The “Merriam Pack” and a Soldier’s Friend
During the Spanish-American War the “Merriam Pack” was the standard U.S. Army knapsack. Invented by Maj. Gen. Henry Clay Merriam (1837-1912), who earned a Medal of Honor during the Civil War, the pack consisted of a canvas box with hickory rods that held it square, while at the bottom end there were fasteners to fit it into a belt that fell just below one’s kidneys. One’s blanket roll would then be fitted horse-shoe fashion over the pack, to which it was fastened with straps, while additional straps permitted one to fasten one’s rolled up overcoat beneath the pack. Needless to say, the Merrian Pack was very uncomfortable. But that did not necessarily make the Merrian Pack unpopular, at least with new troops.
It seems that the Merrian Pack could easily hold a full quart of whiskey, “with some space left for socks, shaving materials, and a deck of cards or so,” in the words of Pvt. Charles Johnson Post of the 71st New York. In addition, the blanket roll could hold three more quarts, one on top and one to each side, snuggly secured and well padded. Moreover, that rolled-up overcoat could hold another quart – indeed Pvt. Post swore a buddy managed to secrete a demijohn – nearly a gallon! – in his . Thus, a properly equipped soldier could easily manage to go to war with at least four quarts of whiskey, and even more if he’d replaced the water in his canteen with the “more precious fluid.”
Of course, once the troops became a little more seasoned, they quickly discarded the Merriam Pack for an old fashioned Civil War style blanket roll – it may not have permitted a man to carry as much “soldier’s friend” as the Merrian Pack, but it was a heck of a lot lighter and more comfortable.
No Puck, Much Pluck
The Irish War for Independence (well, the 1919-1921 one), was the first modern insurgency, characterized by small forces engagiingd in irregular operations against a large occupying conventional military force, coordinated with a well-orchestrated public relations campaign. There were an enormous number of "hit and run" raids by Irish Republican "brigades" and “columns,” which usually numbered only a few score men.
These raids were often quite successful. But not always.
Some weeks before the final agreement of December 6, 1921, between the Irish Republicans and the British government that granted Ireland independence within the British Commonwealth, Republican intelligence officers in Limerick received reliable information that the hockey team of the 1st Battalion, The Royal Warwickshire Regiment would shortly be passing down a certain road late at night, returning from a match. So Quinn's Flying Column, composed of about 55 armed men, laid an ambush.
Sure enough, the information was correct, for soon an unescorted truck carrying the Warwick’s hockey team came barreling down the road. The Irishmen went into action, blocking the road and opening fire. Apparently their marksmanship was poor, for none of the Warwicks was hit. Worse, the 13 British soldiers – who included the Regimental Sergeant Major, the battalion Pay Sergeant, and several other senior NCOs – promptly launched a counterattack! The lack of weapons seems not to have hampered the pugnacious Brits, who went at their ambushers with hockey sticks and anything else they could lay their hands on.
It was all over in a matter of minutes, as Quinn's Flying Column fled off into the surrounding countryside, in the process leaving a Lewis gun, ten rifles, and five prisoners in the enemy's hands.