Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous returns after 2020 hiatus
By Lindsay Owens
After a year hiatus, the French Commons will come to life Memorial Day weekend for the 44th annual Spirit of Vincennes Rendezvous.
Mark Hill, marketing director for the event that celebrates the color, costume and lifestyle of the 18th Century, said the theme for this year will be centered on early British influence.
“When most think about Vincennes, they think about George Rogers Clark and they think of Henry Hamilton as being the commander here but when the fort was first established, Edward Abbott was actually the commander,” said Hill, adding the Rendezvous admission buttons as well as the medallions pay homage to Abbott.
Each year Hill said the event committee tried to pick a theme that tells another part of the story of Vincennes. Abbott is one of those lesser known stories.
According to research conducted by Richard Day, Abbott, the lieutenant governor of Vincennes, was born around 1730 in England. In 1759, he entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. After moving through the ranks, he arrived at what the British called St. Vincennes on May 19, 1777, over two years after he was appointed lieutenant governor. He gave the oath of allegiance to the French living there and organized the militia but Abbott felt they were inadequate for defending the village due to the large number of Indians in the area.
Abbott had much work to do including rebuilding the stockade and bringing in cannons for protection. He named the fortification Fort Sackville. In February of 1778, he left Vincennes in the control of Major Gabriel Baulon and the Vincennes Militia and he and family headed for Detroit. He resigned from his after reaching Detroit but remained in the military until he was court marshaled and fired from the Royal Artillery in 1787 for unknown reasons.
Hill said around 100 authentic merchants and food booths selling the traditional fare will once again be set up on the grounds. He’s also expected between 300 and 400 re-enactors to be a part of the encampment.
Battle re-enactments will feature the 1779 capture of Fort Sackville between the Colonial and British troops. Battles are slated for 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday and noon and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday.
COVID-10 precautions, Hill said, will be in place.
“We will have the people working up front wearing masks as well as those serving food,” said Hill, adding the Rendezvous committee is working closely with the local health department. “Masking will be encouraged for those in tight quarters, like merchant tents and we will have sanitizing stations on the grounds.”
Hill said demonstrators, entertainers on stage and soldiers on the battlefield will not be required to mask.
“The French Commons and the George Rogers Clark Memorial grounds are a large outdoor venue. We feel we can provide safe social distancing and a pleasant environment for visitors and guests to experience colonial life in historic Vincennes,” said Hill.
Saturday night, Hill said the Vincennes State Historic Sites and Grouseland, home of ninth President William Henry Harrison, will offer candlelight tours. Dennis Stroughtman will provide entertainment.