August 10-11, 2013
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.
Photos from the event