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Civl War Canister


Subdeacon Joe

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One thing about CW artillery that most folks don't think about is that they were direct fire weapons. No forward observers directing fire from several miles away. Solid iron balls weiging 10-12 ponds would zip across the field taking off heas, arms, legs, until they lost momentum and rolled to a stop or hit a tree, covered in gore. The advancing enemy was right in front of you. Gun crews had to function with rifle balls whistling through the air as men died all around them. Canister and Grape were used to mow down ranks of charging troops like wheat before the scythe. Many a battery was overrun while defending their guns. Horse teams dropped dead in their traces from dozens of wounds. Hollywood has never captured this aspect of the war.

It was war at it's most bloody and terrible level.

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The movie "The Patriot" did a good job of showing what solid shot did to the limbs of advancing armies. Of course, the producers had to add the historically accurate scenes after some re-enactors pointed out that exploding shot did not exist during the Revolutionary War.

 

I remember standing at the High Water Mark on Cemetery Ridge and looking west across the open field. What was it like to be a Union gunner watching Pickett's men come out of the woods? Did any of them think, "You are brave but foolish to cross 1000 yards of open field into the heart of our batteries"? What was it like after Cushing's men actually made it into the Union lines in spite of the barrages?

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The movie "The Patriot" did a good job of showing what solid shot did to the limbs of advancing armies. Of course, the producers had to add the historically accurate scenes after some re-enactors pointed out that exploding shot did not exist during the Revolutionary War.

 

I remember standing at the High Water Mark on Cemetery Ridge and looking west across the open field. What was it like to be a Union gunner watching Pickett's men come out of the woods? Did any of them think, "You are brave but foolish to cross 1000 yards of open field into the heart of our batteries"? What was it like after Cushing's men actually made it into the Union lines in spite of the barrages?

 

More likely something along the line of "You poor, brave, stupid sons-of-beaches."

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The movie "The Patriot" did a good job of showing what solid shot did to the limbs of advancing armies. Of course, the producers had to add the historically accurate scenes after some re-enactors pointed out that exploding shot did not exist during the Revolutionary War.

 

I remember standing at the High Water Mark on Cemetery Ridge and looking west across the open field. What was it like to be a Union gunner watching Pickett's men come out of the woods? Did any of them think, "You are brave but foolish to cross 1000 yards of open field into the heart of our batteries"? What was it like after Cushing's men actually made it into the Union lines in spite of the barrages?

 

And Lee was foolish to send them.

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The movies are getting more gorey with war films - Saving Private Ryan was tough to watch. My wife and I will never forget the two old men who were weeping in the row in front of us after the movie. They seemed they could easily pass as WWII vets, Thier wifes were comforting them. My eyes well up just thinking about it...

 

 

GOD BLESS OUR COUNTRY AND THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO HAVE FOUGHT TO KEEP THE TORCH OF AMERICAN FREEDOM STRONG.

 

GG ~ :FlagAm:

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"And Lee was foolish to send them."

 

I've pondered Pickett's Charge from a thousand angles and still can't figure out what Lee was thinking. What information was in his hand (or not available to him) that made him think that such a charge was a good idea? He was a brilliant general and a great man in every way, but July 3rd, 1863 was not his finest day.

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"And Lee was foolish to send them."

 

I've pondered Pickett's Charge from a thousand angles and still can't figure out what Lee was thinking. What information was in his hand (or not available to him) that made him think that such a charge was a good idea? He was a brilliant general and a great man in every way, but July 3rd, 1863 was not his finest day.

 

Likely he wasn't thinking clearly due to 'the soldiers sickness' (dysentery). Befuddled by pain, dehydration, and the heat, I think anyone would have had a hard time making good decisions. Add in that, at heart, he was really a "drive ahead, hit them hard" type not much given to subtlety.

 

And there there is the (debatable) issue of the fuses for the artillery shells. They were using ones from a different arsenal and they burned just a bit slower than what they were used to, so what they thought was a 4 second fuse was maybe a 4 1/4 second fuse. Makes a couple hundred yards difference in where the shell bursts. IF his opening cannonade had worked, it likely would have cleared out the federal center. But then, why, when they saw it wasn't working, did he not call it off?

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watched the show Gold Fever recently and it was a rerun where Tom visited the Southern Scuba Supply. the owners "hobby" is civil war, and he had invented a way to disarm cannon balls loaded with black powder and shot. He said if the powder gets wet and then dries out it is still viable even after many years, and he had lost several friends from trying to "disarm" cannon balls. He had disarmed thousands personally and they still find them every few days.

 

There must have been an increadible amount of firepower going both directions.

 

Oh and he has two rifle rounds that "collided" in mid air....

