So in addition to a throng of outsiders who descended on Amherst for the Extravaganja pot festival or UMass Soccerfest on Saturday, a small group of historic Civil War reenactors also set up camp on the Dickinson Homestead east lawn, less than a musket shot from town center.
Had it occurred during her lifetime Miss Emily probably would not have noticed, since her upstairs windows faced south towards Amherst College and west towards downtown.
But she certainly took note of the great fire that devastated "merchants row"--most of the downtown--in the dead of night, July 4, 1879. Her reclusive room became a front row seat: "We were waked by the ticking of the bells--the bells tick in Amherst for a fire, to tell the firemen. I sprang to the window, and each side of the curtain saw that awful sun. The moon was shining high at the time and the birds singing like trumpets."
Her ever protective younger sister told her it was only fireworks celebrating the July 4th holiday. "Vinnie's only the 4th of July I shall always remember. I think she will tell us so when we die, to keep us from being afraid."
Less than seven years later, set against a rising fog, Miss Emily was called back. As always, loyal Lavinia was near at hand--perhaps whispering reassuringly that everything would be okay.
Civil War camp, east lawn Dickinson Homestead