With Musket & Tomahawk

3.PNGMichael Logusz’ With Musket & Tomahawk is a fascinating read that covers  Burgoynes’ ill fated wilderness campaign during the early part of the American Revolution.

Two overarching themes struck me as I read the book. One is histories consistent yet rarely heeded reminder that no matter how well intentioned an invading force may be, it is still an invading force. The second is the innovations of 18th century warfare brought about by the influence of geography and the native Americans.

Observations

  • I was struck by the intensity of the fighting and will power brought to the fight by the Americans. The motivations of liberty and freedom from tyranny were FAR from the primary factors here. Far more important was the motivation to protect one’s family and property from invading forces. Another factor was the seeming grudge that many Americans felt toward an Empire that pushed its fringe elements (forcefully in many instances) half way across the world. Many, if not most, of these people were in America for a reason, and that reason was now in front of them dressed in a wool red overcoat.
  • I can maybe get off two shots in one minute with my 1777 Charleville musket. Even then, I find that the musket is rather finicky and unreliable. The stories of battles raging on for HOURS where in many instances some 40+ shots were fired by a single soldier really instilled in me the level of skill these men had. I can’t imagine having to replace a flint in the middle of a firefight (much less simply reloading), while your barrel is red hot and you are under fire. 2.PNG
  • Over the course of the 8 year war, the bayonet was the primary reason why so many militia chose to retreat rather than engage in hand to hand. However, during this early campaign, it seems as if the Tomahawk helped buck this trend.
  • Here’s to the American long rifle. Often overstated in its impact in the war, it cannot be overstated in its impact in this particular campaign. Morgan’s Riflemen were a forced to be reckoned with.
  • Despite the many tactical and logistical setbacks the British faced, the campaign — and subsequently the war–was really lost on a Strategic level. Howe’s determination to take Philadelphia and not link up with Burgoyne was the fatal flaw. Pride and ego lost them the campaign that turned out to be the first domino in a series of falling dominoes that lead to defeat (French intervention and subsequent war,  shaken British confidence, and escalating cost of the conflict). This campaign was probably the best chance Great Britain had of nipping the rebellion at the bud, and it was blown in the quite confines of Howe and Clinton’s quarters as they argued over strategy.
  • The thing that always fascinated me about this particular war was the amount of variety involved in its participants. Native Americans, British, Irish, Germans, African Americans, Scotch Irish…you name it, they were all there. No wonder so much innovation grew from this conflict.

After reading this book I find myself often shaking my head at politicians and military authorities assumptions around invading foreign soil. No doubt history has its many lessons to teach, but do we really want to listen? Or are we confident that THIS time the situation and outcome will be different?

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Hunting Frock

Update!

Almost done, but good enough for Brattonsville. Came in handy too. Learned (through repeated trial and error) the back stitch, cross stitch, hem stitch. Pretty therapeutic honestly, when you don’t count the aggravation of realizing you stitched 3 foot of cloth the wrong way…

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I’ve taken the dive into hand sewing a hunting frock. I’m a newbie at every essential part of this process (even down to watching how to YouTube videos for stitching basics). With the help of Luis Cruz of the 6th North Carolina, I hope to get at least something minimally useful.

My achilles heel in projects like this is my patience. Once I begin to rush, attention to detail goes out the window and things go down hill. Patience is my ally.

I listen to the radio while I work in my musket room. Normally talk radio or the perpetually mediocre Atlanta Hawks play by play of Steve Holman. Holman is probably the closest homer we’ve had in Atlanta sports since the passing of Larry Munson–except with Munson insurmountable obstacle was always the opponent–“did you see the SIZE of those guys??” For Holman, its normally the refs–“I can’t believe they did/did not make that CALL!!”. I give Holman credit, he makes even the Atlanta fan’s familiar pang of disappointment somewhat entertaining. WP_20170419_22_00_56_Pro

TAKE MY MONEY

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This is great:

https://allthingsliberty.com/shop/

I’ll take it all. Thanks!

I haven’t checked out all things liberty lately. They reached out to me a few years ago asking if I were interested in providing some content, however my interest in the period does not extent past ‘enthusiast’, and the time simply wasn’t there to do some deep dive research. But I appreciate them reaching out.

Speaking of online, I recently came across a flintlock enthusiast page in Facebook. That looks like a lot of fun.

https://www.facebook.com/groups/1683675588580468/

 

Cowpens 2017

The annual celebration for the battle of Cowpens is my favorite annual pilgrimage. Its always a good time driving up the night before, attending an evening event, then walking the grounds Saturday morning.

wp_20170113_19_29_39_proKen Johnson will portrayed Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton, British commander at the Battle of Cowpens that Saturday night at a local library. It was a packed room and Ken took an interesting approach as he portrayed Tarleton as a member of Parliament, looking back on his days in America. Lively, fun and often hilarious, Ken answered questions and traded barbs with the packed house.

The last few years, we’ve had some good luck with weather. This year was a little overcast, but not too bad for a January. I met with some members of the 6th North Carolina and walked the grounds again that Saturday.

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“Blucher!! I can’t chase down your men!”

My favorite demonstration at Cowpens has to be the cavalry. The talks are enlightening, and I learn something new every year. 18th century warfare is a diverse and specialized affair, and cavalry provide a critical tool in the lines of any army. Essential tasks include scouting, protecting infantry and cannon, and chasing down fleeing troops. I remember reading that Napoleons loss of horses in Russia was perhaps more devastating than the loss of men. After that, Napoleon was never able to capitalize on his victories by chasing down and removing the defeated armies with cavalry. They simply regrouped and came back again.

