Tuesday, December 27, 2016

My Heritage

As a young man, Miles P. Clark moved to Van Wert, Ohio from his home in New York to make a life for himself in the west.  There, he met his wife Mary and became one of the managers of the St. Charles Hotel, hosting Cotillon Parties until the 1850s.

Around 1857, he was given the opportunity to take lead over his own life, instead of just being another employee, and moved his family and two sons to the frontier in Scott County of the Minnesota Territory, where he helped with the formation of the village of St. Lawerence, becoming the hotel keeper and postmaster when the village officially formed in 1858, the same year Minnesota became a state.

When war broke out in 1861, he had well established his home, having added a set of fraternal twins--a boy and a girl, now two years old, to join his nine and ten year-old sons.  In September 1861, himself now of age 33, he left the hotel to the care of his wife and volunteered to join the 4th Minnesota Company A, mustering in at Ft Snelling, near St. Paul, about a day's ride from his home.  Since he had a talent for music, he was enlisted as a musician.

Over the winter the regiment trained and drilled.  Uniforms arrived three weeks after their training started.  On March 18, 1862, the regiment received orders to proceed to St. Louis, Missouri, which was delayed until April 20th, since the river from Ft. Snelling was still not navigable until then.  Passing by St. Paul on the way out, Miles played, "The Girl I Left Behind Me" with the rest of the regiment's band as people lined the bluffs with the men cheering as the steamboat sailed away.  The regiment arrived at Benton Barracks in St. Louis on April 24th.

At the barracks, an innovative sutler had a supply of steel vests for sale.  The vests consisted of two 1/16th inch plates bent to fit the chest.  They were designed to slip into the lining of each side of an ordinary vest and intended to protect one from the hazards of the enemy.  Also known as ironclads, the sutler sold them for between $7.50 and $20, depending on the quality and sophistication.  Although there was a certain temptation to owning one of these, Miles was more interested in saving his hard-earned money for his family back home.  As musician, he was not in quite the same danger as the rest of the regiment, so thought better of it.  The vests became quite popular as the first few purchases regularly saw use as targets for revolvers and appeared to provide good protection.

The sutler gained a significant profit until, joining the regiment on the steamboat to Cairo, he tried to sell to one particular private.  The private was skeptical, but agreed to purchase a set if it would stand the test against the minie ball of a Springfield.  Borrowing a Springfield from the colonel's orderlies (the only ones in the regiment to have Springfields), they placed the vests against a sack of oats.  It was with much amusement that the onlookers watched the bullet fire right through the plates and the oats, and skip up the river out of sight.  Needless to say, the sutler made no more money off the regiment after that.

By May 14, 1862, the regiment arrived at Hamburgh Landing, Tennessee and began the march to Corinth, Mississippi.  The march was hot.  They were used to the weather of Minnesota, and these days in May were far worse than the August of the north.  By May 30th, they reached the edges of the city of Corinth, joining up with most of the rest of the Union forces, a dense smoke enveloping the city.

Over the next month, the regiment moved to various locations around Corinth, looking for a good place to camp and scouting for the graybacks, seeing none but one around five miles southeast of Corinth.

But they had a severe attack from another source.  The water of the Mississippi country was intolerant of the Yankee invaders and struck many down with severe bouts of dysentery.  Sick call was of no help to those that suffered, as the men were accused of playing off and told to use a red-hot poker to seal themselves up.  Change with sick call only occurred when death came, sending the message that the situation was dire.

The sickness continued through the end of June, and Miles Clark was not spared.  He survived, but was not able to continue with the regiment, so was discharged for disability in July 1862.

Returning home, he soon found insufficient business to keep his hotel running, so by 1870 he relocated his family to Cairo, Minnesota, deep in the heart of the state to try his hand at farming with his brother Robert.  His eldest son, now 19, still lived at home, but worked at the local store as a clerk.

Farming did not work well for Miles, and by 1880 he moved his family again to Hector, Minnesota, taking back his life as a hotel keeper.  His eldest son moved on, but the rest of the children still lived in the hotel with their parents, with Willis working as a real-estate agent, and Harry, one of the twins, working as a telegraph operator.  Hattie, the other twin, met George Ashby, one of the boarders of the hotel, that year, married him, and gave birth to a son, Harry in 1881.

By 1900, the Ashbys and the Clarks moved to Superior, Wisconsin on Lake Superior.  Miles became an honorary member of G.A.R. and played his fife at every encampment until his death in 1907 at 81.

Harry Ashby grew to become the captain of the William P. Palmer, an ore ship known as a Tin Stacker--one of the largest ships in the world, and flagship for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company.  Harry married Lulu Willerd, who died giving birth to G. Howard Ashby in 1910.  Hattie, who had changed to going by Harriet, raised Howard since Harry was away on the Lakes for months at a time and could not care for him.

By the Great Depression of 1929, work was scarce, but Harry helped his son to get a job with the Pittsburgh Steamship Company, and before long, G. H. Ashby was the captain of his own ship.

During World War II, both men served in the Coast Guard.

G. H. Ashby married Doris Morrison and had two daughters, Barbara and Ellen.

Ellen is my mother.

On Christmas Day, 2016, my mother stumbled onto an old scrapbook.  She didn't even know who had created it or where it came from.  Most of what was in it were news clippings and letters covering the life of Harry Ashby, my great grandfather.  But then I stumbled across an obiturary for a Civil War veteran, one Miles Clark, and suddenly I had a moment of shock. I had no knowledge of ties to the Civil War, and suddenly, staring at me, was a solid connection.  The article referred to him being survived by a daughter, one "Mrs. Ashby", confirming some kind of connection.

