Animals take War of 1812 re-enactment at Tilly Foster Farm in stride

Jul 14, 2012

Written by
Terence Corcoran
War of 1812 re-enactors fire a cannon as spectators look on at Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast July 14, 2012. The event is part of the celebration for Putnam County's bicentennial.

War of 1812 re-enactors fire a cannon as spectators look on at Tilly Foster Farm in Southeast July 14, 2012. The event is part of the celebration for Putnam County’s bicentennial. / Frank Becerra Jr / The Journal News

SOUTHEAST — The turkeys gobbled, but that was all.

Concerns that a War of 1812 re-enactment at the Tilly Foster Farm would frighten various animals boarded at the Putnam County-owned farm/museum on Route 312 proved false today as the event went off without a hitch – save for a few gobbles from the turkeys.

“The turkeys gobbling actually mean they’re challenging the sound of the cannon,” said re-enactor Larry Maxwell of Patterson, director of the Living History Guild, a nonprofit group whose members portray people from different time periods for re-enactments, parades and educational programs.

Maxwell is the pastor of the Patterson Baptist Church and, as such, performs an annual blessing of the animals.

“I love animals. I would never do anything to harm animals,” Maxwell assured a gathering of about 25 people at the farm as he and fellow re-enactors Bryan Pratt and James Scott of Carmel prepped a 700-pound cannon for firing.

Carmel resident Raymond Mainiero recently wrote to the Putnam County Legislature, which oversees the farm/museum, to express his concern that the cannonball blasts would scare the many animals, including horses, stabled at the barn. As a precaution, farm volunteers moved the animals away from the cannon, to a safe distance on the farm, which covers 199 acres.

The cannon itself weighed 700 pounds, but the cannonball it fired weighed 4 pounds — and was smaller than a billiard ball.

The re-enactment, which was conducted through the morning and afternoon, is of a war that began the same year Putnam County was formed and was designed to fit in with the county’s bicentennial. Maxwell explained that in the same week that Putnam County was formed, New York voted to enter the war and fight against England over trade restrictions and its practice of forcing American sailors into the British navy.

Kevin Hagley came all the way from Warren, Conn., with his uncle and older brother to hear the cannon blast.

“I think it’s going to be loud,” said Kevin, 7, who recently wrapped up first grade.

His uncle, Dick Totten, came along because as a one-time resident of Brewster, he knew where Tilly Foster Farm is located.

“I remember when it used to be a dairy farm,” he said.

Maxwell said studies have shown that with war re-enactments, the things that bother animals most are the people and the sounds of fifes and drums, not the munitions.

Like Maxwell, Scott and Pratt wore period uniforms. They prepped the cannon as Maxwell ignited it and yelled, “Fire in the hole!”

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