BRUNSWICK — Some girls get cars for their 16th birthdays.
Kate Nulle’s parents bought her a musket.
The gun is a key accessory in the graduating senior’s wardrobe, which also includes military jackets, antebellum ball gowns, and a bayonet.
Nulle is a military re-enactor, and spends at least one weekend a month impersonating a soldier at re-enactments up and down the East Coast. She has crawled through underbrush at Fort Ticonderoga, marched through Gettysburg battlefields, and cooked bacon over an open fire at Manassas.
She has been doing re-enactments since she was 10 years old and her father took her to see a re-enactment of the Battle of Lexington and Concord. It captivated her, and she convinced her dad to join a Revolutionary War group based in York.
Since then she’s been to more than 30 re-enactments, and for a while she was going to one every weekend throughout the summer.
“I was always afraid I’d have the wrong clothes,” she said, because she was constantly switching time periods.
Most of the time she pulls on her boots, totes around her musket, and acts like a boy soldier. But sometimes she’ll pin ringlets into her hair and wear a gown for a Civil War-era ball.
Hundreds of spectators come to each event, and when she’s not engaged in mock battle, she educates them about military tactics and what it was like to live during the Revolutionary, Civil, or French and Indian wars, depending which era she’s inhabiting.
“I really want to get the message across to people, this is our country’s history and this is what it was like, this is how these people lived,” she said.
Along with hanging out with her fellow soldiers, education is Nulle’s favorite part of the re-enactments.
“I’ve been really surprised at the number of people, adults included, that don’t necessarily know their country’s history,” she said.
At Brunswick High School, Nulle has taken her knowledge of military history into the classroom, where she gave a presentation on Napoleonic warfare in a 10th-grade class on modern European history.
“During all the re-enactments, I’ve developed a knack for warfare in general and the different rifles that they would use,” she explained.
She showed off her arsenal to a curious reporter on Tuesday afternoon, after her final exam at Brunswick High School. Laid out on the couch were a Colt revolver, a Civil War-era rifle with a bayonet, and a musket from 1742 (her favorite).
“This is a perfect lady’s gun,” she said, demonstrating how to load the gun powder into the musket, cock the flint back and release it against a piece of steel, sending sparks into the powder.
Despite her knack for making history come alive, Nulle doesn’t want to be a history teacher and is not planning on studying the subject in college.
Instead, she will major in occupational therapy at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
“As much as I have a passion for history, I have more of a passion for helping people in the medical field,” she said.
And it’s not just because her father impersonates a Civil War-era surgeon during re-enactments – Nulle spent a summer volunteering at Midcoast Hospital and said she loved it.
She expects her involvement with re-enactments will decline as she becomes tied up with clinical work and college. But even if she’s not crawling through thickets with her musket every weekend, she said she hopes to incorporate history into her life by volunteering to teach military history at local schools.
Brunswick High School senior Kate Nulle aims her unloaded Revolutionary War-era musket in her living room. She calls it “a perfect lady’s gun.”
Kate Nulle tends to a wounded Confederate soldier at a re-enactment in Livermore last weekend.
• Commencement is at 7 p.m. Friday, June 10, at Bowdoin College’s Watson Arena.
• Seniors should arrive at 6 p.m.
• FMI: Brunswick High School counseling office, 319-1912.