A crowd gathered near UMW’s Monroe Hall in early March to celebrate the statesman the building is named for. James Monroe, fifth president of the United States, was inaugurated March 4, 1817, in Washington, D.C. Two hundred years later to the day, the James Monroe Museum invited the community to witness the pageantry of a re-enactment of the inauguration on the steps of Mary Washington’s oldest building.
Soldiers in plumed caps and coarsely stitched breeches held muskets and bayonets. Ladies in colorful hats and dresses – hands in muffs and shawls pulled tight against the early March cold – waited with a crowd of modern guests. (Story continues below.)
Jaunty music rang out from the trumpets of the United States Army Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps. Soldiers from the Society of the War of 1812 in Virginia presented the color guard, and a smart, white carriage delivered the dignitaries of an earlier era: outgoing President James Madison, first lady Dolley Madison, and John Marshall, chief justice of the Supreme Court. The crowd cheered as the president-elect and his wife – James and Elizabeth Monroe – stepped down from the horse-drawn rig.
James Monroe Museum Director Scott H. Harris ’83 welcomed the crowd as did Fredericksburg’s mayor, Mary Katherine Greenlaw ’61. UMW President Troy D. Paino said the university is proud of its association with the museum, which it administers, and with James Monroe.
The modern speakers left the dais to a tableau lifted from the 1800s: James Monroe delivered an excerpt from his first inaugural address, and Chief Justice Marshall administered the oath of office. After a military salute, the trumpets and fifes struck up a brisk rendition of Yankee Doodle. Harris led the crowd in cheers of “hip, hip, huzzah!” before a reception where guests got to meet the interpreters and learn more about their costumes and the people they portrayed.