Wednesday, December 11, 2013

How to Become a Reenactor Part 2

Everything written here are my sole opinions and observations and do not represent the opinions or observations of anyone else or any organization

Before reenacting, my life was average--even dull.  I was raised United Methodist, attended a private Christian school, majored in journalism for two years at a Christian college in Kentucky, graduated with a bachelor's in business from Ohio University, and began a career as a computer programmer.

I had a cursory interest in history.  My eyes were on science fiction--the typical geekish interests of a computer nerd like myself.

Average and dull.

I was introverted.  I made few friends.  Never talked much--unless it was about Star Trek or something sci-fi.  I gained few friends through my church.

Average and dull.

And then one day, my wife made a discovery.

It was a bit before 9/11, around 2000.  My wife and her mom came home from a run.  There was a terrifying excitement on my wife's face.  She saw something cool and wanted me to join her.  West Liberty, Ohio, had some kind of festival going on where everyone was wearing clothing from the Revolutionary War time period.

You don't argue with my wife.  I agreed to go up with her to this festival--it was something to do and kept me out of chores, anyhow.  How bad could it be?

It certainly seemed strange.  There were men dressed as Native Americans, wearing nothing more than a wool covering around their waste.  Lots of tricorn hats.  I remember a lot of them.  There was an archer showing off his hand-carved bow and shooting at a target.  Campfires everywhere.

I felt very out of place.

"It is only this one time," I kept telling myself.  "It'll end soon, and we can go home, never to remember this day again."

But then, we found the dancers.  I hated dancing.

It was okay to watch.  The moves reminded me of that day of square dancing I had in my gym class in high school.  There were a couple of cute girls in the mix as they danced in circles up and down the row.  A live band that included a fiddle and dulcimer played for the dancers.

It would soon pass, I hoped, and we could move on.

That is, until the dancers opened up the next dance to the crowd.  My wife insisted we join in.

I felt very out of place.

It was a simple dance--one called "Jefferson's Reel".  To simplify the teaching, each of the dancers partnered with one of the crowd, so that all I had to do was follow my partner.  I got one of the cute dancers.  They had us count with our partners as one's and two's, then our group of four took hands, and proceeded to learn the dance, walking through the steps as the dance master taught them to us.

I felt so out of place.

We went over it again, and then danced to music.

Afterward, my wife, who has never met a stranger, talked with the dance master and a few of the others.  They called themselves "The Liberty Dancers" and met every Thursday in Yellow Springs--and invited us to join them.  And since it was only a thirty minute drive for us--

At this point my wife and I were only into our fourth year or so of marriage.   I had not yet figured out that when my wife tries something--it is all the way.  She doesn't just dip her toes in to test the waters--she dives in, and it's sink or swim.

This was July.  By Labor Day, we were ready to perform for the public.  There was this big Revolutionary War festival that weekend in Springfield, Ohio.  The Faire at New Boston.

And just my luck, it was only twenty minutes from home.

Since we had absolutely no clothing relating to the Revolutionary War of our own at the time (it had all been out of fashion for about two hundred years), we were able to borrow everything.  We were able to get everything we needed, though my shoes were some beat-up modern things.  I was given a pale blue wescot, a hat blank with the sides sewn up to make a tricorn, and white trousers.  I found a pair of infantry trousers that went to the ankle to avoid the knee britches.

I felt more out of place than ever.  What had I gotten myself into?

It didn’t help that all the Liberty Dancers were very liberal in their modern political thinking, but I should have expected that when Yellow Springs was their base.  I learned it was pointless discussing elections and politics with them—I felt as if they thought Jimmy Carter was a good president.  Yes—I’m very conservative with my political views.

I later met others who were more normal thinking in the political views, but they were also the weirder ones in Revolutionary War reenacting.

The Faire at New Boston opened with a parade, where all reenactors in their 18th century getup meandered around the tent city.

There were a lot of odd creations there.  One guy was carrying around a rat, face dirtied up, missing teeth, and a huge sore on the side of his face.  He was the rat catcher—uh, but wait, I recognized him as one of the Liberty Dancers.

Oh, this was interesting.  What had I gotten myself into?

In one corner of the fair was this flamboyant Frenchman.  He wore a frilly, formal suit, a large white curly wig, and white makeup on his face.  Had it not been that he was portraying a Frenchman of 1800, I would have thought him gay.  He was making lace and demonstrating to the crowds how lace was made, but he had a whole spiel about how he normally had indentured servants to do his work, but since he didn’t have one he had to do it himself.  He tried to recruit a few kids for their assistance, promising something like a penny a month pay.  He also had an extreme arrogance about him—to the point of absurdity.

Having met this man outside of reenacting I can tell you that this is only one of his many acts.  He performs the acts in first person such that you believe he believes that he is that character.  He performs with humor and is very entertaining.  But he has a certain advantage—he is as eccentric as the characters he portrays.  He is very entertaining to be around, whether he is portraying a character or portraying himself.  You should see his son—he has snapped mousetraps on his tongue for the Discovery Channel.

Oh my, what had I gotten myself into?

Since the Liberty Dancers only had two or three half-hour shows to perform, my wife and I had a lot of time to wander around.  There were several tents of vendors selling wares, which were interesting, but kind of like wandering a flea market.  There were the strange acts that felt like you were watching the sideshow at a circus.

At the end of the day, they served all the reenactors a meal of ham and beans.  It was good stuff.  We hung out with the reenactors until after nightfall.  There were a couple of concession tents that served beer and lemonade throughout the day, but now just served beer.  And lots of beer.  The reenactors seemed to have had no tab to worry with.

Why were we here, anyhow?  They at least had lemonade when I asked for it, and there was no odd bite to the throat.  But I felt so out of place.  Can we go home now?  This proved one of the hazards of being married to someone who never knew a stranger.  Everyone at all times was her best friend—it was difficult to pull my wife away, even though neither of us drank.

We drove home, and returned the next day to start all over again.

When the event was over on Sunday, we followed a number of reenactors to a corner of the park, where the ham and beans had been served all day long.  I wondered what could possibly be so fascinating in this corner.

It started with the need to empty the left-over beer. It ended with the need to get rid of the left-over waxed boxes the supplies came in.  There was a campfire.  That pretty much says it all.

There is a tree in that corner, with a branch that extends over the campfire where the ham and beans are cooked over all day long.  It is probably thirty feet off the ground.  It has long been charred black from the annual box-burning ceremony.  I wonder if by now it has disintegrated to pure ash.

What had I gotten myself into?

There were a couple of small Rev War reenactments we attended that had battles, and I don’t remember the particulars, other than it was again at George Rogers Clark Park.  In fact, every single Rev War reenactment we went to was at George Rogers Clark Park in Springfield.

But it was at these events that had battles that I got my first taste blackpowder—and that started down a road of addiction that led me to where I am now.

I think it was my wife that pushed me into talking with some of the militia about the idea of trying things out.  It was before the battle and I had to borrow a musket, rounds, and a cartridge box.  They took me through the paces to show me how to handle the Kentucky rifle (I hadn’t even handled a modern gun before), and load it by tearing the round, pouring a little in the flashpan, and the rest down the muzzle.

