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.

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