The scrapbook also had certificates for Miles becoming an auctioneer and postmaster in Minnesota, and had a Cotillon Party invitation for the St. Charles Hotel for March 23, 1854, with Miles Clark listed as a manager.  There was even a certificate, dated 1912, from the Adjutant General's Office of the State of Minnesota certifying Miles Clark's honorable discharge for disability on July 12, 1862.

Based on the focus of the scrapbook being Harry Ashby, and with the addition of pieces of the life of Miles Clark, along with an article about Mary Clark, I imagine it was Harriet Ashby, daughter of Miles Clark and mother of Harry Ashby, who compiled the scrapbook.

With online research I found Miles was enlisted as Musician for the 4th Minnesota, and I found the book "History of the Fourth Regiment of Minnesota Infantry Volunteers During the Great Rebellion" by Alonzo L. Brown to fill in the gaps of his story with the 4th Minnesota.  The U.S. Census records of 1860 through 1910 confirmed all the rest.

Sometimes surprises can come in unusual ways.  Although it looks like he saw no combat, he was a part of that history, and a direct tie for me to that history.

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Endless Hills

Perryville KY

October 6-9, 2016

Early morning behind our camp.

I made an early start to Perryville, arriving Thursday afternoon. I located our camp by finding the tall bald Cpl Cochran standing next to Capt Sharp smoking his vapor pipe.

Capt Sharp had a rather large role in the planning of the event and was both the mixed camp coordinator and an engineer for the battle scenarios.  His duties kept him away from camp, so I was assigned the duty of leading the 1st Tennessee for the weekend. 

I set my camp and enjoyed the day.  By supper there was a small group of us, so we made our way back to the village of Perryville and grabbed some burgers from the local grill.

There was supposed to be a tactical early Friday morning, but with very few of the 1st on site, and none of whom were interested in an early hike, so we chose to sleep in. 

Capt. Sharp's duties never ended as tried to manage arrivals as they camped, ignoring the maps that indicated sites and encroached into various battalion perimeters.  With nothing to do for the day, except for an eight pm officer's call, I relaxed by my tent reading "Maney's Confederate Brigade at the Battle of Perryville" by Stuart Sanders--an excellent book I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about the battle.

All of the men arrived by supper to enjoy the wonderful chicken chili dinner the ladies cooked for us.

At officers' call for the Independent Guard Battalion, we discussed the plans for the weekend and decided about uniting with the Tennessee Valley Battalion to form a new brigade to represent us and to cooperate together in this area of the country.

The night was surprisingly warm--or at least seemed so with the hand warmers I kept under my covers.

Saturday morning started early with a seven a.m. officers' meeting, followed soon after with battalion parade, where we voted for the positions of colonel, lt. colonel, and major.  The three nominated to those positions were unopposed, so were quickly voted in.  Danny Linkous was re-elected to colonel, I was elected to lt. colonel, and Richard DeWitt was elected to major.

We then formed with the Tennessee Valley Battalion to hold a regimental parade, followed by drill.  It was after 10 am when we finally made it back to camp, with only about 90 minutes to enjoy the hearty breakfast the ladies had cooked for us.

We formed the company for battle and I led the men into battalion formation, where we joined the Tennessee Valley Battalion to go into battle as the 1st Tennessee Regiment.  We were last company, the 12th company of the regiment, and we were led into battle with our own company colors, the only of two colors taken into battle belonging to a private group.  The rest of the colors were issued by the park--but ours was allowed to be used due to its accuracy to the original. 

Andrew Enyart was responsible for making our colors about nine years ago.  He visited a museum in Nashville, Tennessee, took pictures and made careful measurements to ensure our flag was as close as possible to the original.  His efforts gave us something to be proud of.

The regiment we formed included us, the 1st Tennessee Co B of the Independent Guard Battalion, and the 1st Tennessee Co D of the Tennessee Valley Battalion, so it was a great honor for us to be representing the 1st Tennessee Regiment in this battle.

Before going into battle, we stopped at the memorial cemetery.  Both us and Company D were called forward to offer a firing salute to those who had fallen on this field.
As the battle started, we were in the reserve, so were the last onto the field.  As we pushed up the hill, at times we were ordered to fire by company.  I was thrilled to be able to be able to give the order, "Rock City Guards, Ready! Aim! Fire!"

The battle ended short with many of my men only firing around ten rounds.  
As the brigades returned to camp, Co D joined us as we marched nearby to where thirty of the original 1st Tennessee soldiers had fallen to hold a small memorial service to them. Each of us had been given a couple of Polk-pattern flags to match the 1st Tennessee's battle flag, and the names of the fallen were read off.  Each flag had a name, and as that name was called off, we placed the flag into the ground.  When all names were called off, the line of flags represented a battle line as they might have had at the battle.

We finished the ceremony by retiring our own flag, an emotional moment for many of us.  Sgt Nyman carried the flag in review before each of Co B, and then the flag was folded, never to be unfurled again.  A monument will be constructed to mark the place where the soldiers of the 1st Tennessee Regiment fell, and underneath that monument our flag will be buried.

We returned to camp to enjoy another meal our ladies provided.  I cannot express enough gratitude for the meals that the ladies of the 1st Tennessee Co B cooked for us.

