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.

Book about Morgan's Raid

Friday, July 19, 2013

A Day of Dance

Wilmington, OH

July 13, 2013

After a long week at Gettysburg, it was nice to have a simple event at Wilmington, Ohio.  The event was a single-day living history commemorating the 150th anniversary of the invasion of General John Morgan into Ohio.

A few Yankee exhibitors set up at various locations on the lawn around the Wilmington courthouse, one a bugler displaying several antique bugles.  Another demonstrating Civil War medicine.  The 1st Ohio Light Artillery was there with a statehouse cannon.

My day was spent calling dances.  It was a little difficult to plan for since I figured this was to be more geared for demonstrating to spectators that it was for holding a ball.  I had no idea how many reenactors I would have as dancers.  I was told there were some from Pioneer Village coming, but I never saw them.

Fortunately, there were three couples in period dress that showed up for dancing.  I had seen these couples quite often at various balls.  For lack of a better term, a good way to describe them seems to be “Dance Groupies”, as whenever they hear of a ball, they are there to dance.  This turned out to be a great bonus for me, as I have no idea how I would have had any dances without them.

Harpist for the Dedication Band.  Courtesy Wilmington College 
 For the morning, the dulcimer band from Pioneer Village—The Dedication Band—performed.  The “ball”, for lack of a better term, was rather unstructured—I basically asked the dancers what dances they would like to do.  We experimented with some dances I tend to avoid at Civil War balls as they are different enough from what Civil War reenactors are used to that they tend to be difficult to teach.  But with our small numbers and these being rather experienced dancers, we were able to pull the dances off well.

Whenever I did simpler dances, I tried to pull in whatever spectators were willing, to have them participate in the dance.  The first dance we did was the Virginia Reel, and I couldn’t get any gentleman to participate, but an elderly lady was overjoyed at my invitation to be my partner.  She commented how she remembered dancing this dance when she was in school.

Probably the most interesting was my attempt at calling Soldier’s Joy.  This dance is normally done with a good number of couples—at least eight—in a large circle, with every two couples forming their own dance square, with couples progressing around the circle as the dance progressed.  The problem was, we had a mere four couples—not enough to form a circle.  So we got a little creative with the progression.  We got it to work, and it went well, though I have to thank one of the dancers for the idea of how to get it to work.
Courtesy Wilmington College

At noon, we had a two-hour break before the next set.  The Dedication Band was done for the day, so invited me to join them for lunch at the General Denver Hotel, just a block down the street.  And yes, Denver, Colorado was named for General Denver, apparently.  It had a small eating area, and the wait was long, but the food was good.

I did have to rush out to get back to the courthouse for the start of the dancing at 2 pm.  There I met up with the Hitchhikers Band that would be performing for the rest of the day.  They had a different repertoire, focusing more around Gaelic music.  They had no dulcimers like the Dedication Band, but instead had a few woodwinds (flute, pennywhistle, and clarinet) and a guitar.

At one point I saw a group of kids sitting on the courthouse steps and managed to get them all in a mixer dance I like to do called "Pinreel".  It is a great dance to do for kids, and they seemed to enjoy it.

Courtesy Wilmington College
With the Dedication Band, it was early and only a two-hour stretch, but with Hitchhikers Band, it was in the heat of the day, no shade, and a three-hour stretch.  Nearing the last hour, I found myself running out of dances to call, thinking I should probably find more to add to my own repertoire, particularly ones that are easy to teach and easy to fit to any song.  I managed to squeeze in a popular dance called “Gay Gordons”, which I normally have done to “Scotland the Brave”, but the Hitchhikers Band didn’t know that song, so I had them play a medley between “When Johnny Comes Marching Home” and a song of their choosing.  I didn’t expect them to blend it with “Irish Washerwoman”, but it worked.

Over the last hour, there were few spectators, and the dancers had worn out and gone home, so there was little for me to do.  I told the band to play anything at their discretion.  The bugler would occasionally echo a song the band played, using his own style when they finished the song.  And occasionally the band would play a song back to the bugler when he led.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Best and Worst of Times, Part 4

GAC 150th Commemoration, Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, PA

July 3-7, 2013

Day 6: The Charge: Deploy the Belgians!

