Old-fashioned muskets will flare and powder will fly next weekend as the Windham Historical Society stages a reenactment of the most famous battle in the town’s history.

On Saturday, August 4, actors will play out the legendary clash between Windham colonial settlers and a raiding party of American Indians led by Chief Polin.

According local history, a band of natives returned to Windham on May 14, 1756 in revenge for the damming of the nearby Presumpscot River by colonial settlements.

While hiding in the woods, the natives fired at settlers crossing a field off Anderson Road. The battle was brief and end with a single musket shot that killed Chief Polin and earned Stephen Manchester the reputation of ending the conflict between the native tribes and the settlers at that time.

The reenactment will be the highlight of the first annual Windham Heritage Days, a celebration of the town’s history sponsored by the local historical society.

The day-long celebration will feature tours of historic homes in Windham and all proceeds of the event will be put toward the purchase of the historic Parsons Smith House, an 18th century homestead nearby where the battle was fought.

Walter Lunt – event organizer, local historian and former broadcaster – is now feverishly putting together details of the reenactment and hashing out a script.

His son-in-law, Jason Farley, plans to film the whole reenactment as a documentary on this historic battle.

“It keeps getting more involved and now we have a documentary that they are serious about getting on a PBS station,” Lunt said.

The film shoot will begin at dawn and end at dusk on August 4.

Multiple cameras will capture the reenactment to take place at 11:00 a.m. on the Gambo Fields off River Road instead of the original field near the Parson Smith House.

Farley’s documentary crew plans to film several other scenes, such as the burial of Chief Polin under an old beech tree near the river, to stitch together the narrative of this local legend.

Farley, and his business partner Joe Carpine who run a production company in Windham called Digital Video Magic, hope to capture every moment on camera.

The filmmakers are considering using a camera strapped to one of the actors’ chests for a unique perspective of the battle.

“We’d like to maybe give the perspective of one of the settlers or Indians,” Farley said. “So that might be something we toy with.”

Professional colonial and American Indian actors have been called in from across New England to take part in the battle’s reenactment.

Doug Sterling of Hiram, who will play Stephen Manchester in the reeanactment, is a member of a colonial militia reenactment group called Harmon’s Snowshoe Company.

Since discussing the reenactment with Lunt during an tour of the Parson Smith House in May, Sterling has been hard at work casting the roles of both the settlers and Chief Polin’s tribe.

Unfortunately, a huge thousand-actor reenactment of the Battle of Fort Ontario is taking place the same weekend, but Sterling is confident he will be able to fill all the roles with a mix of professional actors and local talent.

“I’ve been battling trying to recruit to get the best of the best,” Sterling said. “I finally got the best colonials and the best Indians.”

In the first scene, Polin’s tribe will canoe down the Presumpscot river. As they come on shore, they will encounter two farmers, Ezra Brown and Ephraim Winship, who have wandered ahead of the militia guarding them.

Surprized by the natives in the woods, Ezra Brown is shot dead and Winship is shot in the eye and falls unconscious.

The American Indian actors will then scalp the two of them, dipping down with a knife and pulling up what looks like a scalp.

Replica muskets packed with powder will give the sense of the real battle as the militia finds the two farmers and engages with the American Indians hiding in the woods.

After Chief Polin is shot by Manchester, the native actors will carry of the dead chief’s body to the river as the settlers carry the wounded Winship back to safety.

Sterling hopes to make the reenactment as authentic as possible, with tailor-made colonial clothing, replica muskets, appropriate native garb such as mocassins, breech clothes and traditional war paint.

Jonathan Yellowbeard of Litchfield, a professional American Indian actor, is excited for the documentary and reenactment on this piece of American Indian and colonial history in Windham.

“It’s an educational tool and it actually teaches people the native history of the Eastern woodland people and not that cheesy Hollywood stuff,” Yellowbeard said.

This is also an opportunity to flush out a piece of local history that is sometimes one-sided in its portrayal, especially since this was reputedly the final battle with the local Wabbanki tribes who are rumored to have resettled in St. Francis, Quebec.

“The history is written by the victor and it seems to be one-sided and my feeling is that there are always going to be two conflicting sides of the story,” Yellowbeard said.

A lecture on the history of the Gambo Powder Mill will take place before the reenactment and end at the Gambo Fields where the battle will be staged.

Stephen Manchester’s musket will be on display at the Parson Smith House on River Road during Windham Heritage Days.

Tickets for the reenactment and all the events of Windham Heritage Days are now available at Corsetti’s Market.

On the day of the event, those interested can purchase tickets at the Windham Historical Society headquarters on Windham Center Road, the Gambo Bridge on Gambo Road or at any of the historic homes open for tour that day.


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