As dark encroached, most of us loaded our knapsacks with extra blankets and put on our great coats to march back to Starkweather Hill.  Our goal was to come as close as we could determine to where Marcus Toney wrote that he had buried the dead from the original Company B.  It was a dark march as Company D from the Tennessee Valley Battalion joined us and we only had a couple of lanterns and moonlight to guide the way.  Capt Sharp led the way into the woods, hitting his shin on a rock when deciding we were probably as close as we were going to get.  We laid our ground cloths down on the incline and covered up for the night.  Pvt Compton brought some charcoal to get a fire going, but I think we were all too tired to really care about much of one, but Capt Sharp did put together a bit of dead brush for a ten minute fire.  

Marching back to camp after our overnight stay near Starkweather Hill
Cpl Cochran did seem to express concern about ghosts in the area, but other than a rather strange and loud howl of some unknown sort that woke us all up, it was a rather uneventful night.  The sound is difficult for me to describe as I only heard it in a half-waking state, but others described it as the sound from a deflating balloon--I suppose similar to when you stretch the end of it to get it to screech.  It gave quite a start to many of the men, but I was back asleep before I heard anyone comment on it.  The next day, some commented that it may have been a bobcat.

Sunday morning was light.  We had a quick battalion parade to inspect weapons, then returned to camp and enjoyed a pancake breakfast, then had until noon to form for the afternoon battle near the Bottom House, on the opposite end of the battlefield from our battle Saturday.

The march to the battlefield was long and arduous.  Though we didn't march with our packs like we did on Saturday, it was a longer march under seemingly hotter weather.  We had plenty of time to recover once we reached our staging area for the battle, so we were good and ready to go when our turn into the fight came.  Representing the 13th Arkansas, we pushed across Doctor's Creek, getting our feet a bit wet, and our uniforms muddy as we scrambled up the embankment on the far side of the creek.  The entire battle we pushed uphill, and it proved overwhelming to a number of the men.  Col Linkous had to fall out for a little to catch his breath, and Dave Julian, brevetted to Lt Col. also was out for a little, leaving Major Rick DeWitt in charge.  Still green, I think at one point he, seeking advice, even asked me, "Should we just go to independent fire?" To which I responded, "Sounds good to me, sir!"  Major DeWitt strikes me as one who will do the work to learn his role as major--and being put into trial by fire probably was one of the best training points he could have gotten.  I'm certain he will prove an excellent resource in his new position.

Col Linkous did return to command once he was able to catch back up with us, pushing us on to the top of the hill.  The battle ended for us, though, when one of the privates of the consolidated 10th Tennessee/Austen's Battalion had a malfunction with his rifle where the nipple blew out and burned his hand.  He'll probably be wearing a bandage for a week or so, but otherwise he seemed to be okay.

I formed the men up for the last time for the weekend and started to give them a quick speech for their excellent service when I was interrupted by Capt Sharp running up to us.  "What do you think you're doing with my men!" he shouted at me and then saluted and said, "Lt Judge, you are relieved," to which I replied, "I am relieved, sir!" I stepped aside to let Capt Sharp give the closing message, and then mosey us to the parking lot to our cars.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm not wearing my glasses

Sidney Ohio

September 17-18, 2016

After setting camp, rain threatened, but never materialized.  We hoped to have as many as 20 rifles show, but arrivals were light.  In the end, the 1st had around ten rifles plus a handful from the 13th VA and 9th KY.

The night was comfortable, interrupted by light rain and a thunderstorm.

With Capt Sharp as overall commander of a two company battalion, I had command of the 1st Tennessee.  Because of Capt Sharp's high level of involvement in the planning for the event, he was given a gator to be able to quickly travel about the park.  He got a bit of enjoyment out of riding it around, dropping off wood for all the camps, and threatened to four-wheel it through the creek around midnight.

Saturday morning brought rations in excess, and I ate a hearty breakfast, though I decided to not break my teeth on the hardtack.

After battalion parade, the other company went on patrol while members of the 1st Tennessee were assigned picket duty.

Rain arrived and soaked the grounds, and Capt Sharp had me go ahead and pull the pickets.  We heard reports of the possibility of delaying the battle, but we were able to keep to the schedule.

A few of us, including myself, put on ponchos to try to keep from getting much wetter as we went into the battle.  I tried to follow Capt Sharp's guide as I led the 1st Tennessee, but my game was off.  I did okay, but I felt like a deer staring down headlights, messing up commands and sluggish with the delivery.  We crossed the creek beside the covered bridge and made our way across the battlefield against the Yankees.  The other company soon joined us, but were in a bit of disarray as they were a consolidation of about five companies with too many NCOs. We were pushed back to the bridge, and we left the field.

With how much I felt I messed things up, I started blaming it on the fact I wasn't wearing my glasses.

The event served supper for us back in the civilian area.  The meal was a delicious and healthy serving of pulled-pork and chicken with potatoes.

When the night got dark, we marched out to the creek for a night battle.   The infantry lit up the night with barrage after barrage, with an occasional blast from artillery.  Occasionally Lt James Sturckler shouted random orders to make it sound like we had more going on, such as "Bring up the ammo wagon!"  I responded, "Ammo wagon coming forward, sir!"  It was black, and only the light from our the muzzles gave any indication of where we were.

