Mini-Federalist #8 – The Consequences of Hostilities Between the States

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #8, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_08.html

Originally published November 20, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, Alexander Hamilton.

So let’s assume that the Union breaks up. The individual States would have all the same feelings and tendencies that other nations do – they may go to war at some times, and be at peace in others. What would that situation look like?

At least initially, wars between the States would be much worse than we are used to. Most of the countries of Europe have large (and oppressive, and expensive) militaries that have been around for years. They’ve also surrounded their countries with forts. A potential invader expends an awful lot of effort to capture small forts and towns of little long-term military value.

Here, we have no such forts. We are also wary of the idea of standing armies. It wouldn’t take much preparation (and would not encounter much resistance) for the larger States to simply take over the smaller ones. Looting would be pervasive in such conflicts. Safety from this kind of lawless behavior would be a powerful political influence. It would be no time at all before the people willingly trade in some of their freedom in order to have secure borders.

Some people will tell you that the Constitution doesn’t prohibit standing armies (so it must therefore allow them). In truth, they would be very hard to keep up under the proposed government. Once we dissolve the Union though, standing armies would become commonplace and necessary – the threat of war would be too high for them not to be. The smaller States will be hit by this defensive build-up the hardest – they may even give their executives more power making them almost king-like in the process. This could even make the small States a threat to the larger ones. An arms race would inevitably begin, turning our fresh start into a carbon-copy of Europe.

This is the clear lesson of history. I’m not sitting here distorting the meaning of our new Constitution (which puts the people in charge).

The historians among us may ask why ancient Greece never developed standing armies. There are a few points here: First, the Greek people were by and large all soldiers – today we concentrate on commercial pursuits and don’t have time for that. Second, we have a lot more money now and complex financial systems that allow the growth of professional standing armies.

Realize also that if a country is not threatened with invasion frequently, even if it has an army, it doesn’t need to be very large or used often, so the citizenry has little to fear from it. A small army can put down an occasional angry mob, but can’t suppress the whole country. The opposite is also true – if security threats are constant, the military needs to be on alert at all times. The power of the army increases as the rights of the people decrease. It doesn’t take long for such a place to turn into a police state.

Think of Britain: being an island with a great navy, it doesn’t face constant threats. Since no huge standing army is needed, none exists. Their army is large enough only to delay an attack for enough time for the militia to organize. This has led to a great deal of freedom for British citizens. We are far away from Europe – only a few relatively weak British and Spanish colonies are near us. We’re in an even better situation than the British isles. If we can remain unified, we can enjoy the same liberty. If we split up, it won’t take long for us to start re-living the bloody history of continental Europe.

If any reasonable person gives this issue serious thought, he’ll surely come to the conclusion that the petty objections to the Constitution are out-weighed by the harsh reality of separation. If we let that happen, the imagined “catastrophes” some think the Constitution will cause, would be almost instantly replaced by a much scarier reality.

Mini-Federalist #7 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #7, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_07.html

Originally published November 15, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, Alexander Hamilton.

There are people who ask, “What reason would the States ever have to go to war with each other?” Well, why do ANY countries go to war with each other? There are, of course, a number of reasons, but lets consider some that are specific to our case.

One of the biggest reasons throughout history has been disputes over territory. This cause certainly applies to us. We have a great amount of land to the west that is in dispute – some States believe it is theirs, other people believe that it is the property of all the States since it was won from Britain in the Revolution. If the Federal Union dissolves, is there any hope that this situation would be peaceably resolved? There is obviously fertile ground for conflict here. We’ve already seen a few of these disputes resolved by the Federal courts (Connecticut v. Pennsylvania, and Vermont gaining independence from New York), but what about when there are no Federal courts, as is proposed?

Another source of conflict will surely be competition in trade. The states that aren’t doing so well will become jealous of those that are. Each State or confederacy would obviously create its own economic policy that benefits it. That alone could cause trouble, especially if those new policies upset the status quo. Think of the situation of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey: New York imports goods that end up being sold in New Jersey and Connecticut. New York needs to tax those goods in order to raise money for its government. How long will New Jersey and Connecticut put up with paying extra money (that goes for the exclusive benefit of the citizens of New York) for imported goods?

