Monday, October 8, 2012

Bacon, Tanks, Cannons and Burgers *

*And why climbing a tracked, armoured fighting vehicle in a hoop skirt is never a good idea.

The sun was barely up the morning quiet, the air through the trees, quiet.  But it was the weekend and with it comes time to relax, regroup and reload. Throw in some tanks and it's a pretty good day.

Starting with Amish Bacon.  The eggs were a little befuddled, cooked half asleep, but the pancakes were light, the maple syrup pure. Now, where did I put the butter?

Coffee was the first order of the day as it was an early one.   Partner in Grime poured me a cup and I started with the typically bad pun about "I like my coffee like my men. . . "

He grinned and said "ground up and in the freezer?"

But a hearty breakfast was in order, for energy - not for shopping for shoes, or a trip to the spa or hair salon.  Not time for a pedicure or 50% off anything.

I don't spend my weekends like a lot of women.

Civil War Re-Enactment weekend.  The amount of detail and research that goes into such an activity was amazing.  I ended up in the Southern camp with Partner (they had the best collection of rifles to play with).  He compared notes with others on some of their own weapons  I just documented the scene, noting how many of these firearms were extremely well maintained and in good working order.

Oh, the firearms.  During this time frame, self contained metallic cartridges started coming onto the scene in quantities. In the day, many wealthy Officers bought their own "Henry's" repeating rifles with which to carry into battle and for many Civil War soldiers, owning a Henry rifle was a point of pride.

The brass framed rifles could fire at a rate of 28 rounds per minute when used correctly, so the soldierwho saved their pay to buy one often believed it would help. The only drawback to these early lever action rifles was the anemic cartridge for which they were chambered. It was a small, rimmed, .44 caliber round loaded with black powder and a soft lead bullet.Truth be told, the old copper cases of the .45-70 Govt. cartridge would stick in the weak trapdoor action and many of the soldiers were found to have used pocket knives to pry the swollen cases out when they stuck in the action.

However, a soldier armed with a 39-inch long breech-loading Sharps carbine held a real advantage over an opponent armed with a near six-foot long Springfield or Enfield muzzle-loading rifled musket. The Sharps loaded weapon from the breech, fairly simple either mounted or on the ground. The soldier would open the action, load a paper- or linen-encased powder and ball cartridge, close the action (trimming the paper or linen and exposing the powder), cock the hammer, pull the trigger and fire his weapon.

The Sharps also did not have to have an individual primer inserted with each shot, coming equipped with an unusual pellet primer feed. Someone skilled with it could load and fire his single-shot weapon 10 times in a minute and the shorter weapon was easier to handle, especially advancing on a firing enemy on horseback.

An opponent armed with a musket had to load his weapon from the muzzle, the military equivalent of herding cats on horseback. The soldier would have to hold the weapon as vertical as possible, resting the butt on a a surface that would remain firm. He had to then place a paper-encased powder and Minié ball cartridge into the barrel, withdraw the ramrod from beneath the barrel, ram the cartridge into its seat, return the ramrod to its home, cock the hammer into firing position, insert a primer beneath the hammer, and, finally, pull the trigger to fire his weapon.

The skilled shooter could fire two or three times in a minute, but for every skilled marksman there were five Barney Fifes. The musket was much improved over the old smoothbore weapons, which had basically fired a large 'ball' with several other smaller, balls. This made the weapon deadly at close range, but neither accurate nor effective past about 100 yards most of the time. This is why armies of men equipped with muskets could stand and blast away at one another for long periods of time without sustaining massive casualties. It had to be a hellish scene, the clattering grapeshot ringing out through smoke and moans, both sides clustering and firing, a volley of curses and prayers, not words mingled together yet discernible, but one great sound gathered together in unceasing anguished thunder.

From that great mournful clash there were casualties, so many casualties, and they were grim. For although the technology of weaponry had  improved, the tactics had not caught up with it. For hundred's of years we strained under the self-deception that the only way to win a war was to get more and more troops, and battalions than the enemy had and launch them upon one another in a volley of powder smoke and flashing blades until one side was destroyed. The Civil War  was a turning point in weaponry.

This is a deeply personal war in this country and whatever you call the war or or however you view it,  it was a time of great divide in our country. My generation was always taught that is was just about slavery, a horrible thing that exists in other parts of the world even today.  But it was so  much more.  The war was fought over state's rights and the limits of federal power in a union of states with the perceived threat to a states autonomy being an empirical one through the disagreeable and rightly disputed issue of slavery. For it was not so much the practice, abhorrent though it may be, but who decided whether it was acceptable, local institutions or a distant, controlling government power, that turned debate to battle cry.

