First Hot Shot
Early during the Siege of Yorktown in October 1781 the French got the bold idea of heating solid cannonballs red hot and firing them at a ship. They succeeded by arcing at least three balls a mile away toward the HMS Charon, the 44-gun lead ship of Lord Cornwallis, anchored in front of what is now the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
It miraculously hit the wooden deck and burned a hole through successive floors to reach the bilge where they kept the sails dry. Sparks set the boat ablaze into a spectacular explosion. Thus came into the lexicon the term “hot shot.” The tactic was rarely used because of the inherent danger of blowing up the cannon before it could launch. No such surprise awaits the Hermione, the Marquis de Lafayette’s replica frigate that was due at Yorktown in the summer of 2015.
Update: For years, underwater archaeologists had an impossible time finding exactly where the Charon sank. As the command ship of the British general, it offered unique historical appeal. Eventually side-scan sonar pinpointed the wreck. It lay only 23 feet down, but under 11 feet of mud. Funding by National Geographic led to a segment on the cable series “Drain.”
Andrea, Ashley and Jamie Kieffer of Shawnee, Kansas, reunited for a family vacation when their folks took all three sisters sailing near Williamsburg. Bridget and John Keiffer got to see the wonderful interaction of their three children. They have been separated by college, medical school and life as a grown-up.
The childhood memories of their playing together came to life in the banter on the bow of the boat as they huddled in conversation. This happy occasion occurred on the 76th birthday of my late middle sister Molly. We still miss her so. It was good to see these girls reunited.
Born sailors Evan and Carter Henley of Williamsburg proved natural-born. Their parents Judy and Ray took them cruising along the York River near Yorktown. The boys go to Williamsburg Christian Academy. As a result, lessons in reasoning and geometry came into play. We enjoyed a magnificent 10 mph wind that lasted for hours.
Let’s Go See the First Hot Shot
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