According to Hegel,” History teaches us man learns nothing from history.” I really did not take an interest in genealogy until I met a friend Robert Crowe who got me interested. Low and behold I found a whole group of family members that served in the Confederacy and a couple in the Union. Truly this War Between the States was a battle of brother against brother. This sparked an interest in that era of history and Robert invited me to visit him at a war re-enactment to meet Garry Alexander. Garry had his own little mountain howitzer and a unit called the 9th Battalion Georgia Artillery. A mountain howitzer is a small cannon that is usually carried by three mules with the tube on one mule, another carried the trail or carriage and the wheels on last mule. The mountain howitzer was meant to be just that, it was a cannon that could be carried over mountains and set up quickly where needed. Unfortunately these types of cannon were not used much in the Atlanta Theater of the war.
Garry wanted to be historically correct but his mule was an old four wheel drive dodge with a small trailer on back. At the time it did not matter to me as I knew nothing. I saw Garry, His daughter Kim and another friend Keith Boyles was getting water and cleaning up after the Battle of Bridgeport, Alabama. I walked up and introduced myself rather sheepishly. Garry shook my hand and mentioned what I might need to get started. Apparently both Union and some Confederate soldier wore sky blue pants. It was safe to get a pair as a re-enactor would galvanize. In Georgia, there was always more Confederate Soldiers than Union so sometimes you had to switch jackets being gray on day and blue the next. The sky blue pants was the denominator that got you started. Excited about participating, I purchased my Jernigan wool, sky blue pants and suspenders at Bridgeport along with a white shirt that had wooden buttons. Thus I began my venture into a hobby of reenacting. I pieced together my uniform a little bit at a time as I got the money and ran up some credit cards in the process.
Garry was not interested in the history of the 9th Georgia Artillery but I was. I went to the library and searched for all I could find. For starters the 9th had five units from around Atlanta, Gwinnett, Columbus and Augusta. Most of the 9th Georgia’s large guns were Napoleon 12lb smooth bores which are more historically accurate for the period. We carried pistols but it seems the original 9th Georgia had Mississippi rifles to defend themselves and equipment. All of the reenactments we participated in were in Alabama and Georgia but the original 9th Georgia Artillery fought from Georgia , Tennessee, Kentucky and up into Virginia. Over time I would buy many more pants, boots and supplies to participate. I wore glasses and bought authentic frames with my prescription in them. They looked quite silly but it worked. We were a rag tag looking group at first with some in full uniform and others were piece mailed together. After a reenactment it would difficult to want to do much but people would want to visit camp afterword to get a feel of how soldiers might have lived. Of course you have to keep modern conveniences hidden but at times you were just too hot to care.
One of the important things about firing a cannon is that it takes five people for operate the weapon. It take one person to load the round which in our case was a tube wrapped in aluminum foil with black powder and flour for effect. The second person would ram the cartridge pushing the charge to the back of the muzzle with a long rod called a rammer. The third person would prick a hole in the charge with a brass gimlet and place a device called a friction primer into vent hole. The fourth positron holds a rope called a lanyard taut so that when he pulls the primer wire the primer will shoot fire into the vent hole setting off the charge and firing the cannon. The fifth position is the person who gives the order to fire. In order to fire again a different process is used. The first position has a tool called a worm that will reach in and pull the spent charge out of the muzzle. The second position would sponge out the muzzle and what remains with get sponge on a long rod. The one of the other positions will plug the vent with their finger to prevent any embers or chaff from being left in the vent.
The important thing to remember in the whole process is safety. After a little practice the procedure is like a dance, or riding a bike you don’t forget it. Of course, if you are missing part of your crew you are at a disadvantage. At a reenactment at Resaca, Georgia this is exactly what happened. An inexperienced teenage crew member and his father were recruited to work the front of 3rd U.S. Artillery’s gun which was right beside us. They had forgotten to sponge the muzzle with water before loading the charge. The father rammed the charge to the back of the muzzle with the burning embers still there. He somehow punctured the charge and it went off shooting the wooden rammer across the field. No one got hurt but the two working the front of the gun had some burns and deafened by the cannon firing prematurely. No one was hurt by the flying rammer but it was interesting seeing this short pole fly through the air over soldiers head. You can’t really learn the dangers involved until you see it firsthand. One could only imagine what the real thing was like with deadly rounds like grapeshot or a 12 pound ball. With black powder and flour the best we could manage was an unleavened biscuit.
Pictured Above Barry Colbaugh, Raymond, Gossett, Robert Crowe, Garry Alexander and the youngest is Josh the Fiddle Player