Historic Deerfield holds Patriots’ Day muster

  • Nathan Hale's Ancient Fifes and Drums re-enact and play the music of a Revolutionary War era foot regiment during Historic Deerfield's Patriots' Day Muster on April 14. —Recorder Staff/David McLellan

  • Stephen Smithers demonstrates silversmithing at Historic Deerfield's 2018 Patriots' Day Muster. —Recorder Staff/David McLellan

Recorder Staff
Published: 4/14/2018 7:18:39 PM

DEERFIELD — With the rattling of drums, blasting of cannons and clicking of horses’ hooves, Historic Deerfield traveled back in time to celebrate the United States’ earliest days.

The annual Patriots’ Day Revolutionary Muster took place Saturday, and drew hundreds of people to the outdoor museum known as Historic Deerfield, a collection of preserved buildings built in the 18th and 19th centuries.

In celebration of the anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord, and marking Historic Deerfield’s opening day for the season, various re-enactments of Revolutionary War era activities were offered.

An exciting scene was the colonial encampment, with men and women dressed in the garb of America’s early militias and armed forces. They fired muskets, played fifes and drums and started the day off with a reveille.

“These musters were necessary for keeping military skills honed for the moment they were needed,” Patti Wilson told the crowd.

Wilson, the business manager for the Nathan Hale Ancient Fifes and Drums, addressed the crowd in a white 18th century military uniform and a black tricorne on her head.

The Nathan Hale Ancient Fifes and Drums, of Coventry, Connecticut, are a group that re-enacts a period regiment of foot soldiers that played patriotic music.

“The musters were also festive, family events,” said Wilson, explaining that the families of local soldiers or minutemen would be just as eager to hear the latest news of the revolution.

The group played famous songs from the era that have since come to symbolize liberty, including “Yankee Doodle.”

“Americans would take British songs and add their own lyrics and meaning,” Wilson said.

Indeed, “Yankee Doodle” originally was sung by the British army as an insult to the colonists, whom they called “country bumpkins,” Wilson said.

Also at the encampment, Knowlton’s Connecticut Rangers and Buckland’s Artillery held a “day of training” and fired muskets and cannons, filling the air with thick white smoke.

Throughout the day, horse-drawn wagons teeming with smiling families toured the centuries-old village. Other activities included demonstrations of gunsmithing, silversmithing, powder horn crafting and open-hearth cooking.

Stephen Smithers, of Ashfield, offered the silversmithing demonstration, and worked on creating replicas of silver artifacts from throughout American history.

In 1814, for example, William Henry Harrison, then a U.S. Army general, offered three silver peace pipes to three different Native American tribes following the War of 1812.

“Some of the native tribes supported the Americans, some supported the British,” said Smithers, explaining that the peace pipes were gifts of gratitude.

Smithers hammered away at a piece of silver, which was to become the bowl of the replica of one of those pipes, given to the Seneca Indians.

“This is a really small piece and I’m really focusing right there,” Smithers said with concentration, shaping the piece of metal with hard, yet exact, strokes.

Peter King, museum educator, gave a powder horn crafting demonstration. A powder horn was a horn, usually from a bull or an ox, shaped into a container for gunpowder. King also demonstrated scrimshaw on the horn, depicting scenes of colonial era ships.

He also explained the usefulness of horns as materials; the tapered shape of the horn meant a tip could be cut to make a smaller container, or for a “shot of rum,” King said.

“This material is maleable,” King said. “When you heat it, you can shape it.”

At the center of the small village, people gathered at the Liberty Pole. They cheered when a messenger shared the news that the Revolutionary War had begun, the re-enactment coming 243 years since the shot heard around the world.

Reach David McLellan at dmclellan@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 268.


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