Then they had me fire it.

Oh, that was sweet.  I was hooked.  Ah, the smell of blackpowder.  The nuzzling of the butt against my shoulder, lightly kicking from the fire. The smoke lingering in the air.  Oh sweet musket, where had you been all my life?

That event was just a small one with about a dozen or so militia.  I learned some of the basic commands and maneuvers.  But it was the 225th Battle of Peckuwa, at George Rogers Clark Park in Springfield that gave me a real taste of what reenacting can be like.

For that battle, I borrowed a beautiful Kentucky Rifle from the head park ranger, who also was the commander of the 6-pounder brass Napoleon cannon used for the fight.  Somehow I would up on the side of the British--which in this battle involved mainly Native American Shawnee against the American Regulars.

Someone helped to smear war paint all over my face and cover my hair with a cloth to hide the fact that I wasn't Shawnee.  And with a breach cloth and large shirt, I followed the rest of the band into the woods where we waited for the battle to start.  A group of kids were given wooden muskets to add to our numbers, instructed to stay at the far end of the battlefield so as to hide the fake muskets.

I hadn't yet learned about keeping water out of the muzzle of my musket, and when a light drizzle moistened the air, my borrowed rifle became sabotaged.

We formed up in a cornfield that was grown just for this event.  As the Americans approached, firing their cannon, then pushing it forward to fire again, we fired from within the corn--that is, except for me who could do nothing more than create a nice flash in the pan with the flintlock.

We were pushed back, and the cannon was pushed through the cornfield, and I fought my musket constantly, trying to get it to fire.  In the middle of the fight, the rains picked up.  Well, that's a bit of an understatement.  Rather, Lake Erie decided to up and relocate over our heads, dropping down such that there was more water than air falling around us.  This pretty much put a halt to our attempts to shoot.  As we took refuge  in the little wooden fort, that cannon fired the remainder of its rounds, with pyrotechnics creating little craters around the fort to simulate the cannon hits.

Eventually the rains let up and we were able to go back to firing back at our enemy, falling back into the woods to conclude the battle.  There were a couple of "Rendezvousers" with us.  I learned those are guys that are a bit different than reenactors--the best explanation I can come up with is that the big difference are that they do their things for themselves as opposed to doing it for public, like reenactors do.  They do more live-shoot competitions, collect antique-style weapons, and hang out together in mountain-man style outfits.  I could always tell when the Rendezvousers shot, because they formed our artillery response, shooting with perhaps three times the blackpowder the rest of us used.

I found, though, that there was a bit of difference between Revolutionary War reenactors and Civil War Reenactors.  When I discovered the Civil War, I discovered something more my style.

To be continued...

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to Become a Reenactor Part 1

Everything written here are my sole opinions and observations and do not represent the opinions or observations of anyone else or any organization

With the reenacting season now over, I thought it a good idea to find something to keep this blog going for the off-season.  Here and there I've been asked the question, "How do I become a reenactor?"

I've thought about answering the question with humor.  After all, most of us are a bit nuts.  On overly hot days--say in the nineties--we'll don wool trousers over cotton drawers, followed by a wool vest and wool jacket, a hat, a large leather belt with a cartridge box, percussion cap box, and bayonet hanging from it, a canteen full of water (a half gallon for those fully prepared), and a haversack full of various food items.  For the excessively zealous, we'll also wear a 30-pound knapsack on our backs, or a quilted bedroll around our neck.  And of course, there's the 5 to 10 pound musket on our shoulder.

And on wet days we'll add a poncho to keep our gear dry while the rest of us gets soaked to the bone (remember it's wool?) with mud up to our thighs.

And with all that on, in the heat of the day, we'll gather around the campfire with the smoke stinging our eyes just to add a bit of reenactor perfume to our countenance.

And on overly cold days we'll add a heavy greatcoat (a wool winter coat) to the mix along with fingerless gloves so that only our fingers, ears, and noses get frostbit.  The smart ones protect their ears by flapping the greatcoat's cape over their head, but then any chance of seeing is gone.

When night falls, the daring will sleep on the ground between some tar-painted canvas and a rubberized poncho beside the campfire with a stack of logs--waking every so often during the night to throw another log of the fire, hoping they don't turn in their sleep and end up in the fire.

On the really cold nights, we sleep in our clothes, with a greatcoat or two on top of a ton of blankets to keep warm by, only to be immobilized by the weight of the blankets, yet still shiver from the cold.

Sound like fun?

I think it's a blast.

Of course, the height of the weekend is the battle, with only rain being the only show-stopper for the thrill (powder does not burn too well when wet).  But even if it does rain, it's got to be a hurricane-level downpour to put a stop to our battles and our fun.

But there's also the time spent with friends who also share an interest in reenacting.  We are all sorts of people--some are doctors, some work maintenance, some are architects, others police officers.  Others, like me, are computer programmers, while still others are engineers.  There are janitors and assembly-line workers among us.  One I know is a city attorney who plays in a rock band.  Heck, we've even got a comedian.  As disparate our lives are, we all share one thing in common--Civil War reenacting.

So, now that I've sold you on all the perks, how does one become a reenactor?

Every reenactor has a different story as to how they got into the hobby.  A few in the 1st Tennessee started as kids, even before they were old enough to carry a musket (16 is the minimum age to carry a musket on the field for the 1st Tennessee and for most companies).  Others got into it late in life, stumbling on a reenactment, and offered a taste of the experience.  When you find a good unit, they usually have enough spare gear to outfit you until you can get your own stuff, so you shouldn't have to dump a bunch of money down right away to get started--but you certainly can get the bug quick.

I'll start by telling my story, and finish by giving some tips as to how to get into the hobby, and how you might select a unit to join with.   I'd love it if you found the 1st Tennessee Company B and join with us--but there are plenty of good companies out there--and some may be more suited to you than others.

Some time in the early 2000s, when I was still in my thirties, my wife dragged me to a Revolutionary War reenactment.

"Rev War?" you might ask.  "I thought we were talking Civil War."  Yeah--I'm getting to that.

To be continued...

Monday, October 28, 2013

Closing the Year

Monroe, Ohio 

October 26-27, 2013 

It was a long year of reenacting, with Monroe making number 18 for 2013 for me.   I arrived Friday evening, but no one else from the 1st Tennessee was going to be there that night.  The weather was also going to get cold.

Jim Kletzli was going to come in the morning, so I decided to camp in the comforts of home and ride in with Jim in the morning.  Normally I might have stayed, but for as many events as I attended, I felt it better to avoid miserable nights for my last event of the year.

So, we arrived Saturday morning, falling in with the 9th KY.

The event was pretty quiet.  The cold and winds kept the crowds away all day Saturday, so when we went up against the Yankees, chasing the 7th KS into the woods, it was pretty much for ourselves.  The cold was such that this was probably the only event, except possibly for Hurricane in March, that required wearing the greatcoat all day, including during the battle.

