Splinter Stories

by Mike Kendra on March 29, 2010

Source of Terror? Wooden Stakes.

It doesn’t matter which old-timer you ask, each and every one of them has an opinion.

Just the name of the event brings thrill or a chill of fear.

The stake event…..

If you’ve ever faced one of these on the 50 yard line you know exactly what I’m talking about. Using part skill, and part luck to accomplish, a wooden board is split by a Musket Team, the faster you break the stake, the better your score…

I’ve participated in several of these events in recent years on the regional level, and there is a certain air or mystique to this old-time event. When you get that stake broken and the ends start to swing a loud cheer always goes up.

It’s fun because many old timers know the “secrets” to getting this event cleared. Some manage to show up with .69 cal Rifled Muskets to drill the big holes. Others claim using a trashcan minie will break the board better. I even read a story in a old skirmish line about a guy who loaded his minie bullets backwards, so that the bullet might strike the board sideways doing additional damage (not recommended!).

There were techniques for twisting the board as well, some members will waste a shot in the side of the board late in the event in an attempt to twist the remaining splinters apart. Sometimes this works, many times it does not.

I also remember when I was a kid that some teams would volley fire at the stake hoping that 8 near-simultaneous hits on the board would cause more stress and cracking in the board. This was fun to watch, but I don’t remember how well it worked.

And there are just as many types of stakes as ways to break them. Some are made from particle board, about 3 foot wide and 6 to 8 inches tall, it’s a challenge to cut these in five minutes with a standard musket team. Sometimes a line is drawn on the board to give a starting aim point.

Once I shot a “4 stakes” event, many years back the 120th NY ran a shoot at Westerloo, New York, they always had a great variety of targets at their events. Anyway they wired up each frame with four 2″ X 2″ posts, the same type you’d use to build the pickets on your deck railing, you had to break as many as you could in 5 minutes, I think two teams managed to complete the event out of about 18 teams. A very cool and memorable event.

I’ve also helped run a skirmish where we had a “Post” event. A 6 foot tall 2X4 stake is placed in the frame hole, and the post must get cut down near the ground. To complete the event the top of the post must fall or touch the ground. That event went great, it was a real crowd-pleaser, and classic event from what I’m told.

But then there are the horror stories, like the team that shot a hole in the center if the stake with two small splinters holding it together on the top and bottom. I’ve seen it happen, and even if it is frustrating, but it makes for a great story, people talk about these events for years and years!

Tell us you story of Stake Event Glory, or Horror!

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Phil Spaugy March 29, 2010 at 8:32 am

The stakes at Greenfield Village were great. They were about 6 feet in length, set upright in the ground. After you cut your stakes you got to shoot at the 2 “dynamite” exploders that were on each side of the stake. The audience loved it when they started going off !!

Robert C. Hubbard Jr. March 29, 2010 at 9:41 am

I liked the upright stakes like at the villiage. I think the stake’s hung on a wire absorbed to much energy and didnt break the same.
“Dynamite” exploders. Those were fun. The dynamite was to simulate artillery vs. Inf. in action. 1/2 sticks I think. The ground moved when they went off. The audience loved em alright; but I never knew they were there when our stake down, to busy trying to get mine.

Mike M. March 29, 2010 at 11:01 am

I remember the famed McGregor Chainsaw….back in the late ’70s, McGregor’s Battery regarded 30 seconds as a reasonable stake time. The standard-issue stake in teh National Capital area was a 6×24 inch piece of particle board.

The secret was to have one person shoot the stake, then everybody else shoot above or below the bullet hole. And yes, we pre-designated who was shooting where.

Great fun.

Jim March 29, 2010 at 12:28 pm

We used to do a “post event” on steroids — a Brigade Shoot, to burn all that excess musket ammo we had left over after the Sunday morning match. Two sections of utility pole, five or six feet long, a foot or so in diameter, set in the ground on either side of the 100-yard range.

Then We’d go to the line — the Feds on one side, the rebs on the other and, at the signal, blast away until the poles were cut or we just ran out of ammo. Great way to end a weekend!

jfb2md March 31, 2010 at 4:03 pm

When I started skirmishing in 1971, almost every skirmish has a stake event even the Nationals. The worst stake event was at a Delaware Blues skirmish in New Jersey. It was an unmarked particle board stake with a sand back stop. It was almost impossible to distinguish the stake from the back stop. One of our best stake events was with a 5 man carbine team with 4 muzzleloaders and one Smith. The muzzleloader each got off two shots and the guy with the Smith fired three. The only shot out of the jagged vetical line was one fired after the stake broke. The stake event was eliminated in most skirmishes because too many people complained tha there was too much luck envolved.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: