June 12, 2008
Facing a British invasion
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WEST BOYLSTON — British, French and “summer soldiers” marched into town Friday. They fired a few rounds and stayed a few days for what was officially proclaimed as Revolutionary War Soldier weekend in West Boylston.

The re-enactment weekend, the first major event in the town’s bicentennial celebration, took place last weekend. Events began Friday with presentations to students at Major Edwards School. Saturday, events went until nightfall with a mock battle at Camp Woodhaven and a Fife and Drum concert on the common.

The beginning of the end came Sunday, with a competition for re-enactors and a “what if” scenario played out where French supporters turned on the colonials and gave aid to the “redcoats.”

Although many of the events drew fewer people than hoped for, Bicentennial Committee members and selectmen Allen Phillips and Valmore Pruneau said there was heavy competition with youth sports, high school playoffs, graduation related activities and the first signs of summer weather, specifically 90 degree heat.

But, as the day wound on and temperatures cooled, the crowd increased in time for the concert on the common, featuring the Middlesex County Volunteers.

“It was a good weekend, but it was very hot,” Phillips said after the concert. “We hoped for more, but we’ll take it. People showed up tonight.”

“As far as we’re concerned, we put on the finest product for the town,” Pruneau said. “Those who came got to enjoy it.”

Pruneau was echoed by Re-enactment Subcommittee Chairwoman Gail Radcliffe, who said feedback was positive.

“It went excellent,” Radcliffe said. “Everbody who came seemed to have fun.”

This American drummer was shot on the Camp Woodhaven battlefield, but a fellow soldier managed to drag him to the shade before he ‘died’ in the 90 degree heat Saturday. (Banner photo/KEN CLEVELAND)
Jessica Dwelley, 9, of New Braintree, a seventh-generation descendent of West Boylston patriot Joseph Dwelley, lays a wreath on his grave marker Saturday with William Battles, a member of the Sons of the American Revolution. (Banner photo/MICHAEL KANE)

That included the re-enactors, many of whom Radcliffe said credited the committee for its organization and have asked to come back.

That organization began more than a year ago, Radcliffe said, when she and representatives of the re-enactors’ groups walked the town and identified locations for separate camps and the battle. Requirements for the re-enactors included firewood, water and hay bales, Radcliffe said.

Officially, the Middlesex Volunteers will be back to march in the September Bicentennial Parade, Pruneau and Radcliffe said.

Battles and showmanship were intertwined with education and reverence, however, beyond re-enactors teaching the details of Revolutionary War life at their camps and at Major Edwards. Saturday’s events began with the rededication of the Revolutionary War memorial stone on the common, which lists 28 patriots, including the town’s founder, Ezra Beaman.

Also honored was patriot Joseph Dwelley, whose memorial stone sits in Mt. Vernon Cemetery. Dwelley’s great-, great- great-grandson, Wesley Dwelley, of Oakham, reminisced about researching his family’s history and his first trip to West Boylston, where he found the white stone sitting by itself.

“It kind of left me with a hollow feeling,” Dwelley said. “Today, that has all gone away.”  

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