By Dr. Patrick H. Hannum, Norfolk Chapter, SAR
July 25th 2022 was a typical day at the Military Aviation Museum in the Pungo section of the City Virginia Beach, Virginia, until 18 campers (youth in grades 4-6) emerged from the airconditioned classroom into the late morning 90-degree heat and sun for an issue of revolutionary war equipment, drill and some instruction in open formation revolutionary era tactics. After several live fire demonstrations by the young skilled living historians, they led the motivated campers in a reenactment of the Skirmish at James’s Plantation that actually took place on February 15, 1781, only 6 miles north of the museum’s location.
The Military Aviation Museum (https://militaryaviationmuseum.org/) houses one of the world’s largest private collections of propeller-driven military aircraft. The museum focuses on military aircraft from the birth of aviation through World War II. The museum is a 501 c (3) non-profit organization dedicated to preserving military history. The facility includes a working airfield with a 5,000-foot grass runway, a WW II era control tower, 3 large hangers and a maintenance hangar, housing 78 aircraft with about 62 operational aircraft at any one time. On scheduled days visitors experience various propeller driven aircraft lifting off in to the skies. However, on this day, the Sons of the American Revolution, Norfolk Chapter President, Bob Bruce, and Youth Virginia Regiment, Director, Tom Sasso, collaborated to support the museum’s 2022 summer camp program, organized by Nicole Lutz, the museum’s education coordinator.
After the classroom and field instruction the campers were issued three cornered hats, haversacks and wooden muskets and practiced the open formation tactics used by the green jacketed British/Loyalist regiment, the Queen’s Rangers, commanded by Lt Col Simcoe. The Virginia Youth Regiment dressed out in various uniforms representing the Queen’s Rangers, 81st Regiment, both Loyalist and Patriot Militia and a French and Indian War period soldier of Roger’s Rangers. Norfolk Chapter SAR living historian and VSSAR color guard member, Kimball Thompson, suited up as a 1775 soldier of the 2nd Virginia Regiment, wearing a purple hunting shirt, attire known have been used by that unit during the Battle of Great Bridge on December 9, 1775, just 10 miles from the museum. Campers asked numerous questions about the muskets, rifles, swords and equipment use by the living historians during their instruction.
The museum and airfield are located on a narrow strip high ground known as Pungo Ridge that separates the salt water of the Back Bay to the east from the fresh water of the North Landing River watershed to the west. This was a known route used by Revolutionary War Patriot Militia to move between the Albemarle Region of North Carolina and the Tidewater Region of Virginia, often to avoid detection along more traveled and well-known routes. Patriot militia from the surrounding Virginia and North Carolina counties used the extensive low ground and swamps to regroup when attacked by more capable British units, making them a lightly armed but mobile and elusive enemy, using Fabian tactics to survive to fight another day. One of the Patriot leaders, Captain Amos Weeks, has been called the “Virginia’s Swamp Fox” (https://allthingsliberty.com/2021/08/virginias-swamp-fox-captain-amos-weeks-of-princess-anne-county/).
After lunch the campers reassembled in the airconditioned classroom. Mr. Tom Sasso of the Youth Virginia Regiment (https://www.facebook.com/YouthVirginiaRegiment/) explained the unique living history focus of the organization as, “Ambassadors of 18th Century American History,” open to youth 8-18 years of age and their families. Dr. Patrick Hannum of the Norfolk Chapter, SAR, held an interactive question-and-answer session to provided closer to the campers’ Revolutionary War experience.