Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Last

Hartford City IN

October 10-11, 2015

I arrived at Hartford City late, around 7 pm and set up my camp in the fair evening weather.  With my camp set up, I changed into my major's uniform, including a new coat tailored by Jim Ruley, and headed to officers' call at headquarters where we discussed the scenarios for the weekend.

Saturday morning came early.  Though I was warm in my farby military-surplus sleeping bag, the allergens in the air made the night a bit rough.  I got up and cooked up some bacon and eggs and met for morning call.

We held morning parade at 9 am, then marched out for battle, which was to be the Battle of White Oak Road.  The battle started with the 5th Kentucky (the one from Columbus Ohio) watching guard in the woods.  The 5th KY and 1st Tennessee were the companies of my wing, and while 5th KY fought in the woods and was slowly pushed back, I held the 1st TN in reserve to cover the 5th's retreat.

Eventually we reformed as a complete wing and were pushed back further with a force of Yankees greater than ours.  We were pushed back as far as we could go.  We needed support, and we needed it quickly.  I turned up the field and saw the right wing form up to prepare an advance, but they held fast.  The artillery continued their firing, and I found that the right wing was waiting for a number of artillery rounds to fire before advancing.

When had reached our limit, the right wing began their advance and fired on the enemy.  The Yankees about-faced and retreated.  I took advantage of the retreat and pushed the wing.  I halted early--the right wing hardly had a chance to join the fight, so I didn't want to steal all the glory, but the fight didn't last much longer.  It was only moments later when the Yankees surrendered.

The rest of the day, until the afternoon battle went by with little incident.

The afternoon battle began at 4 pm, with the Battle of Five Forks scenario.  We marched through the field into position to face the Yankees, but were quickly forced back.  The Yankees sent a troop of cavalry around our flank, but I sent the 1st TN to repulse them. Unfortunately, the fight did not go well.  We were forced back, but because we were being pushed on our flank as well our line degenerated into a semi-circle.  As the commands to fall back were shouted, the 5th KY fell straight back, with tunnel-vision to keep from turning their backs on the enemy, not realizing they were not falling back with the battalion, but into the line of fire of the 1st Tennessee.  Shouts from me and from Sgt Major David Julian could not get their attention.  They were a big ball of muskets and soldiers out in isolation, nothing but confusion on their faces.   I would have laughed had I not been so pissed.

They did finally fill the gap in the battalion line that awaited them, though I know not what finally got them motivated.  I wonder if they would have backed all the way into the Union cavalry line, had it not been for mine and Sgt Major Julian's shouts.

We were pushed back into the artillery when we finally surrendered.

A group of us headed up to the front of the park and enjoyed the provided meal, then returned to camp to enjoy a quiet evening around the campfire, interrupted by the entire artillery force of both sides bombarding each other in the night.

Sunday morning we formed for dress parade at 10:30.    We held the election for our adjutant, sergeant major, and ordinance sergeant, all of which were running unopposed.  In order to discuss the order of business, we needed to form the companies close around.  I ordered the 5th KY to right wheel to complete my wing of the formation--and immediately the left wheeled.  I was so shocked by the obvious incorrect response that I glanced down to my arms and asked myself, "Did I give the correct command?"  Let's see--right, left.  Yeah I gave the correct command.  What the hell were they doing?

With the help of Capt Steiner and their sergeant, the 5th KY backed up when I started shouted at them to get them back into position.  But trying to get them back dressed on their 1st sergeant was like pulling the teeth out of a mule.  The concept of a line was completely alien to them.  Five times I shouted, "Dress on your sergeant!" before they finally grasped the concept.  I was glad I didn't consider what I was going to face with them during the battle, with a simple wheel such a conundrum.

Once the election was over, I had Capt Steiner return his men back into battalion line, which fortunately went well.

For the weekend, the 1st Tennessee's 1st Sergeant was brevetted to lieutenant, since Capt Sharp could not attend due to other obligations.  Since this was the last weekend that 1st Sergeant Kletzli would be serving in this role, we decided to leave a little parting gift for him.

Col Linkous ordered Kletzli front and center, and I ordered Sgt Carte to assign a guard detail to escort him.  There, the colonel read the charges of impersonating an officer, along with other charges, whereupon he was further escorted to a firing line.  I brought the 1st TN up and ordered the firing.  I guess I brought them too close, as they elevated a bit and missed.  I ordered again, and they missed again, so we released him.

After parade, Col Linkous and I met with the Federal commander and one of his officers to talk to Fall Creek Sutler.  The man who ran the Hartford City event was retiring this year, having run the event for all of the past 26 years, and a collection had been raised to get him a parting gift.  Enough funds had been raised to get the man a number of things.

The battle scenario was Appomattox .  The colonel split the wings, having us form at different ends of the field.  The colonel sent our flag bearer with our battalion colors (the first national) to me, while he kept a flag bearer with the St Andrew's Cross for the right wing.

