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

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