Perspectives: Interest in rifles and history has lead to 30 year ‘career’

Circleville resident Joe Forte was already a competitive muzzleloader shooter when he started attending historical reenactments about 30 years ago.

“Our sons had an interest in history. We went to a couple living history events, and one thing led to another,” said Forte, 62, now retired after 37 years with DuPont.

Today, Forte is a member of both the Brigade of the American Revolution’s 8th Pennsylvania Regiment reenactors and Joseph Ogle’s Company, a group of reenactors in south central Ohio based on a company that formed in 1776 at Fort Henry, in what is now Wheeling, W.Va.

“I love talking to the public,” he said.

Forte joined the Brigade group, in which he’ll be participating in this weekend’s encampment, about 15 years ago after he met a couple members at an 18th century trade fair. He said he’s always been interested in the Pennsylvania rifle, which many people may know better as the Kentucky longrifle.

Forte appreciates the guns’ “architecture, its pleasing lines, its decoration, its accuracy,” he said. “I have studied the building of these guns, have built several.”

The rifles that were used by soldiers in the American Revolution were originally intended for hunting, not as weapons of war, Forte said.

Smooth-bore muskets, like the British and most American soldiers used, were cheaper, more durable, could have bayonets attached to them and fired faster, Forte said. However, they were not as accurate from longer distances as rifles, which generally had ammunition more specifically fitted to it.

“A musket ball will go a long way (but) aimed accuracy is not a lot more than 50 yards,” Forte said. “Whereas a rifle has an aimed accuracy of over 200 yards.”

Muskets could be loaded and fired faster, to the tune of three or four shots a minute, Forte said. Riflemen could only fire about twice a minute, unless they loaded smaller balls and skipped other steps that would decrease their accuracy.

Forte’s son Matthew, 30, also of Circleville, attended multiple reenactment events with his father, including one in Quebec.

“There were several hundred reenactors on both the American and on the British sides,” he said via email. “With that many people, you really could get a sense of what these battles were like during the American Revolution – the noise, the smoke and the confusion.”

Matthew Forte would play drum for the unit when they were drilling or staging tactical demonstrations.

“Wearing the same clothes, carrying the same musket and following the same commands as my patriot ancestors gives me a much greater appreciation of what they endured to win our independence,” he said. “It gives life to stories about these brave men and women who risked everything so that their descendants could live freely.”