Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov. 22nd, 2007, a tough day if you're a turkey, but a great day if you're an American. Looking back, I have lots to be thankful for.

2007 brought me to Gettysburg, and I love it here. I've made many new friends, and I love them all as well. I've spent quality time on the field and in the taverns with both old and new friends, and have truly enjoyed it.

Back on the home front, my Mom continues to fight the good fight. She'll tell you that she's in pretty good shape for the shape she's in! Nothin's gonna get her til she's ready!

I keep in touch with the old friends as best as I can. Hey! There are lots of them, and that's a good thing! I love them all!

Things are going well. I have a new life, but I haven't forgotten the old one. I don't forget where I came from. It's good to be happy, good to be healthy, good to love, and good to be loved.

So, what am I most happy for? That I am who I am and that I know everyone I know! Thank you, Lord! I don't know what it is, but I must be doing something right, because life is good!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So, tourist season has come and gone...

...and Remembrance day has gone along with it. Too bad, because I was having fun! A big thanks goes out to Steve, JD, and most importantly, Mike. Thanks, ya Irish SOB for sharing the same sense of humor as I have! The parade wouldn't have been the same without you!

The luminaries were awesome and moving. The service we got in the local establishments was 'incredible!' (How can one be over 500 miles from home and be treated like a local? Hang with the ole JR!)

The impressions, on the other hand...left a lot to be desired, shall we say? I saw the Timberland boots. I saw the havelocks (Really? In 1863?). And I saw the Galtroops. Can you spot her in the photo above? By the way, we all had special assignments. Mine was to count the Galtroops! The final tally? - 53 Union + two of who were 'inconclusive'...and...'33 Confederate', all of which would be confirmed. ( Hey I saw the 'lumps' in the proper places!'. It's a sad state of affairs - what this hobby used to be and what it's become!

And, I both saw and heard about 'the photo!' I'll be hearing about it all Winter, I suppose!

On to Thanksgiving. Peace and good wishes to all who may read this! God bless you all!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Is it?...

...or is it not? John Richter thinks so. Bob Zeller thinks so. Harold Holzer has no reason to believe it's not him. So, why all the fuss?

Because there's no definite proof that it is either. I had a conversation, along with a few other people, last night with one of the country's leading experts in Civil War photography. He is 'skeptical', at best. More details will be shared on Weds., and I'll post more as it becomes available.

"Just because there's no reason to believe it's not him doesn't by default mean that it definitely is, either."

As a local here, going into my first, post-tourist season adventure, I feel this couldn't have come at a more opportune time. Hey, we need something to ponder and discuss all Winter, fer cryin' aht lahd!

You be the judge. More to follow.

If this doesn't move you...

...then nothing will!

I had the honor of attending the illumination service in the National Cemetery in Gettysburg this past Sat. There was a luminary by each grave marker, as well as hundreds more lining the trails and walkways. It was an intense experience. There is no real way to describe the feeling. You must experience it yourself. There was an honor guard around the Soldier's monument, and wreaths near some of the graves. The flags and the luminaries combined to create a very intense atmosphere.

I had three good friends along to share the experience, and I know they all felt the same as I did. If for no other reason, come to Gettysburg for this! I know Remembrance Weekend is tough, with booked hotels, traffic, the parade, and long waits in restaurants, but trust me - it's definitely worth it!

Monday, November 19, 2007

The U.S. Model 1861 Springfield Rifle-Musket...

...was not only heavily used by the Union Army throughout the entire American Civil War, it was the third most widely-used weapon by the Confederacy. The standard make was a 58 calibre, with a 40" barrel. The total weight was right around 9lbs. The most notable difference between it and the Model 1855 was the elimination of the Maynard priming system. Also, the M1861 was never produced in the the shorter, two-band configuration.

The M1861 cost $20. Unable to keep up with massive production demands, Springfield opened its pattern to 20 private contractors, most notably Colt. Colt redesigned the barrel bands, hammer and bolster in its 'special' model, leading to the changes that would later be incorporated into the Model 1863.

The M1861 was scarce relatively early in the war, as many troops on both sides were using M 1816/22 conversion muskets and M1842 percussion muskets. It is doubtful that any M1861's were available for the First Battle of Manassass. Over time, the smoothbores were phased out and replaced with M1861's. Of course, this happened more rapidly in the Eastern Theatre than in the West or Trans-Miss. Theatres. It is estimated that a combined total of around 1 million Model 1861's were made by the war's end.

Friday, November 9, 2007

So, I'm going to jail, and I need help...

