We wandered through living history when we visited a reenactment of the Old Fort #4’s Geoff Militia Saturday afternoon in Peshtigo.
I imagine the original New Hampshire settlers would be both astonished and impressed to see themselves so well represented 268 years after their pivotal year at the start of the French and Indian War.
I know I was.
On a cold, drizzly morning two days into their encampment, the group greeted us cheerfully as they moved efficiently through their daily chores.
A man working a handloom in one tent earned his spending money by making and selling colorful belts and sashes, another manned the community kettle.
From his canvas wedge tent, another artist displayed his handcrafted knives, powder horns and sheaths.
“How long does it take you to make one?” I asked.
“A lifetime,” he said, and explained that he started carving when he was 14-years old and has been developing his craft ever since.
My visit to the reenactment inspired me to research Old Fort #4 (as all good reenactments do). I learned that we can trace the troubling history of European expansion through that fort, the northernmost point of the English settlements at the time.
I found this description particularly interesting:
The year 1754 marks the start of the French and Indian War when warfare erupted between rival powers France and England for the fourth and final time in North America. 1754 also marks renewed hostilities for the residents of No. 4 and Charlestown, as in that year Abenaki Indians captured the Johnson family. Their trials and tribulations in their march to Canada, captivity and redemption mirrors other captivity narratives that were commonly published in that era. The Johnson story is instructive, revealing not only this peril of frontier life, but also the economic factor captives played in the French and Indian economies. In August of 1754 with the threat of conflict looming, the Johnsons were preparing to leave for the safety of Northfield, Massachusetts. Mr. James Johnson had just returned from Connecticut and had heard the news that war was expected. Mrs. Susanna Johnson was in the final days of pregnancy, yet she began making plans for their move. However, on August 30th Mr. and Mrs. Johnson, Sylvanus, age 6, Susanna, age 4, Polly, age 2, Mrs. Johnson’s sister Miriam Willard, age 14 and two neighbors, Peter Larabee and Ebenezer Farnsworth were captured. Their journey in which they all survived is chronicled in A Narrative of the Captivity of Mrs. Johnson (Heritage Books, Inc., 1990). Mrs. Johnson’s tale surprises readers with its description of humane treatment, especially after the birth of her daughter, one day into captivity.
I ordered the book and I’m looking forward to reading it, among others. (Our recent trip to Canada also inspired me and my mom to take on “Evangeline”, the epic poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow that traces the expulsion of the Acadians from Nova Scotia.)
Thank you to the reenactors, for inspiring me and so many other visitors to their camp to take a walk through and a good, honest look at our history.