18th New York Battery drilling at Fort Williams in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, 1863

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byron ed

Sergeant Major
Mar 22, 2017
Lessons for today's reenactment drills, which of course should not match period drills in exact (it's unnecessary to take some risks that in real combat woud be taken) but see here the period stance of the sponger (#1) and lanyard-puller (#4).

At today's reenactments we see all sorts of weird contortions for these two positions.

Many of the spongers put themselves in full frontal (facial) exposure to the muzzle, well within angle of the bore such that should there be an accidental discharge (forgotten step or unburned powder) the blast hits the artilleryman in the chest and face.

See here the period mode of sponging with the least exposure to the muzzle blast, off to the side as much as possible and limiting frontal and facial exposure.

As for lanyard-pullers we end up today with contortions like backward-arm pulls, snap-down pulls, from-the-knee pulls, across-the-chest pulls and varities of wrap-the trunk pulls and for each of those varieties a face-the-field or face-the-limber stance -- some attempting to do both by requiring a weird and most unnatural twisting of the trunk and head to address the gunner, raising a free arm to signal readiness.

See here the period mode of simply tensioning the lanyard at full arm extension. A simple and natural mode which accomplishes all of the requirements of the position without all the contortions:

- a clear visual indication of readiness, the lanyard puller quite far from the piece and arm extended horizontally. There's no mistaking that from any viewing distance (as in this image), least of all in the gunner's view.

- it can be employed either facing-the-field to await a gunner's vocal command (in local single or section fire), or facing-the-limber line for a visual signal from the Battery command (sword drop) in a coordinated Battery fire.

- upon "fire" the whole weight of the body is employed to ensure the pull. Simple physics used to best advantage. There is no secondary delay of a "snap" downward (apply tension then jerk). There is no chance that the pull will be interrupted by a tight primer wire in a particular primer tube. The wire will dependably come out no matter how the individual tube or tube batch was constructed. It eliminates a variable.
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