Courtesy J.R. Sharp
The last day of the event was a quiet morning.  We had all day with nothing to do be pack up and rest.  The battle was not until 3 pm.  At seven in the morning, we had a photo shoot for the brigade, but it was optional.  We had just enough of the Independent Guard represented to acknowledge that we were there—the battalion staff and a handful of the 50th VA to carry the colors.  Just before taking the wagons to the photo shoot at the battleground, I was talking with the colonel, and in mid-sentence, I started losing my voice.  It was as if I were entering puberty—it cracked and creaked.  From that point on for the rest of the day, I had trouble being heard.  I was able to make it through the battle by forcing my voice, sounding angry as I pushed by vocal cords beyond their limits.  Capt Sharp nearly went into shock when I shouted at him to get his attention—he thought I was about to rip him apart for something, when I was just trying to push past the laryngitis to be heard.

As I’m sure many units experienced, many of the units of the Independent Guard Battalion had visitors fall in with them.  The 1st Tennessee had a couple of guys try to fall in as they were forming up for the Pickett’s Charge battle, and that is a bad idea.  Most units worth their salt with eject reenactors that fall-in without warning.  The general rule of thumb is that if you don’t drill with a unit, you don’t play with that unit.  I caught one of those guys trying to fall in, asked Capt Sharp if he recognized the guy, and pulled him out, sending him to any other unit down the line.  I’m not sure if he found a unit, but I doubt it.  The reason for this is safety concerns—there was no time to drill the guy to see if he was even capable, and his weapon could not be inspected.  All of us reenactors have heard nightmares of some yahoo sneaking into the ranks with a musket with a live round, shooting someone for real on the field.  The entire IG staff stands behind its companies to support this philosophy.

But we did have a number of reenactors contact us ahead of time to arrange to fall in with us.  The 5th KY had someone as far away as Denmark.  I suspect the 50th VA had a few, along with the 10th TN.  The 1st TN had a guy from Utah, along with three from Belgium.

The Belgians were quite the experience. Back in Belgium, they did ACW reenacting, along with Renaissance period reenacting.  It was a bit humorous to imagine the two combined, so the joke became that we’d just send the Belgians after them.  “Deploy the Belgians!” became the catch-phrase.

For Pickett’s Charge, most units were not supposed to go over the wall—only Armistead’s brigades went over in history.  But two special companies were formed with select members from each company to go over the wall.  There were enough open spots that the 1st Tennessee selected the three Belgians to go, as an honor to them.

The Army of Northern Virginia (ANV) division—First Division—at the top of the hill was in charge of those companies.  During the morning, someone came around and said that the company had to be formed immediately for drill—if they did not drill, they would not be going over the wall.  All of us in the battalion staff were a bit perturbed we were not informed there would be drill earlier.  Having drill made sense, but not informing anyone ahead of time did not.  It seemed rather suspicious—like perhaps there was intent to leave out any non-ANV reenactors.

We did manage to get the word around about drill, and the Belgians rushed up the hill.  They told us later that drill was a bit goofy, with commands that included “Check shoelaces”.  Their opinion was that there was a bit of a lack of skill there.  The Belgians agreed that our group was better.

The day overall was pretty slow—many packed their gear up.  A lot of reenactors from other units across the field broke the rules and brought their cars in to pack up—we were only allowed to bring cars in after the afternoon battle started, yet it seemed more than three quarters of the camps had at least one vehicle parked in it by noon.  The 1st TN obeyed the rules, and I believe the other units of the IG also did, though I made no note of it.  It did mess up our experience a bit, but at least we obeyed the rules.

We marched out for the battle, waiting in the sun for the moment to start at the edge of the battlefield.  A couple of generals stood with General Julian—I didn’t know who they were, but one must have had a wireless telegraph communication with General Pickett as he talked into a device he held to his ear within site of the spectators, oblivious to the Yankee entrenchment forming at the wall in the distance.

