Monday, August 8, 2011

Cavalry Raid on the Nelsonville Train (without the horses)

This weekend was a first-year event in Nelsonville, Ohio.  We were to do an impression of dismounted cavalry and take over the train.  I did the Civil War Train Raid in Lebanon, Ohio a few years back, and it’s hard not to have this type of event be a farb fest.  But it was fun nonetheless.  Since we were to be dismounted cavalry, I got to play with Lil’ Mary (my .44 1858 Remmington) and Nicolas (my best guess is that it is some kind of American target rifle reproduction from a little before the Civil War period).  The concern was that the Confederates would heavily outnumber the Yankees (big surprise there), so a few of us, including me, came ready to galvanize.

The raid was planned for only one train ride, starting a little after 5 pm Saturday, so that left the four of us that camped Friday a lot of time to kill playing Euchre.  Most of the rest of the reenactors showed up around 3 to gear up and attend the planning meeting.

The plan was that the Rebels hide on the train in the last car (which was otherwise empty) to about halfway to one end of the line and sneak off as a few civilian reenactors got on (to give the excuse for stopping the train at an unusual point).  The train would continue to the end, where we would take the train with the public and civilian reenactors (including Doc Gill) on its way back, then ride the train to the end of the line where the full battle would be held.

Being one that was to galvanize, I boarded the train at the depot in my full Confederate gear, with my sidearm in a borrowed holster (I’m still looking for one for myself), both my Springfield and target rifle, and my Yankee blues in my knapsack on my back (try climbing into a train with all that).  When we stopped at the raid point, I left Christine (the Springfield) behind with my knapsack.  I think that’s when I realized there was only one other reenactor galvanizing.  We mulled about for the half hour it took the train to return, with Kevin Feemen asking every so often, “You got yer cards?” Okay, I like my Euchre, but we’d already gotten about 15 games in that day—couldn’t give it a rest for 30 minutes?  I was grateful that Captain Evens (or “Capt’n Sprinkles” as Private Kletzli calls him) gave orders to post us at several locations to prepare for the surprise attack—locations that kept four of us from being together at one spot.

As the train approached we were to fire off a couple of rounds to stop the train, then board it, harassing public and civilian reenactors for a bit of a show.  Somehow this was a bit different than what we ran into at McConnelsville—I guess it was the smaller number of public, or perhaps that we were not doing our standard infantry to begin with.  It just didn’t feel so awkward like McConnelsville did.  My improvisation was off that day—I did little more than look pretty, but still, I got one shot out of my pistol and one shot out of the rifle.  I wanted to get a second shot out of the rifle—but with it using #11 caps, and those were in my vest pocked underneath my jacket inside an old plastic cigar container with a tight lid, I could not exactly reload in a hurry.  It would not have mattered even if the caps were loose in a cap box—have you ever tried to prime a rifle quickly with those tiny little things?

At this point the plan was we would stop at the end of the line when Yankee artillery fired at the train.  The Rebels were to unload, where there was supposed to be a pause in the action so that the public could unload.  I was to take advantage of the pause to race to the last car where I would switch coats, hats, traps, and rifles, unload and stow my knapsack, straw hat, and target rifle in a safe place, then join the Yankee lines to shoot at all my friends.  But, the battle started as soon as I boarded that last car—I had to hurry if I were to join the fight.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it were just the coat, but I had it in my head that I needed to use my Yankee traps—plus I still had five rounds in the side arm, so I had to relocate the holster from my belt with the Georgia frame buckle to my US belt with keeper.  I shoved my butternut shell jacket into my knapsack and almost put it on—but realized I’d probably miss the entire battle if I took the time.  When I got off the train and set my unneeded gear down, I realized I was right next to the public—I tried to give them the impression I had snuck around behind the Rebels (yeah—that’s the ticket).  Unfortunately, I didn’t see any reenactors—they were all around the buildings of the pioneer village we had stopped at.  I had no idea where the Yankee line was, so I did the only thing I could—follow the sound of musket fire.  I saw some butternut moving between buildings, so headed that direction, only to find Confederates on two sides of me—but I had the advantage as they didn’t know I was there.

It was a lot of fun—I emptied my sidearm on Sergeant Mott, who took a hit in glorious drama.  Ducking around a cottage to reload my musket, I started to a corner where a musket blast shot in front of me.  I jumped out around that corner and fired a blast toward Corporal Carte, giving him quite the surprise.

Every so often I could hear what sounded like machine-gun fire.  Then I realized it was just Flash emptying his Henry.  It was in the book, Company Aytch, that Sam Watkins talks of soldiers loading their Henrys on a Sunday and shoot all week long.  I don’t think Flash ever read that book—he loads at 4:15, then again at 4:15 and 30 seconds.

Afterwards, the event coordinators served a delicious pulled-pork meal.  It was probably among the best we’ve had this year.

We discussed ideas and tips for next year, such as seeing about locating the campsite in some shade, or somewhere where the public could interact with us in camp.  I think they should do more than the one train raid ride for the day—with nothing else going on, and with the raid so late in the day, most of the reenactors didn’t have a reason to camp when they could show up at 3 and leave by 8.

Hopefully we’ll get solid numbers next year—it’ll be nice to be able to stay in butternut next year.  It’s kind of awkward being a Confederate in blue—although Kletzli thinks I secretly enjoy it.

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