Short Takes

by Fred Ray on September 5, 2010 · 0 comments

UPDATE II:  Amazon.com has a special on Ken Burns’ Civil War documentary—less than forty bucks today only!

UPDATE: I watched an interview on After Words with David Kilcullen, a former Australian soldier and counterinsurgency adviser to US commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan on C-SPAN last night. It’s definitely worth watching not only for what’s going on today but for an in-depth discussion of guerrilla warfare and counterinsurgency in general. Several recent books have come out that discuss the role of guerrillas in the Civil War (e.g. A Savage Conflict) and Kilcullen points out that “irregular” warfare has historically been the rule rather than the exception. I think it’s on again tonite, check your local listings.

Kennsesaw State University was evacuated briefly when the local bomb squad removed two Civil War era cannon balls.

Pierce said the Cobb bomb squad removed the cannonballs from the building and took them to an isolated location, where members used explosive to blow the old shells up. It is impossible to say if the old shells were dangerous, though they had fuses in them. When the second one was exploded, it did have a louder blast than the first, he said.

Columnist Paul Carpenter has a few choice words about the proposed Gettysburg casino, imagining what a modern Lincoln would have tapped out on his laptop.

Four blackjack and three years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in commercial liberty and dedicated to the proposition that some men (those with money to give to politicians) are created unequal.

You get the idea. It gets better.

What happened to all those Springfield rifles used in the Civil War? Some went home with the soldiers, others were converted to breech loaders using the Allin “trapdoor” conversion and a metallic center fire .50-70 cartridge, and still others went overseas to various buyers. One such was the French government in 1870, which found itself in a war with Germany and like the Confederacy before it very short of arms.

The French converted many of the Springfields into breech loaders but used their own breech-loading system, dubbed the “Tabatière” (“snuffbox”) which was a knockoff of the British Snider system. If you’d like to know more about French arms in the Franco-Prussian war, including the Springfield, Shotgun News has an article on the rifles of that conflict. It’s not on line so you’ll have to find a copy at your local bookstore or supermarket.

But—the story doesn’t stop there. The Prussians captured large numbers of Springfields, some converted and some not, and eventually passed them on to their ally Ottoman Turkey, where they were converted to breech loaders using the British Snider system, which the British Army had been using for some time on its Enfields. Some of the conversions were done in England and some locally in Turkey, where they were used right up until WWI.

If you want to see what they looked like one of these beasts is for sale on Gunbroker, with what looks like a locally-made Turkish hammer. It has the original US marking and British proofs from its conversion.

I should mention that the French also bought various other US arms including Spencers and the then-new Remington Rolling Block rifle in various calibers. Some of these were prototypes developed and rejected by the US Army. The increasingly desperate French also bought a number of Peabody Rifles, whose falling block action was later incorporated into the Martini-Henry, and even a small number of Henry repeaters. Like the Europeans in 1861, the Americans were happy to pass off their used, surplus and even junk arms to foreign buyers. None of these weapons had much effect on the war, even though many of them, like the Rolling Block, were far superior to the Dreyse Needle Gun used by the Prussians.

Speaking of ammunition, catch the “Ammo” segment of THCs “Lock and Load” series if you can. Host R. Lee Ermey gives a pretty good look at the evolution from black powder muzzle-loader through cartridge rifles to smokeless powder.

Firearms manufacturing returns to Asheville, NC, after a hiatus of 147 years. Microtech Small Arms Research, which already has a knife-making facility in nearby Fletcher, is in the process of moving to south Asheville. The city’s previous arms plant was put there by the Confederacy in 1861 and was located where the city administration buildings stand today. The plant produced mainly Enfield rifle clones and had some quality control problems until the folks at Tredegar Arsenal in Richmond sent Maj. Benjamin Sloan to oversee the operation, after which it became known for “superior weapons.” In 1863 the Confederate government moved the plant to Columbia, SC, where “Uncle Billy” Sherman’s men torched it in 1865.

Finally, a disturbing look at how American history is being taught. Here’s a list of the most important figures in US history as seen through a multicultural lens:

Abigail Adams
Crispus Attucks
Andrew Jackson
Queen Liluokalanai
Abraham Lincoln
Juan Seguin
Elizabeth Cady Stanton
George Washington
Ida B. Wells
Zitkala-Sa

Say what? While I don’t agree with everything the post’s writer, “Zombie”, says, he does make some good points, notably that marginal historical figures like Crispus Attucks (killed in the Boston Massacre, he’s there because he was half African-American) are treated as mainstream while really important figures are ignored. Racial, gender, and ethnic balance is now seen as all-important—the actual historical narrative takes a back seat if it is told at all. Unfortunately, many kids will never go to college (where I’m not sure the situation is that much better) or be exposed to much more history in their lives.

This tracks pretty well with some high school kids I talked to a couple of years ago. Everyone knew who Sojourner Truth and Harriet Tubman was (I suspect since they are “twofers”—black and female—they are attractive to the PC bean counters), and they all knew about the Trail of Tears but virtually nothing about the war (it is now styled “The Civil War and Reconstruction” with emphasis on the latter), which seemed to have been mentioned mainly as a backdrop to social issues. No one had heard of Robert E. Lee—as far as they knew he might have been Bruce Lee’s brother. A few had heard of U.S. Grant and thought he might have had some connection to the Civil War, but they couldn’t say just how.

Not too inspiring for America’s future, I’d say.


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