Living-History Continental Army Encampment, Farm Amplify American Revolution Museum at Yorktown Gallery Experience
YORKTOWN, Va. – A vibrant outdoor living-history experience complements and enhances the storyline of the American Revolution Museum at Yorktown’s permanent gallery exhibits.
The Continental Army encampment, located just outside the museum building, is triple its previous size. Major new features of the encampment are a drill field for visitor-participatory tactical demonstrations and an amphitheater – appearing as a redoubt from the outside – to accommodate artillery presentations. With capacity for up to 250 people, the amphitheater features an array of artillery pieces representing the types of guns in use at the 1781 Siege of Yorktown and offers opportunities to learn hands-on how to operate an artillery piece and to observe its firing.
Representing two companies of American soldiers (one-quarter of a regiment), the encampment includes rows of soldiers’ tents, an office for an adjutant or secretary, two captains’ quarters and an earthen “kitchen” modeled after specifications in Baron von Steuben’s 1779 “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.” There are several regimental features – quarters for a colonel, surgeon and quartermaster – as well as makeshift dwellings to represent shelter for female relatives of soldiers who followed the army and earned wages for performing domestic chores. Visitors can explore the camp tents, witness demonstrations of musket-firing and surgical and medical techniques, and delve into the art of espionage.
Just beyond the encampment, the Revolution-era farm evokes the world of the 18th-century family of Edward Moss (c.1757-c. 1786), whose life is well-documented in York County, Virginia, records. Moss and his wife, Martha Garrow, had four children. Though not a landowner, he leased 200 acres from a wealthy cousin and at the time of his death owned six enslaved men, women and children. The story of Edward Moss and his family provides historical interpreters a frame of reference for talking about farm and domestic life as well as the lives of enslaved African Americans during the American Revolution period.
Visitors first arrive at the farmhouse, a 34- by 16-foot structure with weatherboard siding and white oak roof shakes and a brick chimney on each end. The house has two first-floor rooms, a hall and parlor, each with paned-glass windows, and a second floor for storage and sleeping. Front and back doors open into the hall. Close by, a separate 20- by 16-foot kitchen has log walls with sliding shutter windows, a brick chimney, and wood clapboard eaves and roof. Dozens of varieties of vegetables and herbs will be cultivated year-round in a nearby kitchen garden.
A distinctive new feature of the farm is a 12- by 10-foot building to represent quarters for enslaved people, adjacent to a swept yard and small garden. Like the kitchen, it is constructed of log walls and wood clapboard eaves and roof and equipped with a fireplace and stick and mud chimney as well as a storage pit common in this type of dwelling.
The farm will include a fruit tree orchard and a field for growing wheat, corn, tobacco, flax and cotton – crops Edward Moss would have sold for cash and used for food, animal fodder and cloth production. In a 20- by 16-foot tobacco barn next to field, visitors can learn about the 18th-month process of growing tobacco, from planting seeds to realizing a profit. The setting also includes a corncrib and utility shed where historical interpreters demonstrate tools used for woodworking and processing raw flax and cotton into fiber for thread and display examples of 18th-century fabric dye.
Daniel & Company, Inc., a Richmond firm with broad experience in historic renovation and museum projects, is serving as general contractor for construction of encampment and farm elements as well as outdoor visitor amenity areas.