Behind the Lines with a Revolutionary War Reenactor

Marshall Smith has been a reenactor with the First Virginia Regiment for decades. He answered a few questions about his experiences:

Who do you portray?

I am an infantry officer, a captain in the First Virginia Regiment.

How did you get involved with reenacting?

I came across a magazine in the early 1980s called Living History. They had an article about re-enacting in the Revolutionary War period and focused on an event at the Yorktown Victory Center. I called them and obtained information on the First Virginia Regiment (1VA). The commander of the unit at that time lived about close to where I did and so I went over to see him. So of course I joined the 1VA. I like to focus my time and energy on one organization. I find that it is a more efficient use of my time in the re-enactment world. The 1VA is a great organization, has a long and excellent reputation in the re-enactment community, and its hub is in Northern Virginia where I live.

What does reenacting entail?

Coming into the organization I had experience with modern weapons, but I had no familiarity with flintlock weapons or the reproduction military weapons of the period, such as the second model British musket known as the Brown Bess or the French Charleville. I also didn’t know about the period dress and military clothing, the exercises or manual of arms, or the marching and drilling of the period. Most, if not all Revolutionary War military reenactors have to learn how to handle a period weapon safely. It is for the reenactor’s safety, as well as the public that we hope to entertain as well as educate. All reenactment units have the responsibility to train and educate their news members on these points.

It is also the responsibility of the new reenactors to practice what they are taught and research and educate themselves further. Many reenactors develop related interests in the period. I have become a pretty good tailor of period clothing, specifically clothes from the last quarter of the 18th century. I made the military clothing that I wear on the field with exception of my hat, stockings and shoes. I have done a few workshops for interested members of the 1VA—I’m of the opinion that historically accurate and correctly fitted clothing makes a good reenactor, just as the correct costume helps actors discover and play their characters.

The 1VA may perform at 12-15 events a year. Many events are in Virginia and most within 3 hours of Northern Virginia. The regiment may participate at one or two national opposing forces events annually. The national events are usually supported by our umbrella member organizations, the Continental Line and the British Brigade.

Watch Marshall Smith Describe the Encampment at MOunt Vernon

What to like about Revolutionary War weekend at Mount Vernon?

First off, I always like visiting Mount Vernon and have been quite fond of visiting since I first moved to Northern Virginia in 1960. I brought my own young family to Mount Vernon in 1983, as well as a few years later when they reenacted with me. You can see there has been a great fondness between the historical site and myself and the deep respect that I developed for the good General and his contributions to our country. It’s a real cherry on top that I can participate here and engage the public during Revolutionary War Weekend. I reenact the Revolutionary War because of my interest in our early colonial history leading up to and through the war and the creation of our country. Being able to engage folks at Mount Vernon from our country, as well as citizens of other countries, gives me a chance to educate folks on my favorite subject and it is a treat to do so at this event.

Watch the First Virginia Regiment in action during Revolutionary War Weekend!

May 5 & 6

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