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The British Are Coming, The British Are Coming....To Salem Maritime National Historic Site


Re-enactors of British troops will return to Derby Wharf at Salem Maritime National Historic Site later this month. NPS photo.

The calendar will be turned back a few centuries later this month when re-enactors stage a British encampment at Salem Maritime National Historic Site in Massachusetts.

The encampment is set for July 20 and 21 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The National Park Service has invited some of the best re-enactors in Massachusetts to portray General Gage, his staff, his troops, and the legislators and civilians that he met in Massachusetts in 1774. The two-day event is free and open to the public.

The soldiers will be encamped on Derby Wharf throughout the weekend and will demonstrate 18th century musket drill, including firing their weapons. Cooking demonstrations, a surgeon’s tent, a court martial and other demonstrations will show visitors how British regulars lived during the occupation of Massachusetts.

Families can take part in activities such as learning how to drill with wooden muskets. A special Junior Ranger program will be available, and the first 75 kids to take part will get “the King’s shilling,” the traditional signing bonus for British soldiers in the 18th century.

Along with the soldiers, some of the 18th century residents of Salem and the legislators who came to town for the sessions will be in attendance. John Adams and others will debate the issues of the day, and encourage visitors to sign petitions for or against the move of the legislature to Salem!

In June of 1774, General Thomas Gage, the newly-appointed Governor of Massachusetts, arrived in Boston with some controversial orders in his pocket: move the Capitol of Massachusetts to Salem, where calmer heads would hopefully prevail after several years of upheaval in Boston. He was wrong. During that summer, the Massachusetts legislature defied him, sent representatives to the first Continental Congress, and rejected his authority as Governor, setting in motion the events that culminated in the Battle of Lexington and Concord.

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