Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hartford City Civil War Days, 2010

Hartford City has always been one of my favorite events every year.  A large event that pretty much closes out the season.  Plenty (almost too much) of things to keep us busy, weather usually a touch cool (perfect wool weather), lots of sutlers, and a good tactical.

Unfortunately, the cool weather part didn't work out this year--it almost felt like the Jackson, MI event.  Since when does October have temperatures in the 80s?

But it was nice and dry--a great change from last year.  The 1st Tennessee set camp in their usual spot on the north side of the high knoll, near the artillery raising the 1st national flag about 30 feet from where the 3rd national flag waved (which struck me as a bit odd).

Saturday did seem to start mighty early for us.  First call for morning battalion drill came at 8 am.

This year's theme reenacted the Battle of Gettysburg--meaning that we lose every battle.  Probably just as well: we've begun to feel like the only way we can get the Federals out on the field is to promise them victory.

Sgt. Mott pickets at his tent.
As a side note, if you are reading my blog, you might be looking forward to reading my perspective on the battles.  Unfortunately, being a private, I can't really give you much.  Although I enjoy the battles, my perspective is rather narrow-visioned.  I have soldiers to both sides of me and in front of me (I'm usually in the rear rank), focus on following the captain's, lieutenant's, or sergeant's orders, and on loading, aiming, and shooting at the blue coats I see.  Describing a battle afterward to anyone would involve adding only the small variations that happen to stand out, plus any embellishments I find amusing.

Saturday afternoon the event held a pumpkin carving contest.  Our 1st Sergeant, or at least his effigy, won 1st place, when he was placed as a picket in front of his dog tent.

We were introduced to Steve Winston's new tent-mate, Fred Smith.  Sunday morning we carried Fred around in his casket to the undertaker and a few of the Confederate units to show him off and get some amusement.  There were some public that watched and got some enjoyment out of the scenario delivered to the unsuspecting undertaker. 

Fred Smith is a bit worn out.

Jeff Davis takes a nap.
I think Steve's got too much time on his hands.  But he is certainly the best Jefferson Davis impersonator I've ever seen, and he's not even trying!  I think he should work out a first person impression of Jeff Davis.  Although he's napping in the picture to the left, you can really see the resemblance.  Put a planter's hat on him, and Steve would pass as Davis's double.

The Virginia Reel at the Military Ball
As much as I wanted to be a part of the Euchre playing that evening (J.R. Sharp and Gary Evens wanted to end the season on a winning note), I needed to head off to the military ball as the caller.  The one thing about Hartford City that I'd like to see changed is that the ball be held on-site instead of off-site at the local 4H building.  I've heard from several reenactors say that it would be nice if it could be held on the campgrounds.  As many participants as we get, I'm not sure how feasible this would be, but it might work if held in a flat open space with plenty of lanterns for light.  The rounders field could work.  But anyway, I do enjoy calling this ball, and it seems to get better every year.  This year started a little later than I would have liked (8:30), but to my surprise a substantial sized group still danced up to midnight.  The Tri-County Revelers were my musicians--a great band to work with--they'll basically do anything you ask.  I haven't worked with too many different bands, but I've been with some bands where they'll say something like, "We're contracted to 11 p.m., so we're out of here at 11 p.m."  The Tri-County Revelers are more than willing to go as long as I, and I'll go until either the dancers have had enough or I'm ready to drop.  I ended the night thinking, "Maybe I can do one more", but kept remembering a quote from Milton Berle--"Always leave them wanting more".  There's nothing like ending the night on that note.

This event was the only for me that had a tactical not canceled due to lack of Yankee turnout.  If you don't reenact, you wouldn't know about the tacticals.  These are battles with basic rules held without the public--where either side could win based on the rules of the game.  This tactical was one of the better ones I've been involved with.  Our company double-quicked around most of the campgrounds to meet up with a vanguard federal unit.  I recognized Jeff Stein with his long white beard in the Federal numbers.  We followed a kind of Jack-in-the-box tactic.  When the Federals weren't expecting it, we double-quicked from behind some trees into formation in the open, fired one company volley at them, then withdrew back to the trees before the Federals could react.  At one point, we saw them through the trees at an "Aim" stance, all guns pointed to where we would form if we popped out again--so we just waited until they got bored.  J.R. and Gary Shaw meandered to the flank and fired some pop shots to divert them, and when those blue-coats fired a volley toward J.R. and Gary, we ran out again, fired a company volley, and charged, taking them all prisoner.  I overhead Jeff Stein laughing about how we'd suddenly be there, then were gone.  The tactical was a victory for the Confederacy.  Afterward, our colonel suggested that next year we could take off our jackets and play the Yankee side while the Federals could play the Rebel side--so that for one year we could say the tactical victory went to the Yankees.

The day ended with Pickett's Charge.  I remember doing this battle four years ago at this event as a Federal, so it was pretty cool to be doing the other side this time.  They told me I'd probably only fire about three shots or so--but fortunately I stashed between thirty and forty rounds in my cartridge box, anyhow.  Every ten to twenty yards they had us stop to perform some dramatic battalion fire, which is cool even if inaccurate.  About 40 yards from the fence Sgt. Shaw asked us to take more hits. I was about out shots, so went down.  When I take a hit, I always fall so that my musket is in my grasp--maybe due to the amount of money I have in it, but I make sure it doesn't get messed up and know where it is.  This time I ended up rather tangled around the rifle, so Gary, in the kindness of his heart, thought he'd assist and move the musket.  I don't really know what he was thinking, but when I heard, "Damn, that's hot!" it felt like I had a newbie next to me.  Gary, you know those guns get hot.

Anyway, it was a good event, and I look forward to this event next year.  The 1st Tennessee is done for the year, but three of us (myself included) still have Guyandotte next month.  I've never been there, so I'm looking forward to something different--I just hope I can keep warm.  We'll be falling in with the 5th Kentucky.

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