June 24, 2005
The right password is your key as the British invade CW's Historic Area June 24-26
Pssst...What’s the password? Don’t know? Find out during Colonial Williamsburg’s “Under the Red Coat” weekend June 24-26. That’s when hundreds of re-enactors from across the country will invade the Historic Area to portray the 18th-century occupation of Williamsburg by troops under the command of Gen. Lord Cornwallis. That occupation created hardship and loss of liberties for the town’s residents during the summer of 1781 with the imposition of martial law. Only those with the password were free to move about the town.
Guests attending this special weekend are invited to connect with their inner 18th-century selves beginning at noon Friday as the 17th Light Dragoons, accompanied by a patrol of light infantry, enter the Historic Area near the Capitol. After removing the Continental flag from the Capitol and replacing it with the British Flag, the patrol proceeds to Market Square and secures the area for an encampment of the occupation troops. What more could happen?
The patrol is reinforced as additional British army units converge on the town throughout that Friday afternoon leading to the declaration of Martial law at 5 p.m. The townspeople now will learn the terms of the occupation and its implications, including the loss of their personal freedom.
Throughout the weekend Colonial Williamsburg’s guests are encouraged to experience and participate in the occupation by visiting the British encampment, asking questions and getting to hear the thoughts and motivations of the soldiers and their commanding officers as Cornwallis plans a trap near Williamsburg for the advancing Continental Army units led by the Marquis de Lafayette of France.
While Cornwallis prepares his battle plan, his troops drill and pursue various activities in camp throughout the weekend such as patrolling the streets, keeping the patriot citizenry in line, performing military drills and other duties. Gun crews practice with an assortment of artillery batteries, while surgeons care for the wounded in a military field hospital.
From 10 a.m. to noon Saturday, June 25 see how women supported the invasion of Williamsburg in “Following the Army” taking place at Market Square in the Historic Area. Guests will discover that the women’s support -- such as nursing, teaching, mending, sewing and, yes, even cooking for the officers -- was an intricate part of the British Occupation.
The re-enactment draws to a close late Sunday afternoon as Cornwallis marches his troops out of the city to meet Continental Army forces on the field of battle.
Lorraine C. Brooks