In the past, the New Windsor Cantonment was a Continental Army post and housed nearly 8,000 people. Today, this scenario is reenacted by costumed actors who demonstrate how life on the Cantonment looked. They recreate the military community by woodworking, holding weapons drills, blacksmithing, cooking, and doing the laundry. They also demonstrate ceremonies and celebrations ranging from weddings to funerals, to games and everyday life. There are galleries on the premises that feature the historic tales of famous figures of Revolutionary times, as well as information about the Siege of Yorktown. In addition to the Revolutionary reenactments, the National Purple Heart Hall of Honor was established in 2006. The location collects and shares the stories of Purple Heart recipients. The collection contains George Washington's Badge of Military Merit, as well as several weapons used in various wars, letter, and photographs. The Badge of Merit was the predecessor to the Purple Heart.
In addition to the Purple Heart commemoration, there is an artifacts collection that features archaeological items that were found at the site, manuscripts, artwork, and military and skilled trade equipment. There is also a small library that features a collection that is comprised mostly of Clinton family manuscripts. The living history programs are the most biggest draw to the area. Kids learn to love about history in this manner because it comes to life and makes sense to them because they can see it in action. The reenactors at this camp have stepped to life from an 18th century history book, and they are experts at bringing to life an important time in American history.
Educational programs at the Cantonment include "Through the Ranks,'' a tour through George Washington's Continental Army led by guides. This is a three hour lesson that begins at the estate of John and Catharine Ellison. Following a tour of their home, you will head to the military offices and the slave quarters, as well as visit a grist mill, a market, and the nearby army camp. Tour miles away at the Cantonment you visit the military enclave and witness the activities that occurred her during the 18th century. The program can be changed to suit a variety of grade levels and the admission price of the program is $3 per person.
Visitors to this location believe it is a hidden gem, brimming with history and interest. It is not a super popular destination, even for locals, and many who find it are thrilled by their discovery. From the Visitor's Center displays to the Purple Heart Memorial, to the living history, this is a great way for both kids and adults to learn about a time period that was so crucial to American history. The buildings have been preserved and everyone on the site is knowledgeable and friendly.
If you are in search of a way to bring history to life for your own entertainment, or to interest children in the study of history, this is the destination for you. Pack up the family and head to New Windsor Cantonment in Vails Gate, New York.
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