Last weekend, the rain fell, driving many indoors. It was not, however, enough to deter what took place at James Monroe’s Birthplace on Saturday afternoon. The visitors, many of whom belonged to the Children of the American Revolution, were in for a rare treat that day in the form of Charles Belfield paying a visit and spending his time there in-character as James Monroe.
Belfield, a resident of Richmond County and part of the James Monroe Chapter of the Sons of the American Revolution, played his part with prowess indicative of a man who knew his role inside and out, and with the sort of passion one might find akin to a professional wrestler from the golden age of kayfabe.
The stories told ran the gamut, from Monroe’s time spent in the Virginia Militia to the Continental Army, including the Battle of Trenton, where he got shot through the shoulder and survived only by the grace of a doctor that was previously looking to punch his lights out, thinking Monroe and his group were with the British. Domestic life, both as a child and an adult, were also touched upon, with Bellfield’s James Monroe persona keeping his audience riveted, which in this day and age is no easy feat.
Stories on the domestic front ranged from hunting for squirrels to cook for dinner (and the consistency of everything from squirrels to possums to raccoons) and planting seeds by the light of the moon to ghost stories involving headless dogs, headless people, and one dark and stormy night where a shadowy figure illuminated only by lightning flashes turned out the next morning to be nothing but a bucket on a pole.
The politics of the time also occasionally popped up during the storytelling, with Belfield noting that while many of the Founding Fathers didn’t completely get along with one another (most infamously in the case of Jefferson and Hamilton), many of them still had a healthy respect for one another.
All throughout, Belfield maintained his character, convincingly speaking as a man who saw these things with his own eyes. Bucky Doerr, meanwhile, also showed the CAR visitors through the replica Monroe House, which, as it turns out, was built pretty much on the bones of the original structure. In the span of a week, more furniture was being brought in, as there were many more items for her to introduce her tour group to, from a tea chest to the colonial equivalent of a liquor cabinet.
As mentioned last week, the James Monroe Birthplace still has a way to go before it is truly completed, but it is covering that distance at a pretty quick pace. It is slated for a proper grand opening in October this year. For the time being, it opens for tours from 11 AM to 4 PM on the weekends. Belfield and the James Monroe Chapter of the SAR, meanwhile, are going to be busy throughout Virginia. Through it all, it remains clear that the people behind this are full of passion for the project, and are sure to deliver big when the time comes for the grand opening. They are looking to create a place where history comes alive, and are close to pulling it off.