Monday, August 27, 2012

Rising through the Ranks

Jackson, Michigan

August 25-26, 2012

Jackson usually is an event that the 1st Tennessee shows in force, but for some reason was not voted for at the Regimental meeting.  I had debated about whether going to Jackson, or to Richmond, Kentucky, which also had a large event this same weekend.  In the end I decided on Jackson since it was an Independent Guard Battalion event and since Jackson was the event that the battalion holds its annual meeting, and since this year the battalion was holding its election for staff officers—and I was running for major for the Independent Guard.  Capt Sharp of the 1st Tennessee pointed out it might not look good for me if I was absent at these elections.

Four of us from the 1st Tennessee arrived on Friday—Sgt Jack Nyman, Cpl Jeff Carte, Pvt Zack Carte, and myself.  Enough for a few good rounds of Euchre.

Although Col. Julian had brevetted me to major at Reynoldsburg, he asked if I would be willing to allow a long-time staff member play major one last time for the Saturday battle.  Since I technically did not have the title yet, I was more than happy to step aside for him.

We fell in with 50th Virginia Company D.  They proved a great group to fall in with, although they used the face-burning Gilham’s tactics.  Captain Jim Lemon’s hospitality toward the 1st Tennessee was on a level of being more than happy we could join them.  Their numbers were also down for the event, so with our guns, it brought their size to an acceptable level for being a stand-alone company.

It is nice to have groups that are happy to have you fall in with them.  Sometimes you are not sure what they expect—I keep thinking one of these units we fall in with will think they are doing us a favor by letting us fall in with them, but so far I have not encountered that—they always seem genuinely impressed with our abilities and more than happy to share the company lines with us—and the 50th Virginia was no exception.  I watched them at Ft Wayne and was impressed with how well they performed with skirmish deployment.  At Ft Wayne I watched the 50th Virgina deploy forward in their groups of four—and it looked good.  It was good to fall in with them at Jackson.

The battalion had three companies that weekend—the minimum needed to form a battalion.  The 50th Virginia was designated 2nd and color company.

Seeing the Jackson battlefield, I couldn’t help but think of the size of Ft Wayne.  The battlefield seemed smaller than I remembered—maybe the entire Ft Wayne park would have trouble fitting in this field—but it would certainly be close.

Battalion drill helped work out some issues.  Although as private I had my own positions to worry about, I studied the Lt Colonel for where he positioned himself, to try to understand where my job would be once I was elected Major.  I am not sure where the other major was for drill—but he was only available at the battle.

As usual, I visited the sutlers—and as a quick note, they list are among the best of the year, but their numbers seemed a bit less than in the past.

Courtesy Jackson Citizen-Patriot
The battle seemed to go okay—though it was divided into two parts, and as private I was not sure what that was about.  Basically, we pounced on the Yankees, the battle was halted, we marched off the field, then a new phase in the battle resumed.  Fortunately there was no strange action like last year where a Yankee battalion marched upon a Confederate battalion and shook hands with them.   I think this year had a different Yankee commander than last.

However, I found out later that the battle scenario had gotten mucked up (at least, much more than usual).  Confederate forces were supposed to lose—we were to get decimated from an artillery barrage.  Unfortunately, the artillery ran out of ammunition, so could not launch that decimation—causing a Confederate victory.

We got some good Euchre that evening—something that had not happened much since our marathon at Nelsonville last year.  It was good to play a bit after the hiatus from it.

The weather cooperated for the weekend by keeping dry—but the heat and lack of wind seemed to stagnate the air.  Even after taking one of my allergy pills I awoke about 4 am Sunday morning hacking up a lung.  There was not much else to do other than get the campfire going and get the coffee ready.  By daybreak, the tar was ready, and it tasted better than usual.

Sunday I got to play major.  The battalion parade and drill were uneventful—but I used it to study where my place would be.  At the end of drill, the battalion was gathered for the annual meeting, where we decided to attend the GAC Gettysburg to fall in with PACS (as opposed to the BGA Gettysburg).  The battalion staff was then elected, with Col Julian being re-elected, Duane Clark being elected to the Lt Col position that he had been brevetted to after the departure of Gary Wade, and I was elected to major, filling the gap left when Lt Col Clark was brevetted.

Battalion formation for the battle was to be at 1:15, but at ten minutes to one, Col. Julian started rushing us to get ready.  I rushed over to his tent, confused as to such an early and rushed first call, only to find that the battery on the colonel’s watch had died at 12:10, and he had not realized that the hour hand was still on 12—he thought it was 1:10.  I showed him that it was only 12:50, and from that point on he made me the battalion’s official time-keeper, which proved to be a whole new problem, as I quickly learned that if I keep my watch in my vest pocket, I need to keep my frock unbuttoned.  I also learned that jute makes for a terrible substitute for a watch chain as at some point during the battle the string either broke or came untied from my vest buttonhole, causing me to lose the watch—leaving me at odds when asked the time.  Fortunately, Pvt Carte found my watch and returned it to me.

The battle was interesting to say least—and being on battalion staff puts a new perspective on the scenario.  Because of the unexpected victory yesterday, we had no idea if we were to win or lose today.  The time to start neared and Col Julian had not talked with Col Nick Medich—the overall Confederate commander—so did not know the details of the scenario for the battle, but Medich Battalion was no where to be found.  How could you hide a battalion in this park?  Col Julian even sent the Lt Colonel and myself out to find the other battalion, which we failed to do.  Col Medich finally did appear and provide Col Julian with his orders.

That's me, in the straw hat, taking my wing to flank
the Yankee hoards.
Courtesy Jackson Citizen-Patriot
Battle was again in two parts, and although the first part was exciting for me, there was not much that seemed memorable, other than we started with firing through the woods to make a bunch of noise and not be seen, then pushed the Yankees away from the captured batteries.

In the second half, we were to support Medich Battalion as they attempted to capture the Yankee artillery.  Medich Battalion ended up getting decimated and captured.  We were to retreat from the field in relative chaos.

As we closed in on the Yankees before our retreat, we lined up right at the edge of the artillery safety zone.  Artillery was firing and the captain of 3rd Company (14th South Carolina, and my entire wing) realized how unrealistic it was for there to be many survivors and so had his entire company go down at a cannon blast.  Somehow, however, one lone private of his did not quite get the message.  He was young, maybe as young as sixteen.  I told him, “You’re the only one left of your company.”  He looked around in surprise as he realized his situation.  I told him just to attach to color company, and then reported to the colonel that I no longer had a wing to command.

Getting pampered.
That heat wiped us out.  It has been a hot year, but perhaps that stagnate air wore us out more.  We returned to our camp, and Cpl Carte’s face was a red as a ripe tomato.   He usually gets pretty red after a battle, but I think he was a bit worse than usual.  The battalion’s fifer was camped with his wife next to our camp, and startled by his redness, she began pampering him with ice and wet clothes to cool him down.

Even though the battlefield at Jackson seems so terribly small for the four battalions, eight artillery pieces, and cavalry, it seems we are never at a loss for action and maneuvering.  Capt Sharp has said that he enjoys working in the tight area as it forces us to react and maneuver.  Being major I experienced what Capt Sharp meant, and I agree.  The tight area seemed to prevent the mere forward and back football maneuvering, and keeps the battle interesting for both reenactor and public.

Rising from private to major in a day is quite a change in perspective—but that is what makes this nation great.  Only in America—even if it is not Confederate.

News article of event
News article of event
Youtube video
Youtube video

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