Empty chair…

An old friend passed away today. From cancer.

Phil Moulton, a member of our old 21st Mississippi re-enacting company; better known as Pvt. Moulton.

He was from Southbridge and Holliston, Ma. He was a Harley enthusiast, and was a biker in the good sense. He and his brother Dan both left the 21st together, so as to have more time for riding.

I recall many a summer and fall night spent around the 21st’s campfire, many a mock battle, hundreds of company drills…and Dan and Phil are a permanent part of that landscape. They wouldn’t sleep in camp, not in a tent. They would appear in the early morning mist, for all the world looking as if they had slept under a bush.

Because they had. Ratty, dirty, unkempt. Hungry. Wet, mostly.

But those C.S. Richmond muskets were in perfect working order. Always.

Not that they came into camp for breakfast. They might chew on an old hardtack biscuit from their haversacks, or some apples they found in the woods. Some days, you might be able to slide them a pancake or two, maybe some bacon.

In re-enactor-speak, they were known as ” hardcore.” Authentic to a fault. As opposed to ” farbie”, the term for guys who had dry-cleaned uniforms, coolers of beer,  and frozen pizza warming on their fire grate. ” Farbie”, from ” far be it for me to criticize”…

Great days, those 21st Miss days with the Moultons, and everyone else. Some of the best ever.

Have a safe journey across the river, Private Moulton. As General Jackson said, we’ll all rest in the shade of the trees when we get there.


Published in: on May 21, 2015 at 9:29 pm  Comments (2)  

Riding Shotgun…

And I had been wondering where the next post’s inspiration might come from…

I’m not much of a ‘gun guy’ outside of re-enacting ( can’t see the need for assault weapons if you’re not’ assaulting something’, or maybe you have some fundamentalist Taliban bunnies living in the woods behind your house…)  but one comes to appreciate objects that are meticulously well-designed and engineered, over time. I feel the same way about good guitars and instruments in general, audio equipment, and anything else that my frozen 14-year old psyche seems to have  ever locked onto. This excludes Mrs. Addams and Agent 99 ( that would be most indiscrete.)

In the ” Catholic” post’s comments ( thanks again, all!), there was mention of a Stoeger Coach gun. Being the widespread choice of Southern belles everywhere, I thought we might spend a post or two in discussion of well-engineered firearms that were/are designed with particular applications in mind. Coach guns have a very unique history.

This photo is of a modern variation. It can be re-loaded very quickly with a bit of practice, and the only drawback seems to be a vicious shoulder bruise that will incur should both barrels be fired simultaneously. These are very popular with cowboy-competition shooters, and as home protection. Also practical as a snake deterrent; the poor reptile that sees this coming is about to have his entire evening ruined. Typically available in 18″ barrel length. Very well-balanced and maneuverable. Here’s a photo of a blackpowder variety;

Historically, coach guns were manufactured by Remington and Colt. They were issued to stagecoach drivers by Wells Fargo when they first established a delivery run from Tipton, Missouri to San Francisco in 1858. A coach would have two men up top; one handling the reins, and the other ” riding shotgun.”  The gun fired a buck-and-ball blackpowder cartridge that was horrifically effective at short range. No accuracy necessary. The bad guy riding alongside the coach just…went away. Had there been only one driver, he could hold the reins and still use the coach gun in his other hand.

Early coach guns were rumored to be used by Confederate cavalry. The Confederates were much less formal than their Federal counterparts as to their uniform and accoutrement applications, and anything that you had and could use effectively was likely to be acceptable. A coach gun or  any of several short-barrel carbines were popular. They could all be worn on a short shoulder sling and brought into use in a matter of seconds.

I was once shown a Colt ‘coach gun’, and was surprised that something that looked so stocky and uncomfortable was so very well balanced.  In that regard, it reminded me of a Cook and Brother carbine that I had the occassional use of; it is essentially a shortened Enfield musket. It was remarkably well balanced, and a joy to carry and use. Whenever I would go into the field in a sergeant’s role, I would beg Bubba to borrow his Cook and Brother. NCO’s aren’t in the firing line, so a short-barrel weapon is acceptable. It always felt like… the perfect tool. Here is a photo of a Cook and Brother;

And here is a full-sized Enfield;

Another favorite is the 1842 Mississippi  smoothbore musket. ” Smoothbore” refers to the inside surface of the barrel itself; these had an effective range of app. 200 yds. ” Rifling” refers to a tight spiral on the inside surface that increased range to almost 500 yds. This accounts for the alarming number of casualties in any typical infantry engagement. The field tactics were still entirely Napoleonic in nature ( up close and very personal ), but they could now shred one another long before they got that close. So…they did.

 The Mississippis  were made in Harper’s Ferry, and were so named due to Jefferson Davis‘ use of them during the Mexican war. Here’s a photo;

These are so beautifully designed that it’s hard to believe that they came from that era. Although they’re  a bit ungainly while carrying them or going through the manual of arms, when you raise it to the firing position it just settles into a perfect balance. You could hold this at arm’s length, balance it on one finger and stand there all day. Exquisite. These would mount a very old-school saber bayonet that was about 2ft. in length; absolutely terrifying.

Another absolutely magnificent weapon is the Henry repeating rifle. This looks very clunky and uncomfortable, but balances perfectly when in firing position. Was often mounted with a long-range scope and used by sharpshooters.

If memory serves, I believe it was a Henry that got to Gen. John Reynolds on the first day of Gettysburg; a shot from almost a mile away.

Well…that should do it for today, kids. I think next time, we might look at some period artillery! Try to contain your excitement….

Published in: on January 21, 2011 at 2:47 pm  Comments (11)