This week we mark the Fourth of July – our country’s two hundred and thirty sixth birthday. For most of us, the Fourth is a time to celebrate together with family and friends scooting from beach party to picnic to fireworks display. With all the hustle and bustle surrounding the holiday, it can be easy to move the real meaning of the day to the back burner. In Fairfield, however, one of our partner agencies at VolunteerSquare.com is keeping Fairfield County’s Revolutionary roots front and center.
Bear with us for a brief history lesson…
On the night of July 7, 1779 about 2,500 British troops invaded Fairfield and destroyed almost the entire town. There’s some debate about why the town was targeted but everyone agrees it was a truly historic, and devastating, event that changed the landscape of town forever.
That history may be long gone but it is certainly not forgotten. For the past four years a dedicated contingent of Fairfield Museum & History Center volunteers has been taking on the monumental task of orchestrating a walking tour commemorating the infamous “Burning of Fairfield.” The walking tour guides participants on a journey back in time to that night in 1779 when the Redcoats stormed into town. The volunteers even wear period dress and read aloud from first-hand accounts sketching out in vivid detail what happened that night in Fairfield.
Museum Program and Volunteer Coordinator Walt Matis spearheads the event and it is clearly a labor of love. Talking with Matis you can almost believe that he was there in town that hot July night witnessing the destruction more than two hundred and thirty years ago.
“Imagine that night and what people experienced,” said Matis. “We know from first-hand accounts that there was a very violent lightning storm so all these people saw was lightning flashing, fires blazing, and gunfire. They must have thought their world was ending.”
The harsh reality is that for many, it did. Ten Americans were killed that night, dozens more taken prisoner and the British forces burned about two thirds of the entire town destroying homes, barns, shops, churches and municipal buildings like the courthouse and jail.
“When people think of the Revolution, most people think about the attacks on larger cities like Boston, Philadelphia and New York or the fighting on some distant battlefield,” said Matis. “But the fact is that Fairfield, a town full of civilians, was invaded and destroyed, too. The war came home to us and we have a big story to tell here. We simply couldn’t tell that story without our volunteers.”
It is very clear that Matis and his corps of volunteers care deeply about preserving Fairfield’s history. Matis himself has been volunteering with the Museum for decades until recently he became a full-time staff member at the Museum.
The tour kicks off at the Fairfield Museum & History Center at 6:30 p.m. and goes until about 8:30. Tickets are $5 for Museum members and $8 for non-members. We’ll be at the tour on Saturday and hope you can come out too!
If you’re interested in volunteering with the Museum or would like to learn more about volunteer opportunities throughout Fairfield County visit our website: www.volunteersquare.com.
From all of us at VolunteerSquare.com we wish everyone a very happy and safe Fourth!