The soldiers of the 119th New York Volunteer Company H lined up and prepared their weapons for battle.
“Ready, aim, fire!” yelled their commander, Capt. Benjamin Albertson Williams. The two neat rows of men steadied themselves and then fired in unison, their rifles shooting a burst of gray smoke into the air as tourists with cameras looked on in excitement.
Hundreds of Long Islanders celebrated Independence Day as it was in the 1800s at Old Bethpage Village Restoration on Wednesday.
This year, the village staff re-enacted the 86th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which took place in 1861, the first year of the Civil War.
“It’s history, that’s for sure,” said Freddie Pearsall, 53, of Smithtown. “ I’m learning a lot of stuff here.”
Visitors were able to visit the recreations of farm, homes and shops that represent Long Island as it was during Civil War-era America. Old Bethpage Restoration Village was established in 1963 and has served as a reminder of Long Island’s historic past ever since.
“It’s a step back in time,” said Frank Perry, of Islip.
Throughout the day, village staff held mock-military drills, a parade, and games for children and families.
“We’ve come every year for the last six years,” said Walter Kusterbeck, 40, of Huntington. Kusterbeck and his wife, Stacey, feel that Old Bethpage Restoration Village is a good way for their family to learn about life in the 1800s.
“It’s a chance to teach them [their children] about history,” his wife added.
Members of the village staff dressed in full 19th-century regalia and demonstrated what life was like for Long Islanders more than 150 years ago.
For some visitors, the trip to Old Bethpage Village was a reminder of just how much life has changed for everyday people.
“You have to work harder for simple things,” said Janine Grindrod, 41, of Queens. “You can’t just flip a switch, you have to light a candle.”
Above: Members of the 119th New York Volunteer Company H fired their rifles during a mock military drill at Old Bethpage Village Restoration's Independence Day 1861 re-enactment. (July 4, 2012)