YORKTOWN, N.Y. – The soldiers marched from Danbury to Crompond. Though tired and poorly outfitted, they were bolstered by support from the French, Canadians and Native Americans who swelled their ranks. At Crompond, they made camp, wrote home to loved ones, feasted on stew and faced the British in battle.
It all took place at Crompond Elementary School on Tuesday, May 15, where 260 fourth- and fifth-graders participated in the school’s 16th annual Revolutionary War encampment. About 50 staff members, led by “General” John Pastore, a fourth-grade teacher, and 60 parent volunteers supported the living history lesson.
Students wore period dress representing 10 regiments, including the second and fifth regiments from New York, French soldiers, Canadian soldiers and a contingent of Native Americans on the American side; and British Regulars, Scotts, Loyalists, Hessians and Native Americans on the British side.
At the start of the event, the soldiers “mustered” to the sound of marching drums in front of the school, and were inspected by General Washington, also known as Principal Lori Roberts, and General (Jonathan) Kruk, a master Hudson Valley storyteller.
Later, they made camp, erecting simple canvas tents. Finally, they faced off against the British in a “battle” in which they demonstrated their relative singing skills under the direction of music teacher Michele Salustri, who led both groups in singing Revolutionary War songs.
The event made an impression. Mia Chee, a fourth-grader playing the role of an American revolutionary, said, “It is better than just hearing about it in class. Instead, you get to do it and you can experience what it must have been like to be a soldier.”
Natalie Soto, another fourth-grader playing the part of a British soldier, agreed.
“You really learn how it was when the British and American soldiers started fighting,” Natalie said. “It helps you to think about how they were feeling. You could be frightened when marching to attack the other side, or happy after winning a battle when you know you are going home to your family.”
Pastore, who has been coordinating the encampment for years, said, “I think the kids really learn more by doing than by reading alone. Here, they are immersing themselves into the history of the American Revolution.”
During the school year, the students learned about the strategic role the Hudson Valley played in the Revolution, and about military divisions and rankings.
Preparations for the encampment began in November with a grade-wide assembly. Students had the opportunity to earn “merits” from November through May. Those with the most were named commanding officers, while others served as privates.
After the encampment, the students were treated to an assembly featuring Kruk, who told them about the role the region played in the American Revolution, and a series of workshops on topics such as Colonial drumming, espionage, tin designs, the New York Militia, military artillery and Revolutionary War games.
This article was provided by Ellen Lane of BOCES.