SAFETY PRIMER

Becoming a reenactor will involve several new responsibilities.  The first, and most obvious, is the task of acquiring all of the necessary gear.  Secondly, learning the 19th-Century military methods and etiquette will a time-consuming, but enjoyable, step in becoming a successful living historian.  Finally, and most importantly, is learning to safely maneuver and operate your weapon in the field.

Musket safety must be the first concern of an infantry reenactor.  In the heat and pressure of a battle reenactment, he must keep his cool in all situations.  Impatience or being hurried could result in serious injury for the reenactor or another participant.  For this reason each new member of the 63d Tennessee will be administered a safety test.  Each new member MUST pass this test before he will be allowed to take the field.

THERE WILL BE NO EXCEPTIONS!

After reviewing the safety guidelines, the applicant must be checked by an officer or non-commissioned officer.  It is the responsibility of the applicant to notify a safety officer of his readiness and arrange a time for testing.  Prior to taking the test, a safety instructor will go over the exam with you so that you have a complete understanding of what is expected. Remember, it is not our intention to make this a difficult process, but to make this a safe environment for everyone.

All applicants must thoroughly understand and be able to demonstrate the following information at the designated time of the testing:

I.                    Musket Education

a.       Power of the Musket

b.      Parts of the Musket

c.       Hammer position

d.      Ramrod operation

 

II.                 The Musket in the Field

a.       Load in nine times

b.      Foot position, front rank

c.       Foot position, rear rank

d.      Musket position, rear rank

 

III.               Other Safety Concerns

 

I.        MUSKET EDUCATION

The primary weapon of an infantry reenactor is the musket, most commonly the rifled musket.  Although the muskets employed by most reenactors are replicas of the originals used during the War of Northern Aggression, they are almost identical in design and are capable of being just as deadly.  The ammunition used by reenactors with the musket consists of a paper cartridge filled ideally with 60-65 grains of black powder.  This would be considered a “blank” as it contains no ball or other projectile. Once the musket has been charged with powder, it is fired using a percussion cap.  The hammer falls on the cap, which explodes sends a spark into the breech of the musket, igniting the black powder, which then explodes sending flame, smoke and unburned powder from the muzzle.  The explosion of the cap and the resulting discharge of the musket are the occurrences that represent the most danger.  These dangers will be covered specifically in the next section, The Musket in the Field.

 KNOW THE PARTS OF YOUR MUSKET

 

 

 

 

 

1. Heel

7. Cone

2. Butt

8. Bolster

3. Trigger Guard

9. Breech

4. Trigger

10. Muzzle

5. Lock

11. Ram - Rod

6. Hammer

12. Band

 In Hardee's Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, under the school of the soldier, proper use of the ramrod is described. However, it should be noted that the rammer is to be drawn with the thumb and forefinger. When returning the ramrod, it is placed in the rammer slot in the stock and pushed home with the little finger arched over the cone of the rammer and perpendicular to the barrel.  The most common use for the rammer in reenacting is during inspection.  The rammer will not be drawn during a battle reenactment because of the potential danger of the rammer being accidentally fired from the musket like a spear gun and with potentially the same deadly results.

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 II.        THE MUSKET IN THE FIELD

It was an absolute necessity for the soldier to be able to load and fire his musket quickly and efficiently under conditions of extreme duress. Although situations in reenacting are not life threatening, they can become so, if a participant is not properly schooled in these procedures. Just like the soldiers of the 1860's, the soldiers of the 63d Tennessee Volunteer Infantry must be thoroughly drilled in the procedure known as 'Load in Nine Times'. The purpose of this procedure is to make loading and firing in the field second nature. Mastering this technique will take some practice. A safety officer will take you through the procedure and check you at each of the nine steps. This procedure is demonstrated in pages 12-14 in your Infantry and Rifle Tactics manual. However, a simplified reference of the order of procedure is listed below. The Italicized words represent the preparatory commands.

