Monday, July 18, 2011

A Weekend Off to buy some toys.

July 16, 2011

I apologize if this entry is more of a rambling, but since I can’t go to a reenactment (yeah, I'm missing out on 1st Manassas), then I should at least get some toys for one, right? 
Lil' Mary.  Ain't she shiny?

Since nothing was planned this weekend I went to the gun show down in Dayton and found Lil’ Mary, a nice Navy Arms replica of a brass frame .44 1858 Remmington revolver, for only $125.  Okay, so I’m not an officer and don’t have much use for one—but someday, I’ll be totin’ one of these things around with an officer’s sword and pop off a few just for effect.

At first, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted the gun.  The guy was asking $135 for the gun, and I was tempted to grab it and run for that price, but fortunately gun shows aren’t exactly the best place for buying and selling Civil War era reproduction weapons—everyone wants modern.  So I wandered awhile thinking about it.  Returning, I figured I’d offer $125—what could it hurt?

I had been pricing these pistols for about a year or so.  Most of the time even used ones were more than $200.  I had only seen $125 twice—once on Craigslist where the revolver sold in about 15 minutes—way before I could get to it—and once at the Dayton gun show by a reenactor getting out of the hobby.  That guy was also selling his 3-band Enfield for $200 (which I grabbed before he could spit).  I beat myself silly for not also buying the pistol, but I just could not bear to part with that much cash in one sitting. 

Oh, if you’re wondering about that Enfield, since I always talk about Christine, my Springfield, it’s spoken for.  I had named it Marty and got to play with it once or twice, but decided I liked Christine much better.  I sold the Enfield to a fellow reenactor (Mercer) in the 1st Tennessee.  He got quite the bargain on it (I was willing to cut him a deal since he brings fresh steaks to the Durbin Bean Bake), but I also came out a good amount ahead.  If he hadn’t bought it, I’d probably gone around trying to sell it for $450—and considering the price of Enfields these days, I’m sure I would have found a buyer.  Marty was in pretty good shape after I fixed up the few small problems it had.
Nifty new, er old, er whatever, campchairs.

Then, on my way home, I found some nice folding chairs at a flea market.  These things folded up such that they looked like those folding campstools, except with the back added.  Instead of canvas these things had some sort of carpet.  The wood was a real fine, dark finish.  I could picture sitting back in one of these while enjoying a good game of Euchre.  They were antiques, though I have no idea how old they were—I’m hoping they date to prior to the Civil War, though I doubt they do.  The only problem for this set of 4 was that they were covered in mold.

But that’s no problem for me.  For thirty bucks I took these things home and gave them a good bath.  Cleaned them up real good.  I intend to keep two of them for myself, and try to sell the other two to recover some of my expense for the chairs.  I think they’ll make great additions to any mainstream campsite.   May even work for an authentic campsite if the captain is the only one with the chairs.  At McConnelsville a reenactor who fell in with us accidentally destroyed the canvas on my campstool—I didn’t mind much since the stool was a rescue from the campfire, anyhow.  But he offered to take it home and replace the canvas.  I’m thinking now that the guy can keep the leg-cramping campstool while I enjoy some real comforts.

Finally there was the Goodwill run.  Goodwill is a good place to get random knickknacks.  Sgt Mott is good with converting modern shirts into period shirts, so I found a couple of cheap shirts that I’ll have him work on.  There were also candles there.  A lot of candles—I’m probably well supplied for a couple of years now.  And finally are the candlestick holders.  I must have some kind of addiction with buying these things—they’re only ninety-nine cents.  I think I’m up to 14 now—and I had to restrain myself.  I’m going to try starting with just a couple during an evening Euchre round, and steadily build up to all 14—or at least until my friends start calling me nuts (whichever comes first).
Is that a bit over the top?  I'll have no problem seeing the Euchre cards!

And by the way, if you’re in need of a candlestick holder, just look me up—I’ll give you quite the deal on one.

Edit (07/20/2011): I did some research to try and find what I could on those chairs and YEEEEHAAW!!!  It was far better than I could have hoped for--AND I think I made a killing.  They are from US Patent number RE2891, patented 1866 (does that mean they could have been sold during the Civil War, or only after the patent was issued?), issued to B.J. Harrison and J. Condie of New York, NY. (link to patent). I also got some information from one Anna Worden Bauersmith, who gave me some good information and tips on the chairs--I think she left drooling over them.

I also found these eBay links, which give an idea of the value of these chairs:

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Raiding McConnelsville

July 9-10, 2011

This event is one that the 1st Tennessee goes to with mixed feelings.  There are those of us that like the event, and those that don’t.  It almost didn’t make it on our schedule this year, save for a barely large enough vote.

I like this event.  But it takes a lot for me to give a thumbs-down to an event.  If you attended the last year of the Granville, Ohio event (some years back), you experienced one of the few events I would give a thumbs-down to.

One of the things that turn off some of our members is in-town battles.  They consider this too farby due to the asphalt and street signs that we end up fighting around.  Personally, it doesn’t bother me—it’s a change of pace from normal field fighting.  Just don’t die on the asphalt—it can get so hot you might start thinking you’ve arrived at some fiery destination instead of the Pearly Gates.