 

curley

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Watchin' dat video got me to thinkin' how it must have been fer boys on both sides.

A shiver ran down my spine !

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"And Lee was foolish to send them."

 

I've pondered Pickett's Charge from a thousand angles and still can't figure out what Lee was thinking. What information was in his hand (or not available to him) that made him think that such a charge was a good idea? He was a brilliant general and a great man in every way, but July 3rd, 1863 was not his finest day.

 

 

 

What he was thinking was that his army was invincible and that he had attacked on both wings which were then reinforced with troops from the center, He was wrong the center was still strong and entrenched, in fact the Union still had two corps that were never engaged.

When he concentrated his forces on the copse of trees the flanks of the attacking columns were exposed and that vulnerability was exploited causing his left flank to collapse almost immediately with the right following as they got closer. With the flanks gone the battle was lost

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Watchin' dat video got me to thinkin' how it must have been fer boys on both sides.

A shiver ran down my spine !

 

Being a military history freak, I used to do a lot of Civil War re-enacting back in the 80s.

I thought maybe in some small measure I might be able to experience a bit of the feeling of the average soldier (without the disease, starvation, wounds. etc, of course)

Did a lot of drilling camping shooting and so on. It was very interesting and fun.

 

The I went to the 120th anniversary of the Gettysburg battle. It was the largest reenactment ever held up to that time. It took place just of NPS property to the south of the battlefield. There were several thousand re-enactors and 15-200 spectators. My unit, a NY Vol regiment, was stationed to the right of the Irish Brigade boys when the main battle commenced. There were about a hundred field pieces and they fired for about 20 minutes. The day was miserable hot and muggy. I remember smelling some wild garlic on the rise where we were laying. The humidity kept the smoke from the cannon low and there was no breeze. After awhile visibility was only about 200 yards to our front. No roads, cars or spectators were visible any longer. With a final few muzzle flashes visible at a distance through the smoke, the cannonade ended. The fellas began to fall quiet. The usual joking around and picture taking and inane comments that are common in a re-enactment stopped. A few of the men in the Irish Brigade yelled an occasional "Erin go bragh, Faugh a ballagh". But even that petered out.

 

Then in the distance, we could hear drums. A lot of drums. Then bugles. Just down the rise we began to see battle flags fluttering in the sun above the black powder haze. They moved from right to left as the Rebel troops moved into position. We could see no troops. Only the disembodied banners. Confederate 1st and 2nd national flags, Regimental flags from dozens of southern units, guidons, individual company flags no doubt sewn by wifes and sweethearts, now torn and tattered.

 

I kept telling myself, "Cool. But it's just a reenactment" I kept saying that as if to convince myself. Stupid huh?

They sweat got colder as it trickled down my face and pooled on my backbone under the blue wool sack coat. I looked at my friend Don lying next to me. His face looked...odd. I wondered if mine did. Why should it?

It's only a re-enactment.

 

And out of the swirling cloud of smoke,suddenly came what sounded like a hundred separate bugle calls. Louder and somehow sounding more desperate and menacing than before. Straining to see I could just make out movement beneath those fluttering banners in the haze. My throat was dry but I didn't think I had time to get a drink of warm rust-tainted water from my canteen. Why? I lay there like I was frozen to the ground.

"Here they come boys!", somebody yelled on the left. I still couldn't see much. The Captain said "Rise up men. On your feet now". We stood shoulder to shoulder in line of battle. The flags moved closer. Probably a hundred and fifty yards away now. The Captain gave the command, "READY". Still couldn't see anything.

 

Then I heard the yells. They sounded as if they had been ripped from young throats and flung at our line just to terrorize us.It was all I could do to stand there and not turn and run. Stupid huh? They rebel yells rose in pitch and volume as the Captain bellowed "Stand Fast". then they emerged from the grey cloud. Polished rifle barrels glinting in the July sun like diamonds. Then the barrels spouted flame and smoke and they charged.

 

Oddly. I don't remember much for a period of time after that. My rifle barrel was hot. I know I fired. My eyes burned from the smoke. My throat was as dry as I can ever remember. I saw men fall on both sides.

But it wasn't like any firefight fro my time. It didn't make me flash back to the 60s and the jungles like you might think. But I did seem to flash back briefly to a time I had never occupied. A period I had only read about and conjured up in my mind.

 

The battle waned and eventually ended, as all battles do.

I gathered my wits about me and noticed I was not the only one who seemed momentarily confused and disoriented as when one is suddenly awakened from a sound sleep. Other eyes here and there met mine. Then we quickly turned away as if embarrassed that some deep and shameful secret we guarded had been revealed. WE returned to normal and left the field after laughing and joking again with our comrades and the Rebs as well.

Later we broke camp, loaded the cars and headed home. 1200 miles for me.

