MILTON, Ga. — Edward Forte teaches U.S. history at Milton High School and students found out his second hobby – reenactment.
The former Marine came to school Oct. 2 fully kitted out in the uniform of a Revolutionary-era light infantryman – complete with hatchet and replica musket. This was part of the section about the American Revolution.
During the classes, some students were able to take on the role of drill instructors, yelling out to Forte commands such as shouldering his weapon, laying down his weapon or even firing his weapon – which he did to assembled students on a grassy hill. (Don’t worry, the gun was only loaded with powder. The bang was real, however.)
“It’s a role reversal,” Forte said. “The students get to give the teacher commands.”
Forte showed his students the many items a typical soldier would carry with him. A satchel hung to his right side containing small paper bags of gunpowder that would be emptied into the musket; a sack hung on his left for lead bullets and maybe some food; a hatchet and bayonet were strapped to his right-hand belt. Instead of the typical three-cornered hat worn by the rank-and-file infantry, the small-billed circular cap worn by the light infantry, he said, was the precursor of the modern baseball cap.
“I can’t teach like this every day,” he said, “but when the opportunity presents itself, I do.”
He used the opportunity to show off some of the traditions modern Americans take for granted without realizing their importance.
The 21-gun salute comes from adding the numerals 1776 (1+7+7+6=21). The folded flag handed to the families of fallen soldiers is always presented stars-upward and in the shape of a triangle. Why a triangle? It resembles the shape of the three-cornered hats worn by the soldiers in the Continental Army.
“We can continue to be subjects to King George III or we can be citizens of our own country,” he said to his students. “All those who want freedom, please stand.”
In all his years doing this class, Forte said not one student has stayed seated after he gives his speech about joining the cause for American freedom.
There were three simple tests to admit a recruit into the army, Forte told the students – three fingers, with which the soldier would hold a powder bag and pull a trigger; at least a few front teeth, with which to tear open the bag to pour the powder into the gun; and a basic ability to hop.
“Welcome to the Continental Army,” he said.