Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Village

Ohio Village

Columbus, OH

May 25-26, 2013

Having been raised in Columbus, I spent many a time at the Village and Historical Society building.  As the destination of school field trips and a museum for a quiet afternoon, I have visited every exhibit.  I have been to the Ohio Village on numerous occasions, always in a period environment.  Never had I seen anything more than a horse or people walking its streets.  So, when I rolled my car down its main street Friday evening to get to the Confederate Camp, looking around at all the period buildings, I thought, “This is different.”

Confederate camp was located in a bowl next to the Historical Society building.  Having inspected Company Q all week, and since my home was close, I chose to spend the night at home, departing after meeting with the federal officers that evening for the overall battle plans, returning in the morning in time for the officer’s meeting.

That weekend I determined that restroom facilities were woefully inadequate.  Not having been released from my duties of inspection of Company Q, I determined the location of every facility on the grounds, including one in the village square, one in the hotel, the porta-johns on the south-side of the village, the two on the first floor of the building, one in the auditorium, and one on the second floor of the building.   I personally inspected every facility in the building, finding the one in the auditorium to be the best, having the most modern treatments, though the one located across the lobby from the exit to the village offered a lock to give complete privacy.  Although, I felt sorry for the pair of boys who needed the facility after my inspection had completed.

Yes, my inspection of Company Q has not been pleasant.

But anyway, the overall weekend was spectacular.  It was our goal to set a new standard.  We decided that our intent would be to tell a story, and not just put on a show.  So, for Saturday, the Federals started in possession of the town.  We were to fight our way into the town and push the Federals out.  Sunday would be the reverse.

Capt Sharp was overall Confederate commander, and with three companies, we needed to form as a battalion, so the Provisional Copperhead Battalion was formed for the weekend.  Capt Sharp (brevetted to Colonel), asked for me to serve as his adjutant, with Major Gary Evens on staff.  Present were the 4th Kentucky, 5th Kentucky, and 1st Tennessee.

It was an interesting time, to say the least.  I prepared Bvt Col Sharp ahead of time with the list of tasks for morning parade, to which he felt overwhelmed  until I pointed out to him that his only job was to look pretty.  During parade, it’s the adjutant that has all the work—the commander just nods approvingly.

We were ready for battle.  The Saturday afternoon battle started with the Federals in charge of the village.  The 4th Kentucky, under Major Evens, began the assault in skirmish lines.

Bvt Col Sharp led the 1st Tennessee, while I led the 5th Kentucky into the battle.  As we pushed into the buildings, the 5th KY started down a center gap between two buildings—but I saw a federal unit (the 76th OVI) slip into a gap on the other side of a building, getting ready to flank us.  Quickly ordering a change of fronts, Capt Steiner got his men lined up and firing on the federals just as they came out of the gap.  But we were too close.  I ordered another maneuver to flank the Yankees and push them back into the gap.

We tried to follow them into the street, but were pinned in the gap between buildings.  I remembered something we did at Guyandotte, where we took the long way around a building to sneak up behind a Federal unit, and suggested this to Capt Steiner.  We began trekking around, but I think Bvt Col Sharp was concerned about being left opened, so stopped us before we could complete the maneuver.  We ended up taking the occasional pot-shot until we were no longer pinned in that gap.

I found out later that had we taken that move, it may have been more aggressive than the Federals could have handle, and ended the battle in a hurry.

Once we took the town, Bvt Col Sharp had members of the 1st Tennessee deployed as pickets.  However, we he noticed they were being deployed without bayonets, he had me go around to get their bayonets fixed.  Being that we were now full in a scenario in front of the public, I hammed up the role playing first person battalion officer barking at the privates who were improperly doing picket duty.  I hope I didn’t upset any of them—I was just filling a role.  The last pickets I reached were ready—they had their bayonets fixed.  I found out, though, Sgt Kletzli started racing around to let the pickets know to get their bayonets on or I’d be screaming at them.  But what does that matter?  As far as a superior officer knows, duty is either being performed or it is not.

A “resurrection” was never performed, as is usual for reenactment battles.  Instead, the dead and wounded became part of the scenario.  The proportion of dead and wounded to soldiers was researched and matched.  Wounded were brought to a doctor’s station, while the dead were piled together (though, fortunately, not on top of each other).

