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Students watch cannon firing demo

May 10, 2013

Waynesfield-Goshen students participated in the firing of a Mountain Howitzer Thursday at the school.

WAYNESFIELD — Several Waynesfield-Goshen Schools students got a big “bang” out of their education during class on Thursday.

Members of the school’s Civil War Brigade, as well as several other classes of students, were able to  watch a cannon firing demonstration. Members of each class participated as team members that fired the 12-pound, mountain Howitzer, the most common gun of the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

The demonstration was presented by Taylor Batteries from Woodville, a Civil War historical preservation group.

Bob Kelley, of Taylor, delivered several important tidbits of information along the way as the group presented their simulated cannon fire and displayed a tent that was used by the Confederate Army.

Members of the Civil War Brigade said they felt the presentation was helpful because of the hands-on approach.

“It is a great experience because you get to participate first-hand rather than reading it in a book,” said Mindi Brookhart, archivist for the brigade. “It was nice to see the teamwork aspect of firing the cannon.

Jared Emerson, who is in the Civil War Brigade for the third year, said it was educational to learn about the weapons used.

“It was much more simplistic compared to now,” Emerson said. “You had to work as a group.”

Emerson served as the head gunner, and was officially initiated as a Confederate gunner by marking his forehead and both sides of his face with gunpowder from the sponge used to clean the cannon.

Kelley said this was a common practice used to initiate gunners.

The mountain Howitzer most often fired 6-ounce canister rounds, often the canisters would have nails or other items put in them to cause more damage. Kelley used six students to make up the gun team.

Each team would have a gunner, a powder monkey, and two front and two back people to operate the worm, the sponge, the prick, and the primer. Kelley said the powder monkey was a common target for snipers, as a good shot on him could force the ammunition to explode and wipe out the whole gun team.

The worm cleaned out the inside of the cannon and the sponge would put out any remaining embers. The other two would insert the prick and the prime and the cannon was fired. Kelley said a good gunning unit could fire three rounds per minute during the Civil War.

The group also taught the students many historical facts from the Civil War.

Paula Mathias wore a traditional dress southern women wore during the time and spoke of their roles in society.

She said the women would often pack a lunch and lay out a blanket and watch the battles as spectators. Kelley said the Confederate Army was well-stocked in the beginning, but as the war dragged on it delivered a big hit to their economy.

As the war went on, Kelley said the Confederate soldiers often resulted to scavenging the dead for much-needed clothing or other items.

Kelley also taught that the Confederate flag commonly seen in actuality was not the national flag of the South, but was used as the battle flag. The national flag was red, white and blue with seven stars.

Kelley also displayed the eight-man tent used by the confederacy and demonstrated how the soldiers would sleep side by side to stay warm.

W-G history teacher and Civil War Brigade adviser Joe Foster said it is the second year that the school has had the group come to the school.

“I think it supplements everything they have learned,” Foster said. “They can see the actual power of the cannon rather than discuss it.”

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