Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Things more people should do: historical battle re-enactments

The American Government class I'm TAing this semester was cancelled for Patriot's Day this Monday, which is an extremely important national holiday, FYI, although it is aggressively celebrated only in New England. So, given this reprieve from work, I convinced a friend with a car that we cannot rightfully leave New England before seeing a Revolutionary War re-enactment. So we set out at 4 AM for the re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington, held annually at the crack of dawn on Patriot's Day. I had also encouraged all my students to attend this event the previous week since Lexington is not far from Cambridge--biking distance, really--and the American Revolution is obviously relevant to the subject of American Government, but none of them seemed to be interested when I mentioned the start time. I do not understand this. I mean, it's the shot heard 'round the world! And it's not like they have anything better to do at dawn! Well, they were unpersuaded.

But the re-enactment was actually pretty great, although we were evidently not the target audience for the event. We waited for two hours in the dark as a growing horde of seven year-olds surrounded us with various height-enhancing equipment like milk crates and step-ladders to elevate their midget selves above me. Then the battle was re-enacted, and that was actually a surprisingly good production. The re-enactors claim that they do this as an annual memorial to the Lexington dead, but this seems like a strange motivation, or at least one that would lead them to memorialize--and so re-enact--more recent battle deaths than those from the Revolutionary War. (Well, I guess who knows if these people aren't also re-enacting Iwo Jima in their free time?) Incidentally, how can I become a re-enactor? It looks like the women just have to stand around in bonnets and pretty dresses looking concerned, which I think I am highly qualified to do.

I offer this extremely amateurish video to tempt you into future support for your local historical battle re-enactment circuit. In it, you will see the puzzling sight of kids in period costume standing behind a tree five feet from supposed gunfire, as well as a soldier being "bayoneted":