Monday, August 13, 2012

The Yankee Hoards

Hale Farm
Bath Ohio

August 11-12, 2012

Most of the events we, the 1st Tennessee, go to seem to have a lack of jackets dyed in indigo.  We’ve been to events where a few of us have to change our gray over to blue so that we can have someone to shoot at.  I have wondered, “Where are all the Yankees?”

Well, I found them.

It seems they have all been hiding out in northeast Ohio. Hale Farm had them in droves.  I think we should have raced back to General Bragg to get reinforcements.

I had worked out ahead of time with Captain Greg Van Wey of the 5th Texas Company A to fall in with them so that we could guarantee we would not end up with the 7th Battalion of the Army of Northern Virginia—the battalion that left us a bad taste at Zoar last year.  He is a great captain and his unit has a lot of similarity to the 1st Tennessee, so we were a good fit.  The 5th Kentucky was also there from a last minute decision—they also were reluctant to come due to the ANV, but the corporal of the 5th Texas convinced them the ANV would not be an issue.

We love blue targets—there are not enough blue targets on the west side of Ohio where most of our events are, but at Hale Farm, we were outnumbered about four to one.

The event was on grounds that reminded us of the historic village at Sharon Woods—only on a larger scale.  There were a lot more grounds and a much larger battlefield.  We were a single battalion of four companies (which included the 5th Kentucky) against what appeared to be two full Federal battalions, not to mention too many cavalry to count, and a solid artillery force.

The morning tactical was interesting, and left me with the impression that the indigo dye must have some strange affect on the brain.  The Yankee objective for the tactical was to get at least one Yankee in the village.   We, as the Confederate defenders, had to keep every Yankee out.

Being a private for the weekend, my focus was to burn powder through my musket, but I had a good view over the unmowed battlefield.  There were several ways the Federals could take to progress to the village.  The most obvious was through the center of the large field, or they could have marched along one edge—or even found a way around the field through the woods.

Remember—they outnumbered us greatly.  They only needed to get one Yankee through.  There were a number of tactics they could have employed to get to the village—and afterwards we thought of how they could have done it.  They could have taken a platoon off around our flank along the far side of the battlefield, and there would have been nothing we could have done to stop them since we were fully occupied by the tremendous hoards of blue.

But somehow, that little concept escaped them—they simply continued a direct assault on our lines, which meant that our force blocked their path to the village, and in the end the tactical ended in a Confederate victory, although we would be pretty much decimated.  We achieved our objective in the time we had and kept the Yankees out of the village.

Christine—my musket—was not happy about the drizzle, however.  Most of Saturday morning was spent getting sneezed on by the overcast sky, and Christine had never been in that kind of weather during a battle, before.  It took a few misfires for her to get going—and she would be fine for awhile.  Then we would have to stop to maneuver, and she would get upset all over again.  I would have to coax her into getting that blackpowder to burn.

Hale Farm was a terrific event, and definitely outsized Reynoldsburg’s claim as the largest event in Ohio.  My only complaint for Hale Farm was that the battlefield was highly uneven—there were a lot of gopher holes and other ruts that we had to be careful marching through.  The coordinators might want to find a way to deal with this issue to keep someone from getting hurt.  The field was left unmowed—grass was taller than our knees.  Being very wet, I left the field soaked to the bone over all my trousers.  But tall grass is not an issue—in my opinion it makes the event more authentic, though it does make marching at the double-quick difficult.

But the event went the distance otherwise—trenches were dug for us to take cover in.  There were even a few rifle pits.  Had it not been for the lengthy and heavy recent rains, and the drizzle that lasted all of Saturday morning, we might have been more willing to dive in and make full use of those pits.    We did use the trenches for the Saturday afternoon battle, but the mud did give a bit of difficulty, though many were looking at the positive side by commenting on the patina that was added to their uniforms for the Maryland, My Maryland event coming next month.  Sunday was much dryer, so we made heavy use of those pits and trenches then.

Somehow the 5th Texas managed to significantly increase their numbers for the Sunday battle.  With three of us from the 1st Tennessee, there were a total of 24 rifles in their ranks.  It is not often you see a company that large—I do not think I have ever seen the 1st Tennessee with that many on the field at once.

Something we rarely see is a band that we can march to.  The Yankees had the Camp Chase Fife and Drums, while we had a small band with a fife and a couple of drums.  This was the first time I had experienced marching out into battle with this.  There had been the occasional young drummer boy beating cadence for us—and we were usually lucky if he had a somewhat regular tempo.  This band at Hale Farm was experienced—they did an excellent job with a series of Southern tunes.

During Sunday battalion drill, we got to experience something else that was completely new to me.  Although I have drilled forming a box around officers and defending against cavalry, I had never actually had cavalry to defend against—it was just something we drilled.  But during the drill, the Yankee cav came out to play with us—charging us at full gallop while we were in a defend against cavalry stance, stopping just five yards from us.

Reynoldsburg did outdo Hale Farm on the sutlers—but there were still a good number at Hale Farm, including a gunsmith I happened to need when my gun sight got knocked off when fixing bayonets.

Much of the spare time we had we spent trading our reenacting stories.  I had never met the 5th Texas before, and they did not know much about the 1st Tennessee.  Cpl Jeff Carte and Private Sean Swart joined me, and I was later surprised by the arrival of Pvt Tim Ellifrit for Saturday.

One way or another Hale Farm will be an event I will return to.  Having made friends with the 5th Texas, we know we will be welcome with them.  In many ways they were like the 1st Tennessee—well drilled and aggressive on the field.  I was right at home with them.  I hope I can get more of the 1st Tennessee to join us for next year.

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1 comment:

  1. Nice blog about Hale Farm Russ. Your writing style provides nice imagery and flows well from start to finish. It sounds amazing that so many soldiers in blue actually showed up. It would be nice if that were the case in the other events that we usually do. Thanks for describing/reviewing this event so reenactors like myself who haven't been there before may consider going there in the future. Erik


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