Just prior to the war I gifted the wife a pair of nice blades. I picked them up and made a wooden scabbard to hold them both. The scabbard and blades were really nothing all that special; at least that is what I believed. I thought they would be a nice addition to her cooking box. Mrs Mina believed them to be something else saying they were among the most beautiful items she had ever been gifted. To my knowledge she has never used them for the intended purpose in the kitchen. Instead she keeps them on her person in case some fool should get to forward.
Our Regiment started the War with a myriad of different arms but in fairly shirt order we had upgraded to the M1841, I believe K Company received M1855 rifles in 62 and we were not upgraded to the most modern Springfield pattern rifle musket until the latter half of 64. Even then we received a variety of different makers models. The men in my company had quite a few marked Muir on the lockplate of their M1861 in particular. But there were also Springfield marked M1863 and M1864 arms. A man in C Company had one of the M1855 Rifle Musket. The differences between the M1855, M1861, M1863 and M1864 were rather minor and all were largely interchangeable. They were reliable, robust, easy to maintain and when they did manage to get out of order they were simple to repair. I firmly view then superior to any other arm I have ever carried and as I carried a half dozen different arms in the French Army. I’ve handled English, Austrian, Prussian and other arms and while I would call none ineffective I do not believe any the equal to the Springfield with the M1864 being the finest of the lot. The M1864 was the last muzzleloading arm adopted by the US military. I firmly believe it the best ever devised. Despite that opinion I have a fondness for the M1841 I carried; because of that fondness I managed to hold on to it when the majority of the regiment received new arms. Being the Regimental Armorer I managed to keep a dozen or so in the Regiment.
During the war one of my men, Seth, said that I was a very angry man. I had never thought of myself as such. Upon reflection I think he was right.
I have always been a violent man; at a young age in the orphanage I exhibited a willingness to fight others regardless of whether I would win or not. When I saw what I viewed as an injustice I would try to do something about it. Years later as an adult I became more circumspect.
We all have things that calm us. For me it is the smooth wood of a rifle stock under my hand. As a youth it was the knowledge that a keen blade resided somewhere on my person. I would often, when in a foul mood, imagine doing violence upon those around me. But it is a measure of maturity to not act upon those impulses. Have I killed? Many times and I am certain some of those did not deserve such an end. I look back and know that killing is wrong but as a soldier it is often your duty to kill those on the other end of the field. But to murder the innocent, to harm a child or woman… only the most evil do not know such is a wrong. I am an angry man because I know there are so many out there who lack my restraint. Dare I, an admitted killer of men, say I am better than they? Yes I will. I have never murdered a child or a woman; I have never raped and could never imagine myself excusing such.
For more than two years during the war I was appointed the Brigade executioner. I only had to hang a few men who wore the blue but I did so without guilt for I fully believed they deserved such. My Captain once wondered aloud, I don’t think he knew I’d heard him, if I preferred the rope or the bayonet. I told him the bayonet. You look into the eyes of the man as you kill him. It is close and it is personal. The rope is reserved for those who deserve nothing more.
I picked up this adze on a trip down towards St Paul to see the progress of the new railroad. An adze is a useful tool, in combination with a broad axe a man can make any log square. A good man can turn logs into good solid beams that will support a building and look nice while doing so. While the sawmill can do the work they cost coin and coin is not something I am willing to part with when there is Cognac to be bought. While the railroad stamped their ownership on the blade they did a splendid job just laying it about where anyone could pick it up. Since I put it in my stable no one has claimed it except me; though I have been more than willing to let my neighbors use it as needed.
All of that said I was some put out when the wife opted to use it as a root hoe in her garden. So much so that I actually parted with enough coin to purchase a real hoe for her use.
The classic Potsdam musket. This cut down Potsdam musket was shortened prior to the war for sale to some homesteader heading west by an dry-goods seller in Philadelphia. I paid a half dollar for it in 1867 and sold it to a lumberjack for two dollars. It was short enough to be a handy shotgun; loaded with buckshot it was ideal for the close ranges of the north woods should he come across anyone trying to shorten his life. Loaded with the standard .69 cal buck n ball or the .71 cal ball it would bring down a deer or moose and likely seriously inconvenience a bear. The downside is that she kicks like a mule.
After the war arms like this were readily available at any dry-goods or gunsmith shop for little enough to make them available to any who might need a firearm.
