September 24-25, 2011
Pioneer Village holds special meaning to both me and the 1st Tennessee. It was here that I first started into Civil War reenacting, though it was with the 4th OVI at the time, some five or six years ago. The 1st Tennessee has considered this their home event.
A lot has changed with this event over the years. It takes a team of people with a passion for history to keep an event alive. One person cannot do it alone.
For us, it is not about the wool and blackpowder alone. Nor is it about Euchre. These are merely things we all have in common that brings us together. We all know our Civil War history—probably far better than most college history professors. Our discussions sometimes discuss “What if” scenarios on how things could have turned differently, if something different had happened.
We come together for the camaraderie. I hope we can continue to return to Pioneer Village for many years to come. It is one of the events that bring in the largest number of our unit.
But it would be even better if it would bring in more Yankees. If I had thought to bring my Yankee gear, I would have been galvanized over. For both days several of our numbers wore blue to help the Yankees be more presentable. James Sturkler, of the 19th Virginia (I think), wore a blue sack coat with sergeant’s stripes on it, and when the Federal commander took a hit early in the battle, Sturkler was left to command the entire Federal force. Made me wish I had my sack coat and had sewn captain’s bars to it—maybe I won’t hold rank for the 1st Tennessee for awhile, but it might be fun to hold rank with the Yankees for an hour.
Pvt Steve Winston also galvanized, wearing is great coat in the heat to hide his butternut. He took a hit, and when the battle was over we raided his corpse, nearly stripping him bare, for a show for the public. He had to walk back to camp in socks.
Saturday morning Capt Evens provided a change to our normal day. He took us on heavy marching orders through a couple of miles into the woods, to prepare us for a national event. We set camp near a beach along the lake, setting up campaign-style, eating lunch with whatever food we brought with us. It gave the officers ideas for next year—we could come out of the woods on heavy marching orders to go straight into battle. I was accused of sucking up to the captain, however, when I provided a candle in a candleholder for his lunch. Cpl Kletzli rolled his poncho around him in such a way it looked like he was wearing an inner tube. It looked like he was afraid of drowning or something.
I believe the event served dinner, but we chose instead to make spaghetti. I am not sure if spaghetti is period, but it was a good meal. After the meal JR and Capt Evens held a speed loading training session, going over the load in nine times and providing tips on how to shoot faster. A few of the 1st did not want to go through this since they were not concerned about entering a competition, but my take was that learning to shoot quicker, though the whole nine steps, improves your impression. After all, the actual soldier could load and shoot through all nine steps in about twenty seconds. I see many reenactors taking forty seconds or more, and they are not even using the ramrod. I think the one person who gained the most from this was Pvt Zach Carte. I believe during the practice he managed to get close to that 20 second mark.
Usually I do not talk about the ball that the event has—since I generally do not go to them. But this time I was the dance master, so it was my duty to be there. I have never led one I was disappointed with. I decided it better to lead a ball as an officer instead of as a private, so I put together my officer’s outfit I had been working on. I looked good, but it has gotten me into trouble. Lt Sharp and Capt Evens told me they are going to put my up on charges of impersonating an officer.
We even had a visit from Jefferson Davis—Pvt Winston donned his planter’s hat with civilian garb and attended the ball as the Confederate president.
The musicians were the Dedication Band, a local dulcimer band, and they played very well. They had never performed for a ball before, but there were not many kinks to deal with. I would love to work with them again.
We could not use Sgt Andrew Mott and Cpl. Eric Moore like last year as Moore had a gig with his band somewhere in Celina that night. Brandi, who was in charge of the event, was worried for the past few months about finding an alternative band, since all my recommendations were booked. She found the Dedication Band and pointed me to a few of the YouTube videos—and I knew they would work out well.
Sunday morning was an intense drill, mainly to bring a new recruit up to speed, but also to refresh our techniques.
After Sunday battle, the 76th OVI joined us for a memorial for Tom Moore and several reenactors of the 76th that have passed on.
This event is one of the closest to my home. I want to see it continue, and I hope that passion for the event can grow with the organizers. I remember the days when several good sutlers could be found and significant numbers on both sides would fight it out on the small field. There were no sutlers this time, and the number of Yankees was down. There were only two Confederate companies. The size of the battlefield does limit the numbers that can be there, but there can be enough for an impressive battle.
Can anyone tell me where all the Yankees have gone?