Educator's Guide: Mathematics: Gunners - Variations


Read the following excerpt from the diary of Emma Balfour: six o'clock as we sat on the gallery a mortar shell exploded in the shed in front, making me involuntarily jump from my seat. Then another and another from all directions. The gunboats came and engaged in battling, and such a time as we had watching the shells - you cannot imagine. We were thankful when dark came for we could better avoid them... Then on to Sky Parlor Hill and stayed there til one o'clock. You must understand that it was not the usual way we walked down the street, but had to take to the middle of the street, whenever we heard a shell and watch for it, and as this was about every half minute, you may imagine our progress was not very fast As soon as a shell gets over your head you are safe -for even if it explodes then, the pieces fly forwards and do not touch you - but the danger is that sometimes while watching one - another comes and may explode and fall near you 'ere you are aware.

Blow a whistle or drop a book to represent the firing of a naval cannon on a gunboat. Using the naval sound scale have the students count off the seconds. Create an ending sound so students will know the projectile has hit. The students will have a sense of the time involved for the projectile to travel its distance and why the civilians were able to "out maneuver" the projectiles. The reality of the situation was not one cannon firing but many and the sense of timing for projectile varied. Civilians became aware of what type of cannon had fired the shell.

Emma Balfour wrote of the mortar and parrot shells:

...every shell from the machines as they came rushing down like some infernal demon, seemed to me to be coming exactly on me, and I had looked at them so long that I can see them just as plainly with my eyes shut as with them open. They come gradually making their way higher and higher, tracked by their firing fuse till they reach their greatest altitude - then with a rush and whiz they come down furiously, their own weight added to the impetus given by the powder. Then look out, for it they explode before reaching the ground which they generally do, the pieces fly in all directions the very least of which will kill one and most of them of sufficient weight to tear through a house from top to bottom! The parrot shells come directly so one can feel somewhat protected from them by getting directly under a wall, but when both come at once and so fast that one has not time to see where one shell is going before another comes - it wears one out

Last updated: April 14, 2015

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