot of training and preparation has gone into the maneuvers which are executed with precision. And while the scale of the mock encounter is more akin to a skirmish, it is not hard to imagine that a real clash between armies must have been a chaotic, confusing and above all traumatizing experience.

Besides the activities surrounding Redcoats and Rebels, you can of course on those days also enjoy the exhibits and demonstrations that are part of the regular OSV program.

Old Sturbridge Village is a "Living Museum" where staff members dressed in period clothing from the late 18th to early 19th century capture the lives of early Americans during the Colonial Era.
That day the schedule included (among other things) demonstrations at the Printer, Shoemaker, Broom maker, Sawmill and Carding Mill. Hands-on experience could be had by Helping with Seasonal Work and Milking the Cows at the Freeman Farm.
In addition to the various free guided walking tours the Quinebaug River Boat was also open for business (USD 3.00, 3 & under free).
TIP: The August sun can be merciless, consider carrying sunglasses and a hat and make sure to remain hydrated. Cold bottled water can be purchased and the Bullard Tavern. Arrive early and you’ll acclimatize to the weather as the day heats up. (We stepped out of our air-conditioned car into the broiling mid-day sun which was rough!)


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