Here I am in my 3rd Inf. Co. C uniform (with cavalry boots I tell people I won in a card game). The leather satchel is for transporting the artillery rounds so that flying embers won't blow me and the rest of the cannon crew up in a battlefield situation.
Saturday, we had beautiful, warm and breezy weather for the kickoff to the event. My morning started with a crash course in mountain howitzer loading and firing. I got the easy, but nonetheless terrifying, job of carrying the powder charge from the caisson to the cannon. I was literally getting instructions and pointers while the speaker was addressing the crowd of about 140 people for the first demonstration. Amber got it on video. We got better with practice, and did the entire thing "by detail" so the audience could hear the commands and follow the action.
Click here to see the video if it doesn't load in your browser.
Later, we rotated around so we could practice the different jobs on the gun. By the second day, I got to pull the primer, which was a good thrill. I have an image burned into my mind of looking over at our volunteer Clive, in the gunner position, and the intent look on his face when I gave him the nod that I was ready to fire. I can say that it felt quite natural. On the third day, I operated the sponge rammer. We had a perfect record going until we had a misfire during the last show. Apparently, the round was either not seated correctly or had something wrong with the foil so that it didn't get seated correctly in the breach of the gun. I thought it was my fault for not ramming it properly, though everyone said it looked like I had rammed it even better than the first one I had done. In any event, it finally went off on the third try, and we got practice dealing with a misfire. "It happens to everybody," they said.
The cannon is pretty interesting to operate. Each man has a very small part in the machinery, but has to be in the right place at the right time all the time. It's choreography.
The small arms demonstration was paired with our cannon demonstration. The third day we also demonstrated the trap-door 1866 Springfield and how much faster it can fire than the 1863 muzzle-loading model.
On Saturday, I participated in the "vintage base-ball" game. I made up some old-timey flyers to advertise the event.
Again with the baseball game, we were learning in front of a huge crowd. We didn't know all the different rules from regular baseball - highlights include being able to catch the ball off a bounce (helpful when you don't have a glove). So the club vintage baseball teams played first, and then the "Fort Larned Soldiers" took on whoever wanted to stay and play as the "All-Stars" in the afternoon. The Soldiers had a rough time running in their flat-bottomed shoes and found by about the 6th inning that they were better off without them. We finished 9 innings; 99% of the crowd did not. It would have been a very close game if not for the first couple innings in which the All Stars got a sizable lead. The Soldiers were happy not to get shut out since most of the volunteers were not athletes (though the two park rangers on the team did quite well, I might add!). Oh, and the catfish and peach cobbler was good, too.
Our other main responsibility as the soldiers of the fort was to handle the flag retreat ceremony, which involved a wardrobe change into the dress uniform and some ceremony and marching. It also involved the chief ranger, playing the role of first sergeant, harassing the privates after falling in for flag detail about shining their buttons. For my part, I tried not to laugh, but couldn't help it most of the time during this fun part of ending the day. The rest of flag retreat was a fairly solemn event as everyone still visiting ringed the parade ground to watch as we marched out, recovered the flag, and marched back. Again, we were getting pretty good at it by the end of the weekend such that the bugle calls were starting to make sense.
The soldiers were only part of the activity at the fort. We had surgeons in the hospital, ladies in the officer's quarters, blacksmiths, carpenters, Buffalo Bill, buffalo soldiers, horses, and more. My favorite part other than the things that go "boom" was eating the bread from the bakery.
It was a fun event, and I'm looking forward to the next one. Next week, I'll visit Fort Scott for their "Good Ol' Days" event, for which I will haul Fort Larned's ambulance across Kansas.