250th Anniversary Jumonville Glen Battle Reenacement
Two hundred fifty years ago, “a shot fired by a young Virginian in the backwoods of America set the world on fire.” That was how Horace Walpole described George Washington's “Jumonville Affair.” What did it look like, sound like, and smell like on that foggy May morning in 1754 when Washington faced his first hostile fire? On Friday May 28, 2004 , the Braddock Road Preservation Association (BRPA) found out when it hosted a real-time recreation of the event, timed almost to the minute.
The event was staged adjacent to the National Park Service Jumonville Glen Unit, in the same basic spot of forest, on the same date, at the same time, with much the same weather--rain the night before had left the forest sodden and foggy as reenactors representing the French, British, and Native empires participated in this unique theater in the raw, with no narration and no second takes. More than 120 registrants to the special-event BRPA French & Indian War seminar were admitted to the area where the reenactment took place.
The real-time event featured the approach of Washington's Virginians and Native American allies, shouts of alarm raised by a French sentry, and then the pop of musketfire. Who fired first? Still a question. On this morning the musket of the sentry misfired, its powder damp. When the battle began, powder smoke hung so heavy in the air that visibility was reduced to near zero at once. The action culminated with the killing of French Ensign Jumonville (portrayed by Greg Henning) at the hand of Tanacharison, the Seneca Half King (Tom Vecchio) as a horrified George Washington (Bryan C. Cunning) looked on. It was an event no one in attendance will ever forget.
Bruce Egli, colonial historian, BRPA board member, and star of When the Forest Ran Red and George Washington's First War, conceived the reenactment and coordinated all action.
Read press coverage.
Note: All photos below by Janet Gunter.
Col. Washington (Bryan Cunning) and a provincial (Christian Fearer, foreground, and Ed Gaudelli, background) head toward the scene of the reenactment.
Tanagrisson (Tom Vecchio),
the Half King
and another Native
the trail in the foggy dawn.
A group of Virginians led by George Washington (Bryan Cunning, second from right) await word to begin the attack.
Director of Photography Richard K. Schutte prepares to capture the moment.
Robert Matzen handles one of four cameras operating in the Glen.
Cameraman Tom Wilson moves in close on Jumonville (white coat, center) and his French party in the ravine.
A campfire roars and crackles at right.
Moments later, as the heavy battle smoke clears, several French soldiers lie dead or wounded in the Glen, as captured by the "A" camera of Rich Schutte. George Washington and other provincials pick their way through the camp. In a moment, Washington will accept a letter from the wounded Ensign Jumonville, who will then be executed by tomahawk by Washington's ally, the Half King.
The four cameramen check their footage, all shot widescreen, from fixed and hand-held cameras.
French reenactors led by Ensign Jumonville (Greg Henning, center) pose in the Glen.