Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Largest Event

Zoar Ohio, September 17-18, 2011

Large events have their place.  It is always a thrill to go to an event where Yankee numbers match the Rebel numbers, and there are two full battalions on each side. 

I am told that Zoar is the largest event in Ohio, and it is the largest I had ever been to (although Jackson and Hartford City are pretty close)—I have not yet been to a national event.  But it was not an official 1st Tennessee event, so only a handful from the unit attended.  Since we weren’t enough to form our own unit, we fell in with the 5th Kentucky—a good unit, but not the 1st Tennessee where most of my friends are.

It is good to sometimes fall in with different units and different battalions to be grateful for what we have.  5th Kentucky uses Gilham’s tactics, which takes a little getting used to when we always use Hardee’s.  The key difference is shoulder arms, and I learned to appreciate Hardee’s after this weekend.  Shoulder arms with Hardee’s manual of arms is to hold the rifle on your right, barrel toward your body, holding about the trigger guard, relaxed to your side.  Gilham’s holds the rifle on your left shoulder, holding the rifle butt, barrel out.  This has the unfortunate side effect that during a battle, the barrel gets hot and can tend to burn your face if you are not careful.  You do not have this problem with Hardee’s.  I kept hearing the 5th wonder how would could carry the rifle with Hardee’s tactics without wearing out, but I find it to be a natural position, plus I never worry about burning my face.

Anyway, I also learned to appreciate the Independent Guard, the battalion that both the 1st Tennessee and 5th Kentucky are members of.  The Independent Guard is more west Ohio and east Indiana, so was not part of the Zoar event.  We therefore had to fall in with another battalion.  Since there were two battalions, we could have ended up with either.  I do not know how we end up in one battalion or another, but somehow we ended up with the Army of Northern Virginia.

Since I had heard of issues that exist between the 1st Tennessee and the Army of Northern Virginia (though I do not know the details), I kept quiet about being from the 1st Tennessee outside the 5th Kentucky camp.  Somehow we (the 5th Kentucky) managed to impress the battalion as they invited Capt. Steiner of the 5th Kentucky to join the battalion.  However, the positive impression only went one way, as there was mutual agreement with both 5th Kentucky and 1st Tennessee members that there would be a forecast of frostbite over the Lake of Fire before we would fall in with them again.

I am a reenactor as a hobby.  This is not my job, I am not a real soldier, nor do I have any desire to have the full experience of being a real soldier.  I have never been in the real military.  I know that even our modern soldiers have an experience in the real world that I am grateful I do not have to.  I do not have to march 20 miles on a half-day ration and a bout of dysentery. 

And as my hobby, I expect respect from superior officers.  After all, these guys are not real soldiers, either.  I will obey superior officers as a matter of course of the hobby, but if these superior officers do not show me respect, despite my being a private, then I will simply go find a new hobby.

And that was the problem—point blank—with the Army of Northern Virginia.  Before all battles we always do inspection arms.  I expect this, and this is for everyone’s safety.  With the Independent Guard, the captain of each unit performs the inspection when we are standing in battalion formation.  The inspection goes pretty quick.  But with the Army of Northern Virginia, the battalion staff apparently does not trust their company captains, as we had to stand in formation while a single staff officer inspected each and every rifle.  This probably quadrupled the amount of time we spent standing at attention in battalion formation.  It meant that for a 1:30 battle, we were formed at 12:30 for inspection—basically marching to the battlefield almost as the battle began.

But there were other things—such as referring to each other in derogatory terms as if they were terms of endearment.  Basically, there seemed to be a general lack of respect from the top down.  Perhaps it was something you would expect to see in the real military.  But this is my vacation time.  Yes, I strive to give the best Civil War soldier impression (I am not a farb), but at the same time I have zero desire to live like a real Civil War soldier—and anyone who says they desire differently has no idea what the life of a soldier during the Civil War was really like.  And if you are reenactor that thinks differently, I would recommend you read up on books like Company Aytch, Privations of a Private, Hard Tack and Coffee, and Recollections of a Soldier.  Because if you think you would like have been a real Civil War soldier, then you do not know crap about the Civil War.

Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box and back to the Zoar event.  Overall, it was a good event.  I hope to return when they have it again in two years, only I hope we fall in with a different battalion.

There was a Saturday morning tactical that I had nearly forgotten--it was not memorable.  Most of the time was spent waiting for something to happen, and when it finally did, there were judges who kept interrupting to say, "Captain, two of your men just took hits--take them out of action".  Strange way to perform a tactical.
The battles for both Saturday and Sunday were to be 1st Manassas, with the Yankees winning Saturday (try to explain that one).  Unfortunately, Billy Yank was being Billy Yank and didn’t push like they should have—pretty much leaving the field before the end of the battle before we could pull back closer to where the public would have a good view of us—we had to walk off the battlefield to give the public some kind of idea that we lost (which felt pretty weird).  Sunday battle, however went well as the colonel pretty much had it in his mind that if the Yankees did play like they should, we would simply run over them.  But the Yanks did their job and made us work for every inch of ground.

Sutlery was excellent.  I think there were around ten or so sutlers, although most were smaller sutlers.  There were one or two large ones there.  The odd thing was that the place I found that had the best things was a local antique store across the street from the sutlers.  They must have pulled out a few odds-and-ends of reenacting gear just for the event.  They had a $45 civil war cot and a few other items at good prices.  Zach bought a pretty good shelter half with an end for only $25.  I would have bought it myself if he hadn’t of found it first.

And, like I said at the start, this wasn’t the 1st Tennessee. I am not much for sports, so I decided to stay in camp when the rest of the 5th Kentucky left for the local tavern to watch the OSU game.  And without anyone to get a good Euchre game going, I turned in early.

My new palace
But that was okay.  I got to enjoy my new palace.   For the past two years I had been camping out in a small 5 foot by 6 foot by 4 foot A-frame.  I was used to moving around in it on my knees, having all my gear piled around so I could hardly move, anyhow.  But this last week I bought a large A from someone who used to be part of the 1st Tennessee but was getting out of the hobby.  He told me it was made by Big Dave.  It was seven feet tall by nine feet long, and had a fly to boot.  It was a freakin’ palace!  I had so much space in that thing, I did not know what to do with myself.  I think Zach got a good laugh from me as just about every time I would go into that thing I would say, “This is a freakin’ palace!”

Zoar is a town full of historic buildings, which helped a lot for providing a good time-trip.  The battlefield looked like it had been left to grow, but was hit with a bush-hog a week or two before the event.  There was not any grass on the field, but it also was not problematic to perform our formations.

I still missed not having enough of the 1st Tennessee to form our own unit.

Canton Rep news story

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome, but will be moderated.