I drove a bus with 13 children to Fort Ticonderoga yesterday. Though at least half of any such trip with seventh graders is police work, it was nerd heaven for me.
I now understand perfectly the firing mechanism of a flintlock musket, having asked a re-enactor to give me a close-up view.
Since it was a windy day, I was also able to grasp the precise meaning of the expression “a flash in the pan,” as at least a third of the soldiers lost their priming when the wind blew the gunpowder out of their pans, so their muskets sparked (flashed) in the pan but did not fire. That moment was a double nerd score: both history and English!
Then it was on to the oxen. During our winter colonial unit I had taught the children about oxen. “No testicles!” I heard one boy observe wisely to another as we followed the team.
I recognized the oxen as a rare breed called Randalls — and sure enough, they were bred by an internet friend of mine. The teamster used them to twitch out of the woods some poles and small logs …
…which my students cut to length with a two-man saw…
… and then loaded in a tall stack on a sledge. The poles would be tied into bundles called fascines which the re-enactors were using to reinforce an earthwork redoubt.
The day ended with a demonstration firing of a field piece. Though I have known all the terms for many years, I now grasp the difference between cannons and mortars, cannon balls, grapeshot, canister shot, and shells. (I’m sure if I’d ever been under fire by any of the above for even a few minutes, my learning would have been speedier.)
A very fun day for me. I think even the children had a good time!