Sunday went just as quick, though the weather was better.    Spectators showed up and wandered the camps.  We formed up for the battle, advancing onto the field.  We blasted a few company volleys, when suddenly we realized the 7th KS had taken position behind us.  Basically, we were in a crossfire.

It didn't end well. It was pretty clear--the Confederates lost.

But, getting caught like that was a good way to wind the year down.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Gettysburg in Indiana

Hartford City, IN

October 12-13, 2013 

Everything written here are my sole opinions and observations and do not represent the opinions or observations of anyone else or any organization. 

The weekend started at Hartford City with the annual wooden State of Indiana plaque deposited in my car to be added to my Indiana mosaic now plastering my wall at home.  I set my camp with the 1st Tennessee, reporting in later with the colonel to let him know of my arrival. 

The weekend schedule was full, with both a morning and evening battle.  A night battle was scheduled for the first time, as well, but we were uncertain as to how that would work, since the artillery night fire was scheduled that evening, followed by the dance, which was scheduled to be on site--on the battlefield--for the first time. 

Saturday morning opened with battalion parade--before I could get an adequate supply of coffee into my bloodstream.   My mind was a bit sluggish so messed up a few things in parade, but we got by.  We ran through some drill, then went straight to the battlefield for the morning battle. 

The battle went well and pretty much as planned.  We had a little down-time between battles--a chance to make future plans and talk with spectators as they came through our camps.  

Culp's Hill was the scenario for the  afternoon battle, and it definitely had a better result than the Culp's Hill scenario at the Gettysburg 150th.   We advanced by division, with Lt Col Clark taking the right wing up against dismounted cavalry, and I taking the left wing against the hill's center.  We pushed forward and fell back several times.  I kept expecting the Yankees to push beyond the fence in the confusion of our regrouping, but never did they leave the security of their fence.    Col Julian stayed with my wing, but he took a bit of a hands-off approach with me--merely giving me the actions to take, and letting me take command of the wing, being there to be my crutch.  It was the thrill to feel like I was expanding to the next level. 

That evening the 1st Tennessee enjoyed a simple stew together.  Some provided various cookies for desert.  I brought some homemade applesauce.  It was a good meal and a good time together. 

Afterward, Capt Sharp, Sgt Kletzli, and I slipped over to the camp of the 4th Ohio Co B, where we discussed some ideas and rudimentary plans for next year.  The meeting went well, and I think we all are looking forward to that which is to come in 2014. 

The artillery night fire filled the field, and apparently the night battle occurred during the night fire, as we could see the silhouettes of various lines with muskets firing across the field.  And although the ball was marked to take place on the battlefield, it was apparently relocated back to its regular location at the 4H building on the county fairgrounds. 

Sunday morning started early as we hoped to get the Yankees incited to join us for the scheduled tactical, but orders were given for the Yankees not to participate so as to not wear themselves out for the memorial service for one of there own who had fallen recently.  We trampled through the nearby woods and fire a few shots off.  Capt Steiner brought out his double-barreled shotgun with some extra powder to be our mobile artillery, rattling the frame of the Yankee cabins with each shot. 

We joined the Yankees for the memorial service.  Words were given and the service was concluded with battalion volleys, using rounds that contained the ashes of their comrade.  The Yankees fired their volley first, with the commander ordering, "Ready, Aim," a series of booms, and finishing with a bit of an embarrassed "Fire", and a final boom.  

At least the Confederates were able to show them how it is done, the entire battalion firing as one. 

The afternoon battle was simple--Pickett's Charge.  Again we split the battalion into two divisions, with Lt Col Clark leading the charge with the right wing, and I leading the left wing.  We advanced forward in spurts of about twenty yards, paused to straighten the lines, then advanced again.  As we reached the crest of the last hill we reformed the battalion and fired a few rounds.  I instructed the captains of the left wing that we needed to start taking serious casualties, but few took hits, so when I returned to the front of my wing to lead them in the final advance, I went down when the Yankee battalion fired, hoping to give the rest to start taking serious hits. 

It was a terrific weekend--and a great way for the 1st Tennessee and Independent Guard Battalion to end the year, though my year is not yet over.

Video of Saturday afternoon battle

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ambush in the Village

As I go into my experience at Pioneer Village, I would just like to say that many seem to treat my writings as after-action reports.  They really aren't.  They are merely my observations, sometimes opinions, of the sequence of events that occur.  They are my perspective on things--and nothing more.  When I go to an event as a private, there are many things hidden from me, so I see things often at the lowest level, and never the big picture.  When I go as a battalion officer--I see things from a different perspective--but again since I'm not in charge, the whole picture is not always available to me.  Large national events have thousands of reenactors--but I am only going to be exposed to a minute fraction of that number, so my story only reflects that corner of the picture.  Even with small events I rarely interact with the Yankee side--or if I galvanize, I would not see the Confederate side, so at best, my story is only half the picture.  I also mean no offense to the parties I write about, but occasionally I do step on some toes.  My goal with this blog is to primarily write about my experience, but also, as a secondary goal, to better the hobby.  I do sometimes let my emotions control what I write, not always thinking through the ramifications.  I apologize if you take offense at what I write and ask to look beyond what is offending you and at what you can do to fix problems that get noted; I would love to return to an event with issues I note and find those issues corrected.  If you wish to discuss matters with me, feel free to send me a note on my contact page--I am willing to listen to anything you have to say, so long as you keep it civil.  It is not without precedent for me to alter to my writings.

I am continually surprised by the growing popularity of my blog, receiving the occasional compliment for it--that someone is actually reading it--so I am not yet used to the idea of just how much care I must take with what I write.    These United States is a great country, where I am free to write what I want, but with that great freedom does come great responsibility, and a true exercise of freedom is to execute true responsibility.

With that said, Pioneer Village started on good footing.  I arrived early Friday morning to assist Joe Bellas with his high school class in a bit of living history--and possible recruitment.  The kids were bright and inquisitive.  Shawn Swart, Jim Kletzli, Chris Silvers, and I all assisted in demonstrating a life of the soldier--even giving the a bit of drill.

Saturday brought a sunny and warm day.  The morning was quiet.  For the afternoon battle we tried what we did for Ohio Village, which was to continue the scenario beyond the battle and have a medical scenario take care of the dead and wounded.  

It started with Jared Springer and I on picket duty.  Suddenly, from the woods behind our camp, several shots were fired by the 7th Kansas.  They descended upon us with shouts of alarm as the 1st TN formed the company to respond--they had just given the first call and had hardly started equipping themselves when the fighting started.

We were pushed back, and then the rest of the Federal forces joined the field, but in the end, we pushed them from the field and won the day.

After the battle, we carried wounded off toward a tree for Doc Gill to tend to.  James Sturkler was one of the dead.  George Moore came to his friend and said a prayer over him, then balled over him theatrically.  We stripped him of his gear, then carried him off the field.  We gave the spectators a taste of the horrors of war.

That evening we enjoyed a superb dinner with the 7th Kansas.

