Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming

Battlefield Communication Using Drums and Drumming
Related to America’s War of Independence, This Illustration is A Famous Depiction From the 19th-century Called “The Spirit of ’76” by Archibald Willard, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Battlefield communication using drums and drumming was an important military aspect of war, and this type of communication lasted well into the nineteenth century. During this time, the drum most popular among drummers was the ordinary drum that consisted of a wooden or brass cylinder with a skin head at either end, and described in the following way:

“The skins [on these drums] are lapped at their edges around a small hoop which encircles the cylinder, and a large hoop rests on this and presses it down in place. The large hoops at each end are connected by an endless cord, running through holes in their outer edges and zigzagging up and down the sides of the cylinder from hoop to hoop. Each loop of this cord is surrounded by a sliding leather brace, and by pushing these down, so as to draw the loops together, or up, so as to loosen them, the drum is tightened or slackened, and the clear, tense or harsh, loose notes produced.”

Although it might appear that drum beats were simple, every beat was actually regulated and it was only through “long practice” that perfection by a drummer was attained. Furthermore, to achieve this perfection it was claimed that the drummer had to possess “a quick and nimble wrist.” Drum beats were also regular in the number and the division of strokes that could be produced using the two sticks. Thus, one person noted that if all the drummers in the British Army were assembled together, they would all beat alike.

Different drum beats and rolls signaled different commands to the troops and there were various regulation beats that included the following:

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Sophie Blanchard: First Female to Fly a Balloon Solo

Sophie Blanchard: First Female to Fly a Balloon Solo
Sophie Blanchard, Public Domain

Although preceded by other women in the air, Sophie Blanchard was the first female to fly a balloon solo. She got into ballooning because of her husband, pioneer balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard. The story goes that Jean-Pierre was passing through the village of Trois-Cantons, near Rochelle, saw a pregnant woman working in the field, and told her that if her child proved to be a girl, he would marry the girl when she turned 16.

Jean-Pierre was already married when he made the promise to Sophie’s mother, and likely had already abandoned his first wife, Victoire Lebrun, and his four children. On 25 March 1778, Marie Madeleine Sophie Armand was born. Jean-Pierre kept his marriage promise, but exactly when Jean-Pierre and Sophie married is unclear. The earliest is 1794, but the most frequent date given coincides with Sophie’s 1804 ascent. Continue reading

I’m Guest Blogging

Marquis de Lafayette, Author’s Collection

Because of the U.S. release of my book, “Marie Antoinette’s Confidante,” I am a lucky enough to be the guest of Joanne Major and Sarah Murden at their blog “All Things Georgian.” Joanne and Sarah have written several books, including “An Infamous Mistress” and “A Right Royal Scandal.” You can learn more about these books and read my guest post, “Marquis de Lafayette and His Affair with Aglaé of Hunolstein,” by clicking here.

Nine Singing Rules for 18th Century Singers

The Note A or La, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Singing was a popular activity in the 1700s. One writer noted that when there was a large group of singers, the worst singer was often the person who got the greatest pleasure from the activity. To ensure people got the most pleasure out of singing, numerous song books were published. Among them was one that maintained when a person was in society, it was the person’s duty to be “conformable and good-humoured.” To accomplish that, there were nine singing rules for 18th century singers. Continue reading

The Turk: An Automaton Chess Player Hoax

automaton chess player hoax: Marie Theresa
Maria Theresa, Courtesy of Wikipedia

In 1767, an extraordinary automaton was designed. The inventor was a Hungarian gentleman named Wolfgang von Kempelen who promised the Empress Maria Theresa that he would construct an automaton within six months that would amuse, astound, and excite “the liveliest astonishment.” Six months later it appeared Kempelen had succeeded when he presented “The Turk.”

The Turk was a life-sized model with a human head and torso, wearing a Turban and dressed in Turkish robes. The Turk was seated behind a large cabinet with a chessboard placed in front, and it seemed able to beat any human opponent. However, in actuality, The Turk was an automaton chess player hoax because inside the cabinet was a concealed puppeteer described by one newspaper as a sort of “Jack-in-the-box.” The puppeteer by means of levers, moved the chess pieces and used strategy to win against his opponents. Continue reading

French Victorian Feminist Hubertine Auclert

French Victorian Feminist Hubertine Auclert
A Young Hubertine Auclert, Courtesy of Wikipedia