We began our march, halting to fire once, then marching in echelon in columns of two across a bridge over the semi-dry creek.  Once across, we reformed the battalion and fired some more at the Yankees on the wall.  The 1st TN all went down quickly, leaving us with parts of three companies. We advanced further to the split-rail fence and we struggled with that fence.  Some of us tried to push it over, but its posts were buried too deep, so we had to pull the rails out of their supports.  I climbed over to see if I could help others over, but at this point, we were in total chaos.  The 5th KY advanced to the right, while the 50th VA advanced to the left, leaving me in the middle all alone.  I took a hit like I was shot with a machine gun and landed on my tin cup, pretty much destroying it.  It’ll make a good prop on my haversack, but I’ll never be drinking out of it again.  I thought I might as well look like a good severely wounded soldier and started dragging myself with my sword to the rear, leaving my right leg limp.

The battle ended and I followed the sergeant-major back to camp.  The rest of the 1st Tennessee pretty much walked straight to their cars and headed off.  About a third of the way back, it started raining for the first time all week.  It seemed it was saving up for this moment, because it was not just a light drizzle—it was a torrent.  By the time I arrived in camp, I was drenched to the bone, pouring a puddle of water off the rim of my hat.

Joe shared my tent all week, and we had originally planned to stay the night there, but decided we might do better finding a hotel instead.  While I waited for a break in the rain, we talked with the Belgians, who were going to camp overnight to leave in the morning.  The Belgians told us that the unit they fell in with was prohibited from going over the wall since they did not get to drill—perhaps my suspicions were correct?  I reported this to Colonel Clark.  I’m sure the report got up the command chain from there, but I don’t know what will come of it. The Belgians did say that the unit that made it over the wall shouted something on the order of, “We are the elite!!”  Sounds like they were a company of children.

At the first break in the rain, I sloshed to my car and brought it back to camp, pretty much tossing everything in, not worrying about anything but being able to shut my truck.  Everything was soaked, and all would have to come out when I got home to dry out.  Joe and I led the Belgians and Dancing Dave to York PA where the rest of the crew had a hotel room.  We all trucked out to a restaurant called “Smokey Bones” and enjoyed a rather entertaining night with those Belgians.

J.R. was kind enough to let Joe and I use their shower before dinner, but Joe had left his brogans in the room when we went to eat, so we had to return to their hotel to retrieve them, while everyone else waited at the restaurant.  When we arrived at the hotel, Joe pulled out that Civil War plaque he had obtained from that guy in Gettysburg that let us take a shortcut through his yard for the Pickett’s Charge on the Battleground park.  A devious idea crossed his mind, and he took the plaque up to the hotel room with him, leaving it under J.R.’s pillow as he retrieved his brogans.

On our return to Gettysburg to get to our own hotel, we got a text from J.R.

That plaque now hangs in J.R.’s wall.

Day 7: Antietam/Sharpsburg

It was now Monday.  The GAC Gettysburg 150th Commemoration was now over, and an eight hour drive waited for us.  But the Antietam (or Sharpsburg, if you are die-hard Confederate) Battlefield was only about an hour drive away, and Joe had more than one area of Civil War battlefield expertise, so offered the Belgians, Dancing Dave, and I a tour of the battlefield of the bloodiest day in American history.

I actually found this tour more interesting than the tour of the Gettysburg battlefield, though I’m not sure if it was because Sharpsburg was only a one day battle, or because of the overall simplicity of the tour (only taking three hours) over Gettysburg (which took several days).  We covered the three main parts of the battle, starting with the Cornfield, proceeding through the Sunken Road, and ending at Burnsides Bridge.   I studied the land and could imagine the soldiers in the fight.  As I examined that steep hill with two rifle pits high up, from where the Confederates defended Burnsides Bridge, I imagined the rain of lead the Yankees encountered as they tried many times to take that bridge.


The GAC Gettysburg was definitely an event to remember.  I enjoyed myself thoroughly.  But it was Quinn who said, “I think I like the smaller events better.”  Our fun at Gettysburg came more from the camaraderie of friends spending time together, than from the action of the battles.  Those battles had their place, but they didn’t have the thrill we find at the smaller events, where it might be just our battalion, maybe one more, and anything can happen (and usually does), in spite of the planned scenario. With an event the size of Gettysburg, we are locked into our specific place, the scenario must closely follow the history (even though it still gets blown)—so it’s more of a disappointment when plans go awry, as the battle for us is more for the history.  At the smaller events, it’s just a basic, typical skirmish, so the history that is laid at a particular battle is irrelevant, plus we have the camaraderie of each other.

