The weekend of June 2-4 promises to be a lively one for area residents.
No, it's not the James Brown Festival; that's the weekend before.
Instead, the first weekend in June will see a celebration and commemoration of local history, the likes of which haven't been staged here in the last 30 years. Historians, re-enactors, crafters and people simply looking for a good time will converge in downtown Augusta and North Augusta on those three days.
On June 5, 1781, patriot American troops led by Brig. Gen. Andrew Pickens, Col. Elijah Clarke and Lt. Col. "Light-horse Harry" Lee (father of Gen. Robert E. Lee) liberated the town of Augusta from British forces under notorious Tory commander Col. Thomas Brown. The battle, also known as "the siege of Fort Cornwallis," had lasted for two weeks and involved the capture of three British forts, a regular siege operation and the use of a "Maham Tower" to direct artillery fire into the British works.
Within a short time, Augusta became the capital of the free state of Georgia and remained so for much of the next 15 years. It was in Augusta in 1788 that the Georgia legislature ratified the U.S. Constitution.
This year a consortium of patriotic, historic, civic and preservationist organizations, led by the Augusta-Richmond County Historical Society, will recognize the 225th anniversary of that event with a two-day celebration on the site where Tory Col. Brown surrendered in 1781.
On the same weekend, the Olde Towne Association/ Living History Park in North Augusta will hold its annual Colonial Times "Under the Crown" festivities June 3-4.
The activities were made possible by grants from the Georgia and South Carolina Humanities Councils. Other organizations providing support are the Augusta Museum of History, the city of Augusta, Historic Augusta, Inc., and the Center for the Study of Georgia History at Augusta State University.
Augusta events on Friday and Saturday will include a free symposium Friday at the Augusta Museum of History. Local historians Edward J. Cashin, Steven J. Rauch and I will describe the battle, its participants and its consequences, and answer questions from the audience. Revolutionary historian and author Christine Swager has been invited to act as moderator.
Seating is limited to approximately 90. Refreshments will be served, books about the battle will be available, and preservationist Eugene Hough will display his collection of Revolutionary artifacts and memorabilia.
Friday evening, a colonial dinner with re-enactors, dancing and other entertainment will be served in historic St Paul's Episcopal Church, Augusta, on the probable site of Fort Cornwallis. Seating is limited and tickets will be pre-sold. Contact Lynn Thompson at (803) 279-7560 or e-mail email@example.com for information.
There will be a wreath-laying and salute ceremony at the Celtic cross that marks the site of Fort Augusta in St. Paul's parking lot at 2 p.m. Saturday. The Georgia Sons of the American Revolution Color Guard, the Elijah Clarke Militia, and Georgia and South Carolina chapters of the SAR and DAR will participate. The city of Augusta will present a proclamation recognizing the 100th anniversary of the national charter of the SAR.
The SAR ceremony will be followed by an interlude of Continental music presented by the prestigious U.S. Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps from Fort Myer, Va.
The culmination of the observance on Saturday will be a reenactment of the battle of 1781 on the property next to St. Paul's. A replica Maham Tower is planned. An early American church service will be held June 4 at Willow Springs Meeting House in North Augusta.
It's a weekend that promises something for anyone interested in the history of our nation and our area.
(Russell K. Brown, a Grovetown resident, is president of the William Few Chapter, Sons of the American Revolution, Augusta.)
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