History will come to life this weekend in Trigg County, Kentucky as historian and author, Geoff Baggett, transforms into an American Revolution militiaman for a free "hands-on history" presentation. Baggett visits Sounds Good to discuss the upcoming event.
"Living history" incorporates "historical tools, activities and dress into an interactive presentation that seeks to give observers and participants a sense of stepping back in time." By using theatrical elements and crowd participation, living history provides an opportunity to learn about history through methods other than rote memorization of names, dates, and places. "You get kind of glazed over after a while with that [way of learning]," Baggett explains. "If you see living history and see someone shoot a flintlock and have a cloud of white smoke, it really does bring it to life." In honor of historical preservation group Thomas-Bridges Association's 47th annual reunion taking place this weekend, Baggett will reincarnate a civilian soldier of the Revolutionary War - the same type of patriots in the Thomas and Bridges clan that first settled in Trigg County.
Geoff Baggett is a small town pastor in rural Kentucky, but he is also a prolific author of historical fiction. While he only recently started publishing his work, Baggett says he's been able to create so much material due to the large catalog of ancestral figures from which he can draw inspiration. "What I do is I actually tell the stories from either my wife's family tree or my family tree. We have Revolutionary War patriots in [both] families, I have the documents and everything showing how they were involved, and so they become my characters and I just flesh out a novel from the characters from my family history. So I get to give personalities to my ancestors and stuff, and so I kind of have an endless stream of potential characters for the stories that I want to tell."
Baggett's presentation not only teaches history in a new and exciting way, it also broadens the idea of who participated in the American Revolution. "I think a lot of times what we pick up as kids is a little bit more of a romanticized, sanitized version of the history, and that's why I kind of like getting into the personal stories. I like digging into the individual families and the people that were involved, reading pension records and original records. You really get a taste of what actually real people went through," says Baggett. "It wasn't just all a bunch of aristocrats running around with feather pens, signing documents and stuff. It was ordinary people that did all of the suffering and the bleeding and the fighting. The founding of our nation came at a great cost, and that's always inspired me."
Using a trunk full of 18th-century "treasures," Baggett brings to life the realities of living on the Virginia and Kentucky frontier in the 1770s. "I usually have [the trunk] set up in advance," Baggett explains. "I'll have the trunk open and a pretty large table with things spread out on the table. What I generally do is come in in a full militia gear, so what a North Carolina or Virginia militiaman would have been wearing as a civilian soldier, and I make my introduction from that. I actually use myself as the first object lesson, and I go through all the things that a militiaman would wear and some of the equipment that's on his body and then break all that down." After explaining the typical militiaman uniform, Baggett then moves on to describe the displayed artifacts and replications. "I go through most everything that I bring in the trunk. I already have it out and spread out but I just use them as props to kind of launch me into a new area, a new topic. I do question and answer. I'll hold things up and sometimes get them to guess what this is or what it was for. It's pretty interactive and, I think, quite fun for most audiences."
Baggett will be presenting his old wooden trunk of daily necessities and Revolutionary War military items at the Lexie Bush Convention Center inside the Trigg County Recreational Complex at 303 Complex Road in Cadiz, Kentucky on Saturday, July 20th at 7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.
"It's not going to be a history lesson as much as it will be a life lesson for an ordinary citizen militia soldier during the period, just to see some of the things they endured [and] they did. I'll have a flintlock weapon, so for folks who haven't seen one, I'll show how that rifle works, how the flint strikes it, we'll turn out the lights and make sparks and I'll show them how all those things work. It'll be fun, and then afterwards we'll be able to stick around and answer questions and talk about books and all those kinds of things. They'll get sort of transported back in time just a little bit, and hopefully, we'll help bring that time period back to life and especially for those descendants who will be in town for the gathering this weekend."
The program is funded in part by the Kentucky Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information, please contact the Kentucky Humanities Speakers Bureau Coordinator at (859) 257-5923 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.