The evening provided a healthy supper.  The frozen fruit salad appealed to my rather argumentative intestines.

For the Sunday battle, we started with possession of the village.  Pickets were placed, each company providing a shift.  The 4th Kentucky took last shift, to be in position for the start of the battle.

The Federals pushed us pretty hard, forcing us to retreat through the town back to the fields.  At one point, Capt Steiner took a hit, and the 5th begged not to leave him behind, so I sent one volunteer to rescue him.  When I saw the Federals start to roll out an artillery piece and that we were starting to get left behind by the rest of the battalion, I realized I should have sent two volunteers.  I rushed out to help carry Capt Steiner to shade.  When I got back to our line, we were in trouble.  The men were waiting—not knowing what to do—but in a position to be obliterated if that cannon fired.  I ordered an immediate about-face and double-quick to get us back with the rest of the battalion.

Courtesy Columbus Dispatch
We made a final assault in echelon, marching ten paces behind the 1st Tennessee, with the 4th Kentucky ten paces behind us.  It was not long before things started falling apart.  I lost the 1st sergeant, and after that I could not keep the unit marching straight, having to point with my sword through the center files which direction “forward” was.  It had certainly become chaos at that point.  By this time, the 1st Tennessee was in retreat, and the 4th Kentucky was gone from a canister blast.  Time to go home.  I ordered us to fall back.

Despite my painful inspections of Company Q, this was one of the more memorable events for me.  I look forward to a return next year, and hopefully, Company Q will not be in attendance.

Columbus Dispatch article

Monday, May 20, 2013

The Rebel Invasion

May 18-29, 2013

Conner Prairie, Fishers, IN

We are a band of brothers

I hadn’t been to Conner Prairie since 2006, long before I started getting serious into this hobby.  The 1st Tennessee had a bad experience there a few years back—the same year I started getting heavy into this hobby—and haven’t been back since.  This weekend they chose to attend Sharon Woods, in Sharonville, but the Independent Guard went to Conner Prairie so my duties as major called me Indiana, especially with Gettysburg coming up, and I needing to be involved in the drills.

Native to the soil

The weekend started simple enough—I arrived early and set my tent next to the colonel’s, then dug the fire pit.  I loaded us up with firewood, which was pretty easy considering the wood pile was about ten paces from the pit.  A quick run to porcelain and I could see the sutlers a short hop away, so remembered my need to buy an extra set of stars for my brevet promotion for Gettysburg.  Absolutely everything was close.  Even the battlefield was close—you could practically give a swift kick to a nearby cannon and watch it roll down the hill right onto the battlefield.

There was just one little caveat—apparently the Yankees were playing at some sort of game.  They set up pickets to their camp, and all Confederates were prohibited entry.  You might think this would make sense—after all, we’re supposed to portray enemies—but this was to continue even through the night, after the public had gone home.  Even then, the occasional event where this occurs is okay—but where I’ve seen this, there is always a way around it.

Nationals make sense for this—such events are too big and where the reenactor out too much—you aren’t even interested in entering the camp of the other side.  But although Perryville played this game, they offered an out—they could enter camp with an escort.

Conner Prairie had numbers of about one hundred per side—not exactly a large event.  Often we have friends on the other side we’d like to visit with.  The 4th Ohio Company B, for example—my original company when I first started Civil War reenacting—was there.  But there was more there—the Yankee Camp was in a small period village, an exhibit called “The Civil War Journey”, and many of the Confederate soldiers had a desire to visit this exhibit.  So, the “out” we agreed upon with the Yankee commander—where Confederates could enter exhibit—was that they had to remove their coats, and women could have no confederate pins.

Fighting for our liberty with treasure blood and toil

We understood that for the public they wanted to follow this impression.  And when the public went home, the exhibit was closed.  We agreed to the removal of coats and no pins and pass the word on to the individual companies, thinking all would be well.  Of course, we as Confederates have no such restrictions.  The issue was put to rest, thinking that all was well.

But it appears that the Yankee commander must think there is a Confederate spy behind every tree.

Anyway, the Saturday battle went well—we were supposed to lose, so we pushed on the field, and then let the Yankees push us off.  I saw the 4th Ohio push aggressively, so I though about sending last company, on my wing, out to flank them to stop their advance—but alas!  They only had three survivors.  That plan was not going to work.