A little while after supper and after a cannon nightfire, I called the ball.  The dancing went well, with about a third more dancers than the year before.  I stood with most of my tried-and-true dances, but did try a new one I learned called "The Irish Quadrille".  I had never even seen a quadrille prior to the Jackson MI, but I took notes at Jackson and was able to teach it pretty well.  There were a significant number of new dancers, so I had a bit more work teaching the dances, but it was an enjoyable evening.

Sunday started on a mournful note.  Michael Hernandez, commander of the 9th Kentucky, passed away about a month ago, so both Federals and Confederates came together to perform a memorial ceremony in his honor.  I did not have much exposure to the man, but the few times I met him, he was a good man.  I served under him a couple of times at Monroe, and he was on my wing at Perryville, when I was on the battalion staff.  I could see that he will be long missed.  My regret is not having the chance to get to know him better.

Beginning with that ceremony, the sun never shone that day.  It even drizzled a little in sorrow for him.

At one point during the day, the captain of the 7th Kansas came over to discuss matters with Capt Sharp when we heard gunfire. It appeared that some of our men engaged members of the 7th KS in an impromptu skirmish.  Capt Sharp seized on the opportunity and took the 7th KS captain at gunpoint over to the fighting, instructing the 7th KS to lay down arms, and they would be allowed to leave the field with their captain.

But, the 7th KS had other ideas.  Their captain ordered them to open fire, taking a hit with the first volley.  Skirmishing continued for awhile, until some from another Federal unit decided to join in.  Fighting was quickly halted when Sgt Kletzli realized they were pulling their ramrods, which is an extremely dangerous situation.

The battle began later that afternoon.  As guest commanders, Gary Evens and Edd Sharp were brought in to participate.  The 9th KY handled the left side of the battlefield, with the 1st TN handling the right.

Things just went sour from there.  I'm not real sure what went wrong, and I can't really do it justice.

At least Hartford City in two weeks will be a new start.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Chickamudda and Camp Farbie

150th Commemoration, Battle of Chickamauga 

Chickamauga, GA 

September 19-21, 2013 

We arrived and set up camp on this farm located between Pigeon and Lookout Mountains south of the city of Chicamauga.  The views were spectacular.  We found the Pigeon Mountain Grill about twenty minutes away to eat our first night, on Thursday.

Unless Perryville last year was a Blue-Gray Alliance event, the 150th Chickamauga was the first Blue-Gray Alliance event I ever attended.  My expectations were high.  I heard that Blue-Gray Alliance events had extraordinary battle scenarios, and that authenticity was critical.  That if an event were a Blue-Gray Alliance event, you can count on having a spectacular experience.

I have never been so disappointed.

I had heard that the Blue-Gray Alliance has trouble with logistics--Porta-johns that don't get cleaned with no toilet paper, water running out, and other logistics issues.  These rumors proved true (except that firewood was in good supply, thanks to rain that prevented its consumption), but I always come prepared anyhow, so I wasn't concerned with these issues.  But I was looking forward to setting up camp in an area with other reenactors that held value in keeping the camp streets clear of farbisms, and battle scenarios that went beyond the everyday type I get at home in Ohio.

We fell in with the 5th Kentucky Co B out of Columbus, Ohio.  That level of clarification is important, because there were two other 5th Kentucky companies there in our battalion.  You see, the military organization level there was near non-existent.  Colonel Julian from the Independent Guard was there as well, falling in as the 5th KY's lieutenant, and so even though I was a private for the weekend, I was able to get a little insight as to the organizational capabilities for this event.  Colonel, er Lieutenant (titles in reenacting sometime get rather confusing) Julian found that basically by Friday of the event, nothing had been planned out.  The battle scenarios were still unknown.  He had hoped--as I had--that enough Independent Guard companies would attend so that we could stand as our own battalion.  But alas, that was not to be, so we chose to fall in elsewhere--though Julian was hoping something could be worked out whereby the Independent Guard could still go onto the field.

The 5th set up their camp in one long row.  I think Capt Steiner would have liked to have seen us forming our own street, but the ropes marking the tent rows marked the opposite side some 30-40 feet or so away, making putting our tents opposite each other in a street impractical, and basically merging our camp with three or four other companies.

This setup would not have been all that bad, except the line from one end of the 5th KY's camp to the other was quite long--perhaps over 100 feet.  And the intermingling of the other camps on the other side of the street, and at the end of the 5th KY's line, would have been acceptable had it not been that every single one of those camps were farbies--with modern coolers laying about, five gallon plastic jugs of water and plastic trash bags littering their camps, reenactors quickly switching to shorts and T-shirts after battle, etc.  The entire 5th KY had the only authentic camp in the midst of Camp Farbie.  When the lines filled and more space was needed, the battalion staff stuffed tents in the middle of the street, with one tent in line with the end of Capt Steiner's fly, directly across from the 5th KY.  And the soldier who set that tent up gets the title of Private Farbie, as he left several modern coolers laying about and many other modern gear, nearly to the quantity of all other camps combined, plus he had no idea how to set up a proper fly.  Imagine canvas stretched over four uprights, no ridge pole, tied down with nylon ropes.  When the rain came on Saturday, the fool looked as he were collecting water for the local reservoir as he sat mere inches below the bottom of
Camp Farbie with Private Farbie's fly conserving water.
the bulge in his fly, holding perhaps a hundred gallons of water.

Where were the company commanders, policing their camps to get the modernisms removed, or at least hidden?  It left me with a rather low impression of the Blue Gray Alliance.  I paid $20 and travelled seven hours to be here to commemorate the 150th anniversary of one of the bloodiest battles of the Civil War.  I expected something significant for my efforts.

But that is not the end of the story.

Thursday night did hold an all-night tactical, where those who participated would sleep on-arms and be provided rations.  We chose not to participate in this--and I'm sure those who were in the campaigner camp probably enjoyed this, but it was beyond what I really wanted to do.

But Friday held the first battle for the rest of us.  This one held some promise for me as no general public would be admitted, so this was a reenactor-only battle.  The general ordered us on a march, and his generous consideration realized that the heat of the day was putting quite the strain on his troops, so ordered us to march another half-mile up a steep hill to a nice shady zone in the woods of Pigeon Mountain.  Although the view was spectacular here, a number of the 5th KY decided that a shady location that avoided the March of Death was a much better choice and bivouacked at the bottom of the treacherous climb, to await the start of the battle, basically spitting distance for them, but a considerable tumble for the rest of us.

Once the battle began, the battalions took turns entering the fight.  Being southern gentlemen, it seemed only considerate to allow one battalion enter the fight, fire a few volleys (which made sounds reminiscent of a common theater snack--with exception of the 5th KY, whose volleys sounded like a single bang), then retreat to allow the next battalion in.  As the Yankees pushed through a narrow gap only large enough for one battalion, our commanders apparently thought it inconsiderate to flank them and force them back through that hole too quickly.  Although as the battle progressed, it became apparent that our battalion would soon be left out of the fight, so we marched down to a convenient trail through the woods and single file crossed to the other side onto a road, where in column of companies we could advance and watch the first company engage a volley or two while the rest of the Confederate forces pushed on through the gap.  We reformed the battalion and rejoined the rest of the Confederate forces as the Yankees continued to skedaddle, and took a nice breather since the fight was now beginning its second hour.  The commanders discussed amongst themselves for awhile to determine what they should do next as we watched the Yankee skedaddle continue to widen the gap between us and them.

Finally, however, word was given that we should re-engage the enemy.  We tramped, tramped, tramped through the empty cornfield toward what we thought were those Yankees, and as we got within range, began to fire volleys.  But then a few of us started to noticed something about that flag those distant forces were carrying.  It seemed to be missing a few stripes.  Apparently that banner we saw was not the Stars and Stripes.  It was the Stars and Bars.  I suppose it's easy to make that confusion.  We apologized to our southern comrades, and finally decided to retire for the night.

Back at camp the 5th KY discussed a review for the battle and came up with a grade of D minus.  Yeah, that kind of cluster is not even common at home.  But sure, it was the first battle, and the first battle always goes awry.

Saturday morning began with rain.  A lot of rain.  And then more rain.  And when we had enough of the rain, it rained some more.  And then, since it was still early in the day, and the rain seemed to be letting up just enough to get the campfire going, the rain decided to really let loose.

No, there was no breakfast that morning.  But I have no complaints--that is part of the experience.  Lunchtime came, and I scrounged together the last of my cold cuts and cheese, trying to stay dry under Jeff and Trish's fly, giving up completely on any attempt to get a fire going.

The rain finally ended  early Saturday afternoon, in time for us to form up and move out for the 4 pm battle.  The march was on flat ground, unlike the day before, but it was through mud--a lot of mud.  The road was covered in the ruts produced from the artillery driving the cannons off to the battlefield, and we wondered if there was hope in being able to get our vehicles back to our campsite on Sunday.  Trouncing through the mud for the Battle of Chickamudda, our Confederate uniforms became more uniform as the brown Georgia mud covered them.

On several maneuvers it became apparent to me that the 5th KY Co B was probably the best drilled company of the battalion.  It might hold true with the rest of the field, but it is difficult to compare outside your own battalion.  We did fight through rows of standing, ready-to-harvest field corn, and it added significantly to the experience.  There were no lulls, though it was the usual forward and back that most of us dread to see--and get back home all the time.  The stalks of corn just gave us better cover than elsewhere.  I suppose that if the scenario we were reenacting was like this, then all is good--I'm admittedly a little unfamiliar with the fighting of the Battle of Chickamauga.  The 5th KY agreed this was significantly better than the battle from the night before, ranking it around a "B".

Saturday also held a night battle, though most of us chose to opt-out of it, being that the battle area was rather vast and it would be easy to get lost in the fields.  But a few, including the 5th's first sergeant and a few others that had energy to spare.  They reported back an enjoyable experience, but a command structure of confusion.

Sunday came, and I was looking forward to ending the event and returning home after the many disappointments.  Other than the numbers and the spectacular scenery, there really wasn't anything here we could not have found back in Ohio. And it was wearing, with everything a mile walk.  It was a mile to the sutlers and a mile to the battlefield.  This is not something I am complaining about, other than it is wearing.  Sure, there was some kind of shuttle service to the sutlers, something like one an hour, but its schedule was not convenient.  The Sunday battle came, and we trudged through the muddy roads, glad to see a grader clearing the mud for the vehicles.

Sunday battle was worse the Friday's.  The fighting itself, when it occurred, was acceptable, pretty much the forward-and-back we came to expect.  But there were lots of time spent waiting on commanders to figure something out.  The best way to describe the Sunday battle is as follows:  march-march-march, shoot, shoot, forward, back, march-march-march, wait-wait-wait, march-march-march, shoot, shoot, forward, back.  It was kind of like a dance by a couple of lame pigeons.  We'd fight a little, march a lot, wait a lot, march some more, then fight a little.  At one point, we were within range of the Yankees, on their flank, perfect position to completely crush them (although it would have completely blown the scenario), and instead of engaging, we were given the command, "Rest"--all within perfect viewing of the spectators--well I suppose it was perfect viewing if you had a good set of binoculars.  The whole thing was pretty far from them--I'm not sure how much they would have enjoyed it since we must have looked like little lines of ants blowing smoke at each other.  At another break, while waiting on the commanders again--and watching the Yankees stand around just as bored as us, one of the 5th finally got fed up and started shouting, "DO SOMETHING!"  Finally, against orders, members of the 5th KY just starting popping rounds off.  I was about to do the same (does it really make sense for us just stand and look at each other, admiring each other's uniforms?) when we were finally marched at the flank up to a nice conveniently flat spot to cross the road.

Well, after the battle, we were all interested in getting home, so a grade wasn't discussed, but I'm sure it ranks about how Friday's battle went.

With the event over, I'm glad it is, and I'm left wondering, "So what's so special about the Blue-Gray Alliance events?"

Sunday, September 8, 2013

History and Politics

Zoar OH
September 7-8, 2013

Tim Ellifrit and I rode together to Zoar for their bi-annual event.  The number of the 1st Tennessee Company B attending were small, so we fell in with the 5th Kentucky Company B.

After our experience at the last Zoar event with the Army of Northern Virginia (ANV), Capt Steiner sought out an alternative battalion to fall in with, finding the Army of the Shenandoah.  The battalion was pretty small, with only two companies, and the 5th KY being more than twice the size of the other company.
A couple of the officers of the battalion looked familiar to me--when someone pointed out they were at Reynoldsburg.  The 1st Tennessee Company H was the second company of the battalion.

The 5th Kentucky was the largest Confederate company at the event.  The Army of Northern Virginia was the largest--and only other--Confederate battalion there, with perhaps four companies.

While I was touring the sutlers, I ran into the Capt Van Wey of the 5th Texas Company A, except he was in blue.  He told me this was the only time they had ever voluntarily galvanized as Yankee.  I couldn't help but laugh at the political hole that ANV seems to have dug for itself.

Tim and I also ran into the 4th Ohio--Capt Trent Boham and Kevin Waggoner at the sutlers, where we discussed a variety of things.

At battalion drill, the commander gave his commands.  There were a lot of things that weren't right according to the school of the battalion manuals--which drove me nuts, but here, I'm only a private, so I do as commanded without question.

When we later formed for inspection prior to the battle, Pvt Zack Carte showed up with a musket that had only been fired three times since last cleaned.  It had passed company inspection, but the battalion officers were double-checking, and when the Sergeant major came to Zack, he immediately spouted how he did not have time to get his musket cleaned.

Which turned out to be a big mistake.  That Sergeant major did let the musket pass, but not without a good tongue-lashing and the assurance that the sergeant major would inspect the musket after being cleaned after the battle.

The battle turned interesting after I took my hit--our battalion slipped into the nearby woods and fought against Yankees that pursued.

After the battle Tim and I spent a few hours with the 4th Ohio watching the OSU game at  pub in town.
The chimney log for our fire
Later that evening I prepared a pork chop I brought.  Despite paying a rather high $10 for registration for Zoar, we were on our own for food.  At least I could trust the food to be good.

