Gunpowder Battle Reenactment

identification. Some re-enactors use headless staves, others heads of carved and painted wood or of vulcanised rubber, for cheapness and safety (metal heads are expensive and easily damaged).

(Below) Second Battle of Newbury, SK: pikemen of Slanning's Regiment and (background) the Western Association move into the attack Striped pike staves are used by this re-enactment unit for

(Below) Second Battle of Newbury, SK: an artillery gun captain - note his linstock, and the whip for gun team horses - warns a sergeant of Western Association pikemen: "Have a care, loaded gun!" A Civil War company was supposed to have two sergeants and three corporals for 100 or so privates (the term was already in use); but in the early campaigns there was a chronic shortage of experienced sergeants.

Gunpowder Battle ReenactmentMine Creek Battlefield

Weston Super Mare and Second Battle of Newbury, SK: pike press, "Bertie Basset's Regiment" - the name given to temporary units formed at musters by amalgamating smaller groups into a regiment of practical size for battle. The rear ranks of Civil War pike units would have packed in behind their front-rank comrades with staves slanted, shoving on their backs to lend weight and momentum. Very much the same happens in re-enactments, most pike units fighting with points upward for the sake of safety; for the same reason swords are not carried by pikemen in battle. Such encounters have been described as like "rugby matches with 600 a side".

The Battle Powick Bridge


he smoothbore, muzzle-loading, matchlock muskets used in the Civil War - like so much other equipment, in a country pitched into war without the well-stocked magazines of a standing army -came from various British and foreign sources, and were of various ages, lengths and bores. Before the war the usual barrel length was about 4ft., the bore being calculated on a bullet size of 12 to the pound weight (roughly .8 inch). With a weight of 14 to 201bs. this heavy musket required a forked rest for efficient aiming, adding to the burden and awkwardness of the musketeer's equipment. A"bastard musket" with a 3ft.6in. barrel was also available; at 10 to 121bs. this could be aimed without a rest, but supplies of all kinds were uncertain, and mixed equipment within armies and regiments was common.

Differing bores caused problems of ammunition supply, and soldiers had to clip or even bite bits of lead off the issued bullets to make them fit the barrel. Gunpowder was supposed to be issued in two grades of fineness: "corn" powder for the main charge, and a finer grain "touch" powder for priming the small external pan, which flared when set off by the smouldering match. Powder quality was sometimes as unpredictable as ball size; and by some accounts Civil War musketeers were careless about carrying paper for wadding, even further reducing accuracy and rate of fire.

The bandolier of wooden or tin tubes in which the musketeer carried 12 to 16 measured charges of powder (not, in fact, called "the Twelve Apostles" in the 17th century) was certainly awkward to use. The tube covers could slip up their strings, spilling powder; in battle a man could easily forget which ones he had emptied; they rattled loudly, betraying night attacks and ambushes; and with burning matchcords and opened powder containers all round him in a close engagement, it was not unknown for a soldier to suffer the lethal explosion of his whole bandolier.

An alternative was some sort of belt-box worn at the waist, holding measured charges in folded paper cartridges; and these were issued to some extent. But paper cartridges often came apart with hasty handling or simply from being shaken up on the move. Some commanders complained of men carrying cartridges in their pockets, where they quickly spoiled; and even of some "fantastical fellows" loading by eye from handfuls of loose powder. At least paper cartridges provided their own wads.

In the days of flint-and-steel and tinderbox the need to keep matchcord smouldering whenever battle was imminent was a problem, and soldiers must constantly have been asking a comrade or their file-leader for a light. Once lighted, they normally kept both ends smouldering at once in case one end got extinguished or was blown off by the detonation of the priming. An

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Matchlock Musketeer

Musketeer, Colonel Valentine Walton's Regiment, ECWS, photographed at Basing House. Civil War musketeers did not wear helmets, or any other armour. The broad-brimmed felt hat was a desirable, though quite expensive headgear in mid-17th century armies; this soldier has a piece of paper tucked into the cord as a "field sign". Since units on opposing sides often wore the same coloured coats, or no uniform clothing at all, cases of mistaken identity were frequent, often leading to death or capture. Officers were identifiable only by coloured sashes, of which the best-known are Essex's Parliamentary tawny-orange and the King's red.Before an engagement field signs such as sprigs of greenery, pieces of paper, scraps of cloth or even untucked shirt tails were often chosen, as were battle-cries and passwords.