After that rather extraordinary feast the park supplied, I joined the Lt Colonel and the 50th Virginia for a round of cards they called “Screw your Neighbor”.  It was not something I had heard before, and as they described it, it was a rather strange game.  The best way to describe it is that it was like Uno, with a normal deck of cards, and a small, but very strange, twist.  Needless to say, I began to understand the appeal as the night wore on and a couple of them had a few shares of whiskey.  Still, it wasn’t Euchre.  But, in a pinch, it’ll do.

Sunday morning drill provided a good experience as to what we could expect for Gettysburg, as the Lt Colonel took command for drill, and I filled the Lt Colonel position.  It was a very good experience, and I learned a bit of what to expect—and how I can work with the Lt Colonel to make Gettysburg the best experience for everyone.  I am more anxious than ever for Gettysburg.

We also learned of the treatment our soldier got attempting to visit that Civil War Journey exhibit.  One report we got was that our soldier refused to remove his coat—well he was warned, and there was nothing to be done about that.  But another report of another soldier was that he did remove his coat, but he refused to remove his kepi, so was prohibited entry.

Now, we did not agree to the removal of hats.  Everyone in the Civil War period wore hats—it was taboo to go outside in public without one.  They might just as well go without trousers as without hats.  Yes, a civilian hat would have allowed passage, and many Confederate reenactors wear civilian hats (myself included most of the time), but many reenactors only have one hat—that being either a military kepi or forage cap.  So the rule for hats—which we never agreed to—basically outright blocked about half of the Confederate reenactors from entering the exhibit.

And when our rights were threatened,

So, Colonel Julian hatched a plan.

The cry rose near and far—

The Sunday battle was every bit as good as Saturday’s.  I saw a few more crowd there, probably due to the better weather (there was a bit of rain Saturday morning), and the Yankees kept us busy working to take our victory.

I did hear a small complaint from a captain or two from our battalion that the field for us to work in was too small.  They did cut off a good portion of the battlefield used in the past so the public could get in closer to the action, but I think all it did from our perspective is add to the challenge.

After the battle, we reformed, cleared weapons, charged the crowd, then marched in column behind the Yankee battalion.

All the way to their camp.

Hurrah for the Bonnie Blue Flag that bears the single star.

It was quite a long hike—but it was worth it.  To see their stunned faces as we crossed the bridge where the pickets had stopped our men before was a prize to be treasured.  We marched around the square, serenading them with “The Bonnie Blue Flag”.
The bridge where the Yankee pickets restricted access.

I’ll step on a bit of a soap box here and make my point—this is just a hobby, and most of us have friends of both sides—some even play on both sides.  Giving the public an authentic experience is one thing—and okay to me—but give us a way around it (removing hats is not a way around it).  In my opinion, the only place it is appropriate to completely ban the opposing sides in the hobby from the other’s camp would be at a national event—but even then, what does it matter after hours when the public has gone home?  Sometimes, we only see our friends at reenactments.  This thing that the Yankees pulled at Conner Prairie is the single big reason the 1st Tennessee has not returned.  It led to an incident they have not forgotten, and are not likely to forget any time soon.  I have to ask those Yankees responsible—of what value is that anyhow?  Would you rather there not be any Confederates at the event—perhaps make it a living history only?  The 1st Tennessee is not the only group I’ve heard that has issue with this policy.

Although the access issue mattered little to me personally, I felt angered for the treatment of men under my authority.  No, I don't offer a solution--but a solution does exist.

In spite of this, we did have fun.  It is an event I will remember--and like I said, we were close to everything, while the Yankees had quite the hike to get to sutlers, dinner, and the battlefield.  I think if Confederates go and just accept that the Yankees are to be left alone in their little corner, then the rest of the weekend can be enjoyed.  Perhaps our little escapade through their camp sent our message.

I want to reiterate that the weekend in general was good--I would return.  Set aside the issue with the Yankees, and all is good--very good.  Perhaps the best way to handle this weekend is to simply not deal with the Yankees--they are going to be trouble, so just let them be.  We were treated well by the coordinators, and it was well worth the trip.  As for the Yankees--well, that indigo dye messes with your head.  Apparently some readers had a different impression from what they read.

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