Marching Orders at the Fort
When you were a kid, have you ever waited for something really good, like Christmas? You started the countdown a month or so before the time, the anticipation mounting to fever pitch, and you could barely hold it in the day before, counting down hour by hour? Then Christmas came- and…. Well if you were disappointed at Christmas, this was not the end senario here. If you went through the day and said, “Hey, Pa, this is the BEST Christmas I’ve ever had”, then you may have experienced something similar on May 21 and 22.
I’ve never seen so many participants; people had come from up and down the east coast all week long and by Thursday there was a village. Friday was Colonial Kid Day and area school children stopped at various stations around the camp and participated in things like Retha and Ken’s 18th century games, Col. McCroskey’s weaponry and other stops held by Chris Taylor, Chad Bogart, Randy and Sterling Curde. When I asked Chad about numbers, he said there were 175 participants baking in the sun on Saturday and Sunday and he estimated that there was 3000 people who came and experienced the terror and courageous behavior of the men, women and children who were holed up at Fort Watauga a few hundred years ago. What I can tell you was that the fields surrounding the fort were as full as I’ve ever seen them. Native camp, long hunter, Brit and Primitive were almost to capacity- but there is always room for more!
The event is a live retelling of the Cherokee attack on the settlers of the Watauga valley in the summer of 1776. At Sycamore Shoals, Fort Watauga offered protection to nearly 200 settlers during the two-week siege led by Cherokee War Chief Old Abram and 300 warriors.
The weather both days was clear which was a miracle considering all the storms surrounding us. It was busy Saturday. Colors were hoisted on Saturday and the pioneer camp was bustling with activity. There was brisk business on the blankets and the sutlers seemed very happy. People were doing all kinds of things at camp from baking to making, to socializing. Come Seige time, though, it was all business. The men were inspected, plans were formed and everyone, from Natives to Tories and Brits to militia and support were ready to roll.
Marina checking out frontier camp
The battle was unbelievable. Jason gave the public the background information and when the girls and ladies berrypicked, all heck broke loose. It was pretty cool firing from the ladder and one could see movement everywhere. It was hair raising to hear the screams of men , women and children, the blasts of musket fire, natives trilling, yelling of men, bone chilling sounds of battle. It was easy to get into the moment. When resurrection time came, every participant and a number of public said it was a realistic and well done battle. If you don’t think it was realistic, one of the youngsters in the crowd was visibly concerned about the boy who was torched. After the battle a gentleman came up to me and asked where the young man was who was set on fire. I pointed Sterling out and the granddad said his grandson wanted to see him. The grandad had a deuce of a time convincing his 5 year old that Sterling was alive and this was all play acting. At 3 PM, Major Bogart hosted the annual Colonial Auction and a record $1500 was raised for funding of militia activities. There was a firemaking contest soon after as well. I wish they had made the fire in my camp instead of out in the middle of the fort. I could have used the fire to fry the eggs Adam’s chickens were laying in the chicken coop he and Sterling built on Friday. That was a neat realistic touch to the ambience of the fort.
In the cool of the evening, all the reenactors assembled at the visitors center for a delicious B-B-Q dinner. It was really nice to see how everyone “played nice together”and there was a lot of laughter as awards were presented and birthdays and anniversaries were named. Later on, there were kids contests, notably the firewood stacking contest. I can say with certainty that by the time the kids were finished competing, they probably fell over on their beds and the parents could jollify without worry.
Sunday was a reprise of Saturday but hotter. Colors went up at 10 and by 11 am there was quite a crowd at the frontier worship service. We had the honor of having the service conducted by Harry Jordan who gave a wonderful sermon. When it came time for the seige, I think it may have been even better than on Saturday. After there was a well attended tomahawk contest and Mike Coon conducted the first ever primitive archery class and practice. I think he may have created a monster :o)
Altogether, this was the best attended event ever hosted at the historical site and I can’t help but think that Randy Curde may be responsible in a major way by continually talking the event up on Facebook and at all the events he’s been to. It was an excellent time, did not disappoint and the worst of it was that it was over too quickly.
I’ll be posting an album of photos on Webshots soon as I gather pictures from Randy, Ronnie and Sharli so watch for it. Pics taken here were taken by Cindy Clark. Thank you.