For another thing, the United States already has a debt from fighting the Revolution. How will we divide that debt among the new confederacies? Some States don’t think they should have to pay it at all – what happens when they don’t make their payments? Even if we settle these questions, and all the States go in willingly, some States may fall behind in payments in the future because of various political and economic troubles within those States. We may face threats from foreign powers AND the other States that are unhappy with the deadbeats.

Yet another potential source of conflict is in private contract disputes across State lines. If the citizens of one State feel particularly cheated by one or more citizens of another, who would resolve that conflict in absence of the Federal courts? This could very easily lead to war.

We already discussed how the several States could enter into conflicting alliances and commercial arrangements with competing foreign powers. If we move to this kind of system – away from the Union – we will become more embroiled in the politics and petty conflicts of Europe. Any nation that hates or fears America will do their best to divide and subsequently conquer us.

Mini-Federalist #6 – Concerning Dangers from Dissensions Between the States

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #6, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_06.html

Originally published November 14, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, Alexander Hamilton.

We spent the last three papers talking about danger from foreign governments. Now, we turn our attention to the dangers of disagreements between the states, or from insurrections of factions of the people.

As we discussed earlier, the States (or the proposed confederacies) would certainly have conflicts if left dis-united. Some people might say that there’s no reason for any trouble to crop up, but they forget that human nature inclines men toward greed and ambition. There are a million reasons why hostilities would be inevitable: desire for power, competition in trade, a need for security (even if unwarranted), or just plain fear of others.

You know that history is filled with examples: think of the Peloponnesian War, or of Cardinal Wolsey and Henry VIII, or the more recent case of Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. I could go on and on.

Even though history is against them, some will still argue that the commercial interests of each State or confederacy will keep them on friendly terms with each other. But if this is true, wouldn’t it be true for all the other countries of the world, too? Isn’t it more likely that temporary passions and selfish motives will rule the day?

Proponents may reply that those things happen with kings – not commercial republics like ours – but aren’t both monarchies AND republics led by MEN? The republics of Rome, Sparta, Athens and Carthage all went to war regularly. The commercial republic of Holland has been embroiled in wars with France and Britain (itself highly engaged in commerce, and with some republican elements in her government, is certainly no stranger to war). The same impulses of greed, rage, and resentment exist in both types of governments if left unchecked. Sometimes these impulses are brought on by the people themselves (even when it is against their own best interests). In reality, the expansion of commerce hasn’t led to less conflict – countries merely fight about different things now (like maintaining their own commercial standing, for one).

So how much confidence can we have in those who claim that commercial interests will keep the States or proposed confederacies from fighting with each other? We have to take off the rose-colored glasses and step back into reality!

We’ve already seen unrest in North Carolina, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. We’ve witnessed our credit and dignity diminish. Don’t fall victim to the false sense of security that is being sold by those who tell you that somehow it would all be OK if the States went it alone. Consider this thought from a wise author:

“NEIGHBORING NATIONS are naturally enemies of each other unless their common weakness forces them to league in a CONFEDERATE REPUBLIC, and their constitution prevents the differences that neighborhood occasions, extinguishing that secret jealousy which disposes all states to aggrandize themselves at the expense of their neighbors.”

In this one sentence, we get both the PROBLEM and the SOLUTION.

Mini-Federalist #5 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #5, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_05.html

Originally published November 10, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, John Jay.

As Queen Anne wrote back in 1706 (in reference to the alliance between England and Scotland): “An entire and perfect union will be the solid foundation of lasting peace: It will secure your religion, liberty, and property; remove the animosities amongst yourselves, and the jealousies and differences betwixt our two kingdoms. It must increase your strength, riches, and trade; and by this union the whole island, being joined in affection and free from all apprehensions of different interest, will be ENABLED TO RESIST ALL ITS ENEMIES….We most earnestly recommend to you calmness and unanimity in this great and weighty affair, that the union may be brought to a happy conclusion, being the only EFFECTUAL way to secure our present and future happiness, and disappoint the designs of our and your enemies, who will doubtless, on this occasion, USE THEIR UTMOST ENDEAVORS TO PREVENT OR DELAY THIS UNION.”

Weakness invites threats from other nations. Strength prevents such threats. We can learn a lot from the British history we all know. Yes: Britain survived as three nations for centuries, but those three nations constantly fought amongst themselves.

