It started as a harmless carriage ride through a lush colonial estate. Suddenly the trip was interrupted by hostile soldiers in red coats emerging from the woods. No sooner did the troops engage the reeling wagon than a contingent wearing mostly blue jackets began advancing from the far end of the field.
For 30 minutes, the highly trained and numerous British redcoats skirmished with the under-trained and under-equipped upstart patriots under command of General George Washington.
Mounted British officers strained to control their horses while artillery regiments from both sides fired and smoke and sulfurous odor filled the battlefield. All while hundreds of civilians — men, women and ear-covering children — looked on.
There were four such battle re-enactments scheduled as part of the Revolutionary War weekend at George Washington’s Mount Vernon May 6 and 7. More than 600 men and women re-enactors resided on the estate for the occasion, formed into British and Continental army encampments.
Prior to the battle, an announcer from Mount Vernon reminded visitors that historically, no battles are known to have taken place on the grounds of Washington’s estate. Nor was the ensuing skirmish meant to recreate any actual engagement. But rather, it was meant as a an informative depiction of what warfare may have looked like during the American Revolution.
Susan Warr of Richmond came to Washington’s home as part of the 64th Regiment of Foot re-enactors, representing British infantry. A native of colonial Williamsburg, Warr grew up with an interest in history and has been re-enacting since 1987.
“We like to portray the uniform as accurately as possible,” Warr said, referencing a belt plate from her uniform, modeled after one that was recently dug up in Charleston, S.C.
Charleston native Charles Rhoden pointed out that as a regiment surgeon, the scarlet of his jacket is a brighter shade of red than a typical soldiers. Unlike modern war medics, he pointed out, surgeons during the Revolutionary War would not have been on the battlefield, but rather waiting back in a protected area to tend to the wounded.
In addition to the re-enactments, other activities included a troop inspection by Washington himself and military drill, an 18th-century military mapmaking and surveying demonstration, presentation on medicine of the Revolution and meeting with General Washington.
Mount Vernon Estate representative Kathryn Priebe said the weekend brought in more than 13,000 visitors, despite especially soggy conditions Saturday, which canceled the battle re-enactment that morning.
For more information on future events coming up at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, visit www.mountvernon.org.