On a beautiful day in October 2012, a few hundred lucky students at Hillside Elementary School were transported back in time to the 1770s with the help of the Rehoboth Minute Company: 13th Continental Division.
The company’s costumed revolutionary reenactors transformed a corner of Hillside’s campus into a revolutionary war encampment, allowing the students to see, hear, touch, and smell a piece of history.
Throughout the day, small groups of third-, fourth-, and fifth-graders visited each of the six tents that were set up to demonstrate different aspects of life in a Revolutionary War camp.
At the officer’s tent, students considered how the lives of officers and regular soldiers differed. The children were able to examine the officer’s uniform and eagerly peppered the officer with questions. The children then watched a uniformed soldier prime his weapon at the weapons tent, where several examples of pistols and muskets were displayed. From there, the students went to the doctor’s tent, where they talked to a revolutionary doctor and nurse, saw and smelled some of the herbs that were used to treat common ailments in the 1770s, and even examined some of the surgical tools that were used at the time.
The importance of drum and fife music was addressed in the next tent, where students passed around a replica of a Revolutionary War drum. The smell of the open campfire led the students to the next station, where two costumed soldiers were making wax candles and lead balls. The final stop was at the tiny privates’ tent, where the kids heard more about the daily life of regular soldiers.
Elizabeth Lee, a parent at Hillside, discovered this group in a different town, where she witnessed how well they engaged the children. Knowing that third-graders at Hillside study Needham history from 1711 to the present and the fifth-graders have a big unit about the Revolutionary War, Liz recognized that the Rehoboth Company’s demonstration would dovetail nicely with existing curriculum. “Our goal is to reinforce, supplement, and bridge the social studies curriculum in grades 3 through 5 by igniting the minds, hearts, and imaginations of Hillside students to the commitment, struggles, and sacrifices of those who fought to create the United States of America,” she wrote in her grant application. Now an NEF board member, Liz was on hand at the demonstration, watching her goals being met.
“The Rehoboth Militia covered a tremendous amount of Revolutionary War history in little over an hour, all in a way that demonstrated, fascinated, and created lifelong memories. Kids, teachers, and parents had a great time!” she summed up. The excitement of the day concluded with a line of soldiers firing their muskets (with blanks, of course!). As the smoke cleared, the children cheered, and then they marched back into the 2010s by the beat of the Revolutionary War drum.