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Cheshire resident Stuart Hall wasn’t what you would call a history buff. He knew the basics about the American Revolution, such as the names and places most closely associated with the event, but that’s where his knowledge ended.
What Hall knew, however, was marksmanship.
A member of a rifle range situated in Cheshire, Hall has always been interested in guns and mastering such a weapon. He never thought it would result in him teaching history to students.
“I was at a gun safety briefing and I met someone who was a part of the Project Appleseed,” remembered Hall. “He mentioned the program to me and I went home and looked up their website. I saw that they had a fife and drum, and something just hit me. I knew I wanted to do it.”
Project Appleseed is sponsored by the Revolutionary War Veterans Association. Recruiting interested members of the public, the RWVA trains each one to become a professor of sorts on the American Revolution and then holds sessions where attendees are given much more than a nuts and bolts lesson on the early days of the conflict. Teachers introduce little known stories about the people and decisions that shaped the time, and the presentation offers what the group’s website describes as “the kind of care and immediacy that is absent from most formal schooling.”
What makes the program truly unique is the introduction of marksmanship classes for those interested in rifle use. Why teach marksmanship as a part of the course? “Because good shooting requires learning positive traits such as patience, determination, focus, attention to detail, and persistence,” the RWVA website claims.
That, Hall admits, is what originally interested him in the program. The idea of helping to teach a group of individuals the joys of marksmanship was too much to pass up. However, once he found himself immersed in Appleseed, the history of the American Revolution came alive.
“They told us upfront, ‘We are going to tell you stories you haven’t heard in school before,’” remembered Hall. “It is the real history of what really happened, and it is fascinating.”
Hall admits that he had a little more catching up to do when it came to American history than some of the other project volunteers. Having been born in England, Hall hadn’t grown up with the same tales that most American children do.
“Now, when I am teaching, the students, a lot of times, call me a Redcoat,” he said, with a laugh.
What stood out the most to Hall, during his studies, was the true story of Paul Revere, and how one man, using what Hall described as “1700’s social networking,” warned colonists that the British were coming.
“He got 14,000 to 20,000 people to come out, and he didn’t have the Internet or phones to let people know,” Hall said. “I was amazed by that true story.”
While Hall was enthralled to learn the intimate details of the Revolution, he was always conscious of the fact that, eventually, he would have to take his knowledge and share it with a group of expectant students.
“I’m not a teacher,” Hall said. “I’m a project manager for an insurance company. The first time I stood up to teach, it was nerve wracking. I was trying to remember all the details.”
Yet, Hall credits the mentoring program at Appleseed for preparing him for that moment.
“They teach you by doing,” said Hall. “By the time my turn came, I was nervous, but I was ready.”
The response Hall has seen during his presentations has been heartening. He described watching tears well up in some students’ eyes as he recounts the true stories of loss and difficult decisions that resulted from the war. “You get what people are feeling in that moment,” said Hall.
He also believes it helps that the program has no political agenda, focusing only on bringing the Revolution to life for those interested.
As for the marksmanship, Hall sees it being an integral part of the historic lesson.
“Year’s ago, right here in Cheshire, everyone would have had a rifle,” said Hall. “What you find is that colonists were much more accurate (than the British). It was the start of American marksmanship. It is a part of our heritage.”
For more information on Project Appleseed, visit www.appleseedinfo.org.