If we go the same route (by dividing into 3 or 4 confederacies), don’t you think the same thing would happen here? The different confederacies would grow jealous of each other, and not easily work for the benefit of all, but only of themselves. Even if we set the confederacies up to be more-or-less equal, how long can we expect that equality to last? At the very least, one may develop better leaders than the others. As soon as one confederacy is stronger than the others, the whole system would collapse. The others would try to find ways to restore the balance, and that may very well lead to war.

As it stands, the north is more powerful than the south right now. What if a northern confederacy tries to take advantage of a southern one? These confederacies would cease to be neighbors and would become merely borderers. They would be distinct nations, each with its own economic interests that may not always be compatible with the others’. What if one relied on trade with a foreign power that the other was at war with? Don’t be deceived – Europe would love to see us constantly fighting amongst ourselves. Anyone who thinks this wouldn’t happen is fooling himself. Just think: when is the last time that Britain and Spain united in defense of each other?

If we take this European route, we’d almost certainly end up on different sides of wars, and since Europe is so far away, we’d naturally fight against each other in such wars. We would be inclined to look to foreign nations to protect us from our own neighbors – and they won’t just leave once we’ve let them in! Look at what the Romans did to their “allies”!

So ask yourself: would uniting or dividing provide more protection from foreign hostilities and interference?

Mini-Federalist #4 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #4, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_04.html

Originally published November 7, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, John Jay.

In the last article, we explored how one national government would be better at preventing legitimate wars than several smaller governments would be. What about wars that are caused by less-honorable means?

Surely, any time a country thinks it has something to gain by it, that country will go to war. Kings are known to go to war over personal insults and other petty things, even; with no regard for what is best for their people. We should be wary of such disgraceful causes, so let’s explore them further.

First, economics. We do a great deal of business in fishing, and compete with Britain and France in this area (frankly, we’re better at it than they are). We have a fleet of trading vessels that we send not only to Europe, but to China and India as well. We compete with all the European nations in this area and do a very good job, too – we’re well-positioned geographically for such trade.

We’re so good at commerce that other countries are jealous and try to do things to shut us down. It’s obvious that the better we get at trading and commerce, the more our competitors will try to interfere. It’s not a great leap to think that this could lead to war in the future. A strong Union is our best defense against these tensions flaring into violence.

Why one government, as opposed to many? A single government would be able to draw the best and brightest from the entire country to run it. It can make sure that no one section of the country has too much power, or is overlooked. A Union can bring together the resources of the whole to defend a small part, if needed; centrally-coordinating the efforts of the military in a way that 13 smaller independent states could never hope to. Think of this example: the British Army doesn’t operate as separate English, Scottish and Welsh units – they fight as one nation. The same is true of the British Navy (and it’s no coincidence that they have the most powerful navy in the world). Why wouldn’t we follow the same model if we hope to achieve that same level of success?

Not only would smaller states be weaker (and thus more apt to give up the fight early) but they may actively work to undermine and get ahead of their neighbors for selfish reasons. Look no further than the history of the Greek states for examples of this destructive behavior. Even if the other states come to the aid of the threatened ones, how much help should they give? Who will be in charge when they do? Who decides when to call off the fighting? None of these questions are on the table when a single government is responsible for defense of the whole country.

Whatever we decide to do, the rest of the world will take notice. If we have a strong national government taking care of our defense and trade, the rest of the world will be more likely to be friendly. If they see a bunch of smaller, weaker confederacies or States, they may try to play us off each other and create chaos among us. That would be a terrible tragedy! As we know, when a family divides, it is usually divided against itself in the end.

Mini-Federalist #3 – The Same Subject Continued: Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #3, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_03.html

Originally published November 3, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, John Jay.

It is obvious that the people love the Union – otherwise the idea of it would not have stuck around as long as it has. The more I think about it, the more I realize that Union for these States is the way to go.

The chief concern of the people is their SAFETY. Now, SAFETY can mean a lot of things – what I’m talking about is the continuation of peace (both in respect to foreign affairs, and potential home-grown disturbances). For now, let’s look at how the Union best provides for security from foreign threats.

Countries generally go to war for a reason (whether those reasons are legitimate or not is a different story). Regardless, doesn’t it make sense that having 1 large country (rather than 3 or 4 – or even 13 – smaller ones) would lead to fewer conflicts with other nations? Legitimate wars start usually because of acts of physical violence, or because of broken promises.

