Revolutionary War Days ‘way better’ than history lesson

SINKING VALLEY – On the Fort Roberdeau grounds on Saturday afternoon, three men pretended to be dead of gunshot wounds, victims of a battle that pitted revolutionary colonists against the loyalists. Fellow reenactors, meanwhile, kept shooting from the woods and through a field of tall grass shielding their locations.

There are no uniforms in this battle because this is a fight between neighbors and friends with different political views, reenactor Bob Emerson of Youngstown, N.Y., told the onlookers.

“They knew who was on what side,” he said. “But you wouldn’t know the difference by how they’re dressed.”

About 50 reenactors will be at Fort Roberdeau today to continue the storytelling that goes with the annual Revolutionary War Days event offering a glimpse of life and the skills needed to live in that era.

This has been “way better” than a history lesson, said Janelle Jung of State College who brought her children to the fort on Saturday. “I’m so glad we came today.”

Her son, Brandon, 14, had a chance to carry a musket-like weapon through the woods and pretend to be on a mission. Jung’s daughter, Brizhette, 11, pulled a piece of newly-spun wool from her pants pocket and said she liked watching a spinning demonstration.

“I think this is cool,” said 11-year-old Kelly Biddle of Altoona, a fifth grader at Ebner Elementary School who wore colonial duster bonnet purchased at the fort’s shop. “This is my first time here and I’m interested in the Revolutionary War because I just learned about it in school.”

Carol and Steve Barker said they traveled to the event from Madisonburg in eastern Centre County.

“I really liked the realism of this event,” Barker said. “The battle was good, and the craft demonstrators, they were good too.”

Barker stopped on his way out of the park to thank fort Director Glenn Nelson for organizing the event.

Nelson said the event, the second since he took the leadership role at the fort, drew about 150 patrons by the time the 3 p.m. battle started.

“I think this year’s event is better than last year’s because of the roving program we have,” Nelson said. “And our goal is to keep getting better.”

Saturday’s program included militia training for eight youngsters who volunteered to participate. Under Emerson’s leadership, six boys and two girls learned the steps for loading and firing a musket. But without ammo, they also had to yell “Boom” when Emerson ordered them to fire.

The reenactors, however, including the Fort McIntosh Garrison from Beaver County, had their own type of ammo that created its own boom and the smell and smoke of gunfire. They also had a cartridge – not a cannonball – that created a louder boom when they fired Fort Roberdeau’s canon.

“That’s how we let the neighbors know that we’re having an event here,” Emerson told those watching the weapons demonstration.

Similar demonstrations will be held during this afternoon’s activities starting at 1 p.m., with another battle scheduled at 3 p.m. The fort opens at 10 a.m., allowing time for a tour of the cabins that offer displays and volunteers willing to share their knowledge.

“Today, it may seem kind of senseless to march around in straight lines,” Emerson said while instructing a regiment in military training. “…But those soldiers had to make the most of the technology available at that time. For them, it was best to bunched together when firing their weapons.”

“That way, they could be like a giant machine gun,” he said.

Mirror Staff Writer Kay Stephens is at 946-7456.