In battle, Constitution’s Marines fired on the enemy with muskets. These guns were loaded with a lead ball and enough gun-powder to fire it, wrapped in a paper cartridge. Marines bit off the top, and tipped a little powder into the gun’s pan. They poured the rest and the ball down the yard-long barrel, ramming it home with a rod. A badly-loaded gun would not fire, so Marines drilled until they could almost do it in their sleep.
Drill Like a Marine
Teach your students to drill like a Marine, with directions of body movements they used – a great way to practice following directions! This Marine Drill is like a game of Simon Says. If you are interested in a similar game, try the sailor’s version called Captain’s Coming.
Marine or Sailor?
With your students, compare and contrast a sailor’s duties on board Constitution to that of a Marine’s. What were the pros & cons of each position? What were the dangers in being a Marine and a sailor? What was the pay difference? Have students choose a sailor or a Marine and then write a persuasive essay persuading a friend to join Constitution as a sailor or enlist in the Marines during the War of 1812. Why would you choose one over the other?
To the Beat of Your Own Drum
Marines exercised to the beat of a drum; certain numbers of beats required Marines to perform specific actions. View the drum from the USS Constitution Museum’s learning collection and then have your students create their own drum. You can learn more about how certain sounds communicated messages to Marines and sailors on Constitution at the annotated “Quarterdeck” scene.
Marines exercised, or drilled, with their muskets. Learn more about the musket and its purpose with an artifact from our collections. Muskets from the 19th century are fairly common in museums. Do you have a local history museum in the area? Find the museum online and perhaps take a field trip with your students to visit. You might be able to see a musket in person with your students. Watch the Marines in action at the Maintop in Battle.