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.

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