1812 Marines from the U.S.S. Constitution to appear
War of 1812 artifacts on display
Free admissin for active military members and their families
STURBRIDGE, MA (May 25, 2012) – Old Sturbridge Village will highlight the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812 with an old-fashioned “Muster Day” on Saturday June 9. Members of the 1812 Marine Guard from Boston’s USS Constitution will demonstrate field maneuvers alongside the Sturbridge militia, and young visitors can learn to drill and march as well, using toy guns. Later, the militia officer will guide these "new recruits" in their own mock battle. Several museum artifacts related to the War of 1812 will be on display, and active U.S. military personnel and their families get free admission to the museum, funded by donations to the Village's "Field of Flags." For information: 800-SEE-1830; www.osv.org.
According to Old Sturbridge Village historians, the War of 1812 remains one of America's least understood conflicts. Europe had been at war off and on since 1791, and neutral Yankees grew wealthy by supplying goods to both Britain and France. British ships often seized any seamen on American ships thought to be subjects of King George and forced them to serve in the Royal Navy. In response, America declared war in June of 1812.
A few months later, the USS Constitution, with her Marine Guard aboard, defeated the HMS Guerriere off the coast of Halifax, Nova Scotia. During the intense battle the Constitution sustained only modest damage, but the British ship lost its mizzenmast, foremast, and mainmast, and was rendered a "defenseless hulk." With the Guerriere beyond saving, the Americans removed the surviving British crewmen, set the ship afire, and returned to Boston with the prisoners by August 30, 1812. The battle was the first of several American naval victories during the War of 1812.
When the USS Constitution was launched in 1797, the ship had 55 U.S. Marine Guards assigned to safeguard the ship and its supplies. Wages were only $6 per month, less than the pay for Navy sailors, day laborers, and farm workers, according to research by Mark Hilliard, historical advisor for the USS Constitution Marine Guards. Recruiters for the fledgling Marine Corps promised military glory, pay, and bounties, and a free suit of clothes every year, lending truth to the old saying that "Jack Frost is the best Recruiting Sergeant."
Marine Lieutenants were "forced to scour the countryside far inland to lure farm-boys into the service," writes historian Hilliard of the Marine Guards. And recruiters may have visited rural "Muster Days" looking for fresh recruits. In the early 1800s, farmers and craftsmen in each town were “called to muster” twice a year and spent a day in training to maintain the readiness of their local militia. But in addition to training, there were also social aspects to Muster Days.
"Muster Day was not all work and no play,” says Old Sturbridge Village Curator Tom Kelleher. “As hard as these folks worked on their maneuvers, it was also a day away from regular chores, and an opportunity for recreation.” Along these lines, the Village will recreate a traditional “striped pig” tent, which was a way to skirt laws banning alcohol sales in the late 1830s. Those thirsting for an alcoholic drink could pay a few cents to enter a tent to see a “striped pig” and also get a "free" shot of rum. Although OSV will have a real striped pig, lemonade will be substituted for the rum.
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is one of the largest living history museums in the country. The museum is open daily 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. seven days a week. OSV offers free parking and a free return visit within 10 days. Admission: $24; seniors $22; children 3-17, $8; children 2 and under, free. For times and details of all OSV activities visit: www.osv.org or call 1-800-SEE-1830
# # #
Old Sturbridge Village