FAIRHAVEN, MA– In September 1778, during the Revolutionary War, about 4,000 British soldiers who were landed from 36 transport ships attacked the four villages situated on the Acushnet River. During the raid houses, ships and business places in New Bedford, Acushnet and Fairhaven were ransacked and burned. The fort at Nolscot Point in Fairhaven, now called Fort Phoenix, was destroyed by British troops. It took years for the local waterfront industries to recover from the raid.
On Saturday and Sunday, September 17 and 18, 2011, members of the Fairhaven Village Militia and will once again remember the British attack during a weekend encampment at Fort Phoenix. Men, women and children dressed in period clothing will reenact life in 1778 and talk about the history of the fort. They will also be demonstrating campfire cooking, musket ball casting, military drilling, loading and firing flintlock muskets and rifles, spinning, weaving,18th-century dentistry and medicine, cannon firing and more. Visitors may try their hand at tomahawk throwing and children’s games of the period.
The highlight of the weekend will be the firing of the fort’s five cannons, scheduled for dusk, about 6:30 p.m., on Saturday. When fired near sundown, the cannons’ plumes of flames and smoke make a spectacular sight.
Prior to the Saturday evening cannon firing, there will be a musical performance of colonial and traditional songs by the Buzzards Bay Bucaneers.
The Fairhaven Village Militia, which is sponsoring the event along with the Fairhaven Office of Tourism, is made up of members who are interested in local history of the Revolutionary War period. They hold historical encampments in Fairhaven and nearby communities and host educational programs. The group’s commander, Ellsworth Sylvaria Jr., is a descendant of Bartholomew West, whose home was burned by the British in 1778. The group includes individuals and families from Fairhaven and surrounding communities.
“We have been holding September encampments at Fort Phoenix since 2003″ says Tourism Director Christopher Richard. “Since we started programs at the fort, thousands of people, including hundreds of school children, cruise ship passengers, visitors and local residents have visited us at Fort Phoenix. They find our presentations are both educational and entertaining. The militia has also taken part in events at Fort Taber in New Bedford, has camped in Mattapoisett, participated in Dartmouth Day at Alderbrook Farm and participated in Acushnet’s 2010 sesquicentennial events.
“At the encampment, the group is depicting camp life during the Revolutionary War period. There will be regular demonstrations of musket firing, but there will be no large-scale battle re-enactments.”
Both the cannon firing and the overnight encampment will be cancelled in the event of rain. Weather permitting, the militia will be at the fort from 9:00 a.m. Saturday until about 3:00 p.m. Sunday.
For more information, call the Office of Tourism at 508-979-4085 or email FairhavenTours@aol.com.