Monday, July 30, 2012

Can I Pet the Horse?

Greenville, OH
July 28-29,2012

The horse was called Norman.

I arrived at my usual time Friday evening at the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio.  Being the first to arrive and the contact for the unit with the event coordinators, I met with the blacksmith, who (with one other) was the living history organizer for the event.

Since this was a timeline event and the Civil War needed to be kept together, he took me to the 4th Indiana Light Artillery.  Since we represented the opposing side in our War of Northern Aggression, he suggested a nice little corner under the shade near the artillery unit.  Between us was a small space where a horse was going to be hitched.

I made sure to give a wide berth to the area so the horse would not be trampling my tent. Cpl Carte and Sgt Nyman camped beside me.

The timeline event had reenactors all the way from the French and Indian War to the American Civil War.  Numbers were small, but that is generally to be expected at an event in its second year.  The horse belonged to an old friend of my from my days in Revolutionary War reenacting—one Cindy Jackson.

The horse was fine overall—my only complaint was that it must have thought it was a rooster as it decided to make a 4:30 am wake-up call.

Besides our living history area, the event also had a festival of sorts across the street from us where various vendors and artisans sold their modern wares.  They even had a Beatles tribute band play for a while at 7 pm Saturday evening.  None of this was an issue for us as it was completely separated from the living history area, and the noise was not noticeable.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Before the event I kept in communication with Rob Frost, commander of the 4th Indiana Light Artillery.  We gave some ideas of our numbers and sketched out some rough scenarios we could have for a skirmish.  Since his was the only Union unit there, and we were the only Confederate unit, and we were infantry and his was artillery, we discussed the possibility of some of us galvanizing Federal to provide infantry support, and he galvanizing a cannon to give us artillery support.  But neither of us had quite the turn-out we were hoping, so we worked it out that we would each stay with our units, and the 1st Tennessee would attack a gun.  Since we had about 10 for Saturday and would be losing a lot for Sunday, we decided the 1st would win on Saturday, and then all die a glorious and dramatic death on Sunday. Some of 4th seemed reluctant to play due to the low turnout, but we could make something happen.  I never turn down an opportunity to burn powder.

“Can I pet the horse?”

I saw many of Rev War guys I knew—I was surprised to learn that the Mad River Light Artillery works closely with 4th Indiana—many members of both units.  Some of the Mad River Light Artillery were old friends of mine—I even was their powder monkey once at a battle at the Fair at New Boston.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Since our unit only infantry unit there, and since I was the one to organize getting infantry unit there, I somehow ended up Confederate commander.  Sgt Mott came without stripes (intentionally), and Sgt Nyman, Cpl Carte, and Cpl Kletzli all conceded command to me.  My rule of thumb at auxiliary events such as this is this (those not voted on by the company at the Regimental Meeting), is that all officers and NCOs attending the event keep their rank, with highest rank in attendance holding command.  All have the option to relinquish their rank for the event—as it is sometimes more relaxing not to worry about the responsibility of the rank.  As private, I am last in line for command on these auxiliary events, although since I organize them, I am first in line among the privates.  Sgt Mott suggested that since I am shooting for Major on the Independent Guard Battalion, I should have the experience—so after ensuring all NCOs agreed, I took command for Saturday.

It was good experience.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The breakfast both days held a good choice of donuts with coffee, but I also fried my bacon and eggs.

There were a few sutlers, though more geared for the Rev War period, but the blacksmith had a good choice of items.  The Annie Oakley Festival also in town same weekend (on the fairgrounds on the opposite end of town), so we got lots of public from festival coming here.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Which brings me to the main problem with camping next to a horse.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Every member of the public, and I do mean every, seemed very interested in that horse.  Every time someone passed by our camp, which was very frequently since we were right on the main footpath, they would stop at the horse and ask us if they could pet it—or perhaps ask some other question about the horse.

“Can I pet the horse?”

So, for every time we were asked that question, we had to give the same answer.

“It’s not our horse.”