Basic video of the last day:
Videos of Pickett's Charge:

News articles:

Courtesy Matt Rourke, Associated Press

Monday, July 15, 2013

The Best and Worst of Times, Part 3

GAC 150th Commemoration, The Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, PA

July 3-7, 2013

Day 5: Bivouacked

Saturday arrived, and we had already fulfilled a normal reenactment, but we were only halfway through this one.

I again fried up my bacon and eggs—I brought a lot of bacon and eggs with me—and enjoyed a quiet morning.

One thing I had failed to mention was that the first day we had a bugler in our brigade echoing the commands of General Julian. Unfortunately, though it seemed like a cool idea, there were certain inherent problems with this concept. The first being that none of us knew any of the bugle calls. It was therefore nothing but some mood music while we battled. The second problem was that since we were 2nd battalion of a three battalion brigade, the general and the bugler were stationed immediately behind us. So, the general would give his command, with the bugler blaring in our ears, and there was some difficulty in hearing the voice commands. It would have been great if we had some idea what the bugle calls were. Several respectfully requested at the next officer’s meeting if the bugler could find a better place to shove his horn.

So, for the morning battle, we had no mood music. But we had to wait in the sun by the grandstands for about an hour before the battle began. I wish I knew what the delay was—but at least there was a water buffalo nearby, and I kept suggesting to the captains to keep the canteens all full. Even I, with two canteens, had to refill one of mine. That is one thing I learned about nationals—two canteens are better than one. Through every battle I finished off one and got about halfway through the second.

When the battle finally started, we advanced onto the field away from the grandstand. We did not move far from that location, but we pushed forward against what seemed insurmountable odds. I don’t really know where the other Confederate brigades were, but they had to be somewhere—though I did hear the entire ANV division decided to rest for the morning. I guess that left us to fend off the Yankee hoards.

We were toe-to-toe with the Yankees, and a dismounted cavalry unit in front of us extended their lines, extending around our flank. Capt Sharp expressed concerns they were beginning to surround us, so I told him to go ahead and extend his line as well, as he refused our flank—we couldn’t have the Yankees surround us. Our other flank was in no better shape—we lost our left wing and were refusing that flank as well with the little we had left.

Somehow, we pulled through the battle, but it seems we had unknowing help from another of our battalions—they were situated so that the Yankees were caught in a crossfire, coming up behind the Yankees before us. It wasn't until the end of the battle that we could even see the other battalion.

Resting between battles.  Courtesy J.R. Sharp
The 1st Tennessee was the worse for wear at the end of this battle. Twice there were shots fired by privates in unsafe positions in the chaos, getting pvt Jared Springer’s eardrum blown own and Joe Bellas ear rung. Joe sat out the evening battle to recover, but Jared had to be taken to the hospital for examination. Jared seems to come through okay, but was pretty much done for the rest of the weekend, only able to watch from the sidelines.

Having learned about how wearing the march back to camp was, the battalion decided to bivouac on the battlefield in a nice shady area. This saved us—I don’t think any of us could have participated in the evening battle had we not rested in the shade. A water buffalo was handy in that shade, allowing us to keep well hydrated. We were going to have to leave the area once the Yankees started forming up on the battlefield, as we were at the location the
Courtesy J.R. Sharp
Yankees were to start. But we still had several hours, and it gave a chance for a few to visit the sutlers.

There was a bit of sucking up to General Julian, as Bob Mergle of the 5th KY retrieved the general’s favorite treat of Hawaiian Ice, and Jim Kletzli of the 1st TN gave him sips of Peach Schnapps. I couldn’t tell you who won out there—it was tough competition. I think one of them came up with an idea of Peach Schnapps Hawaiian Ice as the ultimate treat for the general.

We enjoyed watching some live mortar fire. It was interesting to watch, particularly from our perspective, as the mortars were being fired in our direction. Fortunately, the mortars fell short by several hundred yards. But the last shot apparently had a special charge added and landed a earth-rumbling blast about a hundred yards from our location.

(Video of live mortar shot:

As we waited, we saw the ANV division march through, fresh from their long morning rest. We soon followed them to the staging area where we would begin the fight for the afternoon battle.