Sunday morning we were assigned a patrol action to a ford along the creek.  We expected to encounter the enemy, so when we reached the ford, I sent Sgt Carte with a squad to scout ahead.  When they signaled us clear, I sent the rest of the company across while the first squad remained at the ready, expecting the enemy to arrive at any time.  On the far side, we set up defensive positions, then eyed over the top of the banks to find the field clear.  The Yankees must have gotten lost or something.  We followed a canal tow path down toward the Yankee camp at 10 pace intervals for a time, until we came to a bridge that a few Yankees held.  Rapidly moving each file into position on the path to fire, then vacating for the next file, we pushed our way to the bridge and took it.  The Yankees took position down a small ravine, giving us the high ground.  They continued their retreat, and we pursued them from the high ground in quickly moving skirmish lines all the way back to civilian camp.  Capt Sharp noticed that Yankee reinforcements might soon arrive, and a Union gun started to move into position, so we abandoned the pursuit and made our way back across the creek.

For the battle, the 1st Tennessee staged near the civilian camp behind the spectators.  The plan was that we would be the reinforcements into the battle.  As the battle progressed, our other company was pushed back nearly completely off the field, and Capt Sharp called us onto the field.  I ordered the 1st down at the double-quick, bringing us onto the field a mere ten feet from a lone soldier with a Henry.  After a quick foul word of shock, that soldier skedaddled off.

We pushed the Yankees back, and eventually took the field.

As we marched back to camp to end the weekend, I ordered "Right shoulder-shift".  My brain started messing things up again, and wanted to say "march", but I knew the execution was "arms"--causing it to come out "marms".  I wasn't wearing my glasses.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Outnumbered at Shawshank

Ohio State Reformatory

Mansfield, OH

August 27, 2016

With a significant number of promises from the men of meeting Capt Sharp at the Ohio Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, we planned to spend a good portion of the day in drill, fine-tuning our skills for the next couple of events.

But much of that number went AWOL, leaving us with little more than a squad, so any idea of drill was quickly forgotten.

Pvt Steve Winston pitched his tent and started the fire.  Sgt Jeff Carte set up a tent and the fly.  But as this was a one-day event, most arrived Saturday morning in time for roll-call.

Instead, we spent much of the day in discussion.  Capt Sharp spent some time with us working out ideas for first-person impressions.  We did have a short drill, but a second drill, planned as consolidated with the Yankee contingent, was canceled when Capt Sharp was called away to assist in convincing a very ailing Doc Gill to report to Q Company.

When night fell, after visiting several scenes of era civilians headed by Elizabeth Topping, a tour of the public came out to meet with us.  Capt Sharp gave a talk discussing our life as soldiers while a couple of men stood picket a ways off, and the rest of us just hung around looking busy.  Eventually a small Yankee contingent attacked.  We pushed them off, and the night concluded.

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Preparing for Battle

Perryville Cleanup Day

August 20th 2016

Perryville, KY

Saturday morning on August 20--just after 9 am--we met with the park officials at Perryville Battlefield.  They gave us some tools, and we headed for the hill next to Starkweather Hill.

The job before us was to remove a modern wire fence that had put up after the Battle of Perryville.  This work in particular was important as we would be fighting the Saturday battle during the October reenactment across this land.  This was ground recently acquired by the park where few had ever been since the battle, and not far beyond this fence is where many of the original 1st Tennessee were buried after the battle.

At the bottom of the hill, Steven Winston had already started Friday afternoon, removing a good portion of the fence.  We started with bold cutters, pulling off fencing through weeds and overgrowth, folding the pieces up into piles to be carried away later.  Progress was slow and the ground was wet.  Steven Winston worked with Kurt (the curator of the park) in pulling the fence posts and placing them in piles to be pulled away.

At one point, Rick Compton needed to get something out of his truck at the top of the hill, and drove it back down to where we worked.  He got it in his head that there had to be an easier way to remove the fence.

He was proud of his four wheel drive Ford F-150 with with brush guards, and anxious to learn what all the newfangled buttons were for. Rick was giddy with delight at being able to use his truck in this manner, and I was more than happy to assist with this play time.  We hooked a strap to the front of his truck, then around some of the wire fence and he threw the truck into reverse, pulling the fence off taking about a hundred yards of of fence in short order.

Over the course of the day, we broke the 4000 pound strap a couple of times trying to pull the fence with Ricks truck out of a tree.

At 1 p.m. we had almost finished the fence with about a hundred yards to go, but were called in due to an incoming storm.

We met back at the Museum and then to the local Marathon station where there was food to eat for lunch, returning to the fence after the rains had cleared.

We finished the work after about an hour, returning to Danville to our hotel and eating at a local pizza place.

Monday, August 15, 2016


I was the first of the company to arrive at Hale Farm, and found we were assigned our usual location in the woods.  I started to drive my car down the trail into the woods, but rains had been pummeling the area, leaving rutted mud paths where the wheels of my car would only spin, so I parked just to the edge of the woods and started unloading.

I was soon confronted by Col Van Wey with a handshake.  Among a bit of small talk he pointed to the piles of dirt on the field where the battles would be held.  The crew that made those piles had not followed the instructions which included the digging of trenches.  However, it was probably good as we agreed we would probably end up reenacting the Parting of the Red Sea.

The rest of the company arrived, and all but myself decided to campaign, sleeping under a fly or shebang.  I came, not knowing what rank I would hold, so had gear for both private and lieutenant and needed a place to store my spare gear, so had the only A in camp.

With the threat of rain lasting all weekend long, our numbers were down.  None of our ladies attended.

The schedule Saturday was pretty light, with only picket duty being assigned.  An abundance of rations was issued early and timely, which included pork, potatoes, eggs, and apples.

We went into parade with my rifle in my hand.  We expected a new recruit to arrive who would be carrying my gun, but he had not shown yet, and we needed the rifles.

