CHANNAHON – Visitors who came to the Dollinger Family Farm this weekend could take a stroll through the American Revolutionary War period and experience it firsthand.
At the farm Saturday, visitors met with soldiers of Continental and British armies who were camped there, as well as civilians and some famed figures such as Benjamin Franklin.
The Dollinger Family Farm hosted a re-enactment by the North West Territory Alliance that brought to life the history of the U.S. war of independence from British rule.
“Everyone that’s here spent years researching the unit they portrayed,” said Shelby Hauck, who portrayed a member of the First Regiment of Light Dragoons, which was part of the Continental Army.
“For some people, it’s a specific person they portray. All the clothes and gear we have has been documented,” Hauck said.
Activities held throughout the day for visitors included a load-and-fire competition, a battle sequence, artillery demonstration, civilian fashion show and uniform parade.
Visitors could walk to different camps that were part of the re-enactment and ask questions to learn about life during the Revolutionary War and see the clothes and tools that were used.
“You get to come here and you get to smell it, see it and touch it,” Hauck said. “Instead of just reading about it, we can let you hold a gun or touch a uniform.”
An underlying theme of the event was espionage, Hauck said. Two people played spies for the British to help them launch a surprise attack, and they were to walk around the camps having secret conversations and passing each other notes, he said.
Ian Baker, who portrayed a British light infantryman with the 52nd Regiment of Foot, said every unit in the British Army had its own traditions. The soldiers were part of a numbered military system but related to each other by the communities they came from, he said.
“It makes re-enacting British rather tough. … [In] the British Army, every regiment had a different set of stuff – like down to the regimental buttons that have our number on them,” Baker said.
Baker was at one of the campsites for the British Army at the farm. Nearby were British soldiers wearing typical line infantry uniforms. He said light infantrymen – tasked with reconnaissance, scouting and skirmishing – were dressed more practically.
“We were supposed to move quickly and light. As a result, we’re uniformed and equipped a little more practically than the regular British line,” Baker said.
Another British Army unit present at the farm was the 84th Regiment of Foot. The soldiers from that unit wore kilts and belted plaids.
Hauck said some of his favorite people who are part of the re-enactment to talk to are those portraying the Tories, or Loyalists. They were American colonists who were loyal to the British.
“Sometimes it’s hard to think, ‘Why would people in America fight for the British?’ but their argument is very convincing,” he said.
The units of the Continental and British armies did battle Saturday that, to the dismay of some in the crowd, ended with a British victory. Loud musket fire rang out between the soldiers at an open field near the farm.
Several hours before the battle, a crowd watched several British soldiers and one Continental marine soldier engage in a load-and-fire competition using muskets.
“During the Revolutionary War, a very good – a proficient solider – could fire four rounds in a minute,” one of the re-enactors said.
Noreen Dollinger, one of the owners of Dollinger Family Farm, said the weekend was another great opportunity for the farm to provide history to visitors.
“We love our farm and we enjoy having people to share its beauty with,” she said.