Visitors recreate the Colonial past for opening weekend at Fort Klock
ST. JOHNSVILLE — Because David Manthey of Burnt Hills has been demonstrating the colonial art of bread making with a clay oven for a while, he said he can tell the temperature of the oven by reaching his hand in–somewhere between 300 and 600 degrees.
He was explaining the bread-making process to visitors at the seasonal opening weekend of Fort Klock on Saturday.
Temperature is a key factor in producing the texture of the breads baked, Manthey said. The Mohawk Valley area produced “some of the best wheat in the world because of very rich farmland,” he added.
The day began with Bill Murphy of Fort Plain and Robert Metzer of Johnstown, playing members of the 1st Tryon County Militia, pulling out two small cannon.
The larger one was called a galloping carriage cannon, which could be pulled by one horse. It was used to fire canisters filled with musket balls or whatever metal was on hand, and it could take out a group of men, said Metzer.
Harvey Alexander of Schenectady, explained how beer was made from barley saplings that were killed with heat. The sprouts were bactericidal, and the heat turned the sprout starches into sugar, which could be fermented by yeast, he said. The color and flavor of the beer could be determined by how much the sprouts were roasted, but beer then had a low alcohol content and was valued for its calories, he said.
Tyler Sprague of Marshville demonstrated the colonial cup and ball toy for a younger child, Kenza Boussalham of Sprakers.
Besides the firing of a cannon, a group of colonial militiamen were drilled by Craig Miller of Bennington, who played a captain in the 2nd Albany County Militia. Lined up, they fired in unison, as they would in a real battle. Then they reloaded and fired again. That produced a lot of smoke.
The muskets were unrifled, so anything that made the balls anything but perfectly spherical would vary their direction, like “throwing a knuckle ball in baseball,” Miller said. The balls were about 3/4 inches in diameter.
“The musket was basically sending lead down field,” he said. “You’re hoping you’re knocking more of them down” than the number on your side being shot, so the enemy would retreat from the field.
“The quicker you can reload, the quicker you can fire.”
In the European style of warfare, it was a victory if your opponents left the field. Miller said the British were slaughtered fighting uphill against colonials who were dug in during the Battle of Bunker Hill (actually Breeds Hill), but the colonials left the field because they ran out of ammunition. Technically that was a British victory.
The Revolutionary War “was brutal,” he said. More men died of disease or infection than died by musket ball or bayonet, he said.
Rosemary Horning of Palatine Bridge is not new to Fort Klock. “I came here because of the history of the valley,” she said. “I love this place.”
In the forge at Fort Klock, Steve Gurzler of Ballston Lake explained and demonstrated smithing.
Bryan Dresser of Fort Plain said he enjoyed the experience because he wanted to see “how things were done in the olden days.”
Fort Klock’s opening weekend will continued today from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.