The Rigby Campfire blog features a piece from African PH John Sharp. The the incomparably picturesque and personable Sharp tells the tale of the tribulations of his .470 Rigby double rifle. He learned dangerously that a double rifle is no luxury item in his trade — it’s the tool for the job.
During the early 80s I had a frighteningly close call with a wounded buffalo. There were three of them coming our way and no indication which was the wounded one. One of them suddenly homed in on me from close quarters. I fired a way too hasty shot and only then realised that I didn’t have time to chamber another round in my bolt action rifle. I stood my ground, my unarmed client behind me, as I desperately worked the bolt, hoping that I would be able to get it done by the time he ran into the end of my barrel. At the very last instant before hitting me, he turned 90 degrees, almost under the barrel, and I dropped it a few metres away with a shot behind the ear. Obviously, I was deeply shaken, and once I’d calmed down, I took one stride forwards directly into the churned earth from the bull’s spectacular turn. This was the precise moment I decided I had to have a double rifle – it was imperative.
A “Western” set in the Wild East c. 1920s? Yep. I’m in.
The guns were filthy after several days of high-quality range time, so I stoked the electronic campfire for a little Story to keep me company, and set to work. I was drawn to tales from the War of Independence, perhaps inspired by my new favorite icon.
Just trying to keep the tradition alive. As a London paper griped back in 1775:
“These…shirt-tail men, with their cursed twisted guns, the most fatal widow and orphan makers in the world.”
Anyway, I fired up the first episode of the old PBS series Liberty! The American Revolution. I remember it well, from back in 1997. It’s quite good, though it gives short-shrift to the action on the Western Frontier. I wish we could get a high-resolution remaster.
The Almighty Algorithm sniffed out an interest in the American Revolution and kicked up this one. Ah, yes…
As noted in a previous post, the British Army was slow to adopt light infantry troops and doctrine. General Thomas Gage formed an experimental company in 1758, during the French & Indian War. Part of the impetus was to develop Ranger capabilities without having to deal with colonial Rangers. Gage hated Robert Rogers of the Rangers. Pathologically. He tried with some success to destroy the man.
By the 1770s, the Army was trying to establish light infantry, but it was a tough slog because officers didn’t want to to serve in units that had lower social prestige — and light infantry was not then thought of as elite and badass as it usually is today. The much maligned General William Howe, when he took command in North America, ordered that every regiment must form a company of light infantry, which were formed out of the best quality rank-and-file. Chosen Men, if you will. Certainly this was mainly out of sound military thinking, but I’d like to think it was also a nod to the legacy of his brother, Lord George Howe, who was an early adopter for the British of The Ranging Way of War. He was killed in battle on July 6, 1758.
British Light Infantry troops were deployed as skirmishers, used for patrolling and foraging, and they conducted effective night raids with the bayonet. They were also deployed in conjunction with Loyalist Rangers and native fighters on the frontiers.
Liberty! featured some really lovely music, with a theme of Johnny Has Gone For A Soldier, featuring James Taylor and Mark O’Connor.
Speaking of music…
My buddy Mike Biggers and I finally got off a show in Sisters on Saturday. We’ve had cancellations due to smoke, and it was great to enjoy an evening at The Depot. Jarod Gatley got some shots.
And by Sunday, the smoke was back and bad. Pretty much choked out August.