(Video of ANV arrival:

It was a fight that I feel left a bit of a sour taste. We marched until we were out of site of one set of grandstands, all the way back to the woods where we had bivouacked. We seemed to advance a bit close to the Yankees that had entrenched in the woods, but all the Confederate brigades had them in matched lines. The whole battle just seemed a bit “off”. Once we reached that close location, the Yankees in front of us ceased firing and stood at attention. The 1st TN waited for some company fire and all took hits. We pulled back and stood and waited. At some point, someone told me that some Yankees were throwing vulgar and obscene insults at us. One Confederate from another battalion ran up to the Yankees, running up and down their lines throwing insults back at them.

I kept expecting the bugler to blow taps to indicate the end of the battle, but it never came. As we stood, us not firing, they not firing, I lost my adrenaline. Not long after I took a hit and just stayed out—I was spent, and the battle really wasn’t fun anymore, anyhow.

Next time: Day 6: The Charge--Deploy the Belgians!

Friday, July 12, 2013

The Best and Worst of Times, Part 2

GAC 150th Commemoration, Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, PA

July 3-7, 2013

Day 2: The Tour

Joe Bellas giving the tour.  Courtesy Cookie Owens 
Most of the rest of the 1st Tennessee arrived around 3 am Wednesday morning, renting a hotel room for a couple of the wives to stay at, but crashing there until they could come and pitch a shebang on the campgrounds.  I was delighted to learn just how knowledgeable Joe Bellas was about the Battle of Gettysburg.  It turns out that he is a high school history teacher with a focus on the Civil War.  He even told me that he passed the National Park Service exam for becoming a tour guide of the battlefield, but simply did not get the certificate as it would require him to give paid tours, which would require him to be away from home for extended periods.  He took the company around the battleground of Gettysburg and gave us the stories of the battle.  It was a personal tour better than we could have ever gotten from anyone else.  We spent the morning and most of the afternoon touring the battlefield, covering only the first day of the battle.

Shortly before 3 pm we headed over to the field where Pickett’s charge occurred.  Since today was the 3rd of July, 3 pm was 150 years to the minute from when General Pickett started his charge.  If you know your history, you might be saying, “But 2 pm was when the charge started.”  Yes, that is true, but Daylight Savings time had not been invented 150 years ago, so technically when we were stepping off to start the charge when our watches said it was 3, it was really 2 according to the way the Civil War period tracked time.

We parked our cars for heading over to the charge on a residential street.  The owner of the house where we parked came out and met us.  He was a friendly gentleman, happy to see us.  He directed us to a shortcut to the field through his backyard into the woods.  That shortcut saved just enough time for us to get to the start just in time, but it was still a mile from our cars.

We had hoped to march independently, just our unit.  But the park service would not allow us to do that.  We had to march with one of the groups forming up.  We found off to one side of the field and formed up to the left of another Confederate unit that formed there, with a brigade in front of us. The march began and that other unit and us marched in formation, with many in modern clothes following along.  We approached several fence rows with openings, and J.R. maneuvered us behind the rest of the battalion to get us through the opening, then back into position at the left of the battalion.

(Video of the march, thanks to Cookie Owens:

The march continued without stopping, nearly the full mile length, getting ever closer to the rock wall the Yankees defended 150 years ago.  We halted about thirty yards from the wall, about the distance the furthest the regiment of Confederates would have reached from this position.

Courtesy Jared Springer
J.R. said he could not have gone further.  It was a long march, and it was a long return.  We stopped at the Tennessee monument to get pictures, then return the rest of the mile back to our cars. We hiked through those woods behind that gentleman’s home, putting in a total of about four miles on our off day.

Trish Carte was thirsty, so Joe Bellas asked the gentleman for a glass of water for her.  Joe talked with that gentleman for awhile, and before we knew it, the gentleman had gone into his house and returned with a Civil War wall plaque with both Confederate and Yankee flags, and presented it to Joe.  It was quite a surprise.

By this time it was getting late, so we ate at another branch of the Appalachian Brewery, returning to camp for the night.