We are already heavily engaged in trade, and have made treaties with several nations. Wouldn’t it be easier to keep up those international relations as one country, rather than a bunch of smaller ones – all negotiating with the same foreign powers? Under one Union, we can have the best diplomatic minds in this whole country negotiate for all of us, rather than just for their own small section. And those small sections might not always get along in terms of trade – a few small conflicts (or personal greed of a few State leaders or locally-influential citizens) may jeopardize things for the rest of us. Petty local concerns can escalate quickly – look at all the conflicts with the Native-Americans that have been started by a State government messing up. Having one united, dispassionate voice will prevent these kinds of situations.

Another concern is that we currently share borders with Britain and Spain. Should we break off into separate confederacies, those states on the border have a higher risk of being engulfed in war with either of those powers. A national government can act to calm these tensions before they erupt – not only because they are dispassionately disconnected from them, but because a larger, stronger government will always have a better hand in negotiations than a smaller, weaker one. That much is clear from history.

Mini-Federalist #2 – Concerning Dangers from Foreign Force and Influence

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #2, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_02.html

Originally published October 31, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, John Jay.

I’ll begin by reiterating how important it is to make the right decision about ratifying the Constitution.

Any government is going to require the people to give up a certain amount of freedom. Is it better to give that freedom up to one big government, or to a series of smaller ones?

It has always been the consensus that a single Union of the States was the best course of action for America. Only now have people begun to suggest that we’d be better off as a group of smaller countries. We can’t ignore this thought completely, but we should be careful until we know whether this is actually a good idea.

We have an amazing country – and it is great that it is a single country – almost as if that was God’s plan all along. The land is fertile and productive, and we have good rivers to transport our goods. Similarly, the people who inhabit this country are all united with the same culture, language, and religion. These people fought together to obtain their freedom and firmly believe in self-government. That united government has already conducted a lot of business and done a lot of good. These people, this land, and this government seem to have been made for each other. It would be a shame to break this all up.

From the beginning, the people have agreed. The first government they created was a federal one. The fact that it isn’t perfect is clear and totally understandable as it was instituted in a time of war and under great stress. Because the people still want a united government – just a better one – the recent convention in Philadelphia met to figure out what to do. The best and brightest minds came together and were able to take their time in designing a government this time. The Constitution is the result of these careful deliberations.

To be fair, the Constitution is only one suggestion for fixing our government. But we should consider it carefully. Remember how many people thought it was a bad idea for us to declare our independence from Britain? That turned out OK. We had a lot of smart guys in Congress from all across the country back then. Many of them are still in Congress and even participated in the Constitutional convention – they haven’t done us wrong before, and they have always believed in a united America.

It was the mandate of the convention to keep the Union together, and that’s what their plan – this Constitution – does. Why are there now people who think that Union is a bad idea? The majority of the people have never thought that dissolving the Union was the way to go, and if we were to follow through with it, I’m sure our best days would be behind us.

Mini-Federalist #1 – General Introduction

This is a continuation of a series of posts that are intended to be shorter, more understandable versions of the Federalist Papers. This post deals with Federalist #1, the original text of which can be read here: http://thomas.loc.gov/home/histdox/fed_01.html

Originally published October 27, 1787 by “Publius” – who was in this case, Alexander Hamilton.

We have all experienced how terrible the current federal government is. Thanks to the recent convention in Philadelphia, there is a new proposal on the table to consider – the Constitution of the United States. America has a unique chance to show that a free society can work, and that we need to take this opportunity seriously and ask whether this new government would be best for society as a whole, and not look for the advancement of our own selfish interests in it.

At the same time, we must not to make the argument personal. People will have different and varied motives for their support and opposition to the Constitution, and we should hear each other out and give the benefit of the doubt, as both sides can have evil motives dressed in the clothing of “the public good”. For this reason, we should try to judge the different arguments as dispassionately as possible. My own view is that the Constitution is a good solution to our governmental problems, and I will write a series of articles to lay out the reasons why. My papers will include discussion of:

  • The benefits of having a Union of all the States (as opposed to breaking up into smaller, regional confederacies, as some have proposed).
  • The fact that the Articles of Confederation don’t do a good job of creating such a Union.
  • No matter what government we come up with, it needs to be at least as strong as the one proposed in the Constitution.
  • How the government that is created by the Constitution matches up with what a true republic should look like.
  • How the Constitution is like the pre-existing State Constitutions.
  • Other aspects of the Constitution that will lead to better government, freedom, and protection of property for all.

