Pair share passion for local history with new book

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ONEIDA — A science teacher and social studies teacher have come together to share their passion for the history of the American Revolution with a new book.

David R. Ossont, a former musician and science teacher, and David Dampf, a middle school social studies teacher for the past 28 years, recently wrote and published “The Ghosts of Saratoga,” now available at Barnes and Noble booksellers and Amazon.

Besides teaching science to seventh and eighth graders for nearly 30 years, Ossont was also a wildlife technician. He said he received his education through several colleges of the State University of New York. He and wife Pam don’t live far from where all the adventures took place that are included in “The Ghosts of Saratoga.” They also have two children, Kyle and Hayley.

Dampf has a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Potsdam with a major in history and secondary education, and a master’s degree in reading from SUNY Cortland.

The educator said he believes that understanding history is essential to being an educated, thoughtful adult, as he has spent his life telling stories that make history come alive.

Despite having slightly different backgrounds, it actually took some arithmetic to bring these two authors together.

“In addition to being friends and having a common interest in history, we both have a ‘literary’ connection via our wives,” said Ossont when asked how the project came together. “Dave Dampf’s wife, Jen, is an English teacher and my wife, Pam, was a school librarian. Dave and Dave both have master’s degrees in reading, so it all adds up.”

About “The Ghosts of Saratoga”:

The fate of North America and maybe the world is at stake. It is June 30, 1777. A young scout of the Continental army watches the arrival of British general John Burgoyne and his invasion force of 8,000 men. Seventeen-year-old Roland McCaffrey is a new soldier but already a skilled woodsman and crack rifleman.

Burgoyne’s plan is to cut the American colonies in two and crush the new rebellion. His army includes some of the best trained units in Europe. To stop them, the rebels must bring together inexperienced soldiers, militia and Daniel Morgan’s riflemen. 

In the action that follows, Roland travels with his sergeant, the powerful and dangerous Caleb O’Connor. To his surprise, Roland becomes a skilled sniper. He is not sure how to feel about his talent for killing, but the young man becomes an important part of the rebel force.

The fighting rages from the Canadian border to a place called Saratoga. There, in the Battles of Saratoga, under the command of the famed American General Benedict Arnold, Roland will play his part in the fights called, “the turning points of the American Revolution.”

So why did the two authors choose America’s Revolutionary War as the subject of their novel?

Ossont said The Battle, or more accurately “Battles,” of Saratoga is incredibly important to the nation’s history, but is often overlooked.

“People are familiar with Gettysburg from the Civil War and as far as the Revolutionary War, everyone knows Bunker Hill, Lexington and Concord or ‘Washington crossing the Delaware.’” said Ossont. “But without the battles at Oriskany, Bennington (which was really fought in Walloomsac, N.Y.) and Saratoga, the revolution might have failed.”

He said, “Almost a third of the battles of the Revolution were fought in New York, many of them in upstate. We were also intrigued by the most important American general involved — Benedict Arnold.”

Since both authors are or were middle school teachers — Ossont is retired and Dampf still teaches in Oneida — they said it was just natural to write for an audience of that age group. But they hope that lovers of history — of all ages — will enjoy their fiction, mixed with real events.

“Middle school boys in particular, are rather notoriously reluctant readers. Our book is loaded with facts and background, but it’s really an old-fashioned, straight-up adventure action story,” Ossont explained. “Although we’re listed as Young Adult, it’s gotten so that there’s a lot of crossover into adult readers. The Harry Potter books are a good example. We think anyone with an interest in American history would enjoy it.”

Ossont’s writing resume before the novel, included some articles written for teaching journals. For Dampf, this is his first publishing venture, however his daughter, Sara, a doctoral candidate at Syracuse University, had an article published in the Journal of Physical Chemistry.

In addition to Barnes and Noble and Amazon, “The Ghosts of Saratoga” is also available directly from the publisher at Sunburypress.com. It can also be ordered at indiebound.org, which is a group of independent booksellers working together.

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