A quick morning parade, then we worked to improve the breastworks, adding logs to strengthen.  When we finished we were free to relax and enjoy the rest of our morning.

Our new recruit did finally show, and we outfitted him in time for battle, allowing me to carry a sword instead of a rifle.

We went into battle and defended the breastwork.  As the battle neared completion, the rains hit hard, first drenching the crowds, giving us a show as if the apocalypse was upon us as they scattered to shelter.  But the rains quickly hit us as well, and we had the men clear muskets and double-quick to the shelter of the woods.

The rains continued for hours, turning our camp into a lake.  Picket duty was canceled.  Dinner approached and Pvt Compton cooked a tasty dinner for us, combining the rations with corn, spinach, and onion, running out to the campfire when the rains let up and returning to shelter when the clouds opened up.

Pvt Matt Roberts showed up late into the night and joined us, setting up a shebang next to Cpl Silvers.

I settled for the night, getting dry in the warm night inside my tent.

Morning came to more wet.  Pvt Compton wanted to cook up breakfast for us, but finally gave up out of frustration, unable to get coals worked up between the heavy and constant rains.  Except for morning parade and the battle, all other activities were canceled.

Between parade and the battle, we broke camp and hauled off our gear to our cars, trying to beat the worst of the rains we heard were coming.

The battle proceeded, and we fought until we ran out of ammunition, but we held the breastworks.

And with nothing left dry in our possession, we left.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Bold and the Beautiful

Gathering at Garst
Greenville OH

July 30-31, 2016

I arrived late Friday to living history area at the Garst Museum in Greenville, OH for the Gathering at Garst event.

Greenville was a quiet event, with numbers down from previous years.  We set camp with four tents in a corner of the park and relaxed the night.  Rain was a concern for the weekend, as it the sky had angrily drenched the area earlier, but we were hopeful.  The air was dense with moisture--so thick that I could see my breath even though I was drenched in sweat.

As I lay on the ground in my tent in the warm air, I felt heat pulled from me, and realized that I would be uncomfortably cold once I fell asleep.  It occurred to me that the wet ground was responsible, so I slept on top of my blanket, instead of underneath it--and maintain a cozy body temperature throughout the night.

Saturday morning came and I fried up my regular bacon and eggs.  One soldier from Arkansas asked to fall in with us for the weekend, so we gave him a home, which we later grew to regret.

Once the park opened to the public, we received a visit from a young woman interested in history, one Caitlin.  Though Capt. Sharp, having removed his rank, dominated the conversation with covering everything from the materials of our uniform to the various battles of the 1st, the rest of us provided solid contributions.  I did hope that Capt. Sharp would continue for as long as possible as it kept Ms. Clark in our presence all the more.  Her only flaw was that she would soon be moving to Virginia.

We later met with a new recruit, David, another promising student of history.

Throughout the day we presented our living history, teaching about the life of the soldier and about the history of the 1st Tennessee.

Dinner time arrived and a few of us decided to pass on keeping with period and visited a local restaurant called "Maid Rite" and feasted on sandwiches of ground beef.

Back in camp, we held casual conversations, but reached levels of annoyance with our visiting soldier.  Throughout the day, this soldier tended to interject in conversations with little to add, usually interrupting a voice of value. During our evening conversations he hijaacked the night with tirades of how he was $5,000 upside-down on his car.  I tried to change the subject by commenting how fantastic Sgt. Carte's frock was--but the guest continued on without notice.  Pvt Myers and I both vacated the area for some moments to relieve ourselves at the porcelain palace, returning nearly ten minutes later without a single point of the hijaacking missed.  I think a clue finally crept into the man's obtuse cranium when Pvt Myers and I relocated our seats away from him and around the campfire, as he finally said his goodbyes (taking some ten minutes to do so) and departing. We were relieved that he had not set a tent.

Sunday was a bit lighter, with two of our numbers unable to return for the day.  The lesser numbers had little effect, however, since there was also lesser of the public visiting our camp.  We did, however, encounter one former fireman from Tennessee who expressed interest in joining our group--I gave him our contact information and hope to hear from him soon.  We also found a young college student who plans to study history that was interested in joining up with us, and I hope to hear from him soon as well.

Our soldier guest did return, to our chagrin--at one point annoying Sgt Carte that he finally spoke up scolded him when he started down a discussion with a member of the public about Bedford Forrest--the details of such subject had no relevance to our purpose.

Overall it was a relaxing weekend, exercising some of our demonstration skills and finding several potential recruits.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Through the Woods

Sharon Woods Heritage Village
Sharonville, Ohio

Photo courtesy Cincinnati Enquirer

July 9-10, 2016

Arriving Friday at Sharon Woods Heritage Village was unremarkable.  I was the first of the company to arrive, so I found our designated campsite and pitched my tent.  A steady stream arrived, and by nightfall most of the 1st Tennessee was present.

The night was warm, so I laid my poncho under a tree near my tent and slept there, undisturbed and rather comfortable through the night.

As I cooked my morning bacon and eggs, there were concerns for a light reenactor turnout.  Although the 1st Tennessee was there in force, with numbers that included several new recruits, many of the other companies, both Confederate and Yankee, lacked the expected numbers.  Capt Sharp, breveted to colonel for the weekend as the overall Confederate commander, worked on contigency plans in the event the necessary soldiers were AWOL for the battle, including the possibility of splitting the 1st into two companies, as we had nearly 20 rifles present.

With the duties of overall command, Capt. Sharp left the military responsiblities of the company to me.  We drilled for about an hour, spending extra time with wheels since there seemed to be difficulty in keeping a straight line.