McConnelsville’s Saturday battle is in-town while the early afternoon Sunday battle is held at a nearby farm.  They have followed this pattern for years. 

This year, however, the Saturday battle had some kind of strange scripting.  The script called for us Confederates to take the town with a small skirmish and the basically pillage—er “forage” for pre-established bounty, which included some apples and a few other period-type things.  In order for us to accomplish this, the battle was basically put on hold for a while until our pillaging was complete and the announcer called for the arrival of Federal troops.  This downtime for us was very awkward—we are not used to this kind of thing.  The 1st Tennessee is a disciplined group.  We portray the Rock City Guards, and as such were all volunteers.  Our research showed that nearly all of the original soldiers had significant wealth, ranging from today’s equivalent of lower middle class merchants to wealthy planters that owned multiple slaves.  Although we wear the expected not quite matching and patch-repaired uniforms, we aren’t the ragtag group associated with the Confederate Army.  We aren’t perfect, but we are well drilled and are proud of our skill in formation.  Therefore, when we’re expected to act like the Federals at Fredericksburg, we feel out of place and grumble our disappointment.  I think the highlight was when Zach made off with the gentleman’s top-hat that seemed to be part of the bounty.  He left it in his tent back at camp—only to have the owner hunting camp-to-camp for it.

The complaint I heard concerning the pause in the battle was that when we go into a fight, we get an adrenaline rush, and that pause causes a letdown.  I never get that adrenaline rush (although I do enjoy the battling) so I think, as a side note, that event coordinators need to realize that we reenactors are not entertainers.  Yes, what we do entertains the public—but that’s not our goal.  We are educators, and in camp we will talk the public and educate them about the life and the times of the Civil War, but probably the best analogy to the battle is to consider that we are merely playing a game when we go out to fight.  We follow basic rules and one side wins—only we usually know which side will win before the game starts.  When something outside our paradigm is thrown at us—we’ll tend to get a little upset about it.  Maybe this is a flaw in reenactors, but if the event coordinators will keep this in mind, then when they need something unusual to happen, then perhaps things will work out better with the use of entertainers for those special things.

As Saturday wore away and Euchre playing picked up, our lieutenant showed me the script for the Sunday battle.  The battle was scripted?  The very concept shocked me.  I had never been to the officers’ meeting used to plan the battle, but I always imagine them to go something like this:

Federal Commander: Heads or tails?
Confederate Commander: Heads.
Federal Commander: Tails—the North wins today.
Confederate Commander: Okay—We’ll come in on the west side of the field and push you from your positions at the breastworks.
Federal Commander: Sounds good—we’ll fall back and have our company in reserve flank you to push you back.
Confederate Commander: Yeah—sounds like a plan.  See you at 2.

And so the battle would be fought.  If there is artillery, they’ll shoot at each other for awhile until they’ve used up enough ammunition.  If there is cavalry, they’ll dance around the field swing sabers and taking pop shots until they get bored.  Then we’ll come on the field and kind of—sort of follow the rough idea from the officer’s meeting.  The battle rarely goes anything like it was planned—or so our officers tell me.

But, the script for the Sunday battle at McConnelsville read like a chapter out of the Civil War Times.  Every cannon shot was noted, along with the response.  It described when the infantry should shoot and where they should be on the battlefield and when.  The entire script was roughly two pages long.  It scared me silly—it sounded stupid—like some kind of children’s story or comic book.

I have to give the Sunday battle credit.  Somehow it all worked.  The battlefield is a good-sized hill and somehow every year we seem to always have to climb it to the Yankee position at the top. 
The Sunday battlesite from my perspective among the casualties

Marching to our positions on the battlefield, we had to march through a swampy manure field.  I only mention this so that next time we remember to go around it.  Our lieutenant nearly disappeared when he got his boot stuck to his knee in it.  Big Dave had to pull him out.

Lt Sharp intentionally deviated slightly from the script early on, moving us into position to attack the Federal artillery and firing a couple of unexpected volleys, but otherwise the script was followed.  I was surprised to hear this because it seemed to go so well.

Sutlers were a definite issue.  There was only one, unless you count the going-out-of-business sutler that lasted about an hour clearing everything out at incredible prices.  I heard they had some great stuff—but I missed it all except for the $20 8 ½ size brogans that only Pvt Silvers could wear.  At least he got a deal out of it.

Powder was nice—there was a half-pound bounty for all soldiers

Personally I liked the event, other than the issue with the battle—and they could do something to improve the food—it wasn’t bad, but I just think there was room for improvement.  The Saturday breakfast of nothing but biscuits and gravy with biscuits that were a bit dry could have been better (I would have fried my usual bacon and eggs had I known this was what to expect), and the Saturday “Cowboy beans” really needed a bit of work.  Mercer, in the rank behind me, suffered from them at the Sunday battle when they finally caught up to me.  I didn’t partake of the Sunday breakfast (same as Saturday’s, except with the addition of scrambled eggs).  