Further, I will try to provide answers to arguments brought up by the other side in opposition to the Constitution.

Simply put, the argument is one between keeping the Union intact, or breaking off into smaller confederacies – an option that I don’t think is palatable at all, and the next paper will begin to explain why.

Civil War Artillery: Basics

One of the things that is often over-looked (or mistreated, in my opinion) by most visitors to a battlefield is the artillery pieces that are on display. In most cases, these are actual weapons used during that period and fired in anger at the opposing force. They exist today because of careful preservation efforts and we’d like to keep them around for generations to come. This means that you probably shouldn’t let your kids treat them like playground equipment, OK?

Well, I’m not here to lecture you – at least not about your parenting. I’m here to talk about the guns themselves. Mini-rant over.

Gettysburg National Military Park has one of the best collections of Civil War-era artillery anywhere. While there are some fakes among the guns on the field (which have their own interesting history), most of the collection consists of the real thing. In this post, I’d like to focus on laying out some of the basics of Civil War artillery so that you too can become as much of a nerd for this stuff as I am!

First, let’s examine some of the different kinds of guns that were used during the Civil War.

As you may know, the Civil War marked several turning points in warfare. It was certainly a transitional period for tactics, but also for the technology employed in weapons and their manufacture. Some of these advances didn’t catch on right away, but you can see the beginnings of modern artillery in some of the pieces from this era.

The most visually-obvious advance was the use of metals other than bronze in the casting of cannons. Bronze was still in heavy use in the construction of weapons like the Model 1857 12-pounder Light Field Gun (the “Napoleon”), and in the Howitzers of the day, but iron was beginning to make an impact in weapons like the Parrott Rifle (mostly cast iron, with a wrought iron reinforce), and the 3-inch Ordnance Rifle (made entirely from wrought iron). These weapons were very strong and lighter-weight than their bronze counterparts. They were cheaper to produce (especially the Parrott design), and also did a much better job with another big innovation: rifling.

So we’re able to develop a basic identification guideline already: if a weapon is green (or greenish) it is made of bronze. If it is black, it is made of iron. The iron guns are ALL rifled (UPDATE: Well, maybe not). Very few of the bronze ones are.

Now let’s have a look at some of the basic anatomy of these weapons:

6-pounder Gun diagram. From the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.
6-pounder Gun diagram. From the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.

While this diagram specifically refers to a 6-pounder gun (which was basically obsolete by the time of the Civil War), the same terms apply to all the other weapons of the period.

The important parts to note here are the breech, the muzzle, and the trunnions. These are the places where a cannon will bear marks that will help you to identify it. Information stamped onto a piece might include it’s manufacturer, serial number, weight, year of manufacture, and inspector’s initials. No visible markings on the piece is a pretty clear indication that it is a fake.

Let’s have a look at an example from Gettysburg:

Muzzle of a "Napolean"
Muzzle of a “Napoleon”. Photo by John Dolan.

On the left, the “No. 90” refers to this weapon being serial number 90. The serial numbers were unique to each manufacturer, so there may be as many as 6 or 7 U.S. number 90s. Sometimes the serial numbers were also done by orderer. This is especially true of the Parrott rifles. There was a “No. 1” that was made for the U.S. Army, AND a “No. 1” that was made for the Pennsylvania militia. It can get rather confusing.

Below the “No. 90” marking, are the initials “T.J.R” – this is the inspector’s mark (in this case, Thomas Jefferson Rodman) who ensured that the gun was fit for service. If it was, a “U.S.” mark was applied on the top of the barrel, near the trunnions. Moving counter-clockwise, we come to the “1862” mark, referring to the year this weapon was cast. The next marking, “1247 lbs.” obviously refers to the weight of the gun tube itself (not the full weight with the carriage and all).

On this example, the manufacturer’s mark is at the top of the muzzle:

Sound familiar?
Sound familiar? Photo by John Dolan.

It says “Revere Copper Co.” for those of you who have trouble reading it. Yes, it’s THAT Revere. While we all know him for his revolutionary exploits (including a certain late-night ride), that was not his entire life story, of course. His real business was silversmithing and in the post-revolutionary period he did so well for himself that he expanded his business into copper, brass, and iron works. While not the largest supplier of artillery, there are a few examples of his company’s work at Gettysburg, and to my eye, they are the ones with the highest level of craftsmanship. They seem to always have a very bright and consistent green color and just take a look at the “U.S.” stamp on top of the tube:

Revere's fancy "U.S."
Revere’s fancy “U.S.” Photo by John Dolan.

