Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 21, 2013

Hands-on history

Students learn about French and Indian War and life on the frontier during Koh-Koh-Mah

By Lindsey Ziliak Kokomo Tribune
Kokomo Tribune

---- — Brian Wilson sat Friday in his 18th century office holding an ink well and feather quill and planning a mock battle.

Wilson had assumed the role of Lt. Col. George Williamson, an officer in the Royal Artillery. And he was gathering his troops for the Battle of Fort Bull.

The real fight at Fort Bull took place more than 200 years ago during the French and Indian War.

Wilson’s, though, would play out in a field in Howard County in 2013 as part of the Koh-Koh-Mah living history encampment.

By 11 a.m. Friday, Wilson was in full battle mode. He was coordinating logistics and figuring out how many British troops he could take to battle with him.

Of course, it wasn’t Wilson planning the battle. It was his character, who went to college in Woolwich, England, and became an officer in the Royal Artillery — the artillery arm of the British Army.

He wasn’t a frontlines guy.

“I was more of an engineer,” Wilson said.

His work happened before the battle. During it, though, he stayed inside the fort while his comrades fought the French and Indians.

The fight started with a bang. Muskets fired and cannons went off while the 1,700 school children watching from afar screamed and stared in amazement.

The Indians were trying to prevent the British supply wagon from getting up the hill to the fort to deliver needed food, water and ammunition.

The natives used guerrilla warfare.

“They fight like they hunt,” he said. “They circle their prey.”

Those tactics forced the British to keep moving. If they stopped, the Indians would totally encircle them.

“Then they can wait us out,” he said. “Suddenly we have no food, no water, no ammunition.”

The Europeans fought in a more traditional way, with rank and file lines, Wilson said. But during the French and Indian War, they were forced to change the way they fought. It worked, though, Wilson said. They won the war.

The Howard County man said he loves teaching people the history of it. It’s one of the least known wars out there, second only to the Spanish American War, he said.

That’s what Koh-Koh-Mah is all about — teaching and learning, he said.

“We’re not here to glorify war,” he said. “We’re here to study. We see a lot of history repeated, and repeated and repeated.”

History even repeated itself during the Revolutionary War. When that war happened, the British forgot what they learned during the French and Indian War. They forgot that they needed to fight the guerrilla-style warfare, Wilson said.

They refused to give up their more traditional ways.

“That arrogance cost them the war,” Wilson said. “That’s why we have our freedom.”

But Koh-Koh-Mah offers more than a look at the war. Friday, area school children learned about life on the frontier, too.

They played with 18th-century toys and learned how to cut wood with two-person saws.

Alisyn Tharp, a fourth-grader at Western Intermediate School, said she broke a sweat trying to use the saw. It wasn’t easy.

“But it was worth it,” she said.

She carried with her the chunk of wood she sawed off with the help of a classmate.

Allison’s classmate, Chloe Ciscell, said she couldn’t wait for the battle. She knew it was going to be exciting.

She might be scared, though. She screamed when she heard the cannons going off early in the day.

Wilson said the battle is a favorite among the kids.

“It seems they like the bang and boom,” he said. “It always seems to make them happy.”

Dan Segel used to serve as a French Marine in the mock battles. Now, the Detroit native settles for running his French trade gun booth instead.

He teaches people about the guns used during the 1700s and about the relationship the French forged with the Indians.

“The French and Indians got along pretty well,” he said. “The English wanted land. We wanted to use them as trappers.”

The French also provided them with cloth to make clothing and accessories like neck sheaths and pouches.

Segel donned both accessories Friday.

He pointed to the intricate designs on his neck sheath. The bright orange decorative pieces were made from porcupine quills that had been flattened and dyed.

Segel then showed off his pouch that was made from European materials with Indian designs and workmanship.

Those items can teach a very important lesson, Segel said.

“It shows the gentle combination of cultures on the frontier,” he said.

Lindsey Ziliak, Tribune education reporter, can be reached at 765-454-8585 or at lindsey.ziliak@kokomotribune.com.

If you go: What: Koh-Koh-Mah & Foster Living History Encampment Where: 9912 W. 100 S., Russiaville, 46979 When: Today and Sunday. Cost: $6 for adults, $5 for students and senior citizens, free for kids 5 and under. More info: www.kohkohmah.com Today 9 a.m.: Gates Open 9:30 a.m.: Opening Ceremony (Parade Field) 10: Meet Chief KohKohMah & David Foster (Log Cabin Porch) 10: Music - Traveler's Dream (Amphitheatre) 11: French and Indian Battle (Amphitheatre) Noon: Blacksmith Story (Blacksmith Shop) 12:30 p.m.: 42nd Royal Highlander Band march and play end at (Parade Field) 12:30: Theatiki Fife & Drum Corps march and play end at (Parade Field) 1: Tomahawk-Throwing (Public Welcome) (Amphitheatre) 2: Meet Chief KohKohMah & David Foster (Log Cabin Porch) 2: Horse Demonstration (Parade Field) 2: 42nd Royal Highlander Band (Amphitheatre) 2:30: Theatiki Fife & Drum Corps (Amphitheatre) 3: French and Indian Battle (Amphitheatre) 4: Music - Traveler's Dream (Amphitheatre) Children's Parade (Start at Log Cabin) (End at Parade Field) Candy Cannon - after Children's Parade (Parade Field) 4:30: Artillery Demonstration (Parade Field) 5: Closing Ceremony (Parade Field) Sunday 9 a.m.: Gates Open Time Period Church Service (Amphitheatre) 10: Meet Chief KohKohMah & David Foster (Log cabin Porch) 10: Music - Traveler's Dream (Amphitheatre) 10:30: Opening Ceremony (Parade Field) 11: Tomahawk Throwing (Public Welcome) (Amphitheatre) 11: 42nd Highlanders Band march and play throughout the grounds 11: Theatiki Fife & Drum Corps march and play throughout the grounds 11: Candy Cannon - for children (Parade Field) 11: Music - Rusty Musket Band (Amphitheatre) Noon: Music - Traveler's Dream (Amphitheatre) 1 p.m.: French and Indian Battle (Amphitheatre) 2: Meet Chief KohKohMah & David Foster (Log Cabin Porch) 2: Horse Demonstration (Parade Field) 2: Theatiki Fife & Drum Corps (Amphitheatre) 2:30: 42nd Royal Highlander Band (Amphitheatre) 3: Music - Rusty Musket Band (Parade Field) 3:50: Closing Ceremony (Parade Field)