Each year I introduce the entire seventh grade at Vestal Middle School to a “real-life” soldier of the Revolutionary War.
In full historic regalia, I weave a tale of life as a Continental Soldier with many authentic and reproduction artifacts from the American Revolution Era. Dressed as a Militia Rifleman, I demonstrate how soldiers would have loaded and fired a Brown Bess Musket and used the deadly and feared British bayonet. I have the luxury of owning a reproduction Lancaster County, Pennsylvania Long Rifle. I use this to show the students one of the few advantages that the American forces had over the British and why it was not utilized as much as one would expect.
The students have the opportunity to see and hold many artifacts from this time period; bees way candles and raw bees wax, a sugar cone mold, authentic musket balls, a camp toaster, a shaving/leeching copper bowl, a tooth extractor, a bone toothbrush, and an authentic coyote head possibles bag with all the necessary contents to use a flint lock weapon, etc.
A student volunteer undergoes a mock amputation and another ‘volunteer’ participates in an actual leeching (very realistic, however, completely staged with a preselected student). This presentation is attended by administrators and teachers alike. It is not uncommon for local television stations to attend, as well as the community newspaper which usually runs two or three full-color pages with fantastic photos and detailed descriptions.
This is truly episodic moment for our students who remember this elaborate and energetic performance for their entire lives.
- Jeff Spierling
(Jeff is a member of Vestal Teachers Association)