The 1st inspected their muskets, and I gave them mine to inspect.  Because of a number of visitors we had that were falling in with us for the weekend, we loaned out five muskets, mine included.  It was a good thing I had mine inspected, as it failed.  It turned out both the tumbler and sear spring had gone bad.

Day 3: The Event Starts

Courtesy J.R. Sharp
The second morning began with bacon and eggs and four cups in one of my coffee.  We had morning meetings.  We formed for parade, performed weapons inspection, then proceeded on a long march to the field of the first battle.  The scenario called for us to win (1st day struggle, Willoughby Run), but the Yankee forces were tough.  We advanced to the creek, but we kept losing our numbers, while the Yankee Kevlar was impenetrable.  I don’t think a single Yankee fell, and we were quickly dropping in numbers.  In the distance, we could see the Yankee camps, and we watched as an entire Yankee brigade marched from the camps to the field.  We were in trouble, no chance of success.  1st company (the 1st Tennessee) broke, running to cover in the rear.  2nd company (5th Kentucky) was gone.  I have no idea what happened to 4th company (10th Tennessee).  Only a handful of the 50th Virginia (3rd company) remained.  I ordered 3rd company to a single rank to widen our line.  Captain Sharp of 1st company managed to get a few of his men back, but requested of Brigadier General Julian that the battalion retreat.  However, General Julian said, “Why should we retreat?  They’re falling back.”

Sure enough, the Yankees, still full in numbers, were falling back.  The battle was soon over, our victory assured.

Yeah, sometimes the scenario has a mind of its own.

The march back was exhausting.  Just as long, but now uphill.  I crashed back at camp, stripping down to my shirt and cooled off as best as I could.  Most of the 1st TN were too beat to return to the evening battle, so chose to instead get more touring of the Gettysburg Battlefield, with Joe Bellas as their guide.

Like most companies at Gettysburg, we had a number of visitors fall in with us for the weekend, including three from Belgium.  The Belgians decided to stay behind to fall in with the 5th KY for the evening battle.  I also stayed for the evening battle.

We marched to the field for the evening battle. The length of the march was far longer than the morning battle—it was probably as far as we could have marched and still be in Adams County PA.

We stacked arms, and as the scheduled time to start, we took arms and waited.  The we open ordered and ground arms and waited some more.  The we took arms, then rest.  Wait and wait and wait.  Finally, a tractor came with a tank of water, so I ordered the captains to send details to refill canteens.  Probably an hour after the scheduled time, we finally started the march into battle.  I found out later the reason for the long wait was that the ANV battalion had arrived over an hour before the start of the battle and used up all their water.  They refused to start the battle until they were resupplied with water.

But anyway, we marched out and quickly encountered resistance.  Across the entire field, heading toward the grandstand where the spectators sat, we pushed the Yankees.  The company directly in front of us was always the last to fall back, causing our battalion to always be behind the other battalions and brigades as we advanced.  That company made a final retreat, faced us, and then stood at attention.  As we continued to fire upon them, a Yankee brigade marched in columns of four in front of that Yankee company, proceeding off the field back to their camps.

I guess it was time to go to bed or something.  Maybe that delay at the beginning got them tired of playing.

Video of evening battle

Weird day.

Anyway, I made it back to camp and crashed again.  After I cooled off, I threw an ear of corn on the fire and a can of Chef Boy-R-D ravioli into my skillet.  It was a good feast.

Day 4: Indigo Messes with the Head

Bacon and eggs again for breakfast.  I was well supplied.  I must have been the best fed soldier in the battalion.

Fortunately, we only had an evening battle, so I spent the morning with the 1st TN perusing through the sutlers.  There was quite a large number of them, but we quickly blasted through them.  I think we all have started to reach the point that we feel like we have seen all that could be bought and have all that we need.

I stopped at James Country where I had Trish Carte and Lindsay Sharp deliver my musket yesterday for repair while I was in battle.

James Country really took care of Christine.  The repair cost was reasonable.  I had thought that the problem was only the sear spring, but he also found a problem with the tumbler and replaced it.  He also suggested I replaced the main spring.

The evening battle was interesting.  The brigade came onto the field and we quickly were faced with a Yankee brigade.  To the left of our brigade was another Confederate brigade.

