While the official enlistment age during the American Revolution was between 16 and 60, desperate times often call for desperate measures. It was little surprise then that on May 17, 1779 (actually 2019 – Living History Day at CMS!) the entire seventh grade found themselves called up to serve in the local militia and Continental Army.
The 2nd Regiment Albany County Militia, a reenactment group based out of the Schenectady area, visited the school to immerse the students in 18th century life. In the gym and on the playground, classes formed into companies and donned the blue uniforms of Washington’s Continental Army or the common hunting frocks popular with colonial militia units. After the students were properly fitted out with musket, cartridge box, and haversack, 2nd Regiment instructors led the companies through a series of 18th Century military drills, which required everyone to form into ranks and function together as a unit. The seventh graders learned such disciplines as how to march, fire muskets in a volley, and bayonet charge – necessary unit skills that, when mastered through rigorous drilling, allowed the American army to stand toe to toe against the British, who at the time fielded the most powerful army in the world. The reenactors demonstrated how drums, an important 18th Century communication tool, were used to convey commands up and down the ranks.
Students also learned about the class system that existed in the colonies during the 1770’s and the different types of civilian clothing that men and women of the upper, middle, and lower classes wore. They also learned about camp life and the food soldiers on the move ate.
In the afternoon, the 2nd Regiment demonstrated a live firing of period muskets and a field canon. To end the day, the seventh grade Militia and Continental units formed up and paraded to MED where principal Kristen Reno and the fifth grade were waiting to inspect them. Special thanks to the Chatham Police Department and the Columbia County Sheriff’s Office for providing an escort.
Seventh grade Living History Day was brought about five years ago by social studies teacher William Richard and the seventh grade teaching team. This annual event is supported by a grant from the Chatham Education Foundation of the Berkshire Taconic Community Foundation.