NEWBURY — The scent of sulfur mixed with manure hung heavy in the air at the Spencer-Peirce-Little Farm this weekend as roughly 250 men and women battled to a fictional death.
Newbury resident Steve Crosby serves as captain of the Acton Minutemen and organized the "Battle for Newbury," a fictional Revolutionary War re-enactment built around an encampment at the farm Saturday and Sunday.
Crosby and his fellow re-enactors came up with a "what-if?" scenario where, having been driven from Boston in the spring of 1776, the British forces had regrouped themselves off the coast of Nova Scotia and then returned to retake Boston through Newbury.
"It is June of 1776," Crosby said. "(The British) evacuated in March and they have come back to try and take it again. They are going in through the North Shore and working their way south. So the empire is striking back. There wasn't an actual battle on this site. But it is such a beautiful sight, we love coming here and playing in these fields. We are putting on a good show for the public."
The McConnell family from Anchorage, Alaska, had made the trip to Newbury over the weekend thanks initially to the Make-A-Wish Foundation which had previously set up a meeting between their 15-year-old son Jonathan and Crosby's militia in the spring of 2018.
Jonathan has muscular dystrophy but Crosby and company fashioned an 18th century, period-specific wheelchair so that he could take part in the re-enactment over the weekend.
"The chair is wooden and I'm surprised it works," Jonathan said.
The wheelchair worked well enough that Jonathan found himself playing the drums on the field of battle along with Crosby and company Saturday.
"I am interested in American history in general and this era in history is a particular interest of mine because it is the beginning of America," Jonathan said.
The McConnells spent Friday night camping out with the Colonial militia.
"It was really cool because there were guys who were up and dancing," Jonathan said. "And it was period-specific music."
The McConnells will next head to Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell. Crosby said he was happy to have the family at the weekend event.
"I'm delighted these guys came down," he said. "I'm so happy. It adds a whole other level to this whole event. Because everybody on both sides knows Jonathan and his whole family" including his mother Jackie and sister Jeannie.
Both militias camped out overnight on Friday and Saturday and entered into battle Saturday and Sunday afternoon with both the British and the Colonials each expected to win one of their two battles.
Amesbury third grader Andrew Roberts recently studied the Revolutionary War in school and was given a tour of the Minutemen's camp at the Historic New England property Saturday afternoon.
"This is great, I love it," Andrew said. "I used to draw pictures of these camps and seeing a camp like this is great."
Staff writer Jim Sullivan covers Amesbury and Salisbury for The Daily News. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 978-961-3145. Follow him on Twitter @ndnsully.