French Victorian feminist Hubertine Auclert was born to a middle-class family on 10 April 1848. At age 13, when her father died, she was sent to a Roman Catholic convent. She initially intended to become a nun, but she left the convent permanently after being rejected because of her vivacious personality. She then went to Paris, and shortly thereafter, Napoleon III was ousted and the Third Republic established. These changes encouraged activism by women, and women began to demand changes and greater rights. Inspired by others, Auclert then became involved in securing rights for women and because of her time spent in the convent, she became a militant anti-cleric. Continue reading

Ventriloquism and France’s Royal Academy of Sciences in 1773

Ventriloquism and France's Royal Academy of Sciences: Members of Royal Academy of Sciences in 1667
The Royal Academy was Founded in 1666 by Louis XIV. Here are its Members in 1667. Courtesy of Wikipedia

Prior to the eighteenth century ventriloquism was often thought to be related to some spiritual force. The study of ventriloquism and France’s Royal Academy of Sciences did not come together until the Academy decided to study the subject in 1773. What piqued the Academy’s interest about ventriloquism was a well-known ventriloquist named Monsieur St. Gille.

St. Gille was a grocer who lived near Paris at St. Germain-en-Laye. Apparently, he possessed “astonishing powers” when it came to ventriloquism. The Abbé de la Chapelle heard so much about St. Gille’s marvelous powers, he decided to visit him and discover how St. Gille was able to produce such phenomena, and for that reason he called upon St. Gille. Continue reading

First Humans in an Untethered Balloon Flight

First Humans in an Untethered Balloon Flight
World’s First Manned Hydrogen Balloon, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The first hydrogen balloon lift off occurred 27 August 1783 by the Montgolfier brothers — Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier. A few weeks later the first manned flight occurred, and because the French King, Louis XVI, had been intrigued by the idea of balloon flight, he held a grand fete to celebrate the lift off. The event was held on 19 September 1783 at Versailles, and in attendance for the lift off was the King and the Queen, as well as thousands of spectators.

Before the balloon lifted off, the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier noticed the basket underneath the balloon and made a proposition to the King. He wanted to go up with the balloon. Louis XVI was so horrified that Rozier wanted to go up in the balloon, “he nearly lost his appetite, and absolutely forbade so a rash a venture.” So, when the balloon lifted off from the Versailles courtyard it carried no humans. It did however have a duck, sheep, and rooster as its passengers. The flight lasted just 8 minutes, covered 2 miles, and obtained a height of about 1,500 feet. Continue reading

Marie Antoinette’s Daily Schedule

Marie Antoinette's daily schedule
Marie Antoinette Getting Her Hair Dressed, by Heinrich Losslow, Courtesy of Wikipedia

Court etiquette at Versailles was one of the most important factors in Marie Antoinette’s life. To get through a day meant the Queen had to adhere to excessive etiquette, regulations, and protocols, and these began from the moment she opened her eyes. Marie Antoinette disliked much of the pomp and circumstance associated with her position as Queen, and this was one reason why she often fled to her beloved Petit Trianon, a small homey palace given to her by Louis XVI shortly after he became King. At Petit Trianon, the Queen did not have to suffer the same strict etiquette applied at Versailles, and, in fact, she was often seen strolling through the gardens incognito, wearing a muslin dress and sporting a floppy hat.

To understand what a regular day at Versailles might entail and how etiquette ruled the Queen’s life, I have provided a daily schedule that Marie Antoinette might typically follow: Continue reading

The French Tightrope Walker, Charles Blondin, a Daredevil

Charles Blondin Carrying His Manager, Harry Colcord, on His Back As He Crossed the Tightrope, Courtesy of Wikipedia

The French tightrope walker, Charles Blondin, as he was called, was born at St. Omer, Pas-de-Calais, France on 28 February 1824 under the name of Jean-François Gravelet. When Blondin was about four, a traveling company of equestrian and acrobatic performers came to town. It “produced a powerful and abiding effect upon his infantile mind,” and Blondin fell in love with the idea of acrobatics and tightrope walking. It also encouraged him to attempt to duplicate these acrobatic and gymnastic feats, and before long, he succeeded.

Because Blondin proved to have uncommon agility and a strong desire to perform as an acrobat, at the age of five, his parents placed him in the École de Gymnase at Lyon. Blondin’s first instructor was a man named Blondin and it was from this elder Blondin that he took the name Blondin. The elder Blondin was a man who used kindness to get the best out of the young Blondin, and the young Blondin quickly became recognized as a prodigy. In fact, it was noted that whatever feat he desired to achieve, “he … practised with unflagging pertinacity until he achieved complete success.” Continue reading