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