Boston is very different from New York. There are the Yankees and Red Sox, and the Jets and the Patriots (sports team adversaries). And then Boston, the start of the Revolutionary War, has its tradition of Patriot’s Day. Maine, almost an annex of Massachusetts, has a day off for Patriot’s Day. No such thing happens in New York. Nope! The significance is that this is a photo op. The day is devoted to re-enacting the early skirmishes of the Revolutionary War. I attended twice. Two acts of random kindness were bestowed upon me. I held a musket while the owner shot me (photograph, of course). And in the second, I got an up close and personal look at what it must have felt like to be the target of a British dragoon. One needs to remember that everyone here is American, just dressed in period costume.
The accuracy of the long musket was surprising…bad. I thought the long barrel made it a deadly accurate weapon. In fact firing the weapon was a challenge. There was smoke and fire. And, you were blinded for a few moments after the weapon discharged. Note here that everyone had their eyes closed upon firing. No one wanted to be injured in the making of this image. I discovered the key to the image was the smoke and fire.
Don’t put your face too close. This is a shot from 2008. I close this series with a reminder. The spark and smoke will blind and sting. Many of the soldiers turned their heads and closed their eyes. I guess there was indeed an art to hitting the target. When you are shooting game you try for one shot. Otherwise your potential dinner is gone. You do have to reload in order to get a second shot. It means that you didn’t shoot dinner each and every time. The animals at least had a chance.
I got this shot and a few others like this through sheer good luck. I had no idea about the schedule and the events. I was pretty much in the right place a few times by coincidence. The reenactment was about the same this year. It still didn’t help that I had been here once before. The schedule was only approximate. Overall it was good fun to see these actors working so hard.
“Don’t shoot till you see the whites of their eyes” comes to mind in this image. If so, then it is hard to understand how everyone wasn’t killed during this battle. Both sides were in very close proximity. And with a long rifle it’s hard to miss. I kept asking and I was always told that the weapons were mostly effective in volleys. A single lead ball was not perfectly round and the barrels of the rifles were not grooved to spin the shot and fire it straight. It’s a good thing, I think. History says that there were few dead in this battle, which was indeed surprising.
Maybe, but I can’t be sure, the British are better disciplined. When the commander says fire, they did. Coordinated and in sync, this group looks like they have been practicing. Their headdress suggests that they were elite troops. Practice!
This gives new meaning to me when I think of a group shot. One muzzle blast, two flintlock blasts, and some early smoke. Whoa, I got some great action here. After the commander said, ‘Fire’ everyone was a little different in their timing. You don’t know how hard this is to catch until you edit and find one shot like this in more than 1000 images. The commander said, ‘Fire.’ and everyone did, just not at the same time – not even me.
It wasn’t until late afternoon that the patriots were close enough to photograph. They had been in the woods, behind trees, rocks, and fences. I was rewarded with a muzzle blast. There is also the issue of a lot of smoke right after the group fires. So this early shot was lucky for me.
At a certain point the soldiers were allowed to ‘fire at will.’ An expert could load and fire three times per minute. I watched and it was fascinating. I don’t think that I could reload that rapidly especially in the heat of a battle. Anyway, I like the graphic going on here with each soldier in a different part of the process. And I was able to get the powder blast yet again.
In my other blogs I speak about the critical moment. That would be just as the flintlock musket is fired. There is a flash of the powder as the flint is struck. By the way, the weapons often misfired. And with the blast it was probably pretty hard to sight reliably down the barrel. You would likely be struck in the eye by the powder or at least blinded by the flash. There were many pictures I took throughout the day in which the actors had their eyes closed and/or head turned to avoid the flash.
You may take many, even hundreds (for me, more than 1000) shots. But the ones that count are the moment of firing. It is not easy to do. So, it’s why you do try to catch that moment. Understanding the sequence of action helps to anticipate the timing. You miss the moment often. The soldiers misfire, they fire at different times, and the crowd or trees get in your way. But it really is great to catch the moment. I got my share that day.
Children also were not directly in the battle of Lexington and Concord. Dressed in period clothing, they sure are cute though.
Colonial women were all about the battle site on Patriot’s Day. They were mostly in a supporting role. Many women had kids also dressed in the colonial style. They did not have an active role in the battle. Throughout the day many women were present along the battle route to explain colonial life and the history surrounding this period in Massachusetts.
Waiting around before the battle, weapons were stacked. I am told these British soldiers were elite. They were often chosen because they were tall and the headdress was more than 12 inches tall to make them seem more imposing. They were in the center of the formations and protected by the lesser ranks. Part of the uniform was designed to intimidate the enemy.
The serrated T-handled instrument at the top is a trephine. These are battlefield surgical instruments. They are replicas which can be purchased for the historical demonstration here. Trephines were used in ancient Egypt for access to the brain. They were described by Kocher in a 1914 book in which he published techniques on how to use the device. The trephine is basically a circular drill bit the one could get at Home Depot today. We don’t use such devices in present day neurosurgery.
The center point is to drive through the skull to position the bit before you proceed to drill. If you look closely you will see the point is too long. It will pierce the brain long before the drill has made a hole in the skull. Crude and dangerous, but then again if you have to use this on a battlefield casualty, it’s probably not going to end well.
Another thought came to me as the demonstrator described how the other instruments were used to probe for and remove the lead balls in the wounded soldiers. Why? You don’t remove the lead. That’s not what is going to kill you. It’s damage to vital organs and the uncontrolled bleeding that will kill you. General anesthesia is not until the 1900’s, so bite the rawhide!
To this day though some things don’t change. It’s been a while since I had to remove a bullet. But I still ask for a metal kidney shaped basin. In today’s OR’s it’s all plastic. The nurses scramble around to get one from some back closet shelf. Then carefully holding the bullet fragment 12 inches above the basin, I release it to hear the satisfying clunk of bullet in the metal basin. For those of you who watched ‘Gunsmoke’ on television as a kid, you will understand.
I like this graphic. I like the shadows on the ground. Before the battle re-enactment, safety is important. The ammunition is passed around carefully stored and distributed to all participating soldiers at the last moment. Each weapon is presented for inspection before ammo is issued. No one during the battle fires directly at one another or they are far enough away to avoid any proximity injury.
Patriot’s Day, Lexington and Concord. It’s a series of events with re-enactments of the critical battles at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. This many centuries later, the British are the villains in this scenario and booed loudly throughout the day. The Irish artillery was positioned at the British staging area in the morning for a demonstration. Later they participated in the battle at Tower Park. The blast from the canon is very loud. No canon balls are fired but the black powder can tattoo your skin. Notice that the gunners have placed a finger in their ears. I just would have chosen the ear closest to the canon to cover up. But then covering either ear didn’t make a difference for me standing more than 100 feet away. Also, just a historical point of interest, the female gunner to the left of the canon was probably not accurate. Oh, and before they fired the canon, someone yelled, ‘Fire in the hole.’ You can then anticipate the moment. I bet they didn’t do that in 1776.