 

LOAD IN NINE TIMES

1. LOAD

2. HANDLE - CARTRIDGE

3. TEAR - CARTRIDGE

4. CHARGE - CARTRIDGE

5. DRAW - RAMMER

6. RAM - CARTRIDGE

7. RETURN - RAMMER

8. PRIME

9. SHOULDER - ARMS

 

The foot positions are a critical aspect of handling your weapon properly while in formation. A safety officer will demonstrate the proper foot positions in each case. However, it should be noted that the rear rank soldier must position his musket over the right shoulder of the front-rank shoulder directly in front of him. In doing so, the musket should be positioned so that the front-rank soldier's head rests between the second and third bands, from the muzzle.  The image below notes the proper foot positions of soldiers in the front an rear rank when firing normally.


 

Improper foot positioning or improper positioning of the musket of a rear rank soldier relative to the head of a front rank soldier could result in the explosion of the percussion cap or the discharge at the muzzle causing harm to the hearing of one of your fellow soldiers.

During battle reenactments, an infantry reenactor of the 63rd Tennessee will eventually find himself in line of battle facing the enemy.  An order will be given to aim and fire at the enemy.  In these instances the flame and unburned powder discharged from the muzzle of the musket can cause real harm to others.  It is never advisable to take direct aim at another reenactor even if he is wearing the blue of the Union army.  The danger increases as the battle lines draw nearer.  Officers will often order that muskets be elevated during this time, but a safety conscious reenactor will always know to do so even without orders.

When marching in line of battle or anytime the musket is loaded, the hammer should be in the 'half cock' position. This prevents the musket from accidental discharge. Laying the hammer all the way down on the cap and cone is NOT satisfactory! Jarring or striking the hammer in this position could cause accidental discharge.  Further, when the musket is loaded, even when at rest a reenactor should always be mindful of the direction the muzzle, avoiding inadvertently aiming the weapon at others or covering the muzzle with his own extremities.

If you are ever in a position where you are unsure whether or not it is safe to fire your musket, simply do not fire.  Just remember that your musket is still loaded.  At the end of an event, if you are still loaded, wait for orders to be given to clear your weapon.  If no order is given, notify your commanding officer or an NCO so that arrangements can be made to clear the weapon safely.  The same applies if during an event your musket becomes fouled and will not fire.  Notify an officer or NCO of the condition immediately.

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  III. OTHER SAFETY CONCERNS

 Although it would almost be impossible to describe all hazardous situations that might present themselves during the recreation of a battle or skirmish, hereafter are a few pointers based on interaction with other branches of the military, cavalry and artillery.

 

The best rule of thumb regarding interacting with mounted cavalry is to keep as much distance between yourself and the horse as possible.  This is true when maneuvering in the field or passing them in the open, on a road, or in rough terrain.  Although most horses used by cavalry reenactors are well trained and disciplined, they do have a mind of their own and can sometimes react unpredictably in certain situations.

 

Artillery reenactors employ the most dangerous weapon on the battlefield.  An artillery piece is often loaded with a “blank” containing at least 1 pound of black powder which is more than most infantry reenactors use during an entire battle reenactment.  The percussion of the explosion and the fire from the muzzle are many times more dangerous than that of the musket.  Most battle reenactments involving artillery usually begin with an artillery duel after which infantry is deployed in the field.  Artillery is commonly used while the infantry is in the field, but the officers and crews of each piece are mindful of the dangers of firing their weapon.  Infantry reenactors must always be cautious around deployed artillery, not only because of the firing of the cannon, but also because of the store of powder that is always nearby in a chest or caisson.  When an artillery piece is loaded, “hot tube,” and infantry are nearby; often the crew will cross their implements (the sponge/rammer staffs) in front of the piece signaling the infantry to maneuver clear.

 

BE SMART, BE SAFE, AND HAVE FUN!

 

In closing, the information provided within this document is meant to increase your awareness and ensure a safe environment for all participants.   A good understanding of these principles, a cool head and common sense will keep yourself, your comrades and fellow reenactors from harms way.

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