’If you were fighting, you’d be dead by now,’ and other problems with muskets

Kenny Davidson, a young reenactor from Fauquier County, is letting me fire his muskets.

He packs the bore with powder and gives it to me. I took it.

“FIRE IN THE HOLE!” someone yells. “FIRE IN THE HOLE,” the other campers return. I draw the flint back, pull the trigger and ...

Nothing.

“Do it again,” Davidson prods..

Nothing.

Again.

Nothing.

“If you were fighting you’d be dead by now,” says Jerry Chesser, who traveled from his hom in Parris Island, S.C., to participate in the reenactment events here in Manassas.

Davidson pours more powder and compacts it with a ramrod. He pokes a pin into the hole that the sparks go through to ignite the powder.

“FIRE IN THE HOLE!…maybe,” I say.

I pulled the trigger. There is a flash in the pan and then ...

I’d gotten use to it not firing.

Once more, I tell myself. I pull the trigger.

Much to my surprise, a huge flash erupts from the pan and an even bigger flash shoots from the muzzle. I’m not prepared for the recoil; the musket whips from my hands to the ground and I stagger.

“WOW!” I exclaim.

Then Davidson lets me fire a percussion cap.This time I am ready for the recoil. The musket slams into my shoulder.

Many hours later, it’s still sore.

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