Jack walked up to the woman with the pail and asked her, “Where am I?”
She stared at his strange looking clothes and asked him, “Did you escape from a ship, young man?”
“Uh, no. Why do you ask?”
“You’re dressed like someone who was on a ship. Your long trousers give witness to that accusation.”
“I’ve come off a ship but it was unlike any you have ever seen. Again, where am I?”
“The nearest city is Albany. It’s about three miles to the south. At least the bloody red coats haven’t come around here yet. The war is to the east in the Massachusetts colony. You do know we are at war with His Majesty King George, don’t you?”
Jack’s mind reeled. The aliens had dropped him off nearly a quarter of a millennium back in time.
“I’ve been in the wilderness for many months and have lost track of time. Could you tell me what day this is?”
“Today is Wednesday, May 14, in the year of our Lord 1777. You look like an able-bodied young man. Why aren’t you in the conflict?”
“I am a weapons inventor and wish to be in contact with someone who can fabricate my designs.”
“What types of weapons are you interested in designing?”
“Are you familiar with steam engines?”
“I’m a simple wife of a farmer. I have no need to know about such devices.”
“Then you might not have heard about what has been done in France. Mr. Cugnot built a steam powered tractor a few years ago. I have done some refinements to make steam vehicles more practical. I’d like to build an armored vehicle that is a mobile gun carriage that is powered by a steam engine of my design.”
“Have you built such a machine before?”
“No. But I can design one. I can also design better rifles that can fire a multitude of projectiles at a rapid rate. Am I near a foundry?”
“There is one a short distance from here. It fabricates various things made of iron.”
“Perfect. If it wouldn’t be an imposition, could I spend the night designing my weapons. I happened to include some drawing paper and pencils in my backpack. I wanted to do nature drawings before I was abducted and brought here.”
“I thought you said you had been in the wilderness for a while.”
“Yes. I like to draw what I see and what I can imagine. Some even call me an artist.”
“You may do your drawings at the kitchen table. Do you need anything other than candle light?”
“As long as I have enough light, I’m good to go.”
“Good to go where?”
“It’s an expression. May I come in?”
“Sure. The door is open.”
Jack opened the door and entered the kitchen as the woman followed him in. Her husband was sitting at the table eating his dinner. He smiled as he looked up at Jack.
“Welcome, young man. For what reason are you here this evening?”
“I hate barging in on you fine people. But I need somewhere to do some drawings of weapons I’d like to see fabricated. Your wife told me there is a foundry near here that could fabricate my weapons.”
“Yes there is. I know the manager of the establishment. He is Peter Morgan. He attends the same Methodist church we attend every Sunday. Will you be in the area to accompany us to church this coming Sunday?”
“Probably. What you are eating smells good.”
“Are you hungry?”
The wife grabbed a bowl and ladled in some stew from the pot that was over the fire in the fireplace. She placed it on the table and ladled another bowl for herself. After placing spoons on the table and filling mugs with water from the pail, she sat down. After praying, she began to eat.
“Do you live near or far from here?” the man asked Jack.
“I come from New Jersey.”
“What brings you so far north? Are you seeking employment or do you suffer from wanderlust?”
“I was abducted and brought here. Don’t ask me about it because it is hard to explain. I’m just glad to be somewhere safe and warm. I want to do my part to secure our independence from England.”
“And what is your part?”
“He designs weapons,” his wife said.
“Oh? What types of weapons?”
“I intend on doing some drawings tonight before I go to sleep. You can look at them in the morning.”
“I believe I will.”
After the meal, the husband headed off to bed while his wife washed the dishes. Jack set his backpack on the table and pulled out a pad of paper, a mechanical pencil, and his drawing tools. The woman set a candle on the table to shed more light on Jack’s drawings.
That night, Jack drew weapons that were advanced for the 18th century but feasible. They ranged from breech loading rifles to his version of a steam-powered tank that used a rotary steam engine he had seen on the internet. He hoped there would be a potent enough fuel to fire the boiler and sufficient lubrication so the engine wouldn’t seize. He knew there was whale oil that was used during the 18th century. But it was normally used in lamps. Could it be used for lubrication?
The next day was a busy one. Jack ate a fried egg and some bread with real butter spread on it before heading toward the foundry. The sun was peeking over the trees when he hit the trail which he hoped would lead to his future which was an altering of history.