Courtesy J.R. Sharp
While we fought, I watched while a Yankee battalion pushed that brigade to our left back.  And it kept pushing.  Before I knew it, that Yankee battalion was beside us.  General Julian expressed concerns that it would flank us, but it was apparently completely focused on that brigade in front of them.  They kept going.

I started wondering what they were thinking.  It must have been another case of the Indigo dye messing with the Yankees’ brains.  Before long, third battalion of our brigade (the battalion to our immediate left) took advantage of the situation and slide in behind the Yankee battalion, putting them in a crossfire.  Third battalion proceeded to shoot the Yankees in the back, but that Kevlar just held strong.  After awhile the third battalion figured out that the Yankees had no idea they were being hit from behind, so marched to the Yankee’s flank and fired hard to penetrate that Kevlar.

In the meantime, we were shooting toe-to-toe at the Yankees in front of us.  With third battalion preoccupied, our numbers were a little thin, but we were okay so long as first battalion was to our right.  They are too our right, yes?  Where did they go?  For some reason, first battalion decided to retreat. Okay, now we had a problem.

We were left hanging in the middle of nowhere, fully exposed to a brigade of Yankees. General Julian told me something, and I somehow got it all wrong. While General Julian went back to that battalion to get them, I ran in front of our battalion and ordered them forward.  I only brought them about five feet forward, but I know I freaked out just about everyone.  I really don’t know why I thought that was a good idea, because I looked at all those Yankees and suddenly realized just how bad a situation we were in.  I think I’ll chalk that up to confusion and insanity.  All that indigo dye in front of us must have messed with my head.

Well, dinner held more ravioli and corn.  I think I must be about the only soldier to have gained weight that week.

Video of Friday evening battle (the "Wheatfield")

Next time: Day 5: Bivouacked

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

The Best and Worst of Times, Part 1

GAC 150th Commemoration, Battle of Gettysburg

Gettysburg, PA

July 3-7, 2013

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity…”

That quote from Dicken’s A Tale of Two Cities gives a good description of my opinion of the Gettysburg Anniversary Committee’s (GAC) Gettysburg reenactment.  I qualify this as the GAC Gettysburg, since there were two of them, the other put on by the Blue-Gray Alliance (BGA) the week before.  I missed that one, so I only know how it went based on rumors that got to me.

The GAC Gettysburg had its moments, both good and bad.

Day 1: The Trip and Setup

The event started early for me.  Tuesday morning July 2, I drove with Joe Bellas as my passenger through the mountains of Maryland to reach Gettysburg.  It was a beautiful drive, along with avoiding toll roads.  Upon arriving at registration after the seven and a half hour drive, we bought a couple of souvenirs, then headed to the campsite.

We took our time setting up camp—the event did not start until Thursday the 4th, so we were going to take it easy.  Things were going well, everything as smooth as could be, but then I realized I did not have my car key on me.  Somehow, I must have dropped it.  Joe and I looked everywhere for it, combing through grass.  I had taken it off my key chain to put my other keys away, and that turned out to be my demise.  Colonel Duane Clark (normally our Lt. Colonel) and most of the rest of the battalion staff had already set up their camp and came down to help.  It must have taken us two hours of searching, while I continued to unpack my car in the hopes of finding it dropped in my gear.

Finally, at the point of giving up, I phoned the local dealership to see what it would take to get a replacement key.  Discouragement came upon me when I hung up as I realized it could pretty much ruin my week—requiring my car to be towed in, along with the costs of replacements.  But despair almost immediately turned to joy as the Colonel reached under the chair I was sitting in, and asked while pulling out an object, “Is this your key?”

I have no idea how we could have missed it.  It was as if it had latched itself to the backside of my trousers or something—but there it was.  I gave the Colonel a good bear hug and thanked him tremendously.  Lt John Porter, the battalion’s adjutant, got some string for me, and for the remainder of the week, that key was either around my neck, or in one of my boxes under my cot.

Joe and I ate supper with Dancing Dave Rothert a local restaurant called The Appalachian Brewery.  It was a good, hefty meal, not far from the campgrounds.

Back in camp I was looking forward to a good week.  I had been brevetted to Lt Colonel for the event, and I hoped I could meet the challenge.

Next time: Day 2: The Tour