Dude the barricades! Actors will re-enact the Battle of Ridgefield
RIDGEFIELD, CT —For most people, organizing and playing four for golf is more than enough leisure logistics for a weekend.
But for Doug Crawford, commander of the 5th Connecticut Regiment, a group of military historical re-enactors who will recreate the Battle of Ridgefield in late April, a weekend better spent involves artillery and flanking maneuvers.
Crawford, a resident of Tolland, will lead the re-enactment of the famous fight as part of the weekend celebration of the 245th anniversary of the battle. He told Patch that he had been bitten by the living history bug in 2015, after visiting Sturbridge Old Village with his son.
Maps, military uniforms, explosions, powdered wigs… seriously, what’s not to love?
The hobby can be expensive, if you let it. High-end gear, such as an entirely hand-sewn uniform, will cost the re-enactor several thousand dollars. Most weekend warriors will equip themselves with ready-made uniforms and gear available on specialized websites.
“But if you like it, it’s no different from golf,” Crawford said. “You start with a starter set and then go out and buy a premium set.”
Crawford said the regiment attends between 15 and 20 events a year. Their calendar of events is so full that they only have to train a few times a year at the start of the season. Simulated battles are a mix of paid and donated events. The paid gigs are necessary to offset some of the nonprofit group’s expenses, such as insurance and gunpowder.
As for the Battle of Ridgefield, Crawford described it as “street action”. The British had just destroyed a cache of Continental Army supplies at Danbury and were heading west.
“General (Benedict) Arnold and (Major General David) Wooster and (Brigadier General Gold Selleck) Silliman rounded up the militia and some regimental units that were still in the area and attempted to confront them,” explained Crawford. “Obviously being heavily outnumbered and the British being a professional army, it was very difficult for them. So we ended up attacking their flanks, and especially their rearguard, and harassed them to the shore .”
Military historians regard the Battle of Ridgefield as a tactical loss for colonial troops, but place it strategically in the “W” column.
“It was a win for us because it led to so much propaganda for the American side. It was a call to action, especially in Connecticut,” Crawford explained.
The Redcoats outnumbered our boys by about three to one in that first battle, but don’t expect to see a wave of crimson sweep down Main Street in April 2022 like it did in April 1777.
“Unfortunately there aren’t as many British re-enactors because everyone wants to be ‘the good guy’.” Crawford said the 5th Connecticut “will try to fight the battle as authentically as possible with the numbers we have,” but anticipates that special reenactment choreography will be required to make the larger Continental Army players appear as the outsiders that they were.
Some of the smoke and mirrors will involve barricades, props new to the regiment. Colonial forces erected three separate sets of barricades to thwart the British advance through the city. The scheme was ambitious, but ultimately did not work. Crawford instructed his craftsmen to create “breakthrough” barricades for the re-enactment, to help the British escape.
For the celebration of the battle in the city, the tasks of military re-enactors will be not only bayonets and musket balls. The day after their replay of the battle, The 5th Connecticut Regiment will be joined by The American Revolutionary Brigade to lead a funeral procession and ceremony for Revolutionary War soldiers found in Ridgefield in 2019.
Researchers believe the skeletal remains, discovered following construction work in a basement in Ridgefield, had been colonial fighters during the original dust.
“We will parade hundreds of re-enactors down the street, a funeral procession with wagons carrying the wooden coffins containing the skeletal remains of Revolutionary War soldiers, and we will bury them in this old cemetery with pomp and circumstance. “, said Crawford. “It will be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see something like this.”
Check the Ridgefield Historical Society website for the complete program of the 245th anniversary of the events of the Battle of Ridgefield.