It gave me an endearing sympathy for the cavalry units.  We were always nice enough to direct them to Cindy, who finally told us that anyone could pet the horse—they just needed to watch that the horse didn’t step on them.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The Cannon demonstrations started at 10am for every two hours, with the one at 2pm scheduled the same time as our skirmish.  So we planned to take to the field and attack at the end of that demonstration.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We drilled twice for about ten minutes each before the skirmish, blowing some powder to show off a little to public. I realized halfway through I never called a single manual of arms—then started calling the shoulder arms part.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The time came for the skirmish and we marched to our start.  I asked Sgt/Pvt Mott to sing a tune on way.  I had prepared him ahead of time if he could do one—and he was ready only for either “Eliza Jane” or “Pick a Bail of Cotton”. I told him to choose based on how much he wished to annoy Cpl Kletzli.  Apparently he had a high desire for annoyance—he chose “Pick a Bail of Cotton”.

“Can I pet the horse?”

At the far end of the battlefield, Kletzli and Mott found a trail that led to the flank of the artillery, so they took Pvt Mercer down trail to wait for us and provide a nice surprise.

We advanced on field, swinging to opposite flank in a skirmish line.  I made mistake of putting Pvt Jackson Nyman on left end of my line.  To shift to left side of field, several times I ordered “to the left flank, by files right, march”.  But each time I got this strange look from Pvt Nyman as if he were asking, “You want me to do WHAT?”  I’ll have to remember that each end of the line must have a skilled private, if I don’t have an NCO to put there.

“Can I pet the horse?”
Other than a few minor difficulties, the battle went well—they moved the small mountain howitzer into position to fight us. The howitzer misfired a few times, and I was trying to drag things out, so I took my time advancing my line.  At the appointed time, Mott’s crew advanced onto the field from the opposite flank, and we had them in a good crossfire.  One of the Rev War regulars from the 6-pound Rev cannon assisted the Howizter by firing his flintlock at us, which had only slightly better reliability than that howitzer.

When I finally thought that the battle had dragged on long enough (I really have no idea how long we went), I waited for a final successful shot from the cannon and then ordered and advance at the double-quick to take the gun.  Pvt Ellifrit’s only disappointment was that he could not take a hit since he never had anyone shooting at him.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We lost all but four of us after the skirmish.  No supper was provided, but vendors on the grounds across the street did have a good selection.  I had a pork chop sandwich.  Cpl Carte had a buffalo burger.  One of the organizers allowed us into the museum to explore a bit—which was good to see.  Overall the organizers were great—free ice, showers, and porcelain.

“Can I pet the horse?”

As there were only four of us Sunday, I carried a rifle for the battle and gave Sgt Nyman the command.  We knew we would lose, so Sgt Nyman, Cpl Carte, and I all made a devious little plan for Pvt Nyman (Sgt Nyman’s son).  We decided that at the right time, we would all die, and not tell Pvt Nyman.  Basically, Pvt Nyman was to be the last man standing.  I don’t think any of us had any real idea what he might do.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We followed the trail around the field Kletzli and Mott found on Saturday and awaited for the demonstration artillery fire, then took the field.  Spread out as skirmishers, the four of us advanced quickly as we fired.  The artillery fired once from the six-pounder Napolean gun, and we advanced some more.  Then the Revolutionary War cannon gave us a surprised as they joined the fight with a blast from their six-pounder.  Two shots—the third was when we were supposed to die.  The Civil War gun prepared their second shot, and I and Cpl Carte drifted toward Sgt Nyman so the cannon could make a good kill shot (oops—the Rev War gun wasn’t supposed to count).  The three of us went down at the gun’s blast, leaving Pvt Nyman, in a state of total confusion.  I heard a good applause from the crowd—they liked our dramatic deaths.  Pvt Nyman at least did not give up any ground—he scrambled to the edge of the woods and continued with some pot shots at the artillery.  The Civil War Napolean turned toward Nyman and made a final blast, taking the private down.

“Can I pet the horse?”

