It’s an Uphill Battle from Here…

Re-enactors of the 78th Highland Regiment of Foot, stationed at the Halifax Citadel, demonstrate how the Scots compensated for a unique handicap they faced while fighting for the empire. Scottish gunpowder was a notoriously unreliable and feeble concoction, due to the inexplicable introduction of such additives as oats and turnip skins (seriously, we have no idea why), and if a musket was angled at more than 45 degrees from the horizontal, the ball couldn’t be depended upon to actually make it out of the end of the barrel. For this reason, especially tall opponents were usually attacked by either bayonet or insulting questions about ‘the weather up there.’ (The obvious solution of shooting them in the knees was considered unsporting.) zz9 13thaOccasionally (for example, while facing mobile infantry with a secure self-image), the soldiers WOULD be forced to fire their weapons. Unfortunately, given the aforementioned anemic munitions, this frequently resulted in the need to execute the ‘gutter maneuver’ – as the soldier would try to roll and shake his musket ball back to his weapon’s flash pan for another go. zz913thb But as fate would have it, this maneuver generally took just a few seconds less than was needed for the opposing forces to overrun the seemingly defenseless foe, and after a few overwhelming surprise victories, enemies saw the gutter maneuver as a feint and a prelude to an overwhelming close-quarters (because the musket balls still couldn’t travel very far) counter-attack. Before long, the mere raising of the muskets was enough to clear the field of opponents, and the Highlanders’ most common battle wound was from getting gunpowder (mixed with oats and turnip skins) in the eye.

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