Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Red Carpet of Coshocton

August 13-14, 2011

This was the third first-year event that I have ever attended, the first being Fort Recovery last year and the second being Nelsonville last week.  Coshocton (or “Shocatoan” as Pvt Jim Kletzli says it) was a good event.  They treated the reenactors very well.  It was surprising that they supplied T-shirts, 3x5 period flags, powder rations, and showers to the registered reenactors for this free event.  I’m not sure they will be able to keep that up.  It was a small event—and I am not sure if they have much room to grow.  Again, as usual, the Confederates outnumbered the Federals, but Hale Farm is nearby the same weekend, so that did not help.  Located at the highest point of the town, next to the airport, we occasionally joked about the Confederate Air Force preparing a raid.  The airport distraction is not a problem—only small aircraft used it.  The in-town reenactments are far worse.  The event provided two good breakfasts and a Saturday dinner, all of which were very good. 

It was a disappointment that no sutlers, other than a Sassparilla vendor, made it to the event—but again, this was probably due to Hale Farm.  It’s too bad that it did not occur to even one small vendor that there would be a good opportunity for them here.

I was surprised to learn that the nine rifles that showed up for the 1st Tennessee made the largest unit—particularly when this event was not even on our calendar (it was a free weekend).

Saturday battle went well as we joined with the 5th Kentucky to defeat the Yankees, whose numbers were not too much less than ours.  I think the Confederate commanders are starting to learn that if we promise the Yankees to win on Sunday, they are more likely to stay for the Sunday battle.  It seems that if they win on Saturday, they tend to go home right after.

Near dusk Alabama, of the 19th Virginia, and Private Steve Winston decided to initiate an artillery barrage on the Union forces.  Alabama pulled out his 12-pound Napolean (no, it did not fire 12 pound balls, it weighed 12 pounds) and Steve brought out his toy cannons.  It was hilarious to watch as Alabama called out artillery commands.  “Fire by battery, two second intervals.”  “Gun number one, ready.”  “Misfire on gun number two,” and then he crossed his arms over the little pea-shooter.  The union tent they were shooting at also had a toy cannon, and was kind enough to play along with return fire.  I heard that the artillery crew that was there asked, “Are they making fun of us?”

The Union forces challenged us to a Sunday morning tactical, which we were more than happy to oblige them with.  The only concern was that the prediction was for rain.  The night did bring some heavy rains with slight drizzle off-and-on in the morning, so we thought the Yankees might cancel—although I think we would have been more understanding that we were at Reynoldsburg because of how wet everything was.  But to our surprise they wanted to continue anyhow.  I discovered later that they had a bit of a tactical advantage that they wanted to use.  They had scouted out the nearby woods and knew the lay of the land the night before—we never had such an opportunity due to the lateness of the challenge.

But none of us mind that if it gets the Yankees to play.  There were some killer ravines in that woods that we climbed through trying to get behind the enemy forces while the 5th Kentucky held them down at a clearing.  But we had a lot of fun, even if we did end up a bit late to the battle.

The Yankee numbers had dwindled for the Sunday battle, so three of us (including me) from the 1st Tennessee galvanized to balance the numbers.  The Rebels still outnumbered the Federals, but they were about 14 blue to around 17 gray.  We started out at the bottom of the battlefield, pretty much out of site from the public.  The plan, which was made clear to us by the Federal commander, was to allow the Rebel troops to march in toward the public.  We were then to advance, pushing them more to the public.  This was obviously so that the public would get a clear view of all the soldiers.  The field was narrow, but long.  The rolling nature of the field put the Confederates at their starting position completely out of view of the public.  We took a knee at the start of the battle to take us out of view as well.  Since we did not have full Federal gear with us, the three of us basically just took off our jackets and wore blue vests to appear as militia.  To our right were the eight or so regulars, and two Henrys held position to our left.  Granted, if this battle were for real, and if the Henrys fought like they really would have back then, the two Henrys alone would have defeated the entire Rebel force on that field.  But those Henrys really seem to have no idea what they are doing out there.  There we were, waiting for the Captain to give the command to rise and advance.  The Rebels were just advancing above the first hill and turning toward the public to move into position.  All of a sudden we hear this machine-gun fire to our left.  Those blasted Henrys—against all common sense and chain of command—fired off all 17 of their rounds in under five seconds.  The 1st Tennessee, the unit closest, had no choice but to respond.  And now, with the battle now underway, the rest of the Federals also had to react.  I looked to Big Dave, who was next to me, and said, “What the heck?”  What was wrong with those Henrys?  They basically ruined the entire battle for everyone on the field—public and reenactor alike—in less than 5 seconds.  The entire battle was found over 200 yards from the public, with most of the Confederate forces completely out of site so that it looked like the Yankees were shooting into a hole.  I still had fun—but it did not sit well with me at all that a couple of soldiers on the field are nothing but loose cannons—pretty much worthless to the reenactor community as a whole.  No—I think they really don’t have any business being on the battlefield.  Someone needs to give them lessons on chain of command and on the art of “aiming”.  It is not the fact that Henry rifles were on the field that bothered me—it is the fact that they were used solely as a means to become the center of attention.  My recommendation to any commander that reads this is that if these Henry soldiers ever end up on the battlefield again, either prohibit them or locate them such that any Confederate response will put the Confederate into the position you need them to be—instead of like the preempted position they ended up in at Coshocton.  For example, if those Henrys were placed by themselves at the top of the battlefield, near the public, the Confederate response would have moved all the action close to the public—plus those insane Henrys would have become the center-of-attention clowns they wanted to be.

But anyway—now that I have gotten that gripe out of my system—it was a good weekend.  I have seen those Henry rifles before, I have always thought little of them because of the way they machine-gun those things—I had just never seen them mess up the entire battle like that before.

I do hope they continue with this event.  They should probably move this to a different weekend than they Hale Farm event, since that is a rather large event.  For the 1st Tennessee to return, they also need to keep it out of September, since that’s a pretty big month for us.  But I know we are looking for to next time for how well they treated us.

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