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

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