 

I left the re-enacting hobby not long after that. I felt I had achieved what I had set out to do.

 

So when I see people laugh at re-enactors call then nerds and history freaks. I just think Sure, maybe. But some of them are searching for something. Some will find it. Some won't. I'm still not sure how to put the feeling into words. I doubt that I ever will be.

 

Yikes, That was a long dang post. Sorry. Drinks are on me. :blush:

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Hard to double tap a 63 Springfield but I managed it. :lol:

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Thank you for the post, Bob.

You put into words something that I felt many years ago when I first became involved in skirmishing.

 

I recall the purchase of my 2 band Enfield, the three bands were not available at that time. I had read all of the background on it and and some history also. I remember handling the rifle when I brought it home, and feeling a strange emotion, like a kindred spirit of the men of that earlier time. As a skirmisher, I did not experience any of the reenactor's excitement, but somehow standing on the firing line shooting in a controlled environment, I could somehow understand in a small way of what it must have been to walk across a field with death at your elbow. Those men on both sides had wills of iron. I know that some skedaddled but I wonder why they all did not.

 

The smoke from the black powder for a lot of guns firing at one time is awesome. I can only imagine what it was like from the muzzle of thousands of them.

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"And Lee was foolish to send them."

 

I've pondered Pickett's Charge from a thousand angles and still can't figure out what Lee was thinking. What information was in his hand (or not available to him) that made him think that such a charge was a good idea? He was a brilliant general and a great man in every way, but July 3rd, 1863 was not his finest day.

 

His fangs were out and he had to bite something....

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At least it will give Lincoln something to hunt! :lol: :lol:

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Damn, Bob! You have been thrice blessed by Calliope, Clio, and Melpomene. I was right there with you reading that.

 

Of course, I was at the 145th, and the weather was as you described it, maybe even hotter and more humid. Total of about 15,000 reenactors. Our battery was on the right of the CS gun line, only about 65 guns on it. I was laying the piece on any Federal gun I could see, calling off range and type of projectile. Our Capt. came over to check how I had laid the piece once, looked through the sight, patted me on the shoulder and said "Well done!" A few more rounds and we stopped firing. Every gun. Silence except for the wind. Heard a cheer starting over towards the left of the gun line. Saw above the smoke some flags advancing. I think every cannoneer cheered himself horse, encouraging the poor bloody infantry as they moved up. "Get 'em, boys!" "Give 'em the bayonet!" and other words of encouragement. Watched as the wave of grey and butternut rolled forward, then crash on the rocks of the Federal line and roll back, no longer a solid front, but an uneven, jagged, wave that was broken and spent. A few times a company, or maybe only a squad, that was falling back in good order would stop, turn, fire a volley and then keep moving back.

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At least it will give Lincoln something to hunt! :lol: :lol:

Speaking of hunting. How about deer hunting using canister from a 12-pounder Mountain howitzer. <_<

 

Poor judgment :rolleyes: but does show the physical effects of canister on a deer's body.

 

http://www.buckstix.com/howitzer.htm

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Speaking of hunting. How about deer hunting using canister from a 12-pounder Mountain howitzer. <_<

 

Poor judgment :rolleyes: but does show the physical effects of canister on a deer's body.

 

http://www.buckstix.com/howitzer.htm

 

Pards, after looking at the photo of the deer, it looks to me the canister wounds were photo shopped in. All the holes look the same!

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watched the show Gold Fever recently and it was a rerun where Tom visited the Southern Scuba Supply. the owners "hobby" is civil war, and he had invented a way to disarm cannon balls loaded with black powder and shot. He said if the powder gets wet and then dries out it is still viable even after many years, and he had lost several friends from trying to "disarm" cannon balls. He had disarmed thousands personally and they still find them every few days.

 

There must have been an increadible amount of firepower going both directions.

 

Oh and he has two rifle rounds that "collided" in mid air....

 

curley

=================================================

The eight Civil War projectiles that I have found with my metal detectors were all disarmed by a local guy who used a remote drilling apparatus, and they all still had powder in them. 7 of them were burning/timed fused, and one has a percussion fuse. No way in hell I would ever attempt drilling one myself.

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Damn, Bob! You have been thrice blessed by Calliope, Clio, and Melpomene. I was right there with you reading that.

 

Thank you Sir. High praise indeed.

Can I throw in a limerick for Euterpe? ;)

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Pards, after looking at the photo of the deer, it looks to me the canister wounds were photo shopped in. All the holes look the same!

 

I believe you are correct, Birdgun. The pattern looks suspect also.

 

BUT, it was on the internet so it must be true. :rolleyes:

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One thing about Cannon Cockers....... Nobody can accuse them of not having balls.........lol

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