Let’s go fight the French and the Indians

It’s not often that you get an invitation to the French and Indian War.

Well, I got one a few weeks ago in the mail at work. It’s not for any real fighting, of course. It’s for the French and Indian War Weekend at Old Bedford Village in Bedford County.

A unit/re-enactor application form was enclosed, asking me to put a check mark next to whether I was a British Regular, Colonial Provincial or Colonist, French Regular, French Malice (militia) or Woodland (Indian).

This is the first time I’ve gotten an invitation to the re-enactment, which shows how the war was fought in Pennsylvania and how people lived in the mid-18th century. I’m not a re-enactor of any battles, but getting the letter reminded me of the summer I experienced the F&I War at Bedford.

It was 2005, and The Morning Call was gearing up for a series on how the conflict, which raged from 1754-63, unfolded in the Lehigh Valley.

History writer Frank Whelan, photographer Patricia Hess and I spent a day at the Bedford encampment. We saw re-enactors playing the French and Indians nearly wipe out a force of Britons and Americans along a let’s-pretend Monongahela River, a stunning defeat for British Maj. Gen. Edward Braddock in 1755.

In the French camp, I stood alongside a powerfully built horse with a “Frenchman” sitting tall on its back and felt transported through time: I’m there. It’s 1755. This is the real thing.

The Morning Call’s three-day series on the F&I War ran more than a year later, on Thanksgiving weekend 2006, to mark the 250th anniversary of peace talks in Easton that helped determine the outcome of the war and secure North America for Britain. Linda Matys O’Connell and I did most of the writing. To this day, it’s one of my favorite projects, representing a year-and-a-half of work. Here’s one of the stories, my piece on the fighting in the Lehigh Valley: http://www.mcall.com/news/all-fi_mayhemnov26,0,5222127.story

Old Bedford Village’s re-enactment of the war is scheduled for Aug. 18 and 19. For more info:  http://www.oldbedfordvillage.com/



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