Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Living History in Middle School

May 25, 2012

Heritage Middle School

Hilliard OH

Setting up camp Thursday evening for a school day on a field at Heritage Middle School in Hilliard OH we saw promise as a handful of kids came to watch us set up.  We have seen many times where kids seem to know nothing about the Civil War and are left to wonder at the failing of our school system when they don’t teach history.  I’ve even heard the question, “So which war was the Civil War?”  But the teachers we encountered at Heritage Middle School had an honest passion for teaching their kids, and the kids had an honest passion for learning.

We demonstrated a little on Thursday—I performed a short speed-loading demonstration, firing off three rounds in a minute two seconds (a little slow for me).  They were even fascinated by watching Sgt Mott start the campfire with flint and steel.

We had to be very conservative with the wood for the campfire—we only had about enough wood to burn during the actual demonstrations, so extinguished the fire for the night.

Morning started early.  The school served Danishes at 6:30, and at around 7 the first group of eight graders came through.  We had four stations for the kids and had little break.  First station was Doc Gill for medical, a couple of the ladies demonstrated at another station, Sgt Mott and I demonstrating the soldier’s camp life and gear at a third station, and Sgt Shaw, Cpl Carte, and Pvt Wiseburger drilling at the fourth.  Each station was to last about half the class period so the kids could rotate through at least two stations per period.  We had about six or seven periods over the day, and I got to know Sgt Mott’s spiel pretty well by the end of the day.  Our sessions went long enough that we often missed when the kids rotated, not realizing they had switch sessions (sometimes they wondered between stations on their own) until we found ourselves repeating answers to questions.

It was  a good time, and we are looking forward to doing it again next year.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Season Begins

Sharon Woods, Sharonville OH
May 19-20, 2012

Arriving Friday evening, we set up camp in rather cramped quarters.  Expecting to have sufficient space reserved for us, the camp organizers decided we didn't need all that space, so gave half our space to the Confederate Marines.  We somehow managed to make it work, though we occupied every square inch left to us.  We barely had space for a fire pit.

Rick Hahn of the 76th Ohio stopped by and chatted with us for a bit.  He's a good friend of the 1st Tennessee, and it is always a pleasure to make a target of him and his unit for the battle.  He was to be on the battalion staff for the battle.  He complained a bit of one of the Federal units--some "Red Legs" or something--a Kansas unit. Basically they were Jayhawkers.  As Capt JR Sharp put it--they might as well had been reenacting Al-Qaida. 

Not really a promising start.  But there are yahoos at every event--we can always make our fun through things.

Saturday morning brought us a new recruit--Shawn Swart.  He was looking for a unit to fall in with at Sharon Woods and got in touch with me through cwreenactors.com.  From everything I can tell of him, he's going to fit right in with our company.  I'm looking forward to seeing him more.  He joined us for a few Euchre games--said he hadn't played for 15 years, but I think he was just hustling us.  He and Matt Moser (aka "Satan") played against JR and I and broke our winning streak.  Unfortunately he did not get to fall in with us during the battle--the battalion commander felt some of the other units needed their numbers brought up so had him fall in with the 9th Kentucky.

The battle was hot, but it seemed to go slow--nothing but straight forward and back for the better part of the battle.  Capt. Sharp finally got bored and double-quicked us into a flanking position around the Federal forces; which, in my opinion, should have been done much sooner.  After all, General Lee is famous for flanking the enemy, so I'd assume most of the decent leaders in battle would also attempt to outflank the enemy whenever they could.  We did got a lot of heavy fire in--many of nearly emptied our cartridge boxes. My musket got so hot that even the stock around the barrel was starting to get too hot to handle.

I'm not really sure how to convey my overall impression of the weekend, other than that it had a sort of "weird" jibe.  Maybe it was the Kansas Jayhawker unit.  Maybe it was from being cramped up.  Maybe it was the near zero sutlers (unless you needed a hoop skirt). Maybe I'm just crazy.  I enjoyed the weekend--but it felt weird.  If Sharon Woods conflicts with Conner Prairie again next year, I might throw my vote in for Conner Prairie.

The Sunday battle was a big improvement over Saturday, even though we were supposed to lose on Sunday.  We lost a few soldiers, but gained Shawn, the new recruit.  Our objective was to support the Confederate retreat, starting in the town.

Our unit deployed as skirmishers beside the train depot.  Cpl Jeff Carte and I were deployed on the other side of the depot to prevent being flanked.

The federals pushed us pretty good--in fact it was a bit more than we had expected, which is always good since normally they don't seem to push at all.  We were to hold the Federals back as long as we could, then the plan was that at the bend from the village to the main battlefield, Capt Sharp would take a hit as the signal for us to start dying in progression--and have our line fall apart as the Federals fired on us.

The fire was heavy.  The hip machine-gun fire from the Henrys went ignored.  We were pushed back to the bend and held fast as long as we could, then JR went down.

At first we were slow to take hits.  I still had a number of rounds, so was indecisive about when I should go down.  But when Sgt Mott went down, we all started dropping like flies.  It seemed barely 30 seconds from when Sgt Mott went down when the only ones left were Sgt Nyman and myself.  I formed up beside him and he immediately warned me he was going down.  The Yankees seemed a little slow to offer that opportunistic shot, but it came and Jack was down.  Since I was the only one left, I looked over the Yankee line to see if I would get a shot from them, but none seemed ready to shoot.  It felt silly standing there waiting  to be shot, so I loaded my musket, all the time hoping a shot would come before my musket would be considered "hot" and therefore should be fired before I went down.  But no such luck for me--the shot from the Yankees only came as I was firing my musket.  Well, I did go down right in front of the public--I hope it was quite a show for them.

The weather for the weekend could not have been better--cool enough at night to require two blankets, but sunny and almost too warm during the day.  Those that campaigned it didn't complain much about the cold--they found ways to keep themselves comfortable by the fire during the night.