When I found myself writing a series of Civil War novels, I knew I’d need help understanding the realities of a soldier’s life in the 1860s. Fortunately, I have some friends who are Civil War reenactors, and they kindly undertook to educate me.
That education involved wearing a wool uniform in midsummer (more comfortable than you’d think), helping to carry a flag as wide as a street, and my favorite part: learning how to load and fire a cannon.
Artillery drill is like a ballet. Every movement is choreographed. Every cannoneer has his part, and must play it at the right time, in the right way, for the dance to succeed. In the Civil War, eight cannoneers served each gun. This was the ideal, of course. On the battlefield, attrition inevitably robbed the gun crews of their numbers. An interesting and rather macabre historical artifact I learned about was the chart on the inside of the lid of the artillery chest. [Read more...]