The crackling of musket fire and the sound of fifes and drums echoed across the grounds of on Saturday in celebration of Fort Griswold Day.
The event observed the 230th Anniversary of the Battle of Groton Heights, and included living history demonstrations by Revolutionary War re-enactors, a presentation by the Nutmeg Fife & Drum Corps, and a wreath-laying ceremony.
“It was really important for us to have a big event this year with lots of family activities,” said Leslie Evans, a member of the Fort Griswold Day Planning Committee.
Saturday also marked the centennial of the dedication of the Memorial Gates, a historic landmark featuring bronze tablets inscribed with the names of those who fought at the Battle of Groton Heights.
“[Fort Griswold] is inspiring and moving because of its history,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who spoke at the ceremony commemorating the centennial of the Memorial Gates.
“We know now as we knew then that freedom is never free. We must always work and fight to defend our freedom for democracy,” Blumenthal said.
Although the Battle of Groton Heights marked a British victory, ending in a massacre of the American troops, the battle was a pivotal one for the newly-formed American nation.
“The fort, monument and gate . . . remind us of what it means to have courage, and they are a visible reminder of what it means to be a citizen of Groton,” said Groton City Mayor .
Residents from all over Groton and the region crowded the grounds of Fort Griswold to attend the numerous activities at the park.
In addition to artillery, cavalry and infantry demonstrations, re-enactors also gave park visitors a glimpse into the everyday life of people in the 18th century.
Erich Steinhagen, an artisan from Griswold, exhibited his work of redware pottery and invited children to join him in the creation of several pots on his self-powered pottery wheel.
“I’ve always enjoyed demonstrating my craft and being outside . . . I really enjoy it,” said Steinhagen.
Other demonstrations included weaving, stencil painting and children’s games.
Re-enactor Emily Kennedy, 12, showed visitors how to use colonial toys including graces, checkers and Jacob’s Ladder.
“I re-enact all summer long. I like getting dressed up and getting to help teach games,” she said.
In addition to the arts and crafts exhibitions, many visitors anticipated the skirmish demonstration between the American and British re-enactors, which included artillery and musket fire.
Michele Meyer brought her three sons to Fort Griswold Day to enjoy the battle. Meyer’s son Aidan, 11, was looking forward to the skirmish.
According to Meyer, her son picked Fort Griswold for a fifth grade history project, and since he completed the project he has been fascinated by the fort’s history.
“He was so excited when he saw the flyer for Fort Griswold Day, he really wanted to come and see [the battle demonstration],” she said.
The event was the single largest undertaking for the Fort Griswold Day Planning Committee, requiring over eight months of preparation.
“It’s been a lot of work, but I’m really pleased with the turnout for today’s event. I see people of all ages – from little children to veterans of World War II,” said Evans.