By Sue Moore
Why Vicksburg, Michigan for a Revolutionary War re-enactment? It was never the site of action in the eight years the war dragged on from 1775 through 1783. In fact, only the Indians held sway around here before this territory was settled.
“Living history is what re-enactors do best, and that’s a big reason the Vicksburg Historical Society felt we should sponsor the Battle of Sunset Lake,” society President Ted Vliek said recently. “It’s easy to forget how our government came into being in this era of colorful political rhetoric. By role-playing our nation’s call to arms, we can begin to understand the values our founding fathers were seeking when they decided to divest themselves of the King and the British Parliament.”
“The Historic Village green makes a perfect setting for illustrating the Redcoats’ march out of Boston to capture the suspected munitions storage in Concord, Massachusetts,” Vliek said. “The re-enactors will have British troops and members of the militia re-enacting the ‘shot heard round the world’ in Lexington, Mass. that was one of the sparks that set the kindling afire in April of 1775.”
Nobody knows which side fired that first shot, but within minutes, seven colonial men lay dead on the green as the redcoats proceeded to Concord to look for suspected munitions. There will be civilians role-playing the Lexington villagers, Vliek said. They will be stationed on the porches of the buildings in the Historic Village while the British solders attempt to ransack the buildings on the green.
Although there will be plenty of activity for visitors to enjoy at Vicksburg’s Recreation Park off Sprinkle Road, in the morning of Saturday, June 25, the activity at the Historic Village will take place at 3 p.m. on N. Richardson Street.
Following the re-enactment near the gazebo, all the buildings in the Historic Village will be open with docents to guide people through the many displays that illustrate life in these parts between 1890 and 1934 when rural electrification came to the community, Vliek pointed out. The buildings will be open and there will be special programming for the children. The re-enactors are eating a meal at 4 p.m. at the community pavilion, prepared by Vicksburg’s major church groups.
The parade from the Depot Museum to downtown Vicksburg begins at 5:30 p.m. Besides the anticipated 200-plus re-enactors, there will be hundreds of Boy Scouts marching with their flags waving in the wind, said scoutmaster Kevin Borden. The scouts are an integral part of this undertaking, since it was their April 2015 Camporee in the Historic Village that set the plans in motion for the Battle of Sunset Lake in 2016. Accompanying the re-enactors will be representatives of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Sons of the American Revolution, and Children of the American Revolution.
“Three re-enactors came to our 75th Anniversary Camporee,” Borden said. “The boys were intrigued with their uniforms, their muskets and their stories about camp life in the 18th century. We thought it would be a good idea to bring them back en masse. These three guys were friends of mine and did this as a favor. When it was clear that they were backed up by a much larger organization called the North West Territory Alliance, we asked that Vicksburg be included in their calendar of events for 2016.”
Two entertainment groups will highlight the weekend event. The River Run Colonials Fife and Drum Corps will head up the parade and also perform during the two days at the Rec Park. Father Son and Friends, a Celtic band well-known to re-enactors, will be the opening act at the Taste of Vicksburg at 6 p.m. in downtown Vicksburg where the parade will terminate. The Taste, sponsored by the Vicksburg Chamber of Commerce, runs from 4 to 11:30 p.m. on the main streets of the village, with the entertainment stage at the corner of Prairie and Main Streets.
This project is funded in part by the Michigan Humanities Council, an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. Any views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
It is also funded in part by the Vicksburg Foundation, the Irving S. Gilmore Foundation, the Vicksburg Rotary Club, the Vicksburg Lions Club, and interested individuals.
Host unit for NWTA is the 84th Regiment of Foot, 1st Bat., Royal Highland Emigrants.