“We’re inside of the museum at the Mount Independence State Historic Site (in Orwell),” Mike Hoey said. “And people can probably figure out from what’s immediately behind us what exactly brings us here this week.”
“Absolutely, Mike,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “I mean, we always talk about sites and we talk about things, but really it’s about the people. So, we’ve been talking a lot about Mount Independence from an archaeological standpoint and a geographic standpoint, but today, we’re going to talk about the people. Site administrator Elsa Gilbertson and site interpreter Mike Blakeslee are both going to join us.”
“This was the front line of a major theater of war,” Perkins said. “You are dressed as the average militiaman.”
“So, I’m wearing the linen clothes that I would normally wear at home because a lot of the soldiers weren’t issued uniforms at this point (in 1776 and 1777),” Blakeslee said. “They were walking from Connecticut and New Hampshire to come here to fight.”
“You’re going to tell us about a few other people that maybe some of our viewers would have heard about,” Perkins noted.
“You’ve already heard about Col. (Jeduathan) Baldwin. And (there was also Tadeusz) Kościuszko, who was a Czechoslovakian, I believe, officer — it was part of Poland back then — who came as a construction engineer and helped lay out with Baldwin all of the batteries around here,” Blakeslee continued. “The average soldier was the one who ended up digging the ditches and laying the stones. Benedict Arnold (was stationed here and at this point) was a hero. Everybody liked Benedict Arnold.
“Some of the Southern officers, when they came up, noticed that African Americans and Blacks were integrated fully into the militia regiments, and they were appalled by that — people like Lemuel Haynes, the first African American to be granted a preaching license (who) ended up in West Rutland for a period of time.”
“Elsa, you’ve pointed out to us this particularly interesting artifact,” Hoey said. “What is it, who carried it and why is it important?”
“This is a powder horn that was carried by David Ruscoe,” Gilbertson replied. “He had been taken prisoner with his unit up in Canada at (the Battle of) the Cedars. Benedict Arnold arranged for their release, so they made their way down here.
“A powder horn is a really interesting artifact because it’s useful to carry the powder for your weapon, but also, you mostly only find these in places where soldiers are stationed for a long period of time. Because it’s their home, right? So then, he had this, and it’s got many details about Mount Independence (engraved on it), like the picket fence and the horseshoe battery and more, and it just shows something about the more ordinary people who were here.”
“Labor Day weekend, here, we have an event called Soldiers Atop The Mount where several Revolutionary War (re-enactor) units actually come up and stay in the actual positions that their units stayed in on the Mount,” Blakeslee continued. “And on Saturday, we have a walk around where they’re welcome to come and talk to people in different places. We have a doctor positioned by the hospital. We have soldiers by the different gun batteries.”
“And if you can’t make it during these specific events, you can always visit the museum here — and year-round, you can walk the trails,” Perkins concluded.