Re-enactment held at Drumm House

Brian Baldwin III of Johnstown drills with the 3rd Regiment, Tryon County Militia, from left, Greg Wesley of Johnstown, a sargeant; Ethan White of Rotterdam; Bill Nelson of Canajoharie; and Peter Zemkin of Gloversville on Saturday at a Drumm House open house in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

JOHNSTOWN — Though George Washington had a regular army to fight the British, the Revolutionary War was an everyday person’s war as well.

“A militiaman was required to be ready on a moment’s notice” to help in the fighting, protecting their homes, families, livestock and crops, said Jim Morrison, a historian who played Capt. Jacob Gardinier of the 3rd Regiment, Tryon County Militia, on Saturday at an open house at the historic Drumm House.

Between musket drills with youths, Morrison also explained that able-bodied males ages 16 to 60 were required to bring to the battle fire lock long gun, a bayonet or tomahawk, 17 rounds of ammunition with paper cartridges, a knapsack or haversack, and a blanket. “The militia didn’t have tents as a rule,” he said.

At the Battle of Johnstown, some 13- and 14-year-old were fighters, Morrison noted.

On Saturday youngsters did musket drills, using mock wooden muskets, with Morrison, Greg Wesley of Johnstown as sergeant, Ethan White of Rotterdam, Bill Nelson of Canajoharie and Peter Zemkin of Gloversville. White and Nelson wore Continental Army uniforms while the others were donned with the clothing of the day.

Helen Martin, chairwoman of the Mohawk Valley Path Through History Week, displays a recruiting poster for George Washington's Continental Army on Saturday at a Drumm House open house in Johnstown. (The Leader-Herald/Eric Retzlaff)

After Brian Baldwin III of Johnstown drilled with them, he sat down with Wesley, who showed him the militia equipment, including how to use flint and steel to light a fire with a spark.

“It’s the only way they’re going to learn,” said Wesley. “If they [youths] have an experience, they learn firsthand.”

Baldwin did learn. “I learned that the military had a hard life back then,” he said. “They barely had shelter and food.”

A half-dozen youths showed up for the drills, including Brian’s brother Anthony.

Morrison said he and several other reenactors and history buffs grew up learning about life in the Revolutionary War and Civil War. “I’ve been doing this since I was 16,” he said.

He said he learned history as part of the Yorker Explorers Boy Scout Post 1776 out of Cooperstown. “We camped out then, using tents, learning cooking and sewing, and saw reenactments” as volunteers for Saratoga National Park and Fort Stanwix National Park, he said.

Wesley and his son, Jake, both liked history and when Jake was nine or 10, they started learning together, he said. Jake began participating the Revolutionary War reenactments as a runner and in Civil War reenactments as a flag carrier.

Wesley said Jake, now 17, later became a docent at the Fulton County Historical Society and Museum and is involved in researching and refurbishing weapons at the museum.

Besides drills, tours were given of Drumm House, which was built in 1763 by Sir William Johnson for his first schoolteacher, Edward Wall, for the first public school west of the Hudson River.

The Drumm event was part of the Mohawk Valley Region Path Through History Week, of which Helen Martin is chairwoman.

The open house was a repeat activity. “The kids enjoyed it so much we wanted to do it again,” she said.

“We love to see that kids get energized to learn about history,” she said. “We have to keep the spark lit in the minds of our children.”