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Re-enactment brings war era to life

By John Published: September 15, 2010
Archbishop Hoban High School social studies teacher Jason E. Anderson addresses a group of elementary school students in Akron, Hudson and Wooster as he portrays General Lachlan McIntosh during American Revolution Living History Day at Archbishop Hoban High School. The students will learn about the building of Ft. Laurens under the leadership of General McIntosh in Bolivar as they recreate the beginning stages of its construction in 1777. (Karen Schiely, Akron Beacon Journal)

By John Higgins
Beacon Journal staff writer

The music of bagpipe and fife and drum, the smell of campfire smoke, the taste of unsweetened oatmeal, the feel of a wooden musket, and the sight of teachers dressed in stockings, tricorner hats and wigs brought the Revolutionary War alive on Tuesday.

The teachers and students at Archbishop Hoban High School staged a day of living history for about 375 fourth- and fifth-graders from area private and public schools.

Students from Rimer and Robinson elementary schools in Akron, Old Trail School in Bath Township, Seton Catholic in Hudson and St. Mary Elementary school in Wooster descended on Hoban's East Akron campus for the program.

Students and teachers staffed five stations focusing on the history, mathematics, art, science and economics of Colonial America with an emphasis on Fort Laurens, Ohio's only Revolutionary War fort.

Gen. George Washington ordered the fort, located near Bolivar, in northern Tuscarawas County, built in 1778 as a staging point for an attack on the British garrison at Fort Detroit.

The wood fort housed more than 200 Virginia and Pennsylvania soldiers and withstood a monthlong siege by British-led American Indians. More than 20 Americans died at the fort, which was abandoned in 1779.

Students went through a mock enlistment into the Continental Army, signing a loyalty pledge and receiving their first month's pay.

They studied cannons and trajectory motion at the science station by watching a catapult hurl
pumpkins.

The catapult was a hit with the kids.

'Seeing the pumpkins launch over the hill was cool,'' said Evan Tipton, 10, a fourth-grader at Old Trails School.

The students practiced 18th century surveying skills using chains to measure distance and a compass to make sure they had 90 degree angles to lay out the fort's four corners.

They learned about communication in an era without e-mail or texting by using a field printing press.

And they got a taste for what their Army pay would buy them in the chow line: samples of beans and black coffee and plain oatmeal.

Social studies teacher Jason Edwin Anderson was inspired to create the project while attending a weeklong residency workshop at George Washington's Mount Vernon home.

A $13,000 grant from the GAR Foundation enabled him to purchase the tents, camp beds, tea crates and other reenactment furnishings to make the experience as authentic as possible.

''Every penny of that was spent on this program,'' said Anderson, who played Col. Lachlan McIntosh, who was dispatched by Washington to build Fort Laurens.

''There's all sort of different companies that make this stuff,'' he said. ''Us odd history people kind of know where those odd history places are.''

Anderson who was encamped Sunday night in the rain and Monday night was grateful for mild weather on Tueday.

He said about 70 Hoban seniors as well as juniors in the Society for the Preservation of Ohio History helped staff each station and keep the youngsters engaged.

''These guys did a great great job,'' Anderson said. ''It could not have been done without the high school kids helping out.''

The event culminated in a battle of visitors playing patriots attacking the Hoban students and staff who played the British in a mock battle waged with little plastic balls.

Kyra Bradley, a 10-year-old fourth-grader at Old Trail School, liked the battle the best.

Her fourth-grade classmates agreed.

''I liked the war, the catapult and the printer,'' Eleanor Smith, who is 10.

She particularly enjoyed a gruesome story told at the printer's tent about a loyalist newspaper printer who was attacked by a patriot mob that hanged the printer in the town square, melted his moveable lead type into bullets, and then published an illustration of the man's hanging in the final edition of his newspaper.

Nyla Malone, who is 9, said she didn't care much for the coffee.

''It just didn't taste good,'' Nyla said. ''I tasted the oatmeal, and it wasn't that good either. It was pretty cold and tasteless.''

It could have been worse: the real Continental Army soldiers at Fort Laurens ate boiled moccasins.


John Higgins can be reached at 330-996-3792 or jhiggins@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the education blog at http://education.ohio.com/.
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