Fantasy, mystery, thrillers, horror, historical. . .I write it all, and review it too!

Nov 26, 2011

More Medieval Weapons in the American Civil War

Earlier this week we had Sean McLachlan blogging about Medieval Weapons in the American Civil War as part of his virtual book tour for his new Civil War novel.

He didn't have enough space to say everything he wanted to, so he's done another post over at his own blog titled Lancers in the American Civil War. Go on over and check out this interesting post!

I didn't realize there were lancers in that war. The term "lancer" brings to mind the cavalry of the Napoleonic Wars, like this French lancer I nabbed off of Wikimedia Commons. I bet the Texan Confederates didn't have such snappy uniforms!

Nov 21, 2011

Medieval weapons in the American Civil War

One of John Brown's pikes. Credit: Hugh Talman (Smithsonian Institution)
Today I'm proud to host the first stop on a book tour for A Fine Likeness, a historical fantasy novel set in the Civil War. It's written by Sean McLachlan, a historian who guest blogged here before about medieval handgonnes. Today he tells us how the American Civil War still saw the use of some very medieval-style weapons. Take it away Sean!

When the Civil War started in 1861, most Americans had no experience with warfare and were completely unprepared. This led them to use some weapons that wouldn't have looked out of place in the Middle Ages.

This started even before the war, when radical abolitionist John Brown raided the federal arsenal at Harper's Ferry in 1859. His wanted to steal the weapons to arm a planned slave insurrection. Before the raid, Brown had a blacksmith make 500 pikes like the one pictured above. They had a 9 ½ to 10-inch long double-edged blade of forged cast steel and a 4 ½ inch wide iron guard fitted onto a six-foot ash handle. Brown and his followers used these pikes (as well as some more effective guns) to take the armory, but were soon captured by troops commanded by Robert E. Lee (!) and the planned insurrection never happened.

Once the actual war started in 1861, volunteers showed up with whatever weapons they could get. A report from the Battle of Lexington, Missouri said one rebel carried a corn scythe. At the Battle of Athens, Missouri, that same year, the rebels had a cannon made from a hollowed out log. It blew up the first time it was fired.

Rebel with "knife" (Library of Congress)
Soldiers also carried swords and long knives that often saw use in hand-to-hand combat. Notorious rebel guerrilla Bloody Bill Anderson, who is a character in my novel, carried a tomahawk and a Bowie knife; the latter he used to scalp his victims. In the Indian Territory (modern Oklahoma) and the Far West, native Americans fought on both sides. They also operated independently, taking advantage of the war to raid white settlers. While many had guns, some still used tomahawks, spears, and bows and arrows.

The Civil War was a savage conflict, and the savagery of the medieval battlefield, with its fearsome weapons, was part of that grim reality.

A Fine Likeness is available as an ebook at Amazon, Amazon UK, Amazon DE, and Amazon FR and will soon be available in print and on Barnes & Noble and Smashwords. the back cover blurb is below:

A Confederate guerrilla and a Union captain discover there’s something more dangerous in the woods than each other.

Jimmy Rawlins is a teenaged bushwhacker who leads his friends on ambushes of Union patrols. They join infamous guerrilla leader Bloody Bill Anderson on a raid through Missouri, but Jimmy questions his commitment to the Cause when he discovers this madman plans to sacrifice a Union prisoner in a hellish ritual to raise the Confederate dead.

Richard Addison is an aging captain of a lackluster Union militia. Depressed over his son’s death in battle, a glimpse of Jimmy changes his life. Jimmy and his son look so much alike that Addison becomes obsessed with saving him from Bloody Bill. Captain Addison must wreck his reputation to win this war within a war, while Jimmy must decide whether to betray the Confederacy to stop the evil arising in the woods of Missouri.


Nov 7, 2011

Medieval Mondays: The kettle hat, humble helm of the medieval soldier

While movies and novels generally focus on the exploits of medieval knights, it was the simple footman who did most of the fighting in medieval battles. Clad in chainmail or leather armor, and armed with spears, axes, flails, and very few swords, they were the humble grunts who bore the brunt of battle.

But they weren't faceless. In fact, their faces could be clearly seen because they didn't wear the cumbersome and restricting closed helms of the knights. One of the most popular helmet types for the regular foot soldier was the kettle hat. You can see a few in the medieval manuscript illustration above. The most clear example is the fellow climbing the ladder to the right.

The kettle hat had a broad brim to protect from attacks from above, whether from horsemen or objects dropped from castle walls. This brim also helped protect the eyes from rain. You don't want water in your eyes when you're in hand-to-hand combat! Cheap and quick to make, the kettle hat was popular from the 11th century through the Middle Ages. It was even turned upside down and used as a cooking pot!

The kettle hat was revived in the First World War by several armies and used by the Commonwealth forces through World War Two. Below is a postcard from World War One showing a kettle hat not much different than the Medieval type.