However, by the sound of many of the members of the 1st Tennessee, it seems unlikely we will return next year.  If the event does not conflict with an event on the 1st Tennessee’s schedule, I’ll find my way out if I can get a few to join me.  In a worst-case scenario we’d just fall in with the 5th Kentucky—unless we had enough numbers to form our own unit.  But we won’t be going in force like we did this year—our numbers were somewhere between 20 and 30 for the Sunday battle.

Zanesville Times Recorder article
McConnelsville Facebook page
News report on WHIZ

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cump's Backyard

Lancaster Ohio, July 3-4, 2011

There doesn’t seem to be very many Confederate generals born in Ohio.  But there are certainly lots of Union generals born here.  Over the Fourth of July weekend, a small contingent of us spent time in a rather precarious territory in the heart of the home of one of the most notorious (at least to the Confederacy) Union generals—William T. Sherman.  Lancaster, Ohio was not only celebrating Independence Day, but also celebrating the restoration of one of the cannons that Sherman had brought back after the Civil War.  Of course, they seem to keep pretty quiet about the fact that the cannon was captured Confederate artillery—but I don’t think it would go over too well if we tried to reclaim it.

Due to the fourth falling on a Monday, the event actually did not start until Sunday.  I had my 11 year-old nephew from Colorado with me to be our flag bearer.  It was a small event, and I think the six of us on Sunday were about an even match to the Federal count, who were mostly members of the 76th Ohio and Sons of Union Veterans.  A pretty laid-back event, but with plenty of potential if the Union side cooperated.  We had the ambulance that we had rescued a couple of weeks ago parked near our camp, while the Federals had Sherman’s cannon and a couple other artillery pieces parked by theirs.  A few Cavalrymen also camped near the Federals, but I think they came more to look pretty than to play.  During the skirmishes we held, they pretty much either stood in place or quickly ran to the other side of the field.  Not that I’m complaining—the infantry numbers were so slight that you really couldn’t do much with the cavalry.

I have to give kudos to the Federal forces on that first day for giving us a surprise attack on our camp in the morning.  Sgt Shaw saw a platoon of them heading our way thinking that perhaps they were drilling—that is until they formed a skirmish line and advanced on our position.  Caught off guard, we had to dive into our tents to grab our traps and ammunition.  But we gave a good show and pushed them back.

In the afternoon we cootered up to prepare to return the favor, only to have a federal messenger approach to ask which side of the battlefield we’d like, spoiling any chance for a surprise.  But it was a fun attack.  My nephew hadn’t seen any kind of reenactment before—so marching out waving the Polk flag around was a real treat for him.

Before that afternoon battle I noticed Steve Winston’s speed with reloading to shoot down a couple of Federal prisoners and suggested we challenge the Yanks to a bit of a friendly speed shoot competition.  After the battle, the impromptu challenge almost went unmet as most of the Yanks complained they had already cleaned their guns (a little antsy, if you ask me—we had barely heated the water by that time).  Fortunately, a couple of the young soldiers accepted the challenge when their sergeant agreed to re-clean the guns.  Steve won the competition, save for a little detail.  Having never participated in such a competition, he wasn’t clear on the rule that you actually do ram paper—he simply rammed without pushing the paper tube in, which gave him a bit of a speed advantage.  But it was all just for fun, anyhow, so we didn’t worry about it.  I beat the Yank next to me by a second or two, keeping my time to about 55 seconds for three shots.  I would have been a bit faster had I not thrown my first tube to the ground, or fumbled around so much with my ramrod.

We returned the favor of the morning ambush with a sneak attack of our own near dusk.  We used a bit of Confederate ingenuity—splitting our group into two platoons.  I was with the color detail advancing down the front with double charges to draw their attention, while a slightly larger force flanked the Federal camp.  After about three shots the Federals were finally about to defend themselves—only to have the flanking force lower their muskets and force surrender.

Much less happened on Monday—with the parade taking our morning, and the Federals having to vacate to make room for parking for the fireworks, we could only hold an early afternoon skirmish, with the Camp Chase Fife and Drums playing to our gunfire.  We had a few late additions to our numbers, so we were a decent company. Since we were to lose, we gave them casualties until we were down to three, then gave them a final charge, only to discover they had empty guns.  I got lucky and found a federal on our flank able to fire before we got to close, but Sgt Shaw and Private Feeman had to perform an impromptu hand-to-hand, which is never really a good idea, but it was a good show, though Sgt Shaw suffered a bruise of some kind that he was complaining of the next day.

The event was held at Rising Park in Lancaster, and the Federals provided decent food for us throughout the event, including Sunday (first day) supper, Monday donuts for breakfast and McDonalds after the afternoon skirmish.  Rising Park didn’t seem large enough for numbers like we experienced at Reynoldsburg, but perhaps the event will grow—the Fairfield County fairgrounds are right across the street and could provide a good overflow.  All the Independence Day events both provide a foothold for the Civil War reenactment and a limitation for it (as focus will never be fully on the reenactment), but if there comes to be enough support, perhaps we can see the reenactment stand on its own.

Even so, the Lancaster 4th of July event is good.  The laid-back nature gave us plenty of time for Euchre, which is always a bonus.