Monday, May 26, 2008

David McCullough Praises Library of Congress

Award-winning historian David McCullough praises the Library of Congress in a speech after being named a "living legend"...

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Getting Shot by a Musket

What was it like to be shot by a musket? I'm going to assume that none of my readers have had that experience. If so, do tell. Should be an interesting story. But, assuming no one has been shot with a musket, I ask the question again -- What must it have been like to be shot by one?

The most common weapon of the American Revolution was the smoothbore flintlock musket. The advantage to the target is that a smoothbore musket isn't very accurate. If you're the target, your chances of being missed are much greater than if you were in, say, World War II and coming under fire from a machine gun. But...

The advantages pretty much end there. To give you an idea...the Brown Bess British musket was 75 caliber and the Brits used a 69 caliber ball. If hit by one of these 69 caliber balls, it would hurt. A lot.

A musket ball didn't cut its way into you. It smashed through skin, bone, and muscle - and sometimes would then bounce around even more inside your body (doing even greater damage). If you were fortunate, the musket ball would pass clean through you - a simple in-and-out flesh wound, perhaps damaging some nerves and muscle tissue. But if it impacted bone, you were in trouble.

Of course, once wounded, your problems were only beginning. You would need medical care. And medical care in the Revolutionary War wasn't exactly...well...good. This wasn't the fault of the practitioners (not in most cases anyway). Medicine simpy hadn't developed to a point that it could adequately keep up with the diseases, hardships, and injuries of the Revolutionary War period. For a good overview of the medical problem, go here.

Getting back to that accuracy issue...the tactics of the day took the musket's limited range and accuracy into account. This is where volley lines and bayonets come in. A mass of soldiers standing shoulder-to-shoulder firing their muskets in a unified direction helped compensate as did the bayonet. If you feared getting hit by a musket ball, getting impaled by a bayonet was even less appealing.

Of course, if you were fortunate enough to escape battlefield injury during the Revolutionary War, you weren't "out of the woods" yet. Far more soldiers died of hardship and disease than on the battlefield. That's right. If musket balls and bayonets didn't get you, there was still something like smallpox to take care of business.

It's hard to find an upside to life in the Revolutionary War period. As historian David McCullough has repeatedly reminded us, life was hard in that time period. Today, we tend to see this era through romanticized paintings. But we need to guard against the assumption that things were easier or better.

I thought this Memorial Day weekend would be a good time to remind us all of that fact.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Battle Road 2008 Tower Park

Some great footage from a Revolutionary War reenactment...

This was apparently posted on YouTube by a fellow Revolutionary War blogger. I'd like to put a plug in for his blog. You can find it here.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Dancing With the

Not exactly Dancing With the Stars, but hey, this is an American history site, you know...

America, Islam, and the Middle East

Michael Oren is a historian, author and Senior Fellow at the Shalem Center in Jerusalem. He is also the author of Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East: 1776 to the Present.

Here is an interview I came across on YouTube. I personally am not a fan of Pat Robertson. (To those readers who are, I mean no offense, but my posting this interview is not an endorsement of Pat Robertson or the 700 Club). Still, the interview is worthy of being posted.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Revolutionary War Toy Soldiers

Do you collect toy soldiers? Revolutionary War era toy soldiers are not as popular as Civil War toy soldiers. In fact, American Revolution era toy soldiers are not as high in popularity as most other eras. World War II toy soldiers, medieval era toy soldiers, and ancient era (Greek and Roman) toy soldiers tend to be particularly popular for collectors and wargamers.

According to The Toy Soldier Company, toy soldiers can range from 1/2" to as large as 12" - the most popular being in the area of 2-3" high.

The Toy Soldier Company says that the 2-3 inch scale (better known as the 54mm or 1/32nd scale) provides toy soldiers "big enough to have a good deal of detail, yet small enough to allow you to play with lots of them in a small space." The second most popular scale, according to the toy company, is "HO scale," which is very popular with train enthusiasts and wargamers.

The Toy Soldier Company features several playsets from the American Revolution era, which can be viewed here.

The company Crossroads Diecast (from which I got the above picture) has a set of Revolutionary War era figures here.

You can also shop for American Revolution era toy soldiers on Ebay and Amazon.

For my own part, I loved playing with toy soldiers as a kid. Now that I'm a mature, responsible (ahem) adult, I would love to collect toy soldiers, but it's an expensive hobby. Besides, I wouldn't know where to put them. Still, the boy in me can't resist occasionally dreaming of one day having an elaborate case full of toy soldiers from various eras of American history - especially my favorite era, the American Revolution.


Benjamin Franklin Success Quotes

Benjamin Franklin was one of the first "success gurus" in American history, as the above video and this article show.

People looking for sound wisdom on how to make and save money, advance in their careers, and/or succeed in business would do well to study Ben Franklin.


Saturday, May 10, 2008

North Bridge Revolutionary War Reenactment

A special episode of "Metal Detecting New England" featuring video clips of the North Bridge Revolutionary War reenactment in Concord on April 19, 2008.

My congratulations to the guys who put this video together. Great job.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

How the Americans REALLY Won the Revolution

Did you know that lightsabers weren't invented by George Lucas? No, they were invented by the Continentals in the American Revolution. Don't believe me!? Well, watch this...

I gotta get me one of those lightsaber tomahawks.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Thomas Jefferson & Sally Hemings: Fact or Fiction

Due to a DNA link between the Jefferson and Hemings families, the allegations first raised during the third President's lifetime that Thomas Jefferson fathered children with slave Sally Hemings have now been widely accepted.

But they have not been completely accepted. Skeptics correctly point out that the DNA evidence links the families, but not Sally Hemings and Thomas Jefferson directly.

For a rather impressive, scholarly refutation of the alleged Hemings-Jefferson affair, follow this link.

I would ask that you not post your opinion here, until you've at least reviewed the David N. Mayer article linked above. If you disagree with Professor Mayer, that is your right. But we should all strive for informed opinions, especially on controversial subjects such as this one.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Interview with HBO "John Adams" Screenwriter

Here's an interview with HBO "John Adams" series screenwriter Kirk Ellis...