So we can tell a lot about this particular weapon by the markings. First, it is a REAL one. Since we know it was made by Revere Copper Co. in 1862 with a “U.S.” mark, we can also deduce that it was made in Boston, MA and purchased by the U.S. Army specifically for the war effort (since the war went on from 1861-1865). It was likely actually used in battle. The weight of the piece determined the price (usually between $0.40-$0.50 per pound), so that tells us that it probably cost the government between $500-$600 at the time (between $11,500-$13,000 in 2010 dollars) to buy. The fact that it is a bright, consistent green color tells us that it used a pretty high-quality bronze. Some of the Confederate guns in particular are a dingy grayish-green color; a result of metals like iron and lead being mixed into the bronze because the south couldn’t produce or smuggle-in enough copper. Confederate guns may also have bright green dots scattered on them. These are plugs that were put in after the gun was cast to fill in imperfections in the metal.

Another important part of the artillery is the carriages that the weapons are mounted to for field use. A gun without a carriage is pretty useless. During the Civil War, these were made from wood for ease of construction and to keep them lightweight. The problem with wood carriages in a static, “museum” atmosphere is that they don’t weather very well. The carriages at Gettysburg (and on every battlefield I’ve ever been to) are reproductions made out of steel and painted to appear as they would have. All the normal pieces are present on these copies, though:

A full artillery piece (side view). Scanned from the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.
A full artillery piece (side view). Scanned from the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.
A full artillery piece (top view). Scanned from the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.
A full artillery piece (top view). Scanned from the 1864 US Army Field Artillery Tactics manual.

Terms like “prolonge” and “elevating screw” tend to come up in official descriptions of battle action, so it’s handy to know what parts these are referring to.

Now that the basics are out of the way, I’m planning to do a series of posts on this topic. Among the other things I want to cover are the mechanics of how these pieces were fired; how they were arranged into sections, batteries, and battalions (including command structure); and a few posts on specific weapons in the Gettysburg collection that are unique or interesting.

Stay tuned!

Trips to Gettysburg

It’s no secret that I’m a huge nerd for Gettysburg. I go up whenever I can.

I haven’t been going with my regular frequency since our son, John has been born though. You aren’t really supposed to take a newborn out too much, and it’s been kind of a lot of work to take him places. I’ve been missing it up there.

So when my friend John (not my son, John) suggested going up for the day a few weeks ago while Ruth was at work, I got excited. Little John is old enough to be out in the world now, and we recently bought a minivan so taking him places is much less of a production now. Ruth was even fine with it! We were going to Gettysburg!

First trip to Gettysburg!
First trip to Gettysburg!

Once we got into town, we hit the newly-bare and reopened Powers Hill (which none of us had ever visited), and then we went cruising around the field. At some point, the visit turned into a quest to find different pieces of artillery. We hit all the unique pieces that I knew of off the top of my head, including the only intact 6-pounder on the field (pictured above), and the little-visited Jones Ave. and Benner’s Hill. We even took a side-trip over to Hanover, PA to see 10-pounder Parrot No. 1 (which it turns out, wasn’t the first one produced).

We had such a great time doing it, that as soon as we got home, Big John and I started going through books and websites learning all we could about the guns on display at Gettysburg. As is usually the case, we found things that we missed, but REALLY wanted to see. Last Saturday, we made a return trip, this time with Big John’s girlfriend, Jess.

Daddy and his boy on McPherson's Ridge.
Daddy and his boy on McPherson’s Ridge.

We got some more artillery nerdery in (which I will post further about later), and gave Jess a basic overview of the battle. It’s always nice to go up there with a new set of eyes – it makes me question my assumptions and tighten up my story of the battle for the eventual day when I decide that I don’t really care about money and start guiding.

One a "James", the other a John. Both 14-pounders.
One a “James”, the other a John. Both 14-pounders.

These are the first of many memories that I want to make with Little John. Not just at Gettysburg, but chasing history and learning whatever we can, wherever we are. Learning is a life-long process that happens away from a school and without tests most of the time. I want John to really understand that, and I look forward to our future adventures.

Maybe mom can come along, too.