Re-enactment of an American War of Independence skirmish in Haddonfield New Jersey
01.06.2013 32 °C
As noted when I visited the site of the Battle of Gettysburg, military re-enactment has become a very popular pastime in the USA with an estimated 50,000 participants nationwide. The most popular historical period with re-enactors is the American Civil War although there is also a strong following for the American War of Independence. With the 225th anniversary of the Battle of Monmouth which happened on the 28th June 1778 coming up we learnt that a re-enactment of one of its preliminary skirmishes was due to take place in the nearby town of Haddonfield and decided to go and watch on the way back from our visit to the USS New Jersey.
The muster point for the re-enactment was the Indian King Tavern on the Kings Highway, the main street that runs through the centre of Haddonfield. Built in 1750, this historic building was where in 1777 the New Jersey General Assembly ratified the American Declaration of Independence. After being barked at by their officers (much to the amusement of watching bystanders), the first contingent of re-enactors to march off from the Tavern were 15 red-coated British Loyalists to their start point for the coming battle further into town.
This left the Indian Kings Tavern in the hands of the largely blue-coated New Jersey Volunteers representing the "home team" who then formed up by the Tavern themselves and posted guards outside a number of shops down the street. With the streets cleared, traffic stopped and spectators gathered on the opposite side of the street the blue-coated New Jersey Volunteers created their battle line outside the Tavern and advanced down towards the red-coated British skirmishers who had begun to appear at the bottom of the street - it was about to get very noisy!
Having stopped half way down the street, the New Jersey Volunteers took aim and fired at the British, battle had commenced! The crowd was enjoying it and the banter amongst the crowd was almost as entertaining as the spectacle itself. The billing in the local press said it was "highly probable that the British will drive the Continentals out of town before celebrating in the wine cellar of the Indian King Tavern" which set the jovial mood and made it sound like the British might actually win this one!
The two sides then took turns loading, aiming and firing their muskets that would go off with a deafening crack that would make you jump even if you were expecting it and was then followed by so much smoke it obscured the view down the street until it had a chance to drift away. The whole thing was being recorded by a film crew just in front of where we were standing, I guess there was a very good chance our skirmish was going to be on the local evening news.
Slowly but surely the bluecoated New Jersey Volunteers were pushed back up the street although the first re-enactors to fall down and play dead were British redcoats - prompting cheers and chants of "Team USA" which was really funny. However as the New Jersey Volunteers retreated suddenly there was a lot of them lying down dead - which prompted equally amusing boos from the obviously very partisan crowd!
With the New Jersey Volunteers having now retreated beyond the Indian King Tavern itself, the shooting stopped and the British Officer advanced to meet his American counterpart who theatrically offered him his sword in surrender before turning round and announcing to his remaining troops "Men... you lost!", which again prompted a chortle amongst the crowd.
It had been a fun early afternoon with a strong sense of community, the actual engagement through the centre of picturesque Haddonfield only lasting about half an hour before the police were able to re-open the road again.