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Pvt. Michael Scott, a volunteer with Historic Fort Wayne, and Coleen Smart, acting as his wife, show how soldiers braved the hazards of winters during the Revolutionary War.

Long winter at the Fort

Revolutionary War re-enactors hope to change how we see history

Photos by Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Pvt. Ashton Doctor guards the entrance of Historic Fort Wayne from the British in the Revolutionary War on Sunday during a re-enactment of Living History: A Winter Garrison.
Michelle Davies | The Journal Gazette
Terry Sorchy as Corporal for the 4th Connecticut Regiment reads a drill manual Sunday to ensure maneuvers of the company for a Living History: A Winter Garrison re-enactment at the Fort are precise.

The timing was a coincidence.

Dean Rapp of Fort Wayne and Terry Sorchy of Brodhead, Wis., didn’t plan to host a Winter Garrison re-enactment at Historic Fort Wayne just in time for Presidents’ Day because to them, George Washington is still alive.

They reported to the Fort on Sunday as members of the 4th Connecticut Regiment and talked about history with the clarity and enthusiasm you might use to discuss last summer’s vacation.

But history wasn’t a vacation or tidy story, Sorchy said, and the men we read about in history books weren’t the stiff characters our modern society makes them out to be either. Instead, men like Washington were human beings with decisions and doubts, fears and flaws, and this weekend, the re-enactors came to set the record straight.

“We focus on educating people about the real history and not what’s taught in school,” Rapp said. “We’re able to show you what life was really like.”

This weekend’s re-enactment wasn’t about a battle during the Revolutionary War. It was about life between the battles, in the wintertime when the troops ran drills, stored food and supplies, cleaned muskets and, of course, stood guard against surprise attacks.

But even without besieging armies, life was hard for American troops in the winters of the Revolutionary War. Many suffered from diseases such as smallpox and were half-naked and starving, Sorchy said.

“School curriculums want to be kind to history,” he said. “But it wasn’t always pretty.” That’s why Rapp was excited to see 30 or 40 people, including many kids, visit the living history re-enactment to learn more about what actually happened to help America gain its independence.

“We try to dispel the rumors that the continental army was the good guys and the British army was the bad guys,” Sorchy said. “It wasn’t always good guys against the bad guys.”