Yorktown's Revolutionary War museum puts gun control in a new light
What were the Founding Fathers thinking when crafting the Second Amendment? You can find out at the American Revolution Museum in Yorktown, Virginia. The museum is near the site of the Battle of Yorktown, where the 13 colonies effectively won the war. The museum is in a semi-rural setting.
At the museum, you learn how decrees and incidents led to rebellion, independence, a post-war confederation, the Constitution and westward expansion.
Inside the museum, mini-theaters and interactive displays help tell the story of the American Revolution.
Gallery by gallery, exhibits explain how 13 English colonies came to chafe under long-distance imperial rule.
Statesmen disagreed about what should happen to the former colonies once independence was achieved. Virginia orator Patrick Henry was no fan of establishing a federal government.
Gen. George Washington, of Virginia, was among those who wanted a federal government to replace the loose confederation established after independence.
The museum’s Sarah Meschutt curated the current special exhibition, “Blast from the Past. ” It explores how disadvantaged revolutionaries had to rely on artillery captured from the British or shipped from France.
This British fieldpiece, on display, was a bronze casting.
A British cannon. “Before the revolution, it was illegal for colonists to manufacture artillery for their own purposes,” says exhibit curator Sarah Meschutt. “Only one cannon foundry operated – and that was for the British army.”
Cannon, howitzers and mortars were used for different purposes in the revolution. Stubby mortars, like this one, sent their load in a high arc. They were useful at sieges.
Kid-friendly charts and displays explain how artillery worked, how it was made, and how many horses and humans it took to transport, place and crew the different field places.
Here’s T.J. Savage, assistant supervisor in the Continental Army encampment at the museum. Replica firearms from Revolutionary times are fired twice daily.
Cannons, mortars and howitzers at artillery demonstrations: No projectiles are shot, but the fieldpieces boom when fired.
An interpreter in the artillery crew stands by as the gunners prepare to load the gunpowder and fire.
T.J. Savage, right, and another historical interpreter prepare to load a replica Revolutionary-era artillery piece.
Visitors stand behind a rope line as the interpreters prepare to fire.
Museum interpreters, dressed for the American Revolution, are at the museum daily. They include Glenn Bittner, dressed as one of the outraged Shenandoah Valley farmers who followed Virginia general Dan Morgan to New England in 1775.
Bittner demonstrates for visitors the step-by-step process of loading and firing a musket. A well-drilled soldier or militiaman could fire three times per minute.
The musket was the main firearm during the American Revolution. Use of a musket would have been familiar to the Founding Fathers.
Norman Fuss, a veteran re-enactor now with the museum interpretive crew, owns 10 French, American or British uniforms. In an outdoor tent in June, in full redcoat dress, he was trying to convince a purple-haired 14-year-old to enlist in the “Corps of Engineers, Kings Army in America.”
A statue of Gen. George Washington offers visitors a great photo op outside its entrance.
The museum stages a variety of re-enactment events on weekends on its outdoor grounds. Posing with the statue of Gen. Washington is re-enactor Russell Stechele, of nearby Williamsburg, Virginia. Stechele is dressed as a member of the 1st British Airborne Division during World War II.
Museum director Peter Armstrong. A sign at the museum entrance notes that guns are not allowed on the premises. Armstrong says “Virginia is an open-carry state, but by law no weapons are allowed in state facilities.” Both he and curator Meschutt are British.