Bob Bearor, dressed as a French colonial officer of the French and Indian War, and his wife, Holly, walk an Indian trail outside Ticonderoga, N.Y., that was used during the war in this photo taken Feb. 13, 2003. Visitors to the Fort Necessity encampment in Fayette County next weekend may expect to see re-enactors in similar garb.
By Bob Batz Jr./Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
You’ve heard of living history. How about some shivering history?
A first-time “winter encampment” at Fort Necessity National Battlefield in Fayette County next weekend will give the public a chance to see soldiers from various eras battling the elements.
National Park Service staffers and volunteers will be dressed up and outfitted like troops going back to the French and Indian War, which started at this spot in 1754. Appropriate on this anniversary weekend of George Washington’s birth, some re-enactors will depict troops from Washington’s 1753 trip to Fort Le Boeuf (near Erie) and his famously wintry time at Valley Forge, while others will re-enact Civil War soldiers and World War II infantrymen who braved the Battle of the Bulge.
“The goal of the program is to offer something new (living history during the winter), get folks to visit parks during the slow season and bring about an understanding of the hardships our ancestors endured,” notes Brian Reedy, chief of interpretation and visitor services for both Fort Necessity and the nearby Friendship Hill National Historic Site. “Unlike baseball, war is not stopped due to rain, snow, cold or other conditions.”
PG map: Fort Necessity (Click image for larger version)
So, as the program description notes, dress appropriately to check out the encampment, which will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday (Feb. 13 and 14). Each scene will have a display of accouterments including firearms, camp equipment and basic personal effects used on winter campaigns, explains Mr. Reedy, who will be dressed in American Revolution period clothing so he can explain the American army during the Trenton-Princeton campaign.
He and the other re-enactors won’t actually be camping out overnight, says Mr. Reedy, who quips, “My wife likes me home before supper.”
Admission to the park — about an hour-and-a-half drive from Downtown Pittsburgh just off Route 40 in Farmington — is $5 for adults (and group passes are available) and free for those 15-and-under. For more information, call 724-329-5811 or visit nps.gov/fone.
That site lists nearby campgrounds, some of which are open in winter, if you want to try a winter encampment yourself.
If you’re into this kind of thing, there also will be a Colonial re-enactor winter encampment at Jennings Environmental Center in Butler County on Saturday, Feb. 20, as part of an event marking the 284th birthday of George Washington. His trip through that part of the region as a 21-year-old will be marked with history hikes, longer North Country Trail hikes and shorter nature walks and more, including cherry pie, from 8:45 a.m. to 2 p.m. that day.
The encampment, near the main building, will allow visitors “to see and touch the equipment travelers and soldiers used to survive the harsh wilderness that was Western Pennsylvania in 1753.”
The annual commemoration, merged this year with the annual Cherry Pie Hike, is sponsored by Jennings as well as Washington’s Trail 1753, Historic Harmony, the Butler Chapter of the North Country Trail Association, Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau and North Country Brewing. You should reserve your hike time by calling 724-452-7341. Learn more by clicking on events at www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/jennings.
Bob Batz Jr.: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1930 and on Twitter @bobbatzjr.
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