Fire! Artillery demonstration at Antietam

I suspect most readers are familiar with artillery drill, and have seen a few firing demos. At risk of boring you, let me call your attention this clip I took at Antietam on Sunday:

I’ve seen lots of misfire drills. Done my share of them in fact. But not two during the same demonstration. Either Santa Barbara is upset… or there’s a bad batch of primers. Bob Hines, the narrator, continues, unrattled by the difficulties, taking the opportunity to teach the audience.

Although he scolds the Number 4 man for stepping behind the Napoleon on the first misfire, the crew does recover. The second misfire was better handled (the crew had worked an earlier misfire that morning). Military drill, while a mark of discipline, is mostly about rehearsing actions in anticipation of a situation… like the next misfire.

Notice how far the gun recoils, firing just a blank, at about the 2:56 mark. That’s just with enough powder to make a “boom” and smoke… not a full charge launching a projectile. Call it a demonstration of Newton’s Third Law of Motion. A freebee physics lesson along with the history, OK?

For those who don’t share the passion for the guns, listen to the echos of the cannon fire. Guns on the north end were also firing with demonstrations. So we had sort of a “cross fire” going on that day. The sound bounced around the rolling terrain. Yet another indicator that Antietam was not fought on some billiard-table-flat ground.

Even better, while we were out in the Cornfield on the morning of September 17, the sound of those guns gave some indication, although a fraction of what one would have heard 150 years ago, of the noise of battle.

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