Three Cultures Encampment at Fort Necessity

Last weekend was the Three Cultures Encampment at Fort Necessity National Battlefield.  Like other parks, encampments are times when people come and stay at the park, dress funny, and do demonstrations for visitors.  The people doing the encampment have a great time.  We have a lot more visitors to the national park.  And those of us who are working feel like we are doing something worthwhile.  So an encampment is a win-win-win!

The Three Cultures Encampment highlighted the three cultures that met and fought in the Great Meadows.  At the Battle of Fort Necessity, the British provincial troops fought against the French and the Native Americans.  So we had people representing each of these three groups.  Working in the Visitors Center, I would tell visitors that so far, the three groups were each behaving themselves.  But you never know when someone will do something that will start a war.

To get into the Three Cultures Encampment, visitors had to give the password.  The password for the weekend was “Youghiogheny,” the name of the river that flows close by in Ohiopyle.  Always a fun word to watch people from out of town try to pronounce.  We warned people to pay attention to the password because a sentry would ask them for it.  They didn’t want to start an international incident!

We had about 20 living historians dressed in period clothing.  Two women and three men represented the Native Americans and they are a mix of tribes.  The two women are members of the Shawnee tribe and one of the men is Seneca.  I think the other two guys just like wearing loincloths but I didn’t have a chance to talk to them.  The Shawnee women had an elaborate fur trade setup with a large cooking area and we talked about the things they were making.

A handful of men were dressed as French-Canadian soldiers.  Several of the wives also came and dressed as camp followers.  There probably weren’t any women at Fort Necessity during the short time it was occupied, but people are more willing to participate in encampments if they can do it as a family.  The French forces were all dressed alike, so they looked good.

One group represented a company in George Washington’s Virginia Provincial regiment.  Because all the men had to provide their own clothing, they were dressed as poor colonial men.  They had a nice tarp, several canvas tents, and a woodworking station.  Ranger Brian always dresses as a member of the Provincial regiment and looks like a backwoodsman with holes in his clothes.

Tom dressed as a member of the South Carolina Independent Regiment, part of the “regular” British troops.  So he had the full uniform on.  No matter how hot it gets, Tom refuses to take off any part of the uniform when he is being a soldier.  Ranger Josh was dressed as a British artilleryman, so he would be more appropriate for the Braddock campaign.  Ranger Hillary dressed as a camp follower.

Tom firing the musket
Rangers Josh, Hillary, Brian, and Tom
Provincial troops
A discussion in the Visitors Center

The three rangers and Tom gave firing demonstrations three times a day during the Three Cultures Encampment.  About 75 people attended each of the demonstrations.  Ranger Brian talked about the difference between the rifle and the musket and then he and Tom would demonstrate the differences.  Tom never had to fire fast before, so it was a challenge for him.  Supposedly the British troops could fire a musket every twenty seconds while a rifle takes a minute to load.  The first day Tom fired three times a minute, but the second day he actually fired four times in minute.

After the musket and rifle part of the demonstration, all the rangers worked together to fire a little coehorn mortar.  The mortar looks tiny, but it gives off a very satisfying boom, especially when it echoes off the hills around the meadow.  The mortar is so small that you can’t see it in any of the pictures I took, so here is a picture I got from Google.

The Three Cultures Encampment was lots of fun for those of us who worked and those who visited.  We had 400 people each day and perfect weather.  The encampment went so well that the rangers are talking about having another one in September.