If you're going to be spending time in downtown Hampton this weekend, watch the streets and waterways for colonial British soldiers going head-to-head with local patriots in a recreation of the October 1775 battle, which turned the public sympathies of many Virginians away from the British crown at the beginning of the Revolutionary War.
About 70 to 80 re-enactors will take part in the land battles, as well as combination land and sea battles, for the Battle of Hampton, which took place 240 years ago on Oct. 26, 1775.
"We want people to feel they're a part of the battle," said Mike Cobb, a local historian who is assisting in running the event. "People can feel that they're taking a step back to 1775 as if they're witnessing the Battle of Hampton unfolding before them."
There will be two cannons on land and four sea vessels, also armed with cannons, as well as and 40 tents for a slice of life from both British and patriot camps.
The battle will start in the water at the Crowne Plaza Marina Hotel and make its way into Mill Point Park down Queen Street toward Settlers Landing Road, said Mike Cecere of the 7th Virginia Regiment, a group which reenacts battles.
"They're going to be right up close to it," said Cecere, who is serving as the event's coordinator and narrator.
Local historians say the battle was a turning point in getting Virginia involved in the Revolutionary War, which started about six months earlier with the Battle of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts. Up until that point, no fighting had taken place in the South.
"What the Battle of Hampton did is help move Virginia toward revolution," Cobb said.
The battle made many local Virginians, especially those concerned about losing their slaves, sympathetic to fighting against the British. Slaves of patriots, though not of those loyal to the crown, were allowed to seek asylum with the British, according to Cobb.
Cecere first approached staff at the Hampton History Museum about two or so years ago when he read about the battle while doing research for a book about the Revolutionary War.
"Historians love when something happens for the first time," he said. "It's the first battle Virginians fought in Virginia."
In his research, Cecere said he began sympathizing with the patriots who were trying to defend their city from attack and takeover by the British.
In his mind, there was no question over which side he wanted to take.
"I think it's a pretty neat story," said Cecere, who will serve as commander of the rebellious Virginians in the battle. "As far as I'm concerned, there are good guys and bad guys in this story, and I wanted to be a good guy."
The Hampton residents defended themselves and their city during the attack, setting in motion the wheels for supporting the patriot cause in the Revolutionary War, Cecere said.
"Once that (battle) happens there's no going back. You can't put the genie back in the bottle," Cecere said. "It's war."
Castillo can be reached by phone at 757-247-4635.
Want to go?
What: Battle of Hampton.
When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Sunday.
Where: Downtown Hampton.
Visit hampton.gov/battleofhampton for complete schedule and map.