Many soldiers were issued with a "snapsack" to cairy a few spare clothes, rations, utensils, and small belongings such as flint-and-steel. This sturdy leather example is of a less popular shape; most were sausage-shaped, of thin leather or light canvas. This soldier also has a fine glazed stoneware bottle for his water (perhaps mixed with vinegar) or ale, in the Dutch style known as "bellarmine".

He wears simple over-stockings to protect the inner pair; the use of layered stockings and shirts seems to have been common. His plain, broad-bladed sword is worn from a baldric. Note the long ramrod ("scouring stick"), tipped with bone or copper to prevent sparking, in its housing under the barrel of his musket. The musketeer was supposed to cany detachable tools which screwed to the other end of this: a wire brush for scouring out a fouled barrel, and a corkscrew-shaped "worm" for drawing out misfires.

The musketeer of Walton's, showing his equipment. At least one powder flask, with a spring cut-off device in the nozzle to control the flow, would have been carried for the fine "touch" powder; and perhaps a second with a reserve of "corn" powder. On the hip a pouch for musket balls is just visible above the flask. He might also carry a small oil bottle; and, unless he was a fool,"proyning wires" to prick away the heavy fouling of burnt powder which after repeated firing could block the touch-hole connecting the priming pan and the charge in the barrel.

A supply of match, cut to convenient lengths, is looped to his belt of charges, and more may be tucked into his shirt or under his hat. Match was simply made by soaking cord in a saltpetre solution, which makes it smoulder slowly and evenly; on one famous occasion the Royalist general Sir Ralph Hopton supplied his troops by requisitioning bedstead cords from the householders of Devizes.

The wooden bottles for the powder charges were turned, proofed by soaking in oil, then painted or varnished. Re-enactors' charge bottles, though still made from wood, often have non-sparking copper lining for safety; and powder flasks are non-ferrous, spark proof, and have built-in weak spots. The issue of powder during re-enactments is tightly controlled, and unused powder must be handed back.

Would-be re-enactor musketeers must hold a Shotgun Certificate and a Black Powder Permit. They also have to attend four battles with dummy or unloaded muskets, to become accustomed to the adrenalin-rush which can occur during combat re-enactments. They are then tested on firing practice, maintenance and safety before obtaining a Proficiency Test card. All training is done through the regiment, but tests are by the Musket Inspectorate of the Safety Board, one of whose inspectors is present at every muster. Proficiency Test cards are revoked on the spot if anyone is seen using a musket unsafely.

Matchlock Flask

(Right) Musketeer, Devereux's Regiment, BCWS, demonstrating the use of the musket rest, in the drill posture "Guard your pan". Note the thong round his left wrist, allowing him to let the rest drag when he needs both hands for reloading. Reproduction matchlock muskets are made by about half-a-dozen active gunsmiths in Britain; re-enactors may also buy them from their units. Most cost from around £110 upward. They weigh around 12lbs.; the bore is .75 to .88 in.; the steel barrels are fully proofed for shot, and numbered for tracing, to conform with legal requirements.

The knitted Monmouth cap was produced in tens of thousands by many contractors, apart from individually home-knit ones, and varied from a skimpy stocking cap to a large, felted, blockcd item like this, using a pound weight of wool.

His coat is "uniform" in the sense that his commanders have ordered it in bulk in a common colour and lining; it may distinguish a regiment, or a larger regional force. It was not until 1646, when hostilities were almost over, that Parliament's New Model Army were able to issue a single colour throughout -red - with different coloured linings probably for different regiments (the lining presumably visible at turned-back cuffs). The coat was a heavy outdoor garment of dense broadcloth.

Under it the soldier wore his civilian clothes, supplemented by occasional army issues; these were for use, not identification, and although e.g. breeches seem often to have been grey, colours would be governed by cost and availability. A wool or heavy linen doublet, sometimes attached to the breeches, was often worn. Loose, lined broadcloth breeches were about calf-length (31 in. is a measure mentioned in accounts lists), gathered by garters; leather pockets were common. Loose linen shirts had small collars and gathered cuffs; more than one might be worn in cold weather. Long knit or woven stockings were normally grey or white. Civil War armies knew the importance of good footwear, and tried (ideally) to replace the sturdy, straight-lasted, round-or square-toed "latchet" shoes about every three months.

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