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Edo Period Corner Part II

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 It has been my experience shooting muskets and black powder cannon that a smoke ring is as much to do with atmospherics as the load. High humidity seems to be a factor.

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Jan Pettersson has been pushing me to write something about our latest defense at Tsuyama Castle. Therefore.

 

Early on Sunday 4th April, our various baggage trains set out for magnificent Tsuyama in the pouring rain. We all arrived around 8:30 am to offload tons of kit as the rain grew more persistent. Perhaps 100 boxes and bags.

 

"No point in putting on the armour and strapping on our swords", I thought as we lugged everything to the changing rooms. My back has been suddenly letting go recently, (since Tottori Castle above in mid-March) and I had brought a 'new' complicated set of  Kote greaves that needed trying out for size, strength and fit, so I was not feeling entirely confident anyway, in body or outfit. At the back of my mind was also the worry that they might just push this thing through regardless. I should add that one of the characteristics of our troop is that we use genuine antique armour, sword fittings and matchlocks. If we do compromise, it is mostly in the footwear, although some members will insist on wearing genuine straw waraji, with their toes hanging off the front.

 

One mark of a true leader is the ability to get people to do things they would not normally contemplate. Bento lunches appeared, gunpowder was handed out, and our marching and firing orders were given. Still the rain fell outside. Everyone started loading the guns, and donning armour, piece by piece, in time-honored fashion, as if they had not noticed the weather.

 

A message came through that we had been summoned up the flights of steps to the second level of the castle, where the main Sakura Festival was being held. We gathered outside in the street, the banners were raised, the drums and gongs were beaten, and we formed into a snaking column, ready to march off to the castle gates. I tried to find somewhere dry for my powder and matchcord. There were very few people around, although rows of foodstalls had been set up in forlorn hopes. Again I counted the massive stone steps under my feet. "Step by step one gets to Rome", I muttered. Exactly seventy of these later we were up at the staging area. Luckily there were some small tents where we waited to be called. I managed to grab one of the few chairs, hoping age might come before beauty. Rain poured off the edge of the tent roof.

 

Now I have a confession. The wife had made me promise to make the right decision over me back and the heavy gun. "I trust you", she added, (although I have never heard her say that before). All the way to the venue I had debated in my mind. Eventually I went to our leader and begged out of the 50 Monme part of the display. He reached down and picked up a sealed bag. He had prepared a special short section of hammered match for me with my name on it, so I felt both ashamed and guilty. He accepted, but took the opportunity to make loud comments over my shirking of duty, even over the microphone during the live display. Luckily I am old enough to laugh and shrug it off, and the spectators enjoyed the little tidbit. :glee:

 

So there you have it. Suddenly all was movement as we stood up and formed outside, carrying guns and equipment to the main steps to the upper levels, forming the backdrop to our display. I lit my now shortened matchcord before leaving the safety of the tent, and kept it burning inside my cupped fist. All of our gun/cannon boxes and cases were kept closed until the last second, and then we began. The muzzle reports were strangely muted in the rain, and clouds of wadding landed wetly like Sakura petals. A knot of spectators, perhaps fifty or so, gathered under their umbrellas in front of us. I think they had come to see the famous newly-repatriated 100 Monme, advertised recently by the lovely DJ Misuzu San on Tsuyama FM radio.

 

The highlight of the show was when Mr K lifted and fired the 100 Monme. This time it was loaded properly and the boom was most satisfactory. The kick knocked him over onto the sopping ground, but he managed to pull himself upright and recover. Finally it was time for our last full broadside. "Tama-gomé", came the shouted order. I poured a tube of blackpowder down the now slippery gun and tried to remove the wet ramrod. Impossible. For a second I thought of using my teeth, but gave up. As I leant over to insert priming powder, a trickle of drops fell from my kabuto into the firing pan, so I jerked my head right.

 

Lifting up the slimy gun, I blew on the match one last time, fitted it, and cocked the serpentine. In the general roar of twenty matchlocks, she went off better than I was expecting. I am now more certain than ever that six shots in the rain is probably close to the limit for a matchlock, relying as it does on dry powder and cord.

 

Awaiting photos...

 

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What better to read with my morning bowl of porridge, than Piers latest military operations.

Tsuyama seems to be a bit of a rain magnet. I remember quite dark clouds and rain, when I visited the place in connection to one of your displays.

Very vise move to rest the 50’. Hearing about the power of the new 100’ warms the heart of this ol’ tepponista. Can’t wait to hear it ”live” after this darn pandemic is done with.

Interesting piece of insight at the end regarding the amount of effective rounds fired by a matchlock in the rain.

Worth keeping in mind when you read about the old battles being fought over several hours. It also strengthen my own opinion that matchlocks were indeed a weapon mostly used as an initial shock-weapon. As you say, after 5-6 rounds, the matchlock had played its part and it was time to bring out the edged weapons.

Thanks for taking the time writing this, Piers!

 

Jan

 

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Wow..that was a great read. You have a way with words, felt like I was there. Real battle must have been terrible. Can you imagine doing all of that with bullets and arrows flying by?
Reminds us that war is hell. Thanks for sharing Piers. Keep yourself and your powder dry :)

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There are more genuine antiques present on those pictures than you see in a well-stocked antique-shop 🙂🙂🙂

 

Jan

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Some short videos by bloodcrosslove0106 from 4th April at Tsuyama Castle; you can hear the rain even if you can’t see it.

 

 

 

And the final volley!

 

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Or one of these... From personal experience, percussion is more reliable but the powder fouling still clogs and sticks in wet weather.

teppo percuassion 1.jpg

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