November 20, 2022

Traipsin’ around Bull Run

Last time I promised to delve into our current home development process. Sitting here thinking about it, I’ve decided to push that out a bit. Dunno why.

Anyway, in late August, Jourdan and Stefani came up to Fairfax for a visit. Meghan came over and after a lunch at Mama Tigre, we headed out to Bull Run to have a look see.

Pulling up into the car park there were plenty of cars, but we easily found a parking space. We were curious why the crowds, but were soon to discover.

Entering into the park, the beautiful fields of wildflowers greeted us warmly.

Crossing this bridge, we then discovered why the reason for the crowds. There was a re-enactment ongoing as we walked up. A demonstration of canon fire procedures was being presented.

The process of safe loading and operation was demonstrated. The various functions were described, and the personnel assigned to those activities were identified.

The explosive materials were sufficiently isolated from the canons to prevent any accidental discharges.


The crew prepares the cannon for the next firing. One man “tends the vent” – covers the venting hole with his leather encased thumb to prevent air from entering the cannon and allowing any sparks to catch fire and explode the barrel. Meanwhile, two other men clean the gun. One inserts a wet sponge into the barrel to extinguish any smoking remains from a previous shot. The other uses an implement called a “worm” or “wadhook” to pull out any pieces of cartridge or other pieces of debris that might still be inside the barrel.

While those three guys clean the cannon’s barrel, another crewman brings the next charge (powder and some sort of projectile – canister, round shot, explosive shell, etc.) from the ammunition chest to the gun and places it in the muzzle after the cleaning process is finished. The charge is rammed into the barrel while an artilleryman continues to guard the vent.

When the charge is seated within the cannon, the waiting artillery removes his thumb from the vent, pulls a priming wire from his bag, and places it through the vent, puncturing the cartridge and allowing it to reach the gunpowder. That priming wire can stay in place until the cannon is positioned to fire which could be accomplished immediately or later.


At this point, the gun is moved forward/into position. After each firing, the cannons recoiled, forcing the artillerymen to reposition them by hand to the original or new position to achieve the best opportunity to hit the targets chosen by their commander.

The cannon’s barrel can be depressed or elevated to sight the gun and orders would be given for specific elevations, range, and projectile trajectory.


On this order, the priming wire is removed. A friction primer is connected to the lanyard and the primer is inserted into the vent. A cannoneer pulls the lanyard taut, then waits for the next order… Meanwhile, the others of the gun crew take a step away from the loaded piece or lean away. The crew must be in the right positions to ensure that no one gets run over by the recoil or accidentally injured.


On this order, the cannoneer tugs the lanyard, applying enough force to create a spark from the friction primer which ignites the powder in the cartridge deep within the gun and sends the projectile hurling out of the barrel, though the air, and toward its target.

Once complete, the crew went about cleaning up the area and properly storing their impliments.

After a quick triage, we headed out to see the rest of the presentations.

When we walked up to this canopy, at first glance it appeared to the butchery area, where livestock were carved for consumption, but the harsh reality became immediately apparent.

This was the surgeons tent.

The surgeon was there with the tools and implements of his trade. All very somber in reflection.

At the end of the presentation was the cooks store, however meagre.

Walking further was the permanent canon display.

After leaving the canons, we wandered off into the fields.

It was a beautiful, albeit hot, late summer day.

Near the end of our trip this soldier came up on his horse.

And we crossed the bridge back to the parking area.

Next time we’ll delve into the Fairfax Labor Day Car show.

take care!