No matter what one's opinion, which are not the point of this post, it IS a part of our history, good or bad, that should not be forgotten.

The people participating and volunteering to help at the re-enactment were from all over.  Of the gentlemen, both gray and blue, some had accents I couldn't place, Finnish, possibly Croatian, likely from the city.  Despite their accents or origins, despite the color of their uniform, on this Autumn weekend they were simply Americans, sharing American history, sharing the stories, inviting the next generation, coming in with their parents to come over and learn.

Certainly the soldiers were all male, but this re-enactment was a family affair. I saw other women bustling about in period gear around the makeshift hospital and camps and a number of children.  I don't post photos of children here, for the sake of their privacy and safety, unless I know them and have the OK of family.  But the children here today, especially a group of little girls, were so engaging and fun, darting about in historical clothing, in play, as children always have done, yet respectful of what this all represented.

When we look back at history with hindsight, we are at an advantage, that of knowing what good and evil befalls man in a course of their life, that the hardships and victories  would give a measure to a life that those who lived it, could not see in the moment in which blood was shed or glory raised. 

Time has passed and weapons have changed, yet history is something that we need to remember, as always, a gentle rebuke to the present.

After most of the participants packed up to head home, we wandered the park to look at the tanks, amazed that in only a few generations the face of war had changed so much, would continue to change.

Partner - "mind the sign, it says to be careful climbing on the tanks as there are sharp edges."

Me - "like that ever stopped me".

With a phone call  "Midwest Chick - we tried to get a cannon for Mr. B.  to use to wake up the neighbors but had no luck." it was time for a drive back home and definitely time for dinner.

Guns and tanks and cannons are hungry work.

It's dark, too dark to grill?

Forget Yankee Determination or Southern Pride,  never underestimate a little Geek Ingenuity.

Dinner was burgers mixed with a mixture of crushed  green peppercorn, garlic, shallots, chives and salt, served on fresh baked Pretzel Rolls with melted Muenster. If you've not had a Pretzel Roll, you should.  Chewy and salty on the outside, and soft inside, they're the perfect burger transport, especially lightly grilled on cast iron with hot melted Muenster on them.

Getting the proper light and shadow for kitchen geek cooking photos.

You may never eat a regular hamburger again.

With a toast with some IPA, night fell with conversation with friends and a meal prepared by hand.  Small moments, short days, all history in the making.


  1. What a great day! Thanks for the goodly report & food pr0n.

  2. Brigid, you said:

    "Small moments, short days, all history in the making."

    i think i have always understood that on an intellectual level...but over this past weekend, and you know what i am talking about from your comment on my post, i think i learned it at the physical and emotional level. jambaloney and i had a discussion after our sad event. although we have always tried to live our lives in the fullest, to be humble and grateful and thankful for everything that our lives have provided...we think it is time to remember that small moments and short days and every moment in life is history in the making.

    i am glad that you had such a great time and thank you for all of the pics. i really enjoyed this post. your friend,

  3. Sounds like a great weekend. Some parts of history are being lost to our younger generation. Good to see these re-enactments that take place around the country. Great post.

  4. The Civil War reenactments are so much fun. We have gone to several of them as observers and my brother was a part of them long ago.

    The food looks marvelous! *sigh* It always looks marvelous. :)

  5. Agh. You're killing me.

    On the road all day, I stopped in at a Wendy's for a burger and fries. Haven't eaten there in 5-10 years.
    My burger tasted funny. It took me a worried moment to figure out what it was.
    The pickle slices were bread&butter.
    Is this normal for a Wendy's?
    Or did I happen to run into the one and only Wendy's (out in the boonies) that does it that way?

    Ate it anyway, I was hungry.

    P.S. - Stonewall Jackson (PBUH) was the greatest General ever to walk the face of the earth.

  6. Tanks and Civil War re-enactments. Plus bacon. Wow! Then the description of the burgers. Gotta go buy a new keyboard now. I just drooled all over this one. Your posts should never be read in a hurry, they are like a fine wine or a great meal with good friends. Something to be savored. Thanks Brigid!

  7. MSgtB - It's their new and improved juicy burger. The meat isn't juicier, it's just a slightly bigger patty. The pickles were changed, they hired a "pickle specialist" to decide. It's sort of a cross between a bread and butter pickle and a really anemic dill pickle. Not good.

  8. Great post, and that had to be a fun (if long) day!!! And yeah, now I'm hungry too!

  9. Thanks all of you for the kind comments and the additional information!

    OldAFSarge - ah, you made my night. Thank you Sir!

