Friday, July 8, 2011

Independence Day

Over the holiday weekend, we made a point of showing Mikro the movie "1776", which he loved (and he's still singing some of the songs).

On Independence Day, we attended Van Cortlandt Manor's annual old fashioned Fourth of July celebration, which this year was similar to celebrations of the early 1800s. The Declaration of Independence was recited, with loud "Huzzahs!", toasts were made, and the song "Adams and Liberty" was sung by both the renactors and the crowd.

Kids joined the Continental Army, took the oath, were issued "muskets", learned the musket drill, got to handle a real musket ball, and watched their instructors fire off the real thing.

The men of Doughty's Artillery Company fired off their cannon and taught the kids who volunteered (and you know Mikro was among them!) the 18th Century artillery drill.

18th Century Artilery Drill:

"Attend the vent." Crewman covers the vent hole atop the breech with his thumb to block off air supply to barrel.

"Search."- A wire "worm" is inserted down the gun tube and twisted to clear out any debris from prior cartridge that was fired.

"Sponge."- A damp sponge is inserted down the barrel to extinguish fire through dampness and by creating a vacuum as it is withdrawn.

"Handle Cartridge."- A cartridge is removed from the ammo box and given to the powder monkey, who places it in a pouch.

"Advance cartridge."- Powder monkey walks to front of gun, hands cartridge off to loader.

"Load."- Cartridge is placed in the barrel.

"Ram."- Ramrod is used to seat cartridge at breech end of barrel

"Pick and Prime."- A metal pick is inserted in vent to break open cartridge. A quill is inserted.

"Make Ready." - Lit linstock is moved close to vent; crew moves to sides and away from recoil area of gun.

"Fire!" - Linstock is touched to vent, igniting quill, which sends a flash of flame into vent and ignites powder, causing gun to fire.

Mikro got to do the "search," "sponge," and "ram" parts of the drill.

We had a family emergency over the weekend, and had to leave early, but Kev made it home again just in time for us to drive to the canoe launch behind the train station, where we were picking him up, and see the fireworks over the Hudson River.

Every time I hear the Declaration read, I am moved by the wonderful ideals it embodies, but simulaneously horrified by the "savages" passage. Especially when you consider how much the Haudenosaunee Confederacy inspired Ben Franklin and some other famous Founding Fathers... And by the politically expedient decision to fail to address slavery then.

It's an imperfect document, and we are an imperfect nation, but I do believe in the principles that America is supposed to stand for. I hope some day we actually live up to the promise of equality and freedom for all people, and learn how to live in peace.

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