After a break of a few hours for lunch, we formed with the battalion for battle.  The scenario for both days was the Battle of Balls Bluff.  Capt. Sharp reassigned about five of the 1st Tennessee to another company to balance the numbers.  In all, we had three companies to take into battle.  Capt Sharp led the first two onto the battlefield, while I took the 1st Tennessee the other way, down a trail into the woods.  At a point where the gravel path turned away, I led them off, heading up a hill.  The steep grade proved difficult for a few, so we paused at the top to catch our breath.

Continuing, I led them through, leaving the men guessing as to our destination.  We could hear the sound of cannon and muskets as we pushed our way through untraveled brush.  We soon came through the woods onto the road, following it to the top of the hill beside the battlefield.

Carefully finding out footing on the way down the hill, we reformed at the bottom, charging out to assault the Yankees.  The other two Confederate companies were being overwhelmed by the enemy, but rallied once we provided the numbers.  We pushed the Yankees back, turning the battle and quickly gaining victory.

Once the battle concluded, a couple of Yankee soldiers ran back and forth with a litter, overwhelmed as they carried off the dead and wounded.

We had a few hours after the battle to relax and got a few games of Euchre in.  It had been awhile since we had played, so it was nice to get back to tradition.

We formed for parade and held inspection shortly after the men were given enough time to clean their muskets.

Supper included barbeque chicken and shredded beef with macaroni and cheese.

Another warm night brought morning to more bacon and eggs.  We canceled drill, so most of the morning was relaxed to hanging around the campfire and playing some Euchre.

Capt Sharp met with the Yankee commanders to discuss the battle, and informed how impressed he was by the relationship that was building.  He told me they saluted him to honor him as the planner for the battle scenario.

As the time for battle arrived, the 4th Ohio joined us, switching uniforms to galvanize as the 4th Florida.  With their numbers, we were more balanced and did not need to split off the 1st into another company.  I was surprised to get a number of requests of the 1st Tennessee to repeat the action through the woods that we had done Saturday--which provided us less time to burn powder.

After we inspected arms, I again took the men down the trail through the woods, then up the hill.  When we came onto he field, we pushed hard and fast at the double-quick after the Yankees, quickly pushing back toward the creek.

As we neared the conclusion of hostilities, one of the soldiers experienced a malfunction in his musket.  The cleaning screw of his Springfield blew out.  A couple of men next to him received a bit of the blow-out, but no one--fortunately--was hurt.  One had a small cut, while another was protected from an eyepatch he was wearing for medical reasons.

Other than that malfunction, the weekend was a solid success.  We heard reports that the battle scenario was the best ever experienced at Sharon Woods.

More photos

Monday, June 13, 2016

Anybody want a gun?

Thunder in the Valley

Battle of Cross Keys

Port Republic, Virginia

June 11-12, 2016

With the long drive to Virginia, J.R. Sharp, Chad Cochran, Jeff Carte, Rick Compton, Mark Nichols, and I stopped in Lexington for a tour of Lee's Chapel at Washington and Lee University, and a tour of the museum at VMI.

Aftward, J.R. checked his smart phone for a local restaurant, finding the Southern Inn, which looked promising.  He reserved our place--but when we arrived and were seated, he realized by the superfluous amount of silverware he had picked the wrong restaurant.  Although the food was excellent, our casual dress put us a bit out of place, and the prices put a bit of a dent in our wallets.

Returning to the drive, we followed GPS coordinates to the address we were given for registration for Thunder in the Valley, and were led to a road the led to nowhere.  Fortunately, a bit of educated guessing got us on track, and we soon found our destination, unpacking and changing into our uniforms and gear (though J.R. and Chad chose to change back at Lee's Chapel).  Jeff and Mark parked their trucks at the parking lot a few miles away, returning by shuttle, while Rick and I watched the gear and J.R. and Chad headed for the officer's meeting.

For the weekend, J.R. took the rank of major.  Chad was corporal, posting with the color guard.  Jeff was also a corporal, while Mark, Rick and I were privates.

Once Mark and Jeff returned, we marched the distance to camp and bivouacked for the night.

The night was a bit cool as I had a little difficulty keeping warm under my blanket--eventually pulling out my shelter half out of my knapsack to use as an extra blanket.  The ground was uneven and highly sloped.  At one point during the night, Cpl Carte rolled a distance down the hill.

Morning finally came and I ate a supply of my pre-cooked bacon out of my haversack, along with a bit of other rations.  Cpl Cochran brought an abundance of essence of coffee, and was able to supply me with a hearty cup.  Though it was sweetened, it was satisfying.

The morning was spent relaxing, waiting, drilling, and holding battalion parade.  We had a long 3 mile march ahead of us in high heat, so Lt. Col. Ben Cwayna instructed us to leave behind anything that was not necessary.  Pvt Compton quickly took the lead, dumping whatever he could, even holding up his musket and asking, "Anybody want a gun?"

We marched out for the battle, facing the Yankees from behind a fence.  Skirmishers went out first, facing the Yankees beyond the crest of the hill and out of our sight, then falling back.  As we hunkered down behind the fence, we eventually saw the Stars and Stripes rise to our far right above the crest, followed by the Yankee battalion.

The split-rail fence was stacked in a jagged formation, and our line followed this formation, giving us difficulty in safely firing upon the Yankees, so our section worked out a routine where two would take to the fence and fire, falling back to reload while the next two filled the gap.  Eventually the Yankees were forced back and we pushed our way onto the field, eventually winning the day.