Shortly after the war a down on his luck ex soldier bartered a few weeks shelter and food for this splendid rifle. A well set M1859 Sharps that had seen only light use in the war. He had bought it upon mustering out at the end of the war. It is a superb rifle that places its .54 caliber rounds right where I aim them and has put venison on the table more than a few times. With a linen or paper cartridge I can make this rifle sing. but the reality is I have a soft spot for the M1841 rifle I carried through most of the war.
I admit to being a late convert to the metallic cartridge, it just seems too… new fangled to me. I saw the devastating effectiveness of the Henry Rifle at Allatoona Pass and Spencer rifles elsewhere during the war but the Henry was so heavy and I believe too complicated and fragile with that exposed magazine spring to catch the Georgia mud for military service. The Spencer seemed more robust but I doubt greatly I shall ever own one of either.
After the war I built a combination tavern, bakery and inn. There was much use of a variety of tools to include the classic squares you see above. The plum bob square could also be used as a vertical level but the local smith forged me a simple steel square that saw hard use over the month or three it took to build a place that my wife would find acceptable. She insisted upon niceties like shelves for some books and windows instead of shutters. When she saw my simple board upon a pair of barrels for a bar she insisted upon a mirror on the wall and a brass rail at the base of a proper bar. Womenfolk!
Built into the side of a hill the first floor was my tavern, the second floor was the wife’s bakery, the inn’s dining room and our bedroom. The third floor was the boarding house and inn where men and occasionally women slept. At a right angle about fifty yards from the main building was a small stable and barn where travelers might put up a half dozen horses.
Below my rambling you will see a few knives. First is a fine blade I picked up from a dead Cossack in the Crimea; he was a man who died hard and took a lot of killing. I can and do have much respect for a fighting man. Beside it is a knife that was gifted me by an old Dakota who bartered the blade for a few nights rest in a warm place and the meals to go with it. He passed before the end of his stay. I took him deep into the woods and built him a scaffold as I had seen his people do for their departed. I hope I did him a good turn.
Second is a well built “Arkansas Toothpick” that I acquired shortly after my arrival in the United States. It has a keen edge and has served me well over the years. At one point I broke the point using it as a pry bar; a blacksmith was able to repair it with a simple forge weld. That I still have it so many years later is a testament to the quality of the steel.
Finally there is a fine blade of the Kabyle people, a beautiful piece that I intended to trade or sell. But the time never came to part with it until I saw my wife look at it with appreciation. Now it rests beneath her pillow at night and as far as I know rarely if ever leaves her person.
The winter of 1859/60 was a special time for me. A time of peace where I worked hard for a good man and his family. The Barnaby homestead was a beautiful place well chosen and splendidly improved. A large stone barn that was large enough to have been used by most of my old Regiment as a barracks, a beautiful stone house lovingly made a home by a delightful wife and daughter. My wife and I slept above the well house which butted up against a cave mouth and that cave curved around through the hill to emerge by the barn. The carriage house and stables were where the other hired men slept and was the only all wooden structure on the place. Though we did build a corn crib and pole shed that winter.
After the war I found a pair of paintings that reminded me of the Barnaby place, why I don’t know because they look nothing like it but there is something about them that brings me back to the peace of that winter.
There is a real reason the Lakota and their allies have fought so well and so effectively. The Lakota are a people with a style of warfare unknown to most white men. There is no rear area, no civilian, no innocence. They fight a no quarter and none asked type of war and they fight to win. I can respect fighting men who fight; I do not respect men who send others off to fight for them while they sit to home complaining that those on the sharp end do not do enough.
I have seen many fools who would try to equate the plight of the Confederacy with that of the Red Indian. They are ignorant fools to do so. Tribes like the Lakota, Cheyenne, Kiowa, Commanche, Apache put everything into winning. They did more with less, sacrificed everything and paid the piper in full. They paid in blood and treasure far beyond any Confederate state that cries about how poorly they were treated. I respect the Kabyle, Taureg, Russian, Confederate and Lakota warriors I have fought as they were men willing to give their last breath to something greater than themselves. Those stay behinders, Iwishiwas and wannabe warriors who boast of the acheivements of others while they sat in a chair will receive nothing but contempt from me. I will share my tobacco and Cognac with men; Soldiers of flesh and blood and iron conviction. Those who lack the courage of their convictions will receive nothing from me but contempt for they deserve nothing more.