It was a good event—we had a great time. Simple breakfast was the only provided food, but as long as we know in advance, I am okay with that.  Our starving private suggested they add a Saturday meal—they were unaware that is the standard for most events, so they said they would consider it for next year.  I know we will be back.

And yes, you can pet the horse—his name is Norman.  Just watch that you don’t let it step on you.

Local article about event

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Analysis of Wingless Dynamit Nobel Caps

Performed at Fort Wayne, Indiana

July 15, 2012

At the Fort Wayne event Zack Carte and I tested out the Dynamit Nobel wingless percussion caps that can commonly be found at sutlers.  They have the appeal of being significantly cheaper than the normal RWS or CCI caps, so several of us have been curious to try them out to see if they could be used as an alternative.

The price of the wingless caps are between $5 and $6, about half the cost of the RWS and CCI 4 wing caps.  However, these are probably not period correct, as all photos I have seen of dug up caps have wings.

Our examination as a possible alternative is for infantry only—for other purposes this review does not apply.  For example, if you are cavalry and considering using these caps for your weapons, please ignore this review since the issues noted may not apply.  This review is to take into consideration having men standing immediately next to you, on either side, and being affected by what you do. Cavalry, for example, is not likely to have someone in close proximity, unless dismounted.

We fired about 10 caps with no powder.  Their behavior was similar to the 4 wing RWS.  With one exception there was no tearing and no evidence these would fragment.  In a control test we ran a few 4 wing RWS caps through the same testing and got nearly identical results—only one exception to no tearing or evidence of a risk of fragmentation.  We then proceeded to fire 2 rounds double charged (about 130-140 grain) with no issue.

Our control tests included the 4 wing RWS caps, the 4 wing CCI caps and the 4 wing Navy Arms caps.  As expected, and consistent with previous testing, the RWS and CCI caps had no issue, but the Navy arms caps showed tearing.  The Navy Arms cap wrapped one wing around the hammer, tearing nearly in half.

From the perspective of risk of fragmentation, the caps are safe.  However, they sparked brightly, like having a sparkler light up on the nipple.  Zack reported others using these wingless caps in battle lines and getting sparks hitting his face, and based on the amount of sparking it is obvious how dangerous they can be to the eyes of all nearby.  The biggest risk would be to a soldier in the front rank when fired from a soldier in the rear.

I personally test-fired a series in battle at Sharon Woods.  I was at right end of line, so was in a safe position in relation to other soldiers.  They are quite small and a bit difficult to manage, but that bright sparking was disruptive and disturbing.  I supposed one could get used to it, but I do not like it.  It was like having a firecracker at your face.

That sparking into the eyes of someone is enough to say that these caps should NEVER be used in infantry battle lines.  If you always fight in skirmish lines only, or are not infantry—there is no issue.  There is no fragmentation so they are safe from injury in that perspective, but sparking in close infantry lines is not something that should be risked.  Any captain reading this should take the responsibility to pass this information on to his men to not use these caps out of consideration for the eyesight of his comrades.

Review of musket caps tests:

4 Wing CCI caps: acceptable.  No fragmentation.  Cost is about 20% less than the 4-Wing RWS caps.  Regular use over time showed a bit of residue over the nipple after firing, which could potentially cause blockage if your nipple hole was small.  My nipple hole is large and I have never encountered a problem.  Reliability does seem to be a bit less than the RWS 4-wing caps.  I have encountered about 1 per 100 that are outright duds (they were nothing but copper).

4 Wing RWS caps:  best choice, but the most expensive.  Did experience fragmentation one time during battle from the soldier next to me, though I feel this was a fluke.

4 Wing Navy Arms caps: wings on the caps showed tearing after every firing, regardless of load, suggesting an unacceptable risk of fragmentation.  Every double-charged load caused fragmentation.  Price was comparable to the 4-Wing CCI caps, but they are difficult to find (at least here in Ohio).

