Thursday, February 4, 2010

"Where a goat can go …"

William Phillips, born a commoner, was admitted as a gentleman cadet into the Royal Artillery Academy at Woolwich, England, at the age of sixteen. Unlike the British army and navy at that time, one could not purchase a commission in the Royal Artillery. He was one of very few British officers to be advanced by his ability alone.

Phillips rose to the rank of Major General, and he is said to have conducted one of the British army's most successful campaigns during the American Revolution. When he was in Petersburg, VA, in April of 1781, one of his standing orders to his army was that the “private property and the persons of individuals not taken in arms, are to be under the protection of the troops.” Thomas Jefferson described him as “the proudest man of the proudest nation on earth.”

For anyone who has ever hauled a gun around in Rev War reenacting*, he is perhaps best known for the quote he made as his men hauled their guns to the top of Mt. Defiance in 1777: “Where a goat can go, a man can go; and where a man can go, he can drag a gun.”

During the Second Boer War in South Africa in 1899, the Royal Navy landed guns from HMS Terrible and Powerful to help in the relief of the siege of the British garrison in the township of Ladysmith. The guns were transported inland, and for the the final part of the journey, sailors from the Naval Brigade manhandled the guns over very difficult terrain.

All that, to bring you this.

108 years have passed, and Ladysmith belongs to the Zulu Kingdom of KwaZulu-Natal. But the feat of the gunners from Powerful and Terrible has never been forgotten.

H/T to Dr. Mike for the link.

* Back in a previous lifetime, when I was in my early 30’s and just starting in the Rev War reenacting hobby, I had the opportunity to serve on a gun crew for a little 3-pound field piece. That is where I developed my affection for things that go “boom”, and *that* is a post for another time.


  1. That looks like it is the best sport ever. And what a huge crowd!

  2. IF you ever get "up North", I'd be pleased to roll out my Napoleon cannon for you to fire. Check some of the NE Bloggershoot reports for the connection.

    Be well & take care...

  3. Doubletrouble - I'd be thrilled! We've wanted to make a NE Bloggershoot ever since JayG published my question about appropriate guns for four-year-olds. Maybe this summer ...

  4. I wonder how much practice it takes to get a team to be that good. One uh-oh could crush your buddy.

    I have all the respect for cannon cockers, both new and old. Lugging one of those beasts around the battlefield is not my idea of fun.