Tuesday, May 24, 2011

In General Rosecrans stomping grounds

When you go to an event in the hometown of a Federal general, you’d expect to see a decent showing of Yankees.

The first and biggest mistake of the event held at Sunbury, Ohio--hometown of General William Rosecrans--was to schedule the event opposite two larger events (Conner Prairie, Indiana, and Sharon Woods in Sharonville, Ohio).  For the Saturday battle, we kept worrying that there’d only be three Yankees to shoot.  We figured we’d have to shoot them about 40 times each to make a decent battle.  There were a few more than that, at least, but the Rebels still outnumbered the Yankees.

As a warning to the event coordinators—do not schedule the event on this same date next year.  The 5th Kentucky was the only Confederate unit there—there were three of us from the 1st Tennessee (the official 1st Tennessee event was Sharon Woods), and we fell in with the 5th KY.  If this event is on the same date next year, the 5th KY has a prior commitment, and won’t be there.  The 1st Tennessee will be going to Sharon Woods, and I can assure you that the three of us at Sunbury this year will be going to Sharon Woods next year.  If you choose a different date, not only will you have the 5th KY, but probably a signficant number from the 1st Tennessee, as well.  So, unless you want nothing more than a 10 Yankee living history, a different date is highly recommended.

But besides that—it was a decent event, although the previous year was better.  The organization that was to supply the food bailed on them at the last minute, so the Saturday meals left something to be desired—a bagel for breakfast and a hot dog for dinner.  At least they had some time to prepare for a good Sunday breakfast of eggs and sausage.

I don’t really like to complain about inefficiencies of an event, because I always enjoy myself and want to see the event return for the next year.  It will take a lot to turn me against an event, and Sunbury is no different.  I enjoyed the event, and I want to see it return.  I say that so that a few criticisms can be taken seriously.  Although I was rather disappointed with the food, I can understand since your promised help failed to live to their promise.  It wasn’t the worst food I had at an event, anyhow (it’ll be tough to get worse than Granville’s last year in the mid-2000s—Ohio re-enactors are still talking about that).  But the event should have some kind of security during the Saturday battle.  This battle is fought on the streets around the town square, and not much was roped off, cars were parked in the battlefield area (nothing like firing a sniper shot through the window of a Honda Civic), and the public often did not know where they needed to be to stay out of the way of the infantry and cavalry.  It worked out, but there was the potential for something to go seriously wrong.  Sunday’s battle, held offsite at a local park, was at least clearly roped off, so the public had no question where they needed to be, but it would have been nice for those of us (like me) that are from out of town to have a nice sign at the park entrance for the battle.  A little public Frisbee golf course sign, with no park name, kind of threw me—I drove for 10 minutes out the highway before I realized that I must have missed it.

Even though this is an in-town event and small, these kinds of events are idea for finding new recruits.  Being a more laid-back environment, you can take the time to drill them sufficiently for the battle so that they can truly feel like they are a part of the company.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Analysis of Navy Arms Musket Caps

I recently visit a gun show in Columbus, Ohio and stumbled onto a vendor (The Ammo-Man, http://www.ermcollc.com/, out of East Rochester, Ohio) selling Navy Arms musket caps for $20 for a tin of 250 caps.  Since this price is competitive with the RWS and CCI musket caps, I thought it prudent to test the caps out to determine if they’d be useful for re-enacting use.  The more choices we have as reenactors, the more the competition, and the better the prices.

Navy Arms Musket Caps tin

I used my 1861 Armi-Sport Springfield for this test, like I did for the CCI caps.  I capped (no powder) 10 caps, followed by two with powder.  The caps seemed rather stiff—if you needed to squeeze them to keep them from falling off the nipple, you might have a problem.  In my case, they were a rather snug fit onto the nipple of my Springfield—I had to give it a good push to fully seat it.  In the middle of the ten, I slipped in one RWS cap to see if anyone would notice.  The sound of all caps were about the same—you could not tell by the sound alone which one was the German cap, which seemed promising.  You can always tell when someone is capping with one of the six wing CCIs—they fire pretty hot.

Unfortunately, we spotted a pattern with the Navy Arms caps.  Every one of them had one of the wings knocked a bit farther out then the rest, with tearing all the way to the top of the cap—the caps fired with powder (about 65 grain) show about the same tearing.
Spent Navy Arms cap.  Note the tear into the head.

I therefore added a new test—firing with a double-load (about 130 grain) and paper-rammed.  Although paper-ramming is not something done during a battle, double-loading does happen.  The paper-ramming would just pack the power enough to get a bit of extra compression.  If the caps passed this test, then safety could be assured as this should be only an extreme condition.

Doing this last test twice produced exactly the same result—fragmentation.  Both times the Navy Arms cap blew off one of its wings.  This would be absolutely disastrous in a company line as it could seriously injure the man next to you.  To confirm the results, I tested once more with a paper-rammed double charge with an RWS cap.  The RWS cap hardly showed any difference—no fragmentation and no tearing.

The vendor I bought these caps from normally supplies them for the North-South Skirmish Association (http://www.n-ssa.org/), who does live-fire.  He assured me these work well, but I assume he was not considering the safety factor while in a company line—they probably fire better for live-fire situations.  I hope they only do it in skirmish lines or individually.  In a skirmish line, or capping-off in a safe distance from others, you are probably okay to use these caps.  But in a company line, you would not want to use the Navy Arms caps under any circumstances due to the danger of fragmentation.

Therefore I cannot recommend the Navy Arms Musket Caps for use by reenactors.  Only if you absolutely never fire in a company line would you even want to consider using these.  Every Civil War infantry unit should make it a clear company policy never to use these caps.

I never performed the paper-rammed double-charge on the CCI caps.  At my next opportunity, I will perform that test to confirm the safety of the CCI caps and edit my review of those caps with the results.

EDIT (05/24/2011): I performed the double-charge test with the CCI caps, (here).