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":


Flavia said...

My friends were at a reenactment just down the road in Arlington, where their kids set up a lemonade stand cannily named "The Paul Revere Lemonade Company."

Front lines of capitalism, I tell ya.

Sigivald said...

And it's not like they have anything better to do at dawn!

Except sleep.

That's a lot better than getting up hours before dawn to see it in person, when you can watch it on video.

(I say this, by the way, as someone who does historical re-creation, though not re-enactment.)

Miss Self-Important said...

Flavia: Was there an actual battle in Arlington?

Sigivald: Explain this to concert-goers and theater patrons.

Flavia said...

I believe it was a reenactment of the Revere/Dawes ride, but I don't know. I just saw the word "reenactment" in the caption to the photo of the lemonade stand.

But I'd totally get up at 4 a.m. to see the battle, once--and I'm someone who grumbles when she has to get up before 10 a.m. most days.

Sigivald said...

MSI: Neither of them have to get up before 6 to go to a concert or the theater.

I suspect that if they did, there'd be less attendance; there's a reason that theater and live musical performances aren't normally at dawn, right?

Absolutely, live is better than recorded for any number of things.

But "not waking up before dawn" is pretty powerful for most people.

Anonymous said...

This weekend we had a reenactment of a civil war surrender in Durham, NC. Local press showed a photo of the two generals sitting at table enacting the surrender.

The reenactment you went to sounds much, much better.

Miss Self-Important said...

Yes, though that sounds like a re-enactment I would like to DO, if, again, I could wear pretty dresses.