    Old NFO - the seasoning for the burgers was a home take on the Penzey's "foxpoint seasoning" of which I run out of sometimes.

    I probably shouldn't tell you tonight's dinner. Pork tenderloin, sliced thin and stir fried in a dab of 18 year old balsamic, set aside, then onion, celery (I didn't have water chestnut) slivered carrots and red pepper stir fried in a mixture of leftover General Tso sauce, raw honey, five spice power, crushed red pepper, and a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar (with the Mother, apple cider folks will know what I'm talking about).

    Stir fried til crunchy tender, the meat added back in to heat and served in homemade tortillas and eaten like wraps.

    And there's ale. It's going to be hard to go back to work Wednesday!

    Back to the kitchen!

  10. I stand corrected, Brigid! My humble apologies, and please feel free to smack me with any convenient 2x4's (rusty nails optional) if I ever mis-read a post and question your expertise in weaponry! Especially based on my rather thin and fragile grasp on history...or anything else, for that matter.

  11. RapidAlien - that's OK my friend, when I get long winded it's easy to miss the little stuff.

    Enjoy your chili feed tonight!

  12. Kymber - I hope that last night was a restful one. You are very blessed and what I like is that you know it and you share the joy you have in your life with us all every day.

    And your wonderful cooking :-)

  13. Here is the seasoning mix for a pound of burger. (Homemade version of Penzey's Foxpoint Seasoning).

    1/2 tablespoon green peppercorns
    1 1/2 cloves garlic
    1 chopped shallot
    1/2 teaspoon dried chives
    two pinches of salt

    Place the peppercorns in a sealable plastic bag to contain and smash with a mallet or hammer until a course grind. Combine with garlic, shallot, chives and salt and add to 1 pound ground beef. Make four thick patties, with a thinner center for even cooking without shriveling up.

  14. We live fairly close to Gettysburg, but we've never been out to one of the reenactments of that battle. Perhaps when the munchkins are older. We have made several trips to the battlefield with the kids anyway, and they enjoy exploring Little Round Top.

    It was a drizzly weekend here, so we didn't get out and about much, and the impending weather changes and incoming storm fronts made my ankle cranky, so I did a lot of sitting around with my foot up.

    But last Monday, we raked leaves in our yard for the first time. Our previous home had nine gorgeous Norwegian pines lining the driveway, which were pretty to look at...but pine needles don't make an effective pile for jumping in.

    It was a wonderful afternoon.

  15. While I'm far from an "expert" at muzzle loaders, to the untrained eye the process of loading must seem like "herding cats on horseback" but after a full day at the range sighting in and "developing" you load (this is after all the original handloader job), you get pretty good at it. Also in those terrible "stand and face the enemy" days you have the drummer giving you a tempo and a just as scared as you officer yelling the loading commands.

    Also, as I'm sure you know it Brigid, the process of loading some smaller rocks or lead shot behind your main calibur ball is called "Buck and Ball"... quite the standard load for smoothbores in the War on States Rights.

  16. I had to laugh, I grill on our deck at 8 or even 9pm in the dark with flash lights and yes even a head mounted light :D

    I'll never forget the time I was leading a hike on Billy Goat trail in Great Falls Maryland when I severely sprained my ankle. My partner took over the guide work and I hobbeled out on the "Short cut" trail to the falls...where a bunch of Civil war Reenactors from the Union were faced off against the southerners across the Potomic on the south side in Virginia...the Camp Medic brought out a period bone saw to minister to my needs....then the camp ladies rounded up some ice and a cell phone to call for transport to get me back to my car :)

  17. Auntie J. - I bet it was. This is my favorite month of the year.

    Immagikman - always trust the camp ladies to have a cell phone :-)

    PA State Cop - yes, they were a bit worn, still it was a sight to see.

  18. The tanks make me ask - were you at Cantigny?

  19. RonF - Those be the tanks. . .

  20. How cool!

    A Civil War Re-Enactment is one of the things on my Tub List (yes a tub, to use a play on words - a bucket isn't big enough anymore)...One of these days I will get to see one......

  21. Cool. Just had the Scouts out to Cantigny the weekend before. I taught Astronomy to the Cub Scouts, Tree Identification to the Boy Scouts, and The Old Man Can Throw A Frisbee Harder And Better Than You Can to all of them.

  22. Was that Cantigny Park in Wheaton IL? That is the best place ever, unofficial/official home of the Big Red 1 Infantry Div Museum. Some of my best birthday parties were the ones where I got to bring a half dozen friends to a picnic lunch and climb on the tanks.


    Maj Tom


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