Tuesday, October 30, 2007

U.S. Model 1842 musket

The original U.S. Springfield model 1842 was a 69 cal. smoothbore musket. It has the dubious distinction of being the last of the smoothbore muskets produced, while at the same time being both the first persussion musket adopted by the U.S. military, and being the first fully parts interchangeable longarm produced in the U.S. The evolution of machine tooling permitted this. Prior to this, parts were individually hand made and fitted to the particular firearm they were made for.

The Model 1842 was produced in relatively low numbers compared to other U.S. military firearms. Combined, the Springfield Armory and Harpers Ferry arsenal produced 272,565 over 12 years. This sounds like a lot, but at its peak, the Springfield Armory alone produced that many model 1861's in only 18 months. The Model 1842 was actually not even the most common smoothbore, as over 700,000 model 1816/22 muskets, both in flintlock and percussion conversions were made prior to the Civil War.

A few Model 1842's were made by private contractors. A.H. Waters and B. Flagg & Co., both of Milbury, Mass. produced Model 1842's, but they had brass furniture (barrel bands, nosecap, and butt plate), unlike those produced by Springfield and Harper's Ferry, which were all steel.

Flagg partnered with William Glaze of South Carolina and relocated to the SC Palmetto Armory to produce Model 1842's. Instead of the stamped V over P over the Eagle's head on the lockplate, those produced by the Palmetto Armory had a P over V over a Palmetto tree. Called 'the Palmetto musket', these were mostly given to SC militia units. Only 6,020 muskets were made on that contract, and none were made after 1853. This makes remaining specimens of Palmetto muskets very rare today.

The musket weighed 10 lbs., was 57&1/2 inches long, and fired either a 69 cal. ball, or a buck and ball round, consisting of a 69 cal. round ball and 3 32 cal. pieces of buckshot, a very deadly and effective close range round. In the early stages of the Civil War, some smoothbore muskets had rifling cut into the barrel, and rear sights affixed, but these were also few in number. Many early-war units were equipped with '42's, but most were replaced as the war went on. Some units, however, preferred the close-range devastation of the buck and ball round and kept their '42's until after the battle of Gettysburg.

Monday, October 29, 2007

The end is near!

Soon, tourist season will be over, and Gettysburg will become quiet and boring. I think I'm one of the few who will miss it. I'll miss the fun and miss the people. A large amount of my spare time has been people watching, either along Steinwehr and Baltimore, or on the square by the Gettysburg Hotel.

It's fun to watch the people come and go, fun to talk to people from other areas, or even those from back home. After November, it will be gone.

Then, what will I do to entertain myself? Oh, wait! It's Christmas season, and I work in retail. Black Friday's coming. That might keep my busy enough for awhile, I guess.


Love 'em or hate 'em, they seem to be everywhere and in numbers greater than ever before! Very little in the reenacting hobby bugs me more than seeing women trying to be men and fighting in the ranks! I know, it has been upheld in a court of law that you can't discriminate by not allowing women in the ranks. That doesn't make it right!

True, there were women who disguised their identities and went off to war to fight as men. How many? No one knows, but most likely less than 1000. So, in a reenactment of even 5000, how many women should be present as soldiers. 1000/3,000,000ths, or .33%. So for every 5000 reenactors, we could have one or two women in the ranks.

These days, it seems that we have one or two in every unit! It's worse in the artillery. Some cannon crews alone have 2 or 3 women. This is BS! Plain and simple.

Civil War women soldiers had to hide their identities, and if they were discovered, out of the army they went! Some female reenactors don't even try to hide their identities.

The biggest gripe I have is the women who fight dressed as men by day, and go to the ball dressed in their ball gowns by night! The best of both worlds!? Doubtful! Pure hypocrisy? Yep! It should stop. The women who are doing it should have enough care and respect to make it stop. If we can't ban them, they should ban themselves. End of story!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Are Civil War reenactors changing history?

"Well, what exactly do you mean by that?", you may ask. Let me explain. No one knows exactly how many Civil War reenactors there are in this country. Some give estimates up to 100,000. Every year, these reenactors and living historians travel the country on the weekends to set up their encampments and fight their battles. Sometimes, on fields such as Cedar Creek (part of which is shown above) and New Market, the camps and battles are on the actual field where the real battles were fought.

Now, I won't weigh this posting down with issues of farbism or authenticity. I've previously expressed those views elsewhere. I will say that there is a growing group of reenactors who are trying to 'do it right', should I say? Better uniforms, more authentic gear, etc. They are portraying the war as they think it actually looked. Documentation to support their claims exists in photos, and in surving uniforms and equipment in museums and so forth.

But, how do we know what the uniforms looked like 145 years ago? What color is butternut? How did the soldiers wear their gear? We see posed pictures, but very few photos exist of the men in the field. Are reenactors showing history, or merely what we think history looks like? There is no way to know for sure. I don't think this is the major problem, though.

Where I do have issues is with reenactors using original gear and portraying units that weren't involved in the battles they are showing. The trend by many these days is to use original buttons, and it is just such trends that are possibly changing how history will be perceived in the future.

I recently met a person who portrays a member of a Kentucky unit. He had an awesomely made, very authentic looking shell jacket. It had original Kentucky buttons on it. I noticed he was missing a button and inquired about it.

"Yeah, I lost on the field at Cedar Creek a few weekends ago. I haven't been able to find a replacement yet. Sucks, too, 'cause they're expensive."

