This past Veterans Day weekend brought another re-enactment event at Philly’s historic Fort Mifflin and my first visit to the site. One of the guys volunteering to direct parking asked, “Are you a participant or watching the re-enactment?” Of course, I said I would just be watching, although I’ve never been asked that before. But going to re-enactment events makes me want to get all dressed up like a woman from one historic time period or other and join in!
I walked through its old entrance door among men in revolutionary soldier garb and women in dresses of that time. Whenever I’m at a revolutionary or civil war site, I feel like I’m on a historical movie set. It’s as though myself and everyone else in present-day clothes are the filmmaking crew. Of course, I also feel as if I have somehow walked into the past as re-enactors bring long-ago times back to life.
During my visit to the fort, I explored different buildings and areas on my own while waiting for the re-enactment event to begin. After watching some of the re-enactors walking around, prepping, practicing for their battle recreation, I began exploring in the bombproofs / casements. As I headed toward one archway in the tunnel, a man in a redcoat outfit appeared from around the corner. If only I had captured that shot while taking pictures of the view ahead. Talk about feeling like I was back in the revolutionary era, or as though I had seen a ghost!
Speaking of ghosts, that reminds me of some problems I had with my camera. The focus kept going crazy at certain spots, starting when I tried to take photos of one of the casement rooms. I don’t know if that always means anything paranormal is going on; the lighting changed from room to room and I had to keep adjusting my camera settings. But the best way I can describe the problem I had is that it was like I’m waving my hand in front of the lens and the motion is throwing it off. There would be nothing visible in front of my lens that is moving around, yet the focus seemed as though it couldn’t choose something to hone in on to let me take a picture.
That also happened when I visited Eastern State Penitentiary last April for a photo shoot with the photography club at Cabrini College. It’s weird, because that’s similar to what I hear described on various ghost-hunting shows. Someone tries to take a photo at a place believed to be haunted and his or her camera stops working in one way or another, a sign that a spirit is said to be present. Sometimes it’s newly charged batteries being drained or some other technical problem that is said to alert someone to a spirit. I’ve never encountered the battery drain problem in my camera before, at least not on a fairly short excursion such as Eastern State Penitentiary or Fort Mifflin.
On the other hand, I’ve experienced this with my camera’s focus at places that aren’t known for ghostly tales. When this happened a few times at both Eastern State Penitentiary and Fort Mifflin and a photo finally took, nothing odd appeared in the shot.
Back outside, I climbed up a hill that takes visitors above the casements and got a great view of multiple cargo ships passing by. There were two levels to go up; I took these photos from the highest level vantage point, which also overlooks the area of the battle that would be re-enacted soon.
After going back down to ground level, I looked around in one small building filled with benches and seemingly awaiting a gathering of revolutionary soldiers. Then, it was onto the Commandant’s House / Citadel in the center; the current state of its interior struck me. A wood platform, between large brick fireplaces, allowed for visitors to venture in a bit more. Even though it was very hollowed out, it was an amazing structure and I could just imagine it’s use in long-ago days.
On the way to the next building, I noticed some re-enactors making their way into the fort from another arched tunnel. I snapped a few photos of them and headed into that tunnel and found myself looking out to the moat.
A few visitors were coming back through the doorway, but after they left, it was just me out there walking a few yards along the outer wall in either direction. Despite the daylight, it still seemed a bit eerie with nobody else out there.
I stayed for a few moments before going back inside to take pictures of two small bedrooms. I heard a noise coming from the room on my left and expected to find one more re-enactor there. The noise turned out to be the crackling of a fire keeping the otherwise lowly lit room warm. Across the tunnel, the other room was more brightly lit and also had a fire going in its fireplace. The jacket left hanging from the corner of the bed gave the room sort of an eerie feel.
It was almost time for the re-enactment, so I headed back over to where I viewed the cargo ships earlier. That spot, along with the fort in general, was also great for watching the planes coming into Philly International Airport. I managed to snap a few photos with planes flying over various re-enactors, both groups of soldiers or women. I took a lot of photos during the re-enactment, which I posted on Flickr.
A guided tour was scheduled after the re-enactment, but I’ll be going back another time to do that. It’s definitely worth more visits in the future anyway. But I bought a few souvenirs for the time being.
I love these kind of historical items and the wording on the Ballad of Fort Mifflin scroll, likening soldiers from the fort’s history to brave medieval knights.