Daniel Mayes, Editor-in-Chief
Even if you don’t know Peter Leavitt, you probably know of him.
If you’ve driven by the Jacksonville square on a “patriotic” holiday in the past few years and thought “Is that an American Revolutionary with a musket?” or you’ve gotten mail at the Jacksonville State Mail Center, you’ve come in contact with the man known as “Peter the Patriot.”
Peter, a Jacksonville native, has been dressing up as an advocate for American History since a school project on the second amendment for history class in his senior year of high school.
“I never was a spokesperson, but that all changed when a spark ignited my fire,” Leavitt said.
Leavitt says that he had a last-minute idea to dress up as a “minuteman” from the American Revolution to show the importance of the second amendment for everyday people. “Luckily, I already had an outfit matching for that time period. I dressed up like a minuteman from the revolution, which would be just like you and me today if we were in the 1700s.”
During some down time at the history fair, Leavitt visited the local mall, still dressed in revolutionary garb, and that’s when he started getting feedback.
“People asked me what I was doing. The most common thing was ‘Are you in a play?’” Leavitt remembers. “That really sparked an interest when I started to dress up like that. It just expanded from there.”
Peter began dressing up on holidays, traveling to area schools to speak with children, and reciting the Declaration of Independence, which he says he can almost do from memory now.
Leavitt says he gets lots of feedback and interaction when locals see him on the square, and most of it is positive. Peter says that to prepare for naysayers, he studies history to ground his beliefs in historical fact. “There are people who know history but might not necessarily be a patriot, but every patriot has to know their history.”
Leavitt says most of his costume comes from everyday clothing, much like what would have been gathered for use in the 1700s. He had to pick up a few specialty items, like his soccer socks, Tri-corn hat and musket, to complete the look.
In his spare time, Leavitt says he enjoys reading the bible and going to antique car shows. He owns a 1976 Corvette which he says, of course, he sought out specifically for the bicentennial.
Leavitt’s motivation behind his “Peter the Patriot” persona is to remind the community of the heroes and ideals that went into the creation of the United States.
“I love going and talking to little kids, it’s probably one of my favorite things,” Leavitt says. “I love to see their eyes magnify when they are hearing about our history and heroes. I love telling the kids what they went through and what they fought pass on for their own nation and for that next generation.”
Peter, much like the founding fathers he teaches about, wants to pass on the ideals he feels are important to future generations. Leavitt feels that the community should remember the biblical principles involved in the founding of the U.S.
“My patriotism, before starting to do this, started out for the bible,” Leavitt says. “I just hope to remind everybody of our founding when it came to those fundamentals. At the Continental Congress leading up to the Declaration, they prayed every day.”
Leavitt hopes that by spreading the ideas of patriotism, the country will heal some of the divisions that have grown since its founding.
“People need to have that same patriotism that was there on 9/11. Everybody, democrat or republican, felt the same way because it was an attack on our nation.”