Anyone besides me see a problem here? What happens 10-15 years down the road when someone finds that button, weathered and worn by the elements on the field at Cedar Creek? We know that no Kentucky units were involved there, yet someone less educated could make a legitmate claim that there was someone in a Kentucky uniform engaged at Cedar Creek. They have his button to prove it.

Sadly, just such a thing happens more and more these days, and it is a trend that should not continue. No harm is meant, but history is potentially, and unintentionally, I might add, being steered in a different direction from how it may have exactly happened.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Then again, why wait?

Well, patience is not a virtue I possess. Why wait? Notice the stack? It has grown by 1!

A deal was struck, a debit card was swiped, and now I must subtract a 5 and two 0's from my checking account. That said, it's still like money in the bank!

God bless the poor SOB's who had to lug a '42 into battle. They're massive, but I guess in early war tactics, the buck and ball would be devastating!

No Wonder I never Seem to Have Any Extra Money!

I never would have guessed in a million years why it might be a bad idea for someone with my addiction to live in a place like Gettysburg! (By the way, is it natural for someone to have a stack of Civil War rifle muskets next to their dining room table?)Let me explain...

...I love the battlefield. I spend as much time on it as I can. I also love the town. I go to the sutlers and the other shops 'looking for deals'. Good idea or bad? You decide.

I recently purchased another repro musket It was "a deal I couldn't pass up!" So, that makes three, plus a Mississippi Rifle. Three's enough, right? You could always sell it later and make money, if need be! I've sold and traded many guns over the years, and I regret selling every one I've ever gotten rid of!

My latest issue: there's a repro '42 Springfield musket hanging on a wall not far from here that I could get for an awesome price. What do you think? I think it will be mine in a day or two!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Historical Accuracy and Free Speech

So, there's a relatively new statue of Robert E. Lee on the Antietam Battlefield, and I guess it's caused a great deal of controversy. The NPS lost out in a bid for the purchase of the Newcomer Farm, and William Chaney put up the statue to honor Lee near the farmhouse.

It's a beautiful statue. It rivals the statue of Lee on top of the VA monument at Gettysburg. It will probably end up coming down, though, if the fight continues and the opposition wins.

The NPS itself is not totally opposed to the statue, and removing it would not be in their limited budget anyway. Tom Clemens, president of the Save Historic Antietam Foundation is strictly opposed to this statue, because it puts Lee behind the Union line, though he would have passed there on Sept. 16th. Clemens cites claims that it sets a bad precedent, that anyone could put up a statue to whoever they wanted on private property inside the park, even Osama Bin Laden, if someone should choose to do so.

My opinion on this is that the statue is privately funded and on private property. We have a Constitution which promises the right of free speech. We have such things as private property and freedom of choice on such issues. Why should the government, the same one I might add that allows burning of the US flag, be allowed to tell someone what kind of art they can or cannot put on their property?

I may not agree with the location, but I do like the statue. What I don't like is government intervention, especially when this country is facing thousands of more serious issues at the moment!

Thursday, October 11, 2007

So, what's been going on lately?

Not much, actually. I did spend an interesting day last Sat. I was asked by a good friend to make a trip to the Franklin County Historical Society in Chambersburg for some reference material he needed on a Confederate soldier who died near there after the battle of Gettysburg. What a trip it was! This place is a gem. It's located at 175 E. King street, about 3 blocks from the square. It has a museum, the Old Jail, and a reference library upstairs.

I didn't have time to do a museum tour, though it looks very interesting, and I will go back. I did spend almost an hour and a half in the museum. The guy there, Larry, was most friendly and very helpful. He seemed to take pride in showing me what they had, and what he had personally put together. He has a book containing profiles, some rather detailed, on all 5000 Union soldiers from Franklin County.

If you've never been there, and you have time to kill on the way to or from Gettysburg, I highly advise going. You'll not be disappointed! If you have been there, you'll know what I mean. Remember, as I've said before, there's more to this campaign than Gettysburg itself! Lotsa jewels exist throughout this entire area, and quite often, they are sadly overlooked.

Check out this website for more details: http:/pafch.tripod.com

Monday, October 1, 2007

It hit me yesterday...

...that there are a lot of places and things in Gettysburg that I talk about in this blog, and that people have no idea where or what they are. I guess you could call them "The Forgotten Gettysburg", as they are well off the beaten path, and not even a lot of residents know, or care, about them. So, every once in awhile, I'll try to bring one of these 'special areas' to light. Maybe it'll cause people to learn about them or to want to see them the next time they are here. Or, maybe I'll just get more e-mails asking me 'who really cares?' Whatever!

The Coster Ave. mural, in what was the brickyard on the northeast side of town, is one of these places. A brutal, close-up fight occurred here on the first day, and it was one of the last major stands that Union troops made in this area as their lines broke. Ewell's Corps, coming from the north, broke the lines, and pushed Union forces across York St. and in the direction of Culp's Hill, a place that gets much more attention than the brickyard does.

Today, the fighting in the brickyard is remembered by a few monuments and a mural, shown above, that is actually rather impressive when seen in real life. Years ago, it was in a state of extreme deterioration, and everytime friends and I saw it, we always said that we'd like to see it restored. We doubted it would ever happen, though, because of the total lack of visitation that this area gets.

A few years back, however, the mural was restored, and it is beautiful! A job well done, and kudos to everyone involved! So, if you are ever in Gettysburg with some time to killl, and you'd like to go somewhere that not everyone goes and see a piece of history that gets little attention, check out the mural. Coster Ave. is located off of Stratton St., or can be reached from an alley that exits on Water St. Living where I do on 4th St., it is only a few blocks away, and I go there when I get the chance, usually during one of the walks I often take.