When we began our march, I immediately realized that we were marching at too fast a pace, complaining about it to those around me.  We might be fine for the first mile, but in this heat (in the 90s) I knew we would be suffering casualties.  Our rate was at a quick-step, instead of a normal common-time step.

We climbed the first hill on the asphat that steadily baked our feet, and Cpl Carte already had to step out.  I stood with him, to make sure he would be all right, continuing the march from the back with Major Sharp at the back of the column once Jeff was loaded into the follow vehicle.

We stopped for a short five-minute break to refill canteens, and continued on, Cpl Carte rejoining us, stopping again for about half an hour about halfway.  By now we already had about a half-dozen casualties.

We stopped again for another short five minutes to refill canteens, stopping at a crossroad in the sun.  I was able to march most of the way, but after this stop I found difficulty keeping the pace, eventually hitching a ride with the follow vehicle when I found myself at the back of the column, getting further and further behind.

We finally arrived at camp, near a fork of the river and many took to cooling off, wading through the cool waters.  I threw off all my gear and crashed.

As hunger set in for the evening, we heard rumors of someone selling cooked chicken halves.  She was eventually tracked down, and we happily enjoyed the chicken over rations we had carried.

I slept through the night in an unconscious stupor, keeping comfortable in the warm air.

We prepared for another march--this one a two-mile march to the next battlefield.  A number of soldiers decided to find a way to ride on a shuttle to the battlefield, and so I and Major Sharp decided to join them.  I figured I probably could have made the march--but I had nothing to prove and did not want to tear myself apart marching in the grueling sun.

We followed the column in the truck and picked up casualties as they fell, eventually arriving at the battlefield.

We rested at the edge of the wooded trail that led to the battlefield, finally marching single-file in.  We reformed at the foot of a hill to begin our assault.  One battalion pushed forward and was repulsed, then our battalion pushed up the hill until we were repulsed.  We made a second push up the hill, but the ground was steep and slick, and I could no longer keep up.  I eventually stumbled over a log to find Major Sharp recovering from the wounds of war, where I fell beside him to recover from my own wounds.

The battle soon ended, through I don't know who won.  I just know I was ready to sleep in the truck on the way home.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Cycle Begins Again

Hartford City, IN

May 14-15, 2016

The sun Friday as I arrived gave a false promise of good weather for the weekend at Hartford City.  I was able to keep warm through the night, almost too warm, even.

But as I rose Saturday morning to wind and occasional cold spit from the skies we struggled to keep warm around the fire as we cooked for morning breakfast, tearing our eyes through the smokey burn of cedar.  Stories of the night of canvas flying off their posts from the wind and ridgepoles falling on the tent occupants circled around the fire.

It was to be a busy day, with a morning battle immediately after parade, followed by a drill at one, and a second battle at four.  The battle scenarios for both of Saturday's battles and for Sunday's battle centered around parts of First Manassas.

We were to lose that first battle.  I brought my wing down to face the Yankee wing, and we reached a stand-off with even numbers.  Capt Sharp told me he would cause the 1st Tennessee (7th Company) to break, giving the entire wing the excuse to collapse and fall back, if only the Yankees would fire a volley by wing--or even by company.  But they continued only at independent fire--so I ordered a fire by wing, and immediately withdrew the entire wing in an apparent panic withdrawal, to give the crowds the impression of a total collapse.  We reformed and gave enough pressure only to slow the Yankee advance, but not to stop it, eventually forcing us from the field.

We sat around the fire, shifting to the fly whenever cold spit started hitting us from the heavens, fighting to keep warm in any way we could.  As the time for drill approached, Colonel  Linkous decided to cancel drill to allow us the chance to stay warm and dry.

We formed for the afternoon battle.  The colonel instructed me that I was to take my wing to face a Yankee wing that would be down at the low point in the center of the battlefield, so I took the wing at the left flank onto the battlefield.  As I crested the hill, however, I saw that the Yankees were in fact much further to our left.  I had planned on simply fronting the wing, adjusting the line with a short wheel, if needed, but this was no longer appropriate.  Without thinking that the men were at the left flank, I ordered, "Companies into Line", followed by "Forward into line on the last company".

Taking cover from an artillery blast.
If you are not a reenactor, you won't realize how difficult this can be done at the left flank.  Maneuvers like this are almost never done at the left flank--so everything is pretty much an opposite mirror of what we are all used to doing.  To do "Companies into Line", each company does "Company into line", which forms each company into a battle line.  Normally, when doing this at the right flank, the companies form off their 1st sergeant (forming to the left), but at the left flank, it's off the second sergeant (forming to the right), which can be confusing if too much thought is put into the process.  And my "Forward into line" command, which (I believe) should have been "By inversion, forward into line," would normally be followed by a left half-wheel--but because we were marching inverted, is followed by a right half-wheel instead.

I have to say, that in spite of being at the left flank, and being inverted, and my not getting the last command right, the men executed the maneuvers perfectly.  I almost regretted performing these maneuvers, because at 1st Manassas, the men would not have been drilled very well, and I am not sure that the actual soldiers would have maneuvered as well as these men did this early in the war.