The time to form came and I set the colors for the line.  The 5th KY dressed, and then the 1st TN came forward.  Lt Kletzli brought the men up at the right flank and dressed.  The number of rifles for the 1st TN were small enough that I didn't realize they weren't fronted, but it didn't look right, and when I asked Kletzli to take his place in line, he informed me they were at the flank.  I got a little abrupt with the lieutenant asking him what he was doing, and informed he that he knew what he supposed to do, telling him to fix it.  Corporal Silvers expressed excessively extensive concern over Kletzli's behavior, so I took the lieutenant aside.  He had just gotten some disturbing news that was distracting him, but when he told me he fine and would be good for battle, I considered the matter closed and had him return to his company.

The colonel wanted a synchronized advance.  I moved my wing into position at the right flank to await the signal, and ordered "By companies into line" to bring us into a column of companies.  I feel we don't see enough battalion-level maneuvers on the field during battle, so wanted to be at least a little fancy, though there were only two companies.  Unfortunately, the 5th KY mistook the command to come into battalion line after going to company into line, so I had to quickly move redirect the 5th KY back behind the 1st TN, and halted the column.  When the 5th KY dressed behind the 1st TN, they formed closed in mass, leaving no room to wheel, and I doubted they would be able to handle in mass maneuvers, so ordered the 1st TN 4 steps forward to give wheeling distance.  I thought my command was clear that it was for the 1st TN only, but I had to rush around the 1st TN to keep the 5th KY from advancing.

In that position, we waited a few more minutes before the signal to advance came.  Quickly after ordering forward, and commanded the wing forward into line, and the 5th KY maneuvered well into battle line.  We advanced halfway across the field and waged against the Yankees.

As we fought, I saw a potential opportunity to flank the Yankees on their right.  I assessed the situation, be careful not to separate us too much from the right wing, and decided that since the 5th KY was on our far end they would be best positioned to execute the flanking maneuver, and approached Capt Steiner to discuss the plan, and he expressed the same idea.  Unfortunately, just as I was about to order the move, the Yankees must have been reading my lips, because they sent two companies to start flanking us, preventing us from taking the offensive.

We fell back and refused those two companies.  As the right wing fell back, we continued to retreat, but our artillery was continuing their fire.  We backed as far as we could, but the 5th KY informed me that the  guns were still hot--and without markers for the safety zone, it appeared we were right at the edge of safety with those guns, so we held position, unable to fall back any further.  I hoped the guns would cease their firing so we had a place to retreat to, but they kept on.

I had the 5th KY extend our line by forming a single rank, and the two Yankee companies split again to further attempt to flank us.  Impatient, the 5th KY charged the company on our furthest flank.  The company the 1st TN faced was about equal in size, so I could do nothing to support the 5th.  Eventually, the 5th reformed to the 1st and the far Yankee company reformed to their wing.

I received a message from the colonel to reform to the right wing, and sent a response that I would do so as soon as it was convenient, as we were still engaged.  I looked for an opportunity and sent the 1st TN alone to rejoin the battalion, while I had the 5th KY cover the withdrawal.  Once the 1st was in position, I pulled the 5th KY at the double-quick. The battle was over quickly after.

We reformed our line across from the Yankee battalion and we watched surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Afterwards, we held a ceremony for Orville Uggen, the organizer for Hartford City, and presented him with the gifts we that the collection had purchased.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Touching the Sacred Grounds

Perryville, KY

October 3-4, 2015

The muck and mire from a week of rain threatened to swallow our vehicles whole as we arrived in Perryville for the weekend.  The air provided a spitting mist that slowly soaked our very being.  Golf carts were deployed to haul our gear from the parking lot to our camp.

The night was cold but having learned from the previous events of the year, I was prepared and comfortable, though I never did fully dry in my A.

Morning came and I realized I had forgotten my plate as I prepared my breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Battalion drill was originally scheduled for nine, but the rain forced cancellation.

Capt Sharp held a staff meeting where we took the time to discuss how we could work further to improve the unit.

Rations were issued and cooked, which included bacon, ham, and beans, providing a fulfilling meal.

Although the threat of rain haunted us the entire day, the sky only stayed darkly overcast, with a few seconds of occasional spitting.

We formed for battle, with various maneuvering drills performed on the way to the battlefield.  Once at the battlefield, we entered battle marching through the artillery and pushed against the Yankees.

Afterward Capt Sharp took us to the goat barn, an area of the battlefield that the park had recently acquired.  The area was where the original 1st Tennessee had fought and were stopped, many of whom buried on those grounds where they fell.  We were the first reenactors in 150 years to have ever set foot on those sacred grounds.  Capt Sharp took us through the hills and gullies where the  soldiers fought.

That night I gathered myself into my sleeping bag and tried to light my candle.  It would fizzle for awhile and go out, wet from the heavy, saturated air.  It took several tries before I was finally able to get light.

Sunday opened to sun and warmth.  After breakfast, we formed up and read letters giving biographies on each of the original soldiers from Company D of the 1st Tennessee.

For the afternoon battle, we again formed up and drilled on the way to the battlefield. The 1st pushed toward the guns, and we eventually overwhelmed the Yankees.