...On Tues., Nov. 27th, the MDA "Police" will be coming to my store, handcuffing me, taking my mugshot, and escorting me to jail (a mock jail in the lobby of the Gettysburg Hotel), so I need help. In order to be let out, I need to raise a combined total of $3,000. Anyone out there who reads this, whether you know me or not, but who would like to help out in this most worthy of causes, should click my e-mail link in my profile and shoot me a message. I can give you the details then.

Thanks in advance!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

the Model 1855 U. S. Springfield

The origianl design of this rifle-musket had a feature known as the Maynard Tape priming system. This resulted in the high hump under the hammer and the distinctive opening trapdoor on the side of the lockplate.

Dr. Edward Maynard was a dentist and former west Point cadet, though he had to drop out because of medical reasons. His original idea for the locking mechanism was for the conversion of flintlocks to percussion, and the first such models had the primer magazine outside the stock. The drawback was that this configuration did not allow the use of ordinary percussion caps.

In 1851, the Ordnance Dept. suggested an improved lock, in which the primer was imbedded in the lockplate. This was the design accepted for the Model 1855, and production began soon after.

Maynard's priming system was very similar to a modern cap gun. Fulminated Mercury caps were put on a long metal roll. As the hammer was cocked, a lever pushed the roll forward, placing the next cap over the cone and making the musket ready to fire.

It was a good theory, but in actual use, things didn't quite always line up as expected. This system also was at the mercy of the elements. Even though the cap rolls were somewhat weather-treated, they didn't always hold up or function properly in adverse weather conditions. The cone used was the same as that on the early 1841 and 1842 muskets and rifles, so the firer could use standard issue percussion caps in place of the tape system.

A re-design in 1860 eliminated this overly-complex and unreliable priming system, and this resulted in the Model 1861 Springfield.

During production, the Springfield Armory produced 47,115 model 1855 rifle-muskets with the 40 inch barrel, while the Harpers Ferry Arsenal produced 12,158 shorter rifles in the same configuration, but with 35 inch barrels.

This rifle-musket was used early in the U.S. Civil War, but not in the numbers of some of the more famous firearms. As the war progressed, it was slowly done away with, especially in union regiments.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Nothing says hokiness... a mounted civil war cavalry reenactment! Look at the pictures (and I've seen worse). Does this look like 'a train wreck'? The opposing lines 'thundered into one another with a loud clash!'? 'A mounted cavalcade of men and horses drawn toward one another with lightning speed and thunderous brutality!'?

Or, few guys on horseback playing army and rattling their sabers? Don't get me wrong. I have great respect for the mounted cavalry. It takes a lot of effort and a lot of expense to buy a trained horse, full gear and tack and a trailer, and then to travel cross country to a reenactment. But, the cavalry should use appropriate tactics, scouting the flanks, dismounting to form skirmish lines, quickly re-forming and moving to another threatened area, etc. Don't let them degrade to couriers and such, but use them appropriately.

Are we really honoring the struggles and sacrifices made by brave men in violent episodes of brutality when two guys ride up to one another, tap their sabers together a few times, smile, and say, "Good job, Johnny Reb/Billy Yank!", and then ride off into the sunset?

There is no safe way to portray the ferocity, the sheer brutality of a mounted Civil war cavalry charge! They generally tend to degrade to a state of hokiness, so we should really stop trying. Come to the reenactments, show your tactics, demonstrate your weapons and gear and find a proper place. Otherwise, the integrity of the whole event suffers. People are not being educated. They are being entertained in a comedic sort of way, and there was nothing funny about a mounted cavalry charge!

The Mississippi Rifle

The U.S. Model 1841 Rifle was one of the first percussion firing longarms made. This made it capable of firing in most any weather condition, a great improvement over flintlock longarms that often misfired in any wet or damp weather conditions. Originally, it was a 54 cal., longarm. At the start of the Civil War, many were rebored to 58 cal., enabling them to use the same ammunition as the 1861 U.S. Springfield. This helped cut down on the problems of logistics in shipping different ammunition to different units.

This rifle gets its nickname from the Mexican War. Jefferson Davis' company of Mississipians were issued this weapon.

When Eli Whitney took over management of the armory in 1842, one of his first major tasks was to retool the machinery to make the lock and barrel of the new musket, as the armory currently still produced the 1822 contract flintlock musket. This led to the long-desired goal of achieving total parts-interchangeability in military longarms in the late 1840's.

The M1841 was smaller and lighter than most military longarms of the time. Being only 50 inches long and weighing 8lbs. the rifle was a good 7 inches shorter and 2lbs. lighter than the M1842 musket.

Widely used by the Confederate Army of Tennessee, the Mississippi rifle was a favorite of Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest. He preferred the accuracy of the Mississippi rifle over the many types of shotguns and carbines in use at the time.