BCMS re-enactors ready for new season
Saturday the Raiders formed up to prepare for their spring re-enactment season. The 20 or so members of the 8th Bridge City were being mentored by members of the 3rd Texas group. The Raiders at Bridge City Middle School are directed by faculty members Leslie Lloyd and Bill Dixon.
“Thankfully we were able to save most of our equipment from the hurricane. Bill and I were up here Thursday before the storm putting things up as high as we could reach,” said Lloyd. “Most of our losses were items like kepis (caps, buttons and such things. The losses were small, but when you need ten of an item and you lose ten, the loss matters. We have had things we lost replaced by reenactment groups from all over. It seems that we have gained quite a reputation among reenactors.”
Lt. John Burleigh of the infantry, along with blacksmith Roy Broomes and artilleryman Kenny Peveto came prepared to start the instruction of the latest group of seventh and eighth grade students that have a burning desire to learn history by living it. Burleigh, dressed in the uniform of an infantry lieutenant, informed his group that if they were there for reasons other than to learn the history of the period that they should leave. The purpose of the reenactors, both adult and student is to learn and live the history of the period and not the politics.
Burleigh led his group to the school practice field and began to teach them the intricacies of close order drill. As the drilling progressed, Burleigh passed his sword and gun belt to Lt. Zach Cole of the 8th Bridge City. As Cole conducted the practice, Burleigh began to distribute kepis, jackets and drill weapons to the infantry troops.
Cole and Burleigh worked with the troops on dressing down, about face, left and right face, and proper carrying positions of the rifles. It was very evident that the infantry troops were working hard to grasp all the movements of infantry troops. As the infantry was drilling on the field, Broomes had his blacksmith trainees setting up the forge and learning the names and uses of some of the period tools of the trade. “The blacksmith accompanied the artillery troops and needed to be able to make any repairs that may be necessary.
All of the gear had to be carried on horseback. This forge is a side-draft forge made from 1849 U.S. military plans. All of the parts of the forge fit in this box, along with the anvil so that it all could be packed on one pack horse. The howitzer was allowed three horses but the blacksmith only got one pack horse for all of his equipment,” said Broomes. Broomes instructed and demonstrated the proper use of a hammer on an anvil. “Never strike the anvil directly with the hammer, it would make marks on the anvil that would transfer to the item you were working on,” said Broomes.
The demonstration of build a fire in the forge and getting the coal hot enough to heat the metal to be worked on was hindered a little by the wind. Things finally worked out and a glowing bed of coals was in the forge and the metal ready to be heated and pounded on the anvil. “One of this year’s blacksmiths is the brother of a student that was a blacksmith last year. It is a good feeling to know that the interest can be carried along like this,” said Lloyd. At the north end of the school artilleryman Kenny Peveto had brought his mountain howitzer and the equipment boxes. There were three artillerymen of the 8th Bridge City ready to learn the operation of the small cannon-like weapon. “Our artillery troop is unique this year. We had a girl that wanted to join the troop. We told her that she could if she could research and find a woman that had actually been a member of an artillery troop. Our group strives for historical accuracy and this would be the requirement for her to join. She did the research and found a woman that had served with the artillery, so we told her that she could be an ‘artilleryman’,” said Lloyd. “The most important thing about firing this howitzer is to do it safely,” said Peveto. As the instruction went on Peveto continued to demonstrate and stress safety in the loading, firing and cleaning of the howitzer. “The charge we use is a half-pound of powder with a little flour mixed with it. The howitzer has a bore about the size of a soup can and would shoot a can full of cement 1000 yards. There is a lot of power here and it has to be handled safely. We do not shoot projectiles at demonstrations, only blanks. I just want you to understand that we have to be safe in all aspects of the loading and firing of this howitzer,” said Peveto. The artillery group continued to go through the motions of firing the howitzer and as time went by they got smoother and more confident of their actions. “We are hoping to take the group to DeRidder, La., on Feb. 20 for the Hickory Creek reenactment. We will be starting to work with the women’s groups next week and if we can have all our people proficient and dressed we will go to DeRidder. Our reenactment will be held in the spring as it was last year. We are very proud of these students and thankful that the 3rd Texas is a very willing to work with us,” said Lloyd.