The Regiment de Saintonge will be among 26 groups of re-enactors from across New England who will transform Old Sturbridge Village into a living history lesson spanning 165 years of North American life.
Married just three years, Elizabeth and Brian Mixter are planning to have another noisy public fight this weekend.
But instead of throwing dishes, the Hudson couple will fix bayonets onto their Charleville muskets and charge together into battle at the 5th annual Redcoats and Rebels re-enactment at Old Sturbridge Village.
The Mixters will be among 35 members of the 85th Regiment de Saintonge, which portrays French soldiers and citizens who aided Colonials during the Revolutionary War.
"People sometimes don't understand what we do. It's a lot more than putting on funny costumes," said Mixter, a transportation coordinator for TJX Corp. "We put our best foot forward because we want to be as accurate as possible in bringing the American Revolution back to life."
The Regiment de Saintonge will be among 26 groups of re-enactors from across New England who will transform OSV into a living history lesson spanning 165 years of North American life.
A petite teacher at Bright Horizons in Framingham, Elizabeth Mixter does not plan to dress up as a dainty Colonial damsel dusting her hubby's tricorn hat.
As she often does, she will fix her hair in a male-style pigtail and don the white wool britches and jackets with green lapels of a Saintonge regular, shoulder her musket and tramp into battle alongside her husband.
"I'm not going to be a washer woman. Not me," said the mother of a 9-month-old daughter. "I'm going to be a woman who fought as a soldier. I've done a lot of research. It was more prevalent than people think."
Although they had known each other as high school students in Worcester, Elizabeth and Brian got seriously reacquainted at a 2002 "muster" along Battle Road for a re-enactment of the battles of Concord and Lexington that started the Revolutionary War.
Like good soldiers, they must have been keeping their powder dry.
Elizabeth said she missed last year's muster because she "was busy having our daughter, Heather" on Oct. 19, "surrender day" which commemorates the Colonial victory at Yorktown in 1781.
She began re-enacting in 1999 as a history major at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., and now focuses on the Revolutionary era to share her appreciation "of what people went through in other time periods."
"Everything was different for them. But they wanted the same things we do - life, liberty and the right to pursue happiness," said Elizabeth who serves on the group's board of directors. "In Saintonge, we try to present that."
According to Jim O'Brien, coordinator of special events at OSV, an estimated 450 male and female re-enactors will participate in mock battles and a daily Parade Through History. They'll portray people and events ranging from King Philip's War in 1676 through 1840.
"There will be something for everyone with different groups portraying civilians as well as military," he said.
Arriving on Friday evening, groups representing actual Colonial, British and French units will camp on village grounds, wearing period outfits and using historically accurate equipment.
Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. visitors can watch them drill and demonstrate the firearms and cannons used in the Revolutionary War. There will be plenty to see for visitors more interested in ladies' fashions and martial music than flintlocks and swordplay.
Visitors can meet members of different groups to learn how they cooked their gruel and mended their socks, or pitched their tents and played the fife.
Citing the range of re-enactors' special interests, O'Brien said there will be groups portraying Col. Benjamin Church's militia who killed King Philip, the crew of the British vessel HMS Somerset and habitues of The Sign of the Roaring Lion Tavern. An 18th century-style Sunday morning religious service is scheduled for the OSV Meeting House.
"I think they all bring their own particular interests," said O'Brien. "They're quite an impressive group." The Redcoats and Rebels event will take place "rain or shine," he said.
Brian Mixter, who serves as Saintonge's adjutant or organizer, said the regiment was founded as part of the 1976 Bicentennial celebrations and has 60 active members who live in Framingham and surrounding communities.
The group sometimes portrays the Fourth Middlesex Regiment, a citizens militia that fought at Fort Ticonderoga and helped stop a British army invading from Canada.
Brian Mixter said members immerse themselves in Saintonge's martial history because they're drawn to its reputation for military discipline, which they replicate in simulated combat. Throughout battles, commands are given in French, he said.
Originally formed in France in 1763, the unit served in a French colony in the Caribbean before being dispatched to North America to assist the Colonials' fight against Great Britain. "For us, the appeal is the way the French employed light infantry tactics. They were absolutely better trained than the Colonials," said Mixter. "But they shared a common goal of defeating the British."
He estimated members spend about $1,500 equipping themselves with muskets and period clothes, including white britches and regimental coats, which they often make themselves, and authentic camp equipment.
"Putting on the clothes and going into battle gives an amazing appreciation for what our relatives might have gone through during the founding of our country," Brian Mixter said.
While baby Heather will stay home this weekend with her grandparents, Elizabeth and Brian expect her to be ready "in a couple of years" as the littlest Saintonge trooper.
Old Sturbridge Village will celebrate its fifth annual Redcoats and Rebels event Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
On Saturday, OSV will be open extended hours until 8 p.m. for the Twilight Encampment. After the sun goes down, campfires are lit and visitors can mingle with the troops to experience the sights and sounds of camp life.
For information, go to www.osv.org.
Old Sturbridge Village celebrates New England life in the 1830s and is open 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week. Admission is $20; seniors, $18; children 3 to 17, $6; children under 3, free. For details on Redcoats to Rebels and the Twilight Encampment, visit www.osv.org or call 800-SEE-1830.
To learn about the 85th Regiment of Saintonge, visit www.saintonge.com.