VONORE, Tenn. - Visitors to the Fort Loudoun State Historic Area took a trip to the 18th century inside the gates of the park's reconstructed British colonial palisade fort last weekend.
Re-enactors offered glimpses of daily life of military drill, labor and commerce that occurred within Fort Loudoun's walls during the 1750s, dressed and armed as garrison soldiers and craftsmen as well as their Cherokee neighbors.
"I do it out of a natural love for American history and a natural love to help educate others about it," said Alan Hawkins, who portrayed a South Carolina construction worker who helped build the French and Indian War-era fort.
The park staff and volunteers who conduct Fort Loudon's Garrison Weekends spoke with curious visitors about the period clothes they wear, the tools they use and the activities they perform.
The hourly demonstrations of musketry and artillery made for lively and loud ways for visitors to understand the fort's ultimate duty - to establish a British military outpost in the American frontier to contest the influence of the French and their tribal allies.
The artillery demonstration included the firing of a small cannon and a wall gun, essentially an oversized musket weighing 70 pounds.
"These were terror weapons," said park manager Jeff Wells, explaining their psychological impact as well as their deadly force.
Travelers came from the Tennessee Valley and beyond to absorb Fort Loudon's lessons and atmosphere, with Wells noting a visit from a Girl Scout troop from Roswell, Ga., Saturday afternoon.
"We are very much into Revolutionary War history right now, and it's great when you can see what history was like instead of just reading it in a book," said Cynthia Kennemore of Chattanooga, who took her son to visit the fort's surgeon.
"It's a way to give my son a chance to look at our history, and at how life was without cell phones, Xboxes and iPods," said Dave Ferguson, of Loudoun.
The park's museum center remained closed because of lack of power caused by last week's storms, but officials and re-enactors decided to go ahead with their living history plans once park roads were cleared of fallen trees.
Wells said a number of re-enactors from Alabama and North Georgia remained home to help with local relief efforts.
The park hosts living history weekends throughout the year. Fort Loudoun will commemorate the anniversary of its 1760 surrender to the Cherokee in August.
Paul Leach is based in Cleveland, Tenn. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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