Will follow up with another post about what I have learned about Cavalry.

The Crow

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In an effort to improve my irritable state of mind these past few weeks, I’ve made an effort to avoid political news (and my Facebook feed for that matter). I came across this neat site called ‘Vintage News‘. If you want to burn a few hours clicking around, I highly recommend.

Check out these wonderful photos of the Native Americans at the Crow reservation. Truly a glimpse into a world passing buy. I have a few images here that I’ve touched up in Photoshop, but definitely take the time to check out the collection.

I’ve been meaning to look more deeply into Native Americans in the 18th century ever since reading Charles C. Mann’s ‘fantastic book ‘1491’. So so much I don’t know.

Battle of the Bees…

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My second reenactment is in the books. I had a great time. Thanks to Louis and the 6th North Carolina for the outfitting, great food and fun battles. Now on to some observations:

  • First rule of battle, keep your lock maintained and be prepared to fix misfires. In other words, keep your flint sharp and keep extra ones handy. One participant tossed his rifle in frustration due to malfunction. You only have a few hours of fighting during the weekend, so make sure your firelock is ready to fire repeatedly, otherwise you turn into a period appropriate spectator.
  • Other things to remember: Utensils. Tarp for the bottom of the tent. Hat. Tylenol PM to sleep through crickets and snoring nearby tents.
  • The ladies of the 6th North Carolina prepared fantastic meals. I stayed well fed all weekend.
  •  Skirmishing is fun, but open field unit battles are the bees knees (wow that was bad). Nothing beats firing and moving in unison, and having a good captain to maneuver the troops is essential to maximizing your enjoyment. Well done Louis!
  • Battle reenactments are the way to go. I think I would get a bit bored at living history events that consist of only camping and demonstrations.

Overall the weekend was a success. Next up is Camden (as a participant) and then Cowpens (as an observer). And now for a few photos. I still would love to find some action shots of the battles.

 

 

 

 

McIntyre’s Farm

This weekend I’ll be heading up to Charlotte for a reenactment. Its been a few years since The Battle of the Hook,(1) (2) ,(3),(4) and since then I’ve been planning on attending another once I spotted the rare and fleeting opening in my family schedule. This time around, I set about requisitioning some custom made trousers, a frock and a few other nick knacks. Hope to complete the outfitting with loaners once I am there.

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Latta Plantation

McIntyre’s Farm was the location of a skirmish called ‘Battle of the Bees’ where a foraging party under Cornwallis was surprised and beaten back by local militia. Not exactly a glamours battle, but any excuse to do a little camping and discharge my musket will do! The location of the event is Latta Plantation. Looks nice there. I’ll try and take some photos.

The Revenant

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Hugh Glass

The Revenant is a revenge tale set in the wilderness of the early 19th century American frontier. The film loosely follows the true story of Hugh Glass, a frontiersman who survives a brutal grizzly attack only to be left by his companions to die in the aftermath.

 

The entire film is a visual marvel. As the previews hint at, every frame is breathtaking and crafted with the attention to detail of a professional photographer. Yet Mother Nature isn’t continent with providing just a pretty picture to frame the narrative of The Revenant. Nature is an active participant that lashes out as a suddenly as Native American attack and then recedes into the background, forcing the audience to rest in in a prolonged, beautiful stillness. The blood and violence of this film will not suit many moviegoers, and the strings of silence and stillness may turn away even more. Its almost like an action flick for contemplatives.

DiCaprio’s name has been mentioned for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Hugh Glass, but I’m afraid the filmmakers did not do him any favors. His dialog is almost non existent and is instead replaced by an intense physical interaction between Glass and his antagonists.  As the film progresses, one witnesses DiCaprio’s Glass being molded by every visceral blow into a reflection of mother nature’s viciousness, resilience and violent coldness. The Academy Award winning moment (if there turns out to be one) will be a dialog of physical struggle and not verbal eloquence.

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Director Alejandro Gonzalez

 

The viewer is left to look towards other players to represent the broad range of human experience in the story. Tom Hardy’s antagonist, a greedy, self serving sociopath by the name of John Fitzgerald, masterfully carries the weight of humanities dark side.

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Tom Hardy as John Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald is a antagonist with a well crafted motive and a simple but vivid backstory. While we are provided with visions and hallucinations Glasses’ past, one is often left wondering about the details. Glasses dreams and visions feel unnecessarily imposed on a already fully realized landscape. Contrast this with Fitzgerald, who shares a much more powerful backstory through storytelling. Fitzgerald’s masterly weaved tale of his father finding God in a squirrel captures the imagination far better than Glasses’ mystical visions of his deceased loved ones. One is left wondering if how far DiCaprio could of taken the role if we were given a glimpse of Glasses history through his own words instead of vision based dreamscapes. This left me with feeling more of a connection with Fitzgerald, in a sense that I related to his character better than Glass’s. Fitzgerald was a bastard, but a bastard that I could relate to. revenant

 

 

In summary, the film is visual a masterpiece, but perhaps well suited for only a quirky off the beaten path subset of moviegoers. I am left impressed by the visual cinematic landscape, yet left wanting to connect more with characters (other than Tom Hardy’s Fitzgerald).