Military drills, demonstrations are highlights of Bolton Heritage Days
By Brenda Sullivan - ReminderNews
Bolton - posted Fri., Oct. 4, 2013
Majestic horses galloped over sunlit fields, carrying uniformed men with sabers raised, against a backdrop of rolling hills colored with the changing leaves of early autumn. It was like something out of a movie… only better.
Better, because of the dedication to authenticity on the part of members of the Second Continental Light Dragoons-Sheldon’s Horse who drilled and demonstrated battle techniques as part of last weekend’s Bolton Heritage Days. (http://www.dragoons.info)
The scene of the demonstration was Bolton Heritage Farm (also known locally as the old Rose Farm) that sits atop a hill at 266 Bolton Center Road.
Captain of the Second Continental Light Dragoons, Sal Tarantino, told his attentive audience that his group was hired by a film company to provide battle advice for the film “The Patriot.” “They paid us well, but then they did what they wanted,” he said.
Among the differences between reality and what’s usually shown in movies, he said, is the use of pistols by mounted riders. For one thing, the pistols were rarely used because they were difficult to load while mounted and in the midst of combat, and if there was the slightest breeze, they were “pretty much useless,” he said.
Instead, the Dragoons relied on their swords, or sabers. Tarantino led the audience in reciting the number-one lesson taught to these soldiers. “What is a Dragoon without his sword?” he shouted – to which his fellow soldiers and the audience replied, “Dead, Sir!”
Noting that one of the riders in the drills was a woman, Tarantino noted that the Second Continental Light Dragoons was the only unit to have women “of such importance that they were paid the same rations as men.” They didn’t ride into battle, but provided strategic support – so vital, he said, that they were given accommodations in barns, taverns and private homes instead of bivouacked in tents.
Tarantino also shared remarkable stories of the Arabian horses used in the drills, horses that were rescued from neglect. For example, when “Prince” was acquired by the group he was in such bad shape, he was given a month to live. He is now 28 years old. Tarantino also noted that another horse, “Caesar,” bears a striking resemblance to the horse ridden by Gen. George Washington in the Battle of Monmouth – fought on June 28, 1778, in Monmouth County, N.J. – that is depicted in several historic paintings.
The weekend of Sept. 28-29, Bolton Heritage Days, was an opportunity for town residents and local history buffs to visit an encampment, as well, and appreciate the work done by a group of hardworking volunteers to keep Bolton Heritage Farm in good repair as the town develops plans for its future. The demonstration by the Dragoons highlighted the historical richness of the farm, which once served as hunting grounds for the local native Americans, then as a dairy farm and during the Revolutionary War, an encampment.
Visitors also learned more about native American hunting and other practices from Bolton resident and descendant of the Narragansett tribe, Ray Hardy, who set up camp at the base of the hill.
The farm lies along the historic Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route (http://w3r-us.org/ ) and part of the three-day celebration included honoring state Rep. Pamela Sawyer (R-55) for her work supporting the National Historic Trail.
Visitors also viewed a photo display on the evolution of the farm since it was acquired by the town and a talk by The Friends of the Rose Farm and the Bolton Land Trust, “A Visual Journey of Progress – The Heritage Farm 2000-2013.”
The farm has benefited from a number of grants, as well as matching funds from the town and generous donations from individuals, said Sandra Pierog, who serves on the Bolton Heritage Farm Commission created in 2008. The town is currently awaiting release of a “Vibrant Communities” grant before going forward with more work on the farm, she said.