Historic site to celebrate independence, 1800s-style

Saturday, June 25, 2011

FORT SCOTT, Kan. -- Visitors to the Fort Scott National Historic Site during the Fourth of July weekend will see how Independence Day was celebrated in the mid-1800s.

Site staff and volunteers have planned a variety of events and activities July 2-4 to celebrate the nation's independence. Some activities that will be part of the Old Fashioned Military Holiday weekend include a cannon firing at dusk, patriotic music, children's games and free ice cream.

During one featured event, at 2 p.m., Monday, July 4, Park Ranger Robert Thomas will deliver a patriotic speech honoring the 30 states in the Union in 1848. Thomas' speech will be followed by a 30-gun salute, which was traditionally done by soldiers at the fort during the time period to mark the holiday, Chief Ranger Kelley Collins said.

"The gun salute was a traditional type of activity back then," she said. "We're just following historically what they would have done on the actual day."

Other weekend activities include an artillery demonstration, talks given by site staff, guided tours, living history presentations and flag retreats.

Programs and activities offered should appeal to a variety of interests, Collins said.

"All of the programs give people an opportunity to learn a little about that slice of life back then," she said. "They are all interesting, informative programs about that period of time and the importance of Fort Scott in our nation's history."

On Sunday and Monday, "Highlights in History" will feature talks that interpret Fort Scott's role in some of the most pivotal events in American history.

Flash Flood will focus on the events of the 1840s and how they opened up a flood of westward expansion that doubled the size of the country in less than a decade. Ballots and Bullets, a program about Fort Scott's history in the 1850s, will explain how the issues of "Bleeding Kansas" affected all levels of government.

Bullpup is a program that explores the strategic importance of the Mountain Howitzer in the Trans-Mississippi theater during the Civil War. Letters from the Frontier will demonstrate how officer's wives brought Eastern sophistication to the frontier through flower pressing and letter writing.

Visitors who tour the fort may try their hand at washing clothes with the post laundress and barter with the post sutler. At 1:30 p.m. Saturday, visitors can enjoy an outdoor concert provided by the Blue and Gray Brass Brigade Band, a Kansas City, Kan.-based group that performs popular patriotic music from the mid-1800s.

At 2:15 p.m. Saturday, the band will take an intermission and join everyone in a cup of homemade ice cream provided by the Friends of the Fort Scott National Historic Site Inc. Thomas will deliver his speech during the break.

A special cannon firing program, set for 8:30 p.m. Saturday, will honor the nation's freedom. In November 1845, Fort Scott received a shipment of two artillery pieces but no artillerymen to fire the guns. Visitors can learn more about those who fired the guns and witness a ceremonial cannon firing at dusk.

Fort Scott National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information or a full schedule of weekend activities, call the site at (620) 223-0310 or visit www.nps.gov/fosc.