Dynamit Noble Wingless caps:  least expensive and reliable, but had a much brighter flash when fired that could be disconcerting until the soldier gets used to it.  Also a risk of sparking in the eyes of soldiers on either side. Avoid if in infantry lines to prevent eye injury. If authenticity is important, you will need to pass on these anyhow as 4-wing caps are the period-correct choice.

6 Wing CCI caps:  fired hot and loud.  Price is nearly as inexpensive as the wingless caps.  Almost don't need a powder load when firing one of these.  Have not tested for fragmentation, but rumor has it that these are prone to fragment like the Navy Arms caps, though my experience suggest otherwise.  I find these acceptable, but only if the entire unit is using them as you will stand out due to how much louder they are.   They also have a bit more flash to them, but not as bad as the wingless Dynamit Noble caps.  If authenticity is important, you will need to pass on these as 4-wing caps are the period-correct choice.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Where's the Park?

Fort Wayne, IN

July 14-15, 2012

We had never been to this event in Fort Wayne, known as the Camp Allen Muster.  I stumbled across this one by accident looking for alternative events last year.  It was scheduled the same time as our usual event at McConnelsville, OH, but when it came up for a vote at our Regimental meeting, somehow Fort Wayne won out.  Capt Sharp had his concerns, since we knew nothing about the event.  All we really knew of it was that there were picture’s on the park’s website of members of the 19th Virginia from past events.  I had looked at the satellite view of the park from Google Maps, and the site looked of reasonable size.

But that Google Maps thing can really be deceiving.

The 1st TN attacking the fort. Nearly the entire park is in view.
I arrived Friday.  I drove up Spy Run Drive where the park was located and could see some of the fort buildings, so I knew I was at the site.  I saw what looked like some kind of private access road into the park with red wooden barricades, so thought the main entrance was perhaps up a bit.  I drove all the way up to the next streetlight, and there was nothing.  I turned to go around where the park was and passed by a gravel driveway at a trailhead, but nothing to indicate an entrance to the park.  I drove all the way around the park and came back to that access road.  I did not know what else to do, so I turned down the road.  About fifty feet down I came to a stop and asked a couple setting up an apparent sutler tent about registration and who I need to talk to, to which they pointed me in the right direction.  I looked around at the park—at the fort which took about one third of the panorama, the access road, which was really a large walkway, that went along a river on the left side, forking in front of my car to lead directly to the fort about one hundred feet in front of me, and I noted two buildings beside me.  It looked neat, but I kept wondering where the rest of the park was.  I could not imagine where I would even park my car, much less where some tents might be set up.

Except—that was the entire park.  Okay, we had complained about the small battlefield at Jackson, Michigan.  Four battalions fight on that battlefield and barely have room to maneuver.  Well, this entire park in Fort Wayne, Indiana, would fit in that battlefield in Michigan.  We figured this was probably about the size of the park we have to work with at the Durbin Bean Bake.

About sixteen (eleven rifles) of 1st Tennessee showed up.  The 50th Virginia was also there, although they had no privates arrive—all were NCOs or officers.  I guess they ended up demoting a few of them.  Major Duane (last name) of the Independent Guard was there, falling in the 50th VA, his old unit.  The Federal force was the 44th Indiana, who I do not think I had ever met before.  In total, there were about twenty soldiers per side. Col Julian of the Independent Guard was also there.  Col Julian did ask if I was going to join him on the battalion staff, but Capt Sharp needed the rifles, so I informed him I would be a private under JR this weekend.

Col Julian asked if he could play captain over the combined Confederate force, as a company, and asked Capt Sharp if he would play Lieutenant.  JR was rather reluctant, but he agreed in order to please his colonel.

We drilled for a bit on Saturday as a combined company.  Capt Sharp did not think Col. Julian had ever been a captain of a company, to which I replied that perhaps he was using this event as an excuse to try out being a captain.  It is a bit different from being colonel, and I know that in reenacting it is always enjoyable to experience something new.

Our drill soon turned into a skirmish as the Federals decided to intrude on our drill.  It was certainly refreshing seeing blue coats itching to play with us.

