The First Reenactment?
(From the March, 1999 issue of The Culpeper Gazette, Vol. 4, No. 4, and used with permission of editor Gary Liming)

The following is an excerpt from an article that appeared in the February 20, 1799 Pennsylvania Gazette. Perhaps this is the first known reenactment of the American Revolution?!

Pennsylvania Gazette
Alexandria, February 11.

WASHINGTON’S BIRTHDAY. This day, so justly dear to all true Americans, was celebrated in this town in a style heretofore unprecedented. The editor regrets that he does not possess talents to describe the proceedings in the manner which they deserve. The public will, however, pass by any defects in style; and do him the justice to believe that, did he possess the chaste language of Addison, combined with the creative imagination of a Shakespeare, he would feel himself honoured and happy in using them on this occasion.

Aurora rose with more than common splendor, as if wishing to assist in the tribute of respect paid to our hoary Chief. She was ushered in by a discharge from the Alexandria artillery, and a federal salute from the armed schooner Neptune, under the command of Abel Willis. About ten o’clock the following corps met in the Courthouse square, under the respective commanders, whose names are attached to them;

George Deneale, esquire, being the officer of the day, and Mr. John Winterbury,
Alexandria artillery, Captain W. Harper.
1st company of militia, Ens R. Stewart,
2d do. do. Captain Charles Turner.
3d do. do. Captain J. Muncaister.
4th do. do. Captain Thomas Rogerson.
Silver Greys. Lieut. P. Maristeller.
Alexandria Blues. Lieut. G. Chapin.
Riflemen, Captain Alexander Smith.

After going through the manual exercise, &c. at 11 o’clock the line was formed in Fairfax-street, where they were joined by the following troops or horse, who had escorted the General into town.

Alexandria Dragoons, Captain R. Young.
Fairfax do. Captain John Simpson.
Volunteer do. Captain John Fitzgerald.

Shortly after the General came into town he passed the line in review accompanied by several gentlemen. Agreeable to arrangements previously made, three companies of infantry were embarked on board the Neptune, the Trial and Mercury, in order to act as an invading enemy. The remaining troops marched to the Mall, when the riflemen and a detachment of artillery were dispatched to protect the fort and act against the foe. When the Neptune came abreast of the fort, she received three rounds, which she returned, silenced the guns, and passed up the river in order to effect a landing—the riflemen in the mean time running along ashore endeavouring to pick the men off the shrouds, and the artillery keeping up a fire at her. When she came opposite to Keith’s wharf, the troops were landed on it, the Neptune covering the debarkation, where they were opposed by those on shore, and were eventually obliged to take to their boats. A landing was afterwards effected on Ramsay’s wharf, and the supposed enemy marched up King-street, in which street, at the intersection of Fairfax- street, they were again opposed; and a heavy and continued street-firing kept up; until by an excellent maneuver of the horse, who came upon their rear, they were obliged to surrender.

The editor does not conceive it necessary for him to praise the performances of the day. It is quite sufficient to say, that they met the entire approbation of the man whom they were intended to honour, who attended closely to every evolution; and when they were closed, presented his highest respects to all the parties engaged in them, and said that they had surpassed his expectations. The companies then adjourned to dinner. The Marine officers and several respectable citizens at Mr. Hilton’s—The Artillery company at Mr. Capt. Deneale’s. Capt. Turner’s, and Capt. Muncaster’s companies at Mr. M’Knight’s — Captain Young’s troop of Horse, and Capt. Rogerson’s company of Infantry. at Mr. Renoe’s, and the Silver Greys at Mr. George Rutter’s. The dinners and wines were such as did honour to the preparers, and were perfectly satisfactory to the guests. (A number of toasts were drank by each party on the occasion.)

The evening was concluded by a ball and supper, given at Mr. Gadsby’s, which was much superior to anything of the kind known here. The company was numerous and brilliant; and beauty of person and excellency of taste, in the ladies, seemed to view for a preference. The house was elegantly illuminated; and the ball-room was adorned with a transparent likeness of Gen. Washington, executed in a masterly style.

Thus have the citizens of Alexandria, in doing honour to their illustrious neighbour, done the highest honour to themselves, and proved tp the Union that their federalism and gratitude keep pace with each other.

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