Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Home of the Tomato

Reynoldsburg, June 25-26, 2011

I was told that Reynoldsburg has become one of the largest events in Ohio. I think it came as a surprise to some that there were enough Confederate companies to form a battalion. It was two years ago at this event that I decided to join the 1st Tennessee once and for all—up to that time I was primarily Federal (which is why I’ve been nicknamed “Yankee”). Three years ago this event was merely an extension of the Tomato Festival, and I’ve watched this event grow from a single day event two years ago, to a somewhat decent small to mid-range event last year to an event with around ten sutlers and around seventy to a hundred reenactors on each side. Although the sutlers were small (with one exception) and had limited selections (and a little heavy on public-oriented farby selections), they were varied enough to show promise in the years to come. If they can get just one more large sutler—such as Fall Creek or the Regimental Quartermaster—I think Reynoldsburg will definitely rate as one of the best events of the year. The park has plenty of space to grow, so there is plenty of potential.

In addition to the good supply of food and the significant number of sutlers, there were two Saturday battles along with a planned Sunday morning tactical and afternoon battle.

Granted, the event is heavily supported by the 5th Kentucky, a unit we of the 1st Tennessee are very close with. I feel I should mention this so that you are aware of my bias. But the event is a very good one nonetheless. Food was excellent—three meals provided. A Saturday lunch (a hamburger), dinner (pizza), and Sunday breakfast (egg and sausage burrito) weren’t exactly period meals, but who’s to look a gift horse in the mouth? You can always cook your own meal over the campfire if you are a stickler for period-correct eatin’.

Yankees coming for us
Saturday, the 1st Tennessee was made the Color Company, and I was among those put on Color detail. I had not been part of defending the flag before, so I was honored for the experience, but it is not something I would want to do all the time, since all that is involved is marching at shoulder arms beside the flag for the entire battle. It was not until the second Saturday battle in the late afternoon that I realized I could take advantage of the situation and grab my camera out of my haversack and snap a few shots with no one knowing. Even the soldiers on either side of me had no idea I had my camera out shooting the Yankees (okay, so it wasn’t with a musket—but at least I got some satisfaction out of it).

The 1st Tennessee as Color Company
The Saturday battles seemed a bit on the chaotic side—it seemed the Yankees didn’t want to come out and play. They complained we pushed too hard, but hadn’t they head General Jackson’s statement that once you’ve got them on the run—keep pushing? My advice to the Yankees—get aggressive. Push us—we will respond accordingly, and you will find the battle to be more interesting for both us and the public. I know the scenario is worked out during the officer’s meeting, but you know that all goes to pot once the fighting begins.

Sunday’s tactical turned bust. That can squarely be blamed on the Yankees—the skies were spitting a bit during the morning—nothing a poncho couldn’t deal with—and so the Yanks chickened out. I always look forward to a good tactical—it will take a monsoon to scare me away since they are so few are far between—so I was very disappointed that something less than a light sprinkle was all that it took to keep the Yankees away. Yet, they drilled about an hour later in that same light drizzle—what’s with that? I don’t know—others of the 1st Tennessee tell me the unit has quite the reputation for winning tacticals—is that the real reason the Yank didn’t want to play? Perhaps if the Yankee colonels studied up more on some of the winning tactics used during the Civil War, they could present the 1st Tennessee with a significant challenge.

The Sunday afternoon battle did make clear that the Yankees did have a lot of Saturday Day-lilies. The Rebs had them too, but it seemed a bit more dramatic with the Yankees (maybe it was just due to my perspective?) The numbers were still good, at least, and (at least to me) the battle appeared more organized—the Federals seemed to put on a better assault.

Overall I had a terrific weekend. Let’s see how the home of the tomato grows the event for next year.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Rescuing the Rescuer

This weekend was not a reenactment, but a rescue of sorts.  A friend of Gary Shaw’s had in his barn loft a relic of the Civil War, and offered to allow us to display it during the Lancaster event over the 4th of July weekend.  He told us it was an ambulance in the Civil War.
The ambulance as stored, before extraction from the barn.

After seeing it, both Gary and I doubt it was an actual ambulance—but, even so, it may have been used as one.  We do not have any research as to how it was used during the War—only papers indicating that it was from the War.  There were the remnants of two Civil War cots with it, and I was told there was a significant amount of other Civil War items with it as well at one time.  If you have information that can tell us more about this relic, please post your comments to let us know.

It was not easy fetching the wagon out of the hayloft.  The current owner had used his barn over the past 30 years or so as a giant work shed—it had all sorts of things cluttering it up, including a pump organ, a 50’s era gas stove, and two 50’s era sports cars in extreme disrepair (little more than shells with engines).   All of this, plus a ton of lumber had to be moved just to make a path to extract the horse cart.  And then there was a hundred years of filth (lots of coons had been in and out of there over the years) that we stirred up.
Moving the cart to the hole.  That's me on the left--those jeans
were blue when we started.

Once the path was clear, we then had to carefully move the ambulance to the center of the loft, which was an opening with beams to provide a temporary flooring.  Once we put the cart on these beams, an extension cord was used to support it while the beams were removed.  An aluminum ladder was used as a ramp to slid the cart down.
Lowering the wagon.

The wagon was in exceptional shape considering its age and the amount of neglect it had seen.  One wheel had a couple of spokes a piece of wood around the rim missing.  The rear of the buckboard had damage to the inside board.  The tailgate was fully intact, but was completely separated.  The bows for supporting the canvas appear to all have been cut off—but all were present and accounted for.  There were little details here and there that suggested post-Civil War modifications, but they were items that either could be removed in a restoration project, or easily left as part of the history of the relic.  These modifications were probably from no later than the 1910s.

While we rolled it the day’s final destination a little outside the barn, one wheel started to collapse where its wood finally broke at several rotted points.  The owner said he was going to try to tack together some repairs to the ambulance in preparation for the Lancaster event—nothing significant, but enough to make it presentable and deliverable.  He doesn’t have far to go—the event is only about a quarter mile from where the cart has been stored for over a hundred years, but for the safety of the cart he is going to deliver it on a flatbed.
The final result

We are looking forward to seeing it displayed for the public over the 4th of July.  It took ten of us to get that cart out of the barn—six from the 1st Tennessee.  It will give us satisfaction to share a piece of history.
The ambulance during the 4th of July celebrations in Lancaster.

Edit: My doubts about this being an ambulance have been laid to rest.  Gary Shaw forward an original photo of a row of ambulances (below), and as you can see, our wagon looks to be an exact match, other than a bit longer (ours is twelve feet long) and missing the canvas, which appears would have been painted black. 

Finally, based on this link: http://www.civilwarhome.com/ambulancewagons.htm, it appears it is an extended version of the Rucker ambulance.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Pickerington with Cubs

I had forgotten just how short the attention span of some kids could be.  This past weekend was a living history with several Cub Scout packs of the Pickerington, Ohio area.  A small contingent of us from the 1st Tennessee held four half-hour sessions walking kids through the life of a soldier.  A few of the sessions had kids that sat as still as honey bees in a clover field.

Gary Shaw does some blacksmithing
Firing the cannon for the kids
It wasn’t until we started walking them through the school of the soldier, the loading in nine times and shooting that we grabbed their attention.  Lesson learned—we’ll probably focus on that for next year.  After we completed our session, we handed the kids off to the artillery crew.

It was a nice, easy weekend.  After spending time with the kids, we got a lot of Euchre playing in.