The main battle started not long after our drill.   There is not much to say about what happened, since the area is so small to work in.  The Federals pushed out from fort.  We pushed back—the rebels won.

JR took us through a lot of drill later, but we needed it, and it was good.  We worked out a few more kinks.

A fire ban provided an unfortunate experience.  Due to the drought we have been experiencing, we were not allowed a campfire. This meant no hot water for coffee or cleaning guns, and no bacon and eggs for breakfast (which is a staple for me).  The fire ban was not the fault of the park—it is just something that happens.  They were kind enough to provide coffee and a continental breakfast for us.  Some of us used the hose to flush cold water through their guns.  The park officials allowed us access to hot faucet water, and suggested possibly running water through the coffee makers to get near boiling water, which I think a few of us did.  I simply used my fallback method of using nothing but blackpowder solvent when hot water is not available—takes a bit longer and uses a lot more cleaning patches, but mine comes out the cleanest gun.  I had even bet Capt Sharp that he could not get a mark on my hand from rubbing the ramrod end into the breach of my rifle—a bet I won.

Saturday supper was catered fried and baked chicken, with the reenactors providing potluck sides.  It was a good meal.

Cpl Moore (Girth) and Pvt Springer (Mercer) spent some time that evening with the Federals that stationed in the fort.  When they returned some time after dark, they were excited about the 44th Indiana.  “These are like the best Federals ever!” they said.  They even said that if they had not liked JR and 1st Tennessee so much, they would be Federal with the 44th.  The fort had fans, TVs refrigerators—all the modern conveniences.  The 44th were enjoying pizza.  Girth and Mercer were harping on how cool all that was—this coming from the guys who always campaign next to the campfire every night.

Capt Sharp with Little Pud, his prize from the festival.
One major negative of this event is that occurred during some kind of major festival of some sort.  This festival, which had a rock concert every evening (which at least ended by 11 pm).  The festival was tolerable even though it was across the river from us, but it would have been nice if was not there.  An air boat gave rides down the river, which was not tolerable—every time air boat came past he opened up the throttle and drowned out all other sounds, even our own thoughts.  However, the coordinators did say they were looking at rescheduling the event for the end of October in 2013.  We gave the some tips on how to avoid conflicts with our schedule and with significant events.

There were some issues of parking cars—they had us park either across the street or around the corner, both of which competed against the festival.  One car vandalized, so they allowed us to park cars within the park, which was patrolled.  I would strongly recommend parking within the park during the night—if they continue to allow that—and then parking in one of the lots in the morning.

The public walked through the park, following the trail all day, starting at daybreak, going to late at night, never trying closing.  The security was there to prevent any issues.

Sunday was much more laid back.  No morning drill, and nothing planned until the battalion—er company drill—at 1 pm.  The drill was little more than marching around the park and firing at the fort.  The battle started shortly after.  It started with us in possession of the fort and the Federals trying to drive us out.  The final objective was for us to take their artillery piece.  One thing is for sure—the 44th Indiana does like to play.  We sometimes have a hard time finding blue targets that like to give us a challenge.  I hope we run into the 44th again.

Although the park was small—you really could not have more than 40 or so reenactors—it was an excellent event.  There is no hope to see cavalry there due to it’s small size.  The festival was a problem, along with the airboat rides that stormed up and down the river, but the coordinators are looking at changing the date of the event to late October in 2013, so the festival and other noise issues should not be around.  It is located just north of downtown Fort Wayne, so security is a bit important.  They let us park our cars on the grounds (right by our tents) overnight where a security guard patrolled, and I would strongly recommend doing so, and the relocating the cars back to the parking lot in the morning.  This event was opposite McConnelsville, which is what we usually do on this date, so I asked Capt Sharp which event he thought was better—he gave his vote for Fort Wayne.  A powder bounty was also given to us, much to our surprise, which equated to about a third of a pound each.

I think we all had a good time at this event.  The big events with something planned every hour have their place and are enjoyable, but these small events give us time to spend together.  I am sure Fort Wayne is an event we will attend again.