Once in our battleline, I took my time advancing.  We pushed a little, and the Yankee wing advanced to face us.  But at one point, the Yankees shifted to our left to try and flank us.  The error in that plan, however, was that it forced me to cause the 1st Tennessee to refuse, putting them at an angle that caused us to be directed toward the watching crowd.  The entire Yankee line soon joined the angle, so all I could do was to answer, wheeling the wing to face them.  For safety concerns, the 4th Florida refused to fire at the direction toward the crowd--and I held no issue with that.  Those Yankees were turning the battle into a farce.  I looked to the right to see the situation that right wing was in--and the Yankees they faced were near decimated while right wing was still at full strength.  This action the Yankees were doing was a fool's errand--we were even matched.  All I needed do was to stand fast and wait for right wing to join the fray, and the Yankees would be bottled up with no where to go.

The Yankees did finally get a brain in their midst and start to retreat before our right wing could join us, allowing us to readjust our angle away from the crowd.  It was a learning experience, and after the battle we discussed the action and how to prepare to prevent the Yankees from making such a move again--so for Sunday's battle we were prepared.

The meal offered that evening was quite enjoyable, though a number of the 1st Tennessee--including Capt Sharp--stayed in camp to have some Cowboy stew, which they regretted the next morning.  Though when I and Private Farrelly returned to camp with Cherry cobbler, they couldn't help but make the trek to the mess hall to grab some desserts of their own.

Through the night Saturday I was unable to keep warm, waking on occasion to shiver out enough warmth to drift to sleep again.  Once I woke to hear the sound of rain on my canvas.

A dreary light through the canvas woke me, and eventually I heard the sounds of the 1st Tennessee as they gathered by the campfire.  I gathered myself, tied my cravat, straightened my hair, put on my coat and boots, and trudged out to the fire to give my morning greetings in a grunt that acknowledged their presence.

The day looked to be better than Saturday, with the sun peaking through the clearing skies, but started much colder.

I cooked my breakfast and headed to headquarters to get the day's schedule.

We formed for parade at 10:30, and afterward drilled for about an hour.

We formed for the battle, which was planned to be Jackson's stand at Manassas.

I took the left wing out to the left in an inverted column, bringing them on the left into line once in position.

We pushed down the hill to the Yankee wing and met with solid resistance.  Unable to push, we began to fall back, but soon our lines broke as soldiers fled back.  I reformed the wing behind right-wing, who pushed forward in force to allow us to regroup.  We dressed to the right wing and pushed. When I saw the entire Yankee wing turn to retreat, I ordered us to push, stopping only when the Yankees turned to face us. I thought of ordering the men at the double-quick, but we were already pushing faster than the colors and the right wing.

I let Capt Sharp take the 7th company off on their own to flank the wing--but the Yankees kept falling back before he had the chance.  We pushed all the way to the Yankee artillery, and Capt Sharp took the chance to capture one of the guns.  The Yankees surrendered shortly after.

Article of Event

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Defencing the Line


Perryville, KY

April 23, 2016

We drove down to Perryville, KY and set up camp at the Baymont Inn in Harrodsburg, surviving the night with what sounded like someone sharpening a sword with a grindstone.

We broke camp early, arriving at the Perryville Battlefield at 9 am, meeting with Chad Greene for instructions.  Our simple goal was to progress the battlefield toward its condition at the time of the battle.  Because the actual clean-up day was the same day as our drill, the park set up this special day for cleanup exclusively for us.

One of the piles of wire fencing we removed.
He directed us to a wire fence with barbwire that needed removed.  Expectations were that it would take us the bulk of the day to remove the some three to four hundred yards of fencing, but the thirteen of us worked quickly, completely stripping the wire well before noon, having time to begin work in tearing a barn down.

Part way into the barn demolition
We stopped for lunch, eating hot dogs and chips provided by the caretakers of the battlefield.

We returned to the barn and finished stripping the sides off and removing boards inside.  The wood we saved was to be used in constructing a barn that will be burned down during the reenactment in October.  Once we cleared the construction, Chad Greene lashed a chain to the support beams and had a bobcat pull the barn down.  We finished our work removing the tin roof.

After cleaning up back in Harrodsburg, we made our way to the Kentucky Fudge Factory and relaxed to a quiet evening on the back porch.

We endured another night of sword sharpening, then headed home, stopping at the Lexington Cemetery to see the graves of a number of Confederate soldiers, including a member of the original 1st Tennessee Co B.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cold and the Wet

The season of wool and gunpowder opened with battalion drill.  The 44th Tennessee, 1st Tennessee, and a consolidation of the 50th Virginia, 5th Virginia, and 19th Virginia met at Hartford City, Indiana to work out the rust of the winter.

I arrived at camp early Friday, finding our new 1st Sergeant, Jeff Carte, unloading some of his gear.  We set up the fly and I started a campfire, reporting back to Capt Sharp to keep the beast from rearing for failing our duties.

Winds picked up and spurts of rain kept us running to the fly for cover.  A few of us, including Capt Sharp, Pvt Compton, Cpl Cochran, and Pvt Myers decided to try to campaign while the rest of us set up tents.  About three times through the night the campaigners had to move from the fire to under the fly to avoid the rain, returning when the drench passed.  The third time, Pvt Compton moved to his car when the fly collapsed, dumping a bucket on him.

The temperature dropped to freezing, chilling me awake and keeping from a good sleep.

Well had roll call, then formed the battalion.  The winds were high, but sky was clear, though cold.  The companies went separate ways to drill, the 1st staying at the cabins behind a hill, while the other two companies went to the top of the hill into a high gale.

After lunch, the weather turned bad, so we relocated battalion drill to the gymnasium at the Indiana National Guard Armory.  We drilled a number of maneuvers, but the space was limited.  We did finally make it through the day of drill, breaking by mid-afternoon for the weekend.