Unique three barrel percussion rifle made by H.V. Perry of Jamestown, New York, mid 19th century. The barrels were hand rotated after each shot.
The Girl I Left Behind Me
A song popular during the Napoleonic Wars and American Civil War.
Performed by the 97th Regimental String Band.
Today in History, July 30th, 1864, —- The Battle of the Crater
In 1864, with the Union Army under the command of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, the Union went on the offensive in Northern Virginia in a attempt to capture the Confederate capitol of Richmond. Despite fighting Gen. Robert E. Lee’s army to a standstill, Grant continued to press Lee’s left flank, keeping Lee on the defensive and pushing closer and closer to Richmond. Then in early June the offensive came to a screeching halt when the Union Army attempted to take the City of Petersburg, a mere 23 miles away from Richmond. The Confederates had turned Petersburg into a heavily armed fortress, with over ten miles of trenches complete with bunkers and anti infantry obstacles. Despite a number of heavy assaults by Union forces, the Confederates were able to hold their ground. Unable to decisively take Petersburg, Union forces dug their own trenches and built their own fortifications. Foreshadowing the bloody combat tactics of World War I, both sides settled into trench warfare and bloody attrition.
In mid June the commander of the 48th Pennsylvania infantry offered a novel solution to the stalemate. Lt. Col. Henry Pleasants was a mining engineer before he joined the army, and many of his men, recruited from Schuylkill County, PA were also coal miners. Pleasant’s idea was to dig a tunnel under the Confederate fortifications, load it with explosives, then blast the Confederates straight to Hell. The resulting break in Confederate lines would leave their defenses vulnerable to a Union assault, thus ending the siege.
Digging of the tunnel began in late June and was completed by late July. Once the tunnelers reached the Confederate lines, they dug another tunnel that ran parallel to the Confederate trenches above, thus making a “T” shape. The main approach shaft was 511 feet long and located 50 feet below the ground. Once the tunnel was completed, it was loaded with 320 kegs (8,000 lbs) of gunpowder. On July 30th, 1864 the fuse was lit at 3:45 AM. An hour later a massive explosion occurred amidst the Confederate lines. The resulting explosion instantly obliterated 278 Confederate defenders, and left thousands of other in state of shock from the massive blast. In the middle of the Confederate trenches was a large blast crater around 170 feet long and 30 feet deep.
To conduct the assault Union Gen. Ambrose Burnside chose the United States Colored Division and the US 1st Division. Burnside trained his Colored Division for weeks in preparation for the battle, choosing them to be at the head of the assault. The US Colored Division had by then gained a reputation as experienced and courageous veteran soldiers who could be counted upon to achieve the most daring and dangerous missions. However, at the last minute, Gen. George Meade, Burnside’s boss, ordered the US 1st Division to the front, a unit with little experience and training. Meade had little confidence in the plan, and didn’t want to waste the US Colored Division in a failed assault.
The plan was that when the two units approached the crater, one battalion was to go around the crater to the left, while the other was to go right. When the inexperienced 1st Division approached the crater, they quickly occupied it, believing it to be the ideal rifle pit. Meanwhile the men of the US Colored Division followed their orders and went around the massive pit. The blame for the failed plan rested on the shoulders of the 1st Division’s commander, Brig. Gen. James H. Ledlie, who failed to brief his men on the assault, and spent much of the battle well behind the lines and drunk in his bunker.
After an hour the stunned Confederates rallied their forces and organized a counterattack against the Union assault. Confederate troops surrounded the pit, which by then was a confused and panicked mass of men crowded shoulder to shoulder. In what Confederate Brig. Gen. William Mahone would term “a turkey shoot”, the Confederates rained the pit with musket fire, grenades, artillery, and mortars. The helpless soldiers trapped in the crowded pit could little defend themselves against the hail of Confederate lead. If the suffering of the men trapped in the pit was bad, the fate of the Colored Division was even worse. Without the support of the 1st Division, the Colored Division was quickly outnumbered and surrounded. Many of the men were able to break free and retreat, however a number of regiments were forced to surrender. Many Confederate officers, angered by the thought of former slaves fighting for the Union, gave orders to execute black soldiers and officers who surrendered. Most of the black soldiers who surrendered at the Battle of the Crater were executed by bayonet on the spot.
Eventually a Union relief force was able to free the men trapped in the crater. By the time battle had ended, Union forces suffered 3,798 casualties (504 killed 1,881 wounded, 1,413 missing or captured). Confederate losses were also high, with a total of 1,491 casualties (361 killed,727 wounded, 403 missing or captured). The Battle of the Crater turned out to be the Union most embarrassing defeat; an intricate and complex plan that was to bring about a surefire victory, failed because of bad leadership and a drunkard. After the battle, Gen. Ambrose Burnside would receive most of the blame for the defeat, and was censured and relieved of his command and spent the rest of the war in a desk job. He would later be cleared of fault by a war committee, who instead blamed Gen. Meade for the last minute substitution of the US Colored Division with the 1st Division. Gen. Ledlie “The Drunkard” was charged with dereliction of duty and his commission was revoked.
The Siege of Petersburg would last 9 months total, finally coming to an end on March 25th, 1865. The fall of Petersburg left Richmond vulnerable, leading to its capture of Richmond on April 2nd. Robert E. Lee then surrendered a week later.