Sunday morning I fried up the rest of my back and remaining pork chop.   The battle was not memorable--just quick, forward, then over.

Overall we had an enjoyable weekend, but like Gettysburg for me it was mainly for being with friends.  It was an historical village, which added to the experience, but the ten dollars registration fee seemed high to me.
Youtube video of battle
Youtube video of battle, part 2

Monday, August 26, 2013

A Decline in Numbers

Jackson, MI

August 24-25, 2013

Jackson, Michigan has been one of my annual staples since 2010, when I went all-out for Civil War reenacting.  For the number of reenactors that attended--normally several hundred--the battlefield is rather small, but forces those in command to think quickly and maneuver in tight quarters.  This was my second year here on battalion staff.

But numbers were down.  We considered a lot had to do with Gettysburg, but we weren't really sure.  Of the Independent Guard companies that attended, only the 50th Virginia and the 12th South Carolina were there.  We were too small to even carry our flag on the field.

Another Confederate battalion was there as well--Medich battalion, but their colonel was unable to attend, leaving the command to their Lt Colonel.  I'm not sure how in such situations overall Confederate command is decided, but Col Medich is normally overall commander for this event, and I think that was how the event coordinators decided to make their Lt Colonel overall commander.

Because of our small numbers we had a lot more interaction with Medich battalion that we normally do.  Usually all we see is Medich battalion doing their thing on the battlefield, while we do ours.  Col Julian will discuss a few things with Col Medich, but that is about the extent of it.  This year, however, there were a few times where we appended ourselves onto Medich Battalion to make us look like one large battalion.  We still pretty much had our autonomy, but we worked much closer with Medich battalion to accomplish the tasks.

Lt John Porter was also unable to attend, so I filled in as acting adjutant for the weekend, though with only two companies, there wasn't much for me to do.  In addition to my role as major, I basically brought the two companies on line and formed the parade.  Lt Porter also handles attendance roles, but there was not much worrying about that this weekend.

Saturday morning proved a bit of a rough start.  At four in the morning I awoke to a coughing fit due to allergy problems.  My allergy medication takes about an hour to kick in, so I was up for the day.

I started the fire with the wood the park provided--it was probably the greenest wood I had seen at an event.  It was all spruce and pine and some of the spruce wood still had sprouts with green needles.  The pine sap made it easy to start the fire, but the green wood made it difficult to keep the fire burning well.

The Saturday battle was not overly memorable.  It was a scenario from Chancellorsville, though I don't know the intended details.  We had the 12th SC start out without their coats to give the impression they were Yankee militia, and they started fighting against us.  The plan was that they would be captured almost immediately, then our battalion--which was only the 50th VA at that time--would take them as prisoners, where they would put their coats back on and rejoin us into battle.

Something didn't go quite right.  As soon as we took the 12th SC as prisoners, we were ordered back on line to defend the left flank.  The 12th quickly put their coats on and joined us.  I guess we could say that we paroled them--and they decided to join us.

From there, all I know is that both battalions pushed the Yankees across the field, with the 12th SC flanking them on the right, and Medich's last company flanking on the left.

Supper that evening left something to be desired.  Two slices of roast pork, a roll or cornbread, and potato or macaroni salad.  Not much to fill up on, and not much taste.  Fortunately, the Lt Colonel offered me some lunch meat to supplement my meal.

My allergies were a little better Sunday morning--I had taken some Benedryl the night before, but I still had a bit of a coughing fit around 1:30 in the morning.  I found, however, that I wasn't alone in my allergy problems.  Col Julian also expressed problems with allergies, along with a number of others.  There was apparently something in the air at Jackson that was giving all of us problems.  My best guess was that horribly green spruce and pine wood--burning that wood must have put allergens in the air that made us ill.

I did manage to sleep later, waking to the bugle call of reveille from the Yankees.

This day seemed a bit lighter--we started drill with our annual meeting, voting for the Sergeant Major and Adjutant positions.  Since both Len Kiser and John Porter ran unopposed for those positions, we only had to re-affirm them, though both seem to have been granted their positions for life.

We then went into a simple drill with Medich Battalion, forming a column of companies and circling the battlefield--basically making sure the companies do their wheelings correctly while in a column of companies--though we never needed to use this again.

After drill, Jeff, Trish and I wandered the sutlers.  My drawers were falling apart--I had patches upon patches--and managed to find a decent pair at James Country.

The battle had an intermission like Saturday's battle.  Jackson did this last year as well--and I'm not sure what that is all about, other than it lengthens the battle time.  Perhaps it works well--it's tough to make an impression from my perspective.

The first part of the battle was not very memorable--it was something from Gettysburg, but I couldn't tell you what. However, the second part of the battle was a success.  We did Pickett's Charge, forming three battalions of two companies each, with Medich splitting their battalion, while we stood on our own.  The field was small, so we didn't have far to go.  Each battalion advanced and fired one battalion volley, loading once more for all of us to fire at once.

We then advanced hard on the Yankees.  The fight didn't last long.  The entire IG Battalion was decimated.  I took a leg wound and started dragging myself to the rear of the battlefield.

I do enjoy this event--but it would be better if we can see a return to solid numbers.  Perhaps next year, when the big 150th events will be in the past.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Confederate Commander

Jackson OH 

August 17-18, 2013 

Courtesy Keisha Waley
Jackson, Ohio, so I was told, was intended to be for this one time only, in commemoration for John Hunt Morgan's 150th year of invasion into Ohio.  The event went well, and talk was that it may be brought back next year.  The huge battlefield had space for four battalions to maneuver comfortably, and still have cavalry and artillery running the field, so if it could obtain the reenactor numbers, Jackson Ohio has the potential for being one of Ohio's significant events.

That being said, with our numbers at only 10 Confederate Infantry to 12 Federal Infantry, along with a dozen or so cavalry and 6 artillery pieces on each side, we were rather limited in what we could do.

The event started with a trip to downtown Jackson to reenact Morgan's run through town.  It was a bit goofy, with the four of us from the 1st Tennessee carrying our muskets, pretending to be dismounted cavalry, while we followed the cavalry on horseback through the town square.  We were told there would be wagons there with food and that we were allowed to raid the wagons.  Most got away with several ears of corn--but I already had corn back in camp.  I got away with a cucumber and a few beats the size of cantaloupes.

We were taxied from the downtown area back to camp in a driver in a mini-van.  Since only five of us could fit at a time, several trips were required.  Sgt Kletzli, Sgt Carte, and I took the last trip, and wished we had walked.  The driver was an interesting, and frightening woman. She changed subject matters faster than a woman with a TV remote on all-sports Sunday, and she barely took a breath, never stopping her conversation the entire trip back.  She had gotten so engrossed in her talking that we desperately wished to escape from, that we she exited the van to open the door for us, she forgot to put the vehicle into park and nearly leveled a nearby sutler tent.

