Fort Seward encampment: Cannon fired, cooking demonstratedCommands were shouted at Fort Seward Saturday more than 130 years after this site was an active military post during the American Indian wars. Worm, sponge, load, ram, prick, prime and fire — then a thunderous boom from a replica 12-pound Mountain Howitzer cannon.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
Commands were shouted at Fort Seward Saturday more than 130 years after this site was an active military post during the American Indian wars.
Worm, sponge, load, ram, prick, prime and fire — then a thunderous boom from a replica 12-pound Mountain Howitzer cannon.
This was the scene Saturday at a Fort Seward encampment this weekend held by the Company A of the 20th Infantry re-enactors.
“Think of your high school shot put flying through the air and at a great rate of speed,” Keith Norman, a member of Company A of the 20th Infantry re-enactors.
The group didn’t send anything flying through the air; instead, it shot off a quarter pound of black powder.
Norman explained the process to those watching at the encampment.
Although not terribly accurate the cannon can fire about 1,000 yards. A good crew during the American Indian wars could go through the seven steps and fire two to three shots per minute from the cannon, Norman said.
Even though it makes a deafening blast and fills the air with smoke, in combat situations the gunner would be trained to watch and make sure it fired, he said.
With 20 or 30 cannons in a line during a battle it was important to make sure it fired so the crew didn’t try and load a cannon with a live round in it.
Norman gave the commands while Tom Ravely and Dale Marks loaded and fired the three-piece cannon. In the 1870s, Fort Seward had either two or three of the same cannons on hand.
Before the air filled with smoke Marks was displaying and speaking about the history of another line of weaponry from the Frontier — the evolution of the Springfield rifle.
Marks had flintlocks and trapdoor riffles on display from 1795 to 1884.
Flintlock firing systems are considered an early ignition system. Eventually on Springfield rifles the system was replaced by trapdoor technology which allowed for faster reloading.
Marks showed 11 different rifles and had a story for each.
A rifle that dates back to 1842 was found in the wall of a Lemmon, S.D., home. The only shotgun of the group was given to each company so it could hunt for food.
Another one was used in the Civil War. Others played significant roles in famous battles from Little Big Horn to Fort Kearny.
“I always say this is the gun that won the west because this is the gun in the hands of the solider that forced the Indians on the reservations,” Marks said, holding a Springfield trapdoor rifle from 1884.
It wasn’t just a display of guns and cannons on Saturday. Ann Marks demonstrated cooking techniques from the 1870s as well.
She took flour, lard and salt for her dough, and cut up apples from her farm into a pie crust on a porcelain plate.
She would have cooked it in a Dutch oven but because of a county-wide burn ban she cooked it in her camper.
Ann Marks said on the prairie most produce would have to come from suppliers.
“They did have some gardens but they weren’t very successful because of the grasshoppers,” she said.
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at email@example.com