Ornate bone and pearl inlaid flintlock musket crafted by Ignatius Nester, 18th century.
Sold at Auction: $5,000
The Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine,
Issued to British cavalry units during the Napoleonic Wars up to 1838, the Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine was the shortest, smallest, and lightest musket of the Brown Bess series. In fact, it would probably fall into the category of “musketoon”. Overall length was 42.5 inches, while weight was around 7.4 lbs. By comparison its infantry counterpart, the “India Pattern” Brown Bess was a foot longer and over two pounds heavier.
Because of its compact size and light weight, the Brown Bess Cavalry Carbine was ideal for cavalry units. They were especially popular among dragoons, a type of unit consisting of mounted infantry who rode to battle on horseback, but dismounted and fought as infantry once in combat.
By the late 1830’s the flintlock igniting mechanism gave to way to the percussion system. Many Brown Bess Cavalry carbines were converted into percussion locks. Production ended in 1838, and was replaced with the more advanced M1842 pattern percussion musket.
Joachim Murat was born on March 25, 1767 to Pierre Murat-Jordy and Jeanne Loubiere in the town of Labastide-Fortunaire (which is now called Labastide-Murat after him). Despite an early education that prepared him for life as a priest, he ran away from the seminary in 1788 at the…
Exceptionally engraved and gold inlaid Pre-World War II Walther PP semi-automatic pistol with carved ivory grips.
Estimated Value: $12,500
Columbia Disc Graphophones.
Columbia Business Graphophone Co. NY, NY (c.1906)
Kitchen Tender being Rowed. Egyptian, ca. 1981–1975 B.C., from the Tomb of Meketre.
Many outings of Egyptian nobles culminated in a picnic. On the menu for Meketre’s boat trip were roasted fowl, dried beef, bread, beer, and some kind of soup. Meat and bread were carried on another model of a tender, now in Cairo. Here, the beer is prepared and the soup cooked. A blackened trough may have contained burning coal for roasting the fowl. A man tends a stove on which soup simmers. On either side, a woman grinds grain. Brewers inside the cabin are shaping bread loaves, then working them through sieves into large vats. One brewer stands in another vat, where he tramples the dates that provide the sugar for the fermentation of the beer. The oars of this boat are fixed to the sides; to avoid damaging the oars while the boats were transported and deposited in the model chamber, all oars of Meketre’s boats were secured in this manner. (met)
Classy cane with hidden dagger and folding trigger six shot .32 caliber revolver. Originates from Europe, late 19th century.
Sold at Auction: $5,107.50
Fun History Fact,
Although the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, the Roman Senate continued to operate until it was disestablished around 630 AD. The Senate was revived 1144, but was disbanded by the Pope in 1193.
The Forgotten Antonine Wall,
I’m sure just about everyone has heard of the world famous “Hadrian’s Wall”, the ancient Roman wall separating iron age Scotland and Roman England which essentially served as the frontier of the Roman Empire. However the Antonine Wall doesn’t get nearly as much press, and is largely forgotten by all except historians.
Like many emperors before him Antoninus Pius (reign 138-161) cemented his rule over the Roman people through a program of public building projects and territorial expansion. As part of that program, Pius ordered the invasion of Southern Scotland beyond Hadrian’s Wall. They conquered all territory up to the Scottish highlands, then set a new border complete with a new wall. Located between the Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde, Antonine’s Wall had the same purpose of the earlier Hadrian’s Wall; to define the border of the Roman frontier, prevent the barbarians from crossing into Roman territory, and serve as a buffer in case of invasion. Unlike Hadrian’s Wall, the Antonine Wall was not made entirely of stone. Rather it was built from turf, piled upon a stone foundation and lined with stone and wood for added strength. At the top of the wall would have been a wooden palisade, and in front of the wall was dug a large moat, as well as a series of trenches, pitfalls, and various other obstacles. The wall itself was 10 feet high and 16 feet wide.
Altogether the Antonine Wall stretched from the North Sea to the Irish Sea, covering a total of 39 miles. However it was not the wall by itself that kept barbarian invaders out, but the men who manned the wall. Across the wall, spaced out at two mile intervals were 16 forts, in between which were a series of guard houses and guard towers. In addition a number of forts were built north of the wall to protect trade routes leading to and from what the Roman’s called “Caledonia”. To supply the defenders of the wall, and allow for a quick response in case of invasion, a 39 mile long Roman military road was built on the southern side of the wall.
The Antonine Wall took 12 years to build, but was short lived. The Romans were never able to pacify the Caledonians, and thus the wall was under constant attack. In 162 Emperor Marcus Aurelius ordered the wall abandoned and its legions retired to Hadrian’s Wall. While the exact reasons behind abandoning the wall are unknown, it was most likely because the wall guarded territory that was not worth holding, in an attempt to rule over a people who had little to offer in tax revenue. In 208 the wall was re-occupied and repaired under order of Emperor Septimus Severus. However the new occupation was even shorter lived, only lasting a few years.
Over time the wall was deconstructed as locals used the wall for building materials. Eventually time and the weather also wore down the turf walls into small mounds. Today all that remains of the Antonine Wall are a line of mounds, trenches, and stone foundations, as well as the remains of Roman forts.