The largest single organized group at the event was probably the 43rd Tennessee, who we encountered as third company at Reynoldsburg.  The overall organizer for the event appeared to be one Sgt Kletzli told me was Merle, who portrayed John Hunt Morgan.  Merle was a good man--but I was not familiar with him.  Sgt Kletzli knew him well, though.  I knew the 43rd TN through my command over them as wing commander at Reynoldsburg, and wasn't surprised when Sgt Kletzli told me about the officer's meeting for the Saturday battle where Capt Hornsby of the 43rd TN basically told Kletzli that whatever he wanted would be what they all did. Merle pretty much agreed.  The Federals weren't much better--Bob Mergel (of the 5th KY) was playing Federal this weekend and told me they had no one in charge of their group.

That pretty much put Sgt Kletzli as overall Confederate Commander--by proxy.

I believe he did well, but it was interesting to see this guy who can complain about a missing petal on a flower in a field of daisies, as he tried to make sense of the challenge ahead of him.

The Saturday battle was okay, but not memorable, and all of us agreed it was rather boring.  Basically, the cannons fired a bit, then we went out in skirmish lines and face the Federal skirmish like and blasted at each other for awhile, then withdrew from the field.

The 43rd Tennessee planned to all take hits, while we would gracefully withdraw to cover the cavalry's retreat.  The fields was too short--it was perhaps less than 75 feet between the marked safety zones of the opposing artillery forces, giving us very little room to maneuver in.  The four of us fought awhile against Henry repeaters on the far side of the field.  We tried to get the help of the cavalry, but it was a struggle.  Sgt Kletzli ran to the cavalry fighting on the other side of the field to get their help, but only got the response, "But they've got repeaters--we can't help."

Sgt Kletzli reminded them, "But they're only firing blanks.  They're not going to be a problem."

We did get some help from the cavalry, enough to be able to finish out the scenario.

The Yankees salute General Farbie.  Courtesy Rick Hahn
The event provided a healthy meal for supper, and as I waited in line to get my meal I noticed one person--I'm not sure you could call him a reenactor--in probably the Farbiest uniform I have ever seen.  It was bright blue--so bright he could be spotted from the other side of the park.  Made of polyester, he had a maroon polyester sash tipped with golden tassles.  He wore some kind of cowboy-looking slouch had with some kind of Union shield on the front.  I didn't catch the shoes he wore as the blue was just plain blinding.

It was something I had never seen before.  David Waugh, a Federal reenactor from the 76th OVI came to our camp and talked about him a bit.  He said the guy mentioned that the uniform wasn't quite as accurate as he hoped.  I wonder what clued him in?

Among our group was a new couple and their daughter, and I mentioned that they should experience a ball at least once.  In my mind, dancing is not difficult, and since it was the mainstay source of entertainment among all of that time, then we as reenactors should at least be familiar with this pastime.   They left, and after a few dances I followed to check on them--to see if they were enjoying themselves.

I found them seated and watching as Jim Ruley, the caller, announced that the next dance was the Virginia Reel--the most popular dance among reenactors.  Since they did not seem to be interested in participating, I invited their twelve-year old daughter to dance with me, at least so that I could be sure she had a chance to experience it.  She was one in particularly who had complained that she didn't know how to do the dances, but she did enjoy herself--and I succeeded in my mission.

The next day was laid-back.  Very little planned for us, other than the battle, plus the weather did not cooperate as a sputtering rain pretty much covered the day.  It was decided that something different from Saturday's battle must be done.  I thought Sgt Kletzli tried to over-think what to do.  The idea was that the 43rd TN would come out first and face the Federals for a few minutes, then we would come out and flank the Federals.  Sgt Kletzli was trying to get detail of having the cavalry cover our advance so we could better surprise the Federals, but I pointed out that though the field was a bit larger than the day before, it was still pretty small--we could easily double-quick into position and begin shooting before Federals would realize we were there.

The battle actually worked better than I thought it would--and all were satisfied with the success of that day's battle, in spite of the rain.   We made our advance after the start of the battle and encountered a group of Federal cavalry where we needed to be--and Sgt Kletzli was able to get our cavalry to push them away, so we could double-quick into position.  Fighting took us, the Federals, and the 43rd TN all over that field, with cannon blazing and cavalry charging all over.  Morgan Landis, one of the Federal cavalry shot at us with his Henry and faced us down.  But a problem we had was that we weren't supposed to take any casualties--which I didn't really understand.

My thought is that if you are going to die--die in the shade.  If you can't die in the shade, then at least die in front of the spectators.

We were right in front of the spectators.  Morgan dismounted his horse and began charging us, blazing away with his Henry.  I unloaded and took a hit.

Though Jackson Ohio was a small event, it definitely has a lot of potential if it gets some serious reenactor support.  I do hope to see this event return next year with reenactor numbers to make this event a major one for Ohio.

Video of the event
Article of the event

Sunday, August 11, 2013

The Farm in Blue

Hale Farm 

Bath OH 

August 10-11, 2013 

With only Tim Ellifrit from the 1st Tennessee joining me, we decided we would try something different at Hale Farm this year.  We enjoyed ourselves last year falling in with the 5th Texas, but my old unit--the one that got me started with Civil War reenacting was also attending this year, so we decided to try galvanizing to Federal this year and join the 4th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, Company B, captained by Trent Boham.

I was unable to get a fire pit going Friday evening, so managed to borrow a shovel Saturday morning and dig one.  But because we had no pit, and many of the 4th were unable to arrive to much later, we found all the firewood supplies gone.  I debated about requisitioning some wood from a well-supplied officer across the gravel road, but I managed to get enough wood Saturday morning by foraging through the nearby woods.  Before I could get the fire started however, we found ourselves under attack by Rebel forces, in a tactical that only the officers knew about.

The 4th OVI was a member company of Birney's Division, which had their 2nd battalion present at Hale Farm.  We quickly formed up in defense of our camp, and the battalion had us quickly rushing around from one entry point of the village to another.  I recognized Col Medich of Medich Battalion hitting us from the west side of the village, and the next thing we were defending an entry at the north of the village.  The battalion seemed in disarray as at several points the 4th OVI, as 5th company in the battalion, could not be put into position to engage.  I even heard the 4th's 1st Sergeant complain about how the battalion reacted.  I just chalked it off to the indigo dye.

At one point our company faced off with the 5th Texas.  Once we fired, we charged the company.  Numbers were examined and found to be even, so victory was determined to be the 4th's by a coin toss.

I don't know who could claim victory on that tactical--but it was fun.

The afternoon battle was very different than the year before.  Last year the battle was fought in a cow pasture, and the field was full of ruts and gopher holes that made marching through a little treacherous. I had made note of that in my blog from last year, and Col Minton of the Army of the Ohio had read that and commented it would be fixed for this year.  I had expected something like plowing up the fields or something, but instead the battlefield was completely relocated.  We fought beside the battlefield in among the period buildings, through an apple orchard, through fences, defending our way back to the village.  It was nothing like the forward-and-back fighting that seems to be standard (and getting quite boring), but was something that kept us moving and reacting.  I don't know if Col Minton took notes from the success of Ohio Village or not, but whether or not he did, I must give the event credit in their creativity in making a fresh change in the way the battle was done.

