June 1, 2013. Volunteers portraying members of the 6th Maine Light Artillery regiment wheel the cannon out into the open area of Lynn Common in front of the Frederick Douglass Memorial bandstand. An Infantryman pushes a plunger into the maw of the cannon, packing in the projectile, hopefully nothing lethal. A boy approaches with a satchel, reaches in and hands something to the man at the fuse. The boy stands at attention delivering the charge, then deliberately strides away. Now the man at the fuse is holding a 3 foot length of string coming from the rear end of the cannon and pulls it taut. “Ready!” He shouts. Two infantry on either side of the cannon bend at the waist and twist their upper bodies away, blocking ears with fingers. Boom! All I see is thick smoke now, cannon wheels, but no cannon.
Everyone loves a good cannon firing. I’d venture to say that firing a Civil War era cannon is a main attraction to the people who dress in period garb to recreate Civil War battles. I’d say another attraction for them is the opportunity to educate the general public about our American heritage. Or maybe some are just history buffs.
According to the program published by The Lynn 150th Civil War Committee, “We are confident that, with the first firing on Saturday of the artillery piece located on the Common, that many more young people will be drawn to the encampment and enjoy a more vivid experience of the soldier’s life in the Civil War. Perhaps this will kindle a life-long love of history such as we enjoy.”
Dan Wood of Derry, New Hampshire, is the man with the plunger; his 12-year-old son, David, the boy with the satchel. Dan says his son’s interest is why he is here today portraying a member of the 6th Maine Artillery, Battery F. Two years ago, the family attended a festival in Hillsborough, NH, which featured a civil war re-enactment. Young David’s interest in this experience of “living history” also led him to play the character of Robert E. Lee in a school assignment.
“Civil War re-enactors find it to be exciting, challenging and fun. Members are interested in learning about the Civil War and the 1860s by doing…Every effort is made to portray, in dress and action, the original company. Uniforms and equipment are crafted to be exact reproductions of those of the Civil War period. They wear wool, cotton and linen, camp and sleep in tents and cook over an open fire.”
from Lynn’s 150th Civil War Remembrance, May 28 – June 2, 2013
Katie Fiorella, 21, and her mother, Barbara, of Atkinson, NH, stand under a tent bearing the sign “Sykes General Mercantile,” pitched above a canvas-covered table . On the table stand jars of candy, a bowl of brass uniform buttons, a basket of socks and other sundries a soldier might need in camp. “Well, not the candy,” explains Katie, “but lanterns, extra buttons, tobacco, socks.”
“This is called a Dog Bone. It’s what we use to rig the tents,” she tells a curious boy, holding up a smooth rectangular wooden block with a hole in one side. These are for sale too.
Katie and her mother are Sutlers, merchants who sell provisions to armies in the field. Sutlers followed armies in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars. The word is from the Dutch and originally meant “one who does the dirty work.”