Groton-Dunstable history teacher is one who won't forget War of 1812
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    Exclamation Groton-Dunstable history teacher is one who won't forget War of 1812

    Groton-Dunstable history teacher is one who won't forget War of 1812
    By Chris Camire,
    Updated: 04/20/2009 09:12:13 AM EDT

    BILLERICA -- Some call the War of 1812 the forgotten war.

    It's a story Colin Murphy loves to tell. In fact, Murphy lives it more than he tells it.

    For nearly a decade, Murphy, 33, has been a member of the 1812 U.S. Marine National Guard. It's a group of history enthusiasts who dress like Marines from the years 1812 to 1817, when the United States battled the British Empire.

    Founded 25 years ago, the group is considered non-paid volunteers for the Navy. Besides doing historical re-enactments, they perform a variety of duties onboard the USS Constitution (Old Ironsides) when the ship is dockside.

    Murphy's father, James, who is also in the 1812 Marine National Guard, was in the Marine Corps for 42 years. He fostered a love of history in his son during trips to Lexington and Concord, Bunker Hill, Yorktown and Colonial Williamsburg.

    Murphy now teaches early American history at Groton-Dunstable Regional High School.

    "It's what I've wanted to do since the fourth grade," said Murphy, who lives in Billerica with his wife and two young children. "Always has been."

    Murphy played an instrumental role in piecing together the uniforms worn by the members. He made trips to the National Archives in Washington, D.C., and sought out military clothing experts.

    It was a difficult task because there was no official uniform for the Marine Corps during that era.

    "Marines back then were misfits, old guys," said Murphy. "One Marine wrote that he had been serving his country since 1776. This is in 1812, so he could be pushing 70."

    During one trip to Washington, Murphy found a letter that had a patch of wool from a Marine's uniform pinned to the back. He discovered a company in England manufactured a similar fabric, which he purchased to make their uniform's coats.

    It costs $320 for the uniform's coat; $160 for the hat; $600 for the musket.

    "It's expensive, but once you get it, you love it," said Murphy, who was given a uniform as a wedding present.

    Murphy just wrapped up the War of 1812 in his history class. His students ask why their teacher dresses up in funny clothes for a dozen or so weekends each year.

    "If I'm from back then, I think you're wearing funny clothes," Murphy tells them. "That was state-of-the-art back then."

    Old Ironsides was like the space shuttle of its time, Murphy says.

    "I tell the kids you don't really understand American history or respect it until you get older," said Murphy.

    Next week, Murphy and his father are bringing their cannon to the high school. They'll dress up in their uniforms for the students. Two seniors that Murphy had in class have already joined the group.

    Murphy is also in the process of wrapping up a book about the war.

    "It's a passion," he says. "You have to get out there and tell the story."

    The 1812 Marine National Guard is looking for new members. To find out more about the group, visit


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