Saturday I took a hit rather early, concerned about conserving my powder for Chickamauga next month.

In the evening we were a bit disappointed to find no supper for us.  The promise was for breakfast, so I cooked up the rest of my bacon and eggs, and some corn I bought along the way for supper.

Sunday I was awakened to the bugle call of reveille.   Most of the time I am up and awake--and even working on my breakfast--at daybreak, long before reveille, but I must have been particularly tired.  I got dressed and started stacked the last of the foraged wood onto the fire to get it started.  Fortunately the night before a tractor had dumped a small load of wood, providing just enough for us for the rest of the weekend, so I was able to get a good hot breakfast fire going.  Breakfast was to be "rations", and the concern was actual period-correct rations, such as hardtack, salt pork, and coffee.  Such rations may be desirable to the Civil War soldier who gets little to eat, but to us well-fed weekend reenactors who paid a rather hefty sum to be here, we were not encouraged by the term.

Cpl Waggoner led a detail to collect the rations and return them to camp.  Those rations proved to be an over-abundance of unsliced slabs of bacon, eggs, bread, and potatoes.  Our concerns were unfounded--but now we had a new problem--how to cook all this food with nothing but our small campfire.

I offered my large skillet, and someone else had a matching skillet.  We also had one small skillet for some potatoes.  Somehow I was elected to cook the food, probably because I jumped in and got started to avoid an awkward period of indecision, and to get food to my stomach faster.  One private sliced up the bacon and potatoes, and I cooked on the three skillets that completely covered our fire on the grate we had.   We decided to just hard-boil the eggs in whatever pots were available.

I started with both the large skillets frying bacon to get some good grease going.  Once one skillet was clear, we put potatoes in it and the small skillet.  I must have filled the one large skillet with bacon four or five times, while the two potato skillets were refilled another four or five times each.  Every time I emptied a skillet, members of the 4th quickly filled their plates, ready for more.  By the time I finished cooking the last, two hours had passed--and we had so much left over we munched on it all the way till even after the battle that afternoon.

The afternoon battle was similar to the day before--fighting through an apple orchard and around buildings.  We were pushed back to the village.  Moving at the double-quick, Capt Boham directed us against a fence with the command, "On the right by file into line."

This command is one that although basic, is complex enough that only the more skilled companies even attempt.  But I have never seen this command performed at the double-quick.  I'm sure if given the circumstances, that the 1st Tennessee could pull it off, but it is not something I'd expect very many companies could do at the double-quick.  I was impressed with the 4th OVI as they got into position along the fence--nailing the maneuver perfectly while at the double-quick.

A little later we were in an open area, and I used my last cap.  I was determined to go down at the next enemy volley, but suddenly the captain ordered us into a charge.  I think the entire company must have been pretty much empty of ammunition.  I'm not sure how ready that Confederate cavalry we faced were for us as their firing seemed rather slow--but they did manage to decimate the entire 4th Ohio.  I only hope it was with more than just a couple of shots.

It was an enjoyable weekend.  Tim expressed thrill about being able to come and do a Federal impression--something he hadn't done but once before, years ago.  I had done a random Federal impression here and there--such as for the Durbin Bean Bake last year, but nothing like on the scale of Hale Farm, so it was nice for a change in pace.  We will return next year--but I don't know if it'll be as Confederate or Yankee, unless the 1st Tennessee goes as a company.

Photos from the event

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Cold of July

Gathering at Garst

Greenville OH

July 27-28, 2013

Since when do you need a blanket in July?  The nights were actually cold, dipping near to the 40s.  Whatever happened to summer?  I hadn’t fully prepared for cold weather, so was a bit chilled.  I was fortunate that my poncho helped with most of the lack of heat.

Who needs Pvt Winston, when Sgt Kletzli is there to start the fire?
A handful of us from the 1st Tennessee Co B made our way to Greenville for the Gathering at Garst timeline event and set up camp at the end of the row that was marked for military impressions.  In the line was the 4th Indiana Light Artillery, followed by the Mad River Light Artillery, then us.   I made a point of switching ends so that we would not be cramped up against the edge and path, and also to get us away from the horse that Sgt Kletzli kept calling “Dog Food” last year.

So, no more questions of being allowed to pet the horse, a question that had become ingrained in my psyche since last year.

Our numbers were down a bit from last year, and we avoided a forced skirmish against the artillery, opting instead to focus on living history, demonstrating the life of the soldier, and providing shooting demonstrations.  Pvt Quinn Marcotte really shined in this area, pretty much taking over the talking to the spectators, while the rest of us watched, answering only the occasional question.  There were a few breaks, but there was a near constant flow of spectators ambling through camp.  Capt Sharp, Pvt Marcotte, and I all ran through a speed shoot to show we can do that three rounds per minute.  I choked on that time as my ramrod stuck in the stock on the second shot.

We enjoyed perusing the sutlers as well.  Their merchandise was more geared toward Revolutionary War materials, which would not have been inappropriate for an occasional piece for us.  It was different from what we were used to seeing, and was a pleasant change.

It was a pleasant, laid-back weekend for us.  And we saw potential for the event in the future.  I heard rumors of other Civil War units interested in attending next year, so next year holds promise of some serious skirmishing.  There were plenty of areas for us to work with to provide something different from the usual.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Rain and the Battlefield

150th Commemoration, Battle of Buffington Island

Portland, OH

July 20-21, 2013

Our camp, with us preparing to drill. Courtesy Martin Unrue.
Friday night arrival through torrential downpours revealed an empty park where the event was held.  We set up camp in a back corner.

Buffington Island is Ohio’s only Civil War battlefield, and this was to be the 150th commemoration.  Unfortunately, there seemed a lack of interest among reenactors.  There were two small groups of Federals, one of the units was members of the 76th OVI.  The total Federals matched our numbers of about 12.

It seemed sad to me, as I had heard of spectacular event some years back for Buffington Island, and for the fact that this was the 150th commemoration of the only battle in Ohio.  But I looked forward to the time with my friends.

Awakened by Reveille.  Photo courtesy Martin Unrue  
Saturday held a basic ceremony, and we provided a firing salute with the Yankees.  We had planned to perhaps have a small skirmish with the Yankees.  But unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate.  At first the winds whipped up, where the Yankees decided to pack up, followed by torrential rains.  We kept semi-dry underneath Kletzli’s fly.

That evening, Capt Sharp took us through some safety issues and training to fix some of the issues encountered at Gettysburg.

Sunday wasn’t much better for rain—most of the morning brought a soaking experience.  But we did get a good breakfast from the coordinators. Once the rain finally cleared, we went through the manual of arms.  A small crowd gathered, so we switch to a bit of drill, segueing to skirmish drill, firing as we advanced.  At one point, we neared the sutlers’ tents, and one of the sutlers popped a few rounds at us through the tent flaps.

It was a slow weekend, but we enjoyed each other’s company.

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