Jack walked into the foundry with his drawings and was met by the owner of the establishment.
“Sir, I have some drawings I think you’ll find interesting.”
The man examined the drawings and made a lot of facial expressions that ranged from surprise to skepticism. He handed them back to Jack and shook his head.
“Can you make what I showed you?”
“Where did you come up with these strange weapons? Are you from Heaven or Hell?”
“Close. I’m from New Jersey. I want to do my part to win our independence. I believe the weapons I have drawn will help us achieve that goal. Can you build them?”
“If you can draw them, I believe I can build them.”
“Even the tank?”
“I didn’t see a tank.”
“Excuse me. I meant the steam-powered mobile gun carriage. I call it a tank. Can you build it?”
“It will require a considerable amount of iron.”
“You could use an inch of iron plating over oak. It won’t be as protective as three inches of iron. But an inch of iron over six inches of oak might be almost as good. I can do some redesigning. I just hope I can lubricate the engine sufficiently.”
“I’ve never seen the device that your steam engine turns. What is it called?”
“I call it an electric generator. It generates electricity to power the motors that turn the drive wheels.”
“You must know Dr. Franklin in Pennsylvania.”
“I am familiar with him and his work. But this goes beyond what he has done.”
“I’ll say it does. Do you think your devices will work?”
“As sure as there is a sun up above.”
“If you can design them, can you construct them?”
“If you have copper wire and some bar magnets, sure.”
“Copper can be a bit expensive if you use as much as what it looks like your drawing requires.”
“How much do you have?”
“Not as much as you need for one of your tanks. You’ll have to go to a bank to acquire the copper you need and then it will be coins and not wire.”
“If I need to spend a month to extrude enough copper wire I’ll do it.”
An idea came to Jack that made him smile broadly.
“Do you have enough wire for a small generator that can fit in the palm of your hand?”
“Yes I do. What do you have in mind?”
“I will use it to generate current that can be stored in capacitors that are similar to Franklin’s leyden jar. The capacitors will discharge electricity that can ignite gunpowder in tin cartridges. No need to have powder in a pan that needs a flint and steel plate to form a spark to ignite it.”
“If you can do it, more power to you.”
“Thanks. I’ll start on the rifle first. If it works, maybe you could build 100 or more.”
“You’ll need to see my good friend Richard Miller who is a gunsmith. He can be a bit obstinate. But if you can build one that works, he’s the man who can fill your order.”
“How about tin? I’ll need a few square feet of it to make maybe 100 cartridges. Then I’ll need lead solder to seal the cartridges that will have paper in the back and the wadding and bullet in the front. Maybe your friend Mr. Miller can make even more cartridges.”
“I have a storage building behind the foundry you can use. It’s kind of crowded. But you might have enough room to make rifles in there.”
For the next few days,Jack managed to turn out both a rifle and a pistol that used capacitors to store electricity that could be discharged to ignite the powder in cartridges. He made a hand-cranked generator that he connected to wires in the handles of the weapons. He placed six capacitors in the breech of the pistol and a dozen in the breech of the rifle. They were in wheels that had to be rotated to position them behind the cartridges. The wheels reminded Jack of the birth control packaging of pills with the capacitors replacing the pills.
Jack had never loaded a cartridge because in the 21st century, all ammunition came in cartridges. After some trial and error, Jack finally had a dozen cartridges that could fit into the breeches of the pistol and rifle. He took his weapons into the woods near the foundry to shoot at trees.
In a small clearing he cranked his generator as he attached the wiring in the butts of the weapons to it. The electricity was stored in the capacitors. His exuberance to charge up the capacitors in the rifle caused him to overcharge them. They all discharged with a crack that sounded like a bull whip. He cranked the generator again to charge up the capacitors in the pistol. The second time he was more successful. There was no discharge which allowed him to place a cartridge into the breech of the pistol without the weapon going off prematurely.
Jack slowly lifted the pistol and aimed it at a small limb of a tree that was 30 feet in front of him. He pulled back the hammer that would force the appropriate capacitor to discharge behind the cartridge in the breech once it came in contact with the capacitor.
Will this 21st century man be able to change the course of history by using advanced technology to update 18th century weaponry? And what about his tank? Maybe you will find out by writing an ending to the story.