Monday, October 10, 2011

The Change of Command

Hartford City IN, October 8-9, 2011

I think this year makes my seventh at Hartford City—but I may be wrong.  You tend to loose track after a few.

But it is also among my favorites.  I arrived early on Friday to set camp—only to find that I was the first from the unit to arrive, meaning I would be the one to set the line.  Not a problem at small events, but this is one the 1st Tennessee turns out in force.  I set my tent and fly up to what I thought would give everyone enough room, but I’m not used to the size of wall tents—it turned out I had set up about six feet too close to the fence that marked the edge of the battlefield, so I had to move a bit.  The Lewis’s set up next to mine—their fly alone was about the same length as my tent and fly combined.  It will be something I will remember for next time.

During Saturday battalion parade we held the change of command ceremony, with Capt. Evens passing command of the 1st Tennessee to Lt. JR Sharp.

Saturday was a grueling day.   Two battles and a skirmish, along with battalion drill.  Fortunately the skirmish was canceled when we saw the Yankees were not going to play.  Being the 150th for 1st Manassas, this was the battle chosen for both Saturday’s battles.  Both battles were fun.  For once, we took significant casualties rather early in the battle, only to be told that we cannot take many casualties—so for the last three quarters of that first battle we could not take any hits.  Although both battles were fun, there was not much of significances that stood out to write about, other than all of us struggling near the end to have rounds to shoot.  I forgot to reload my capbox for the second battle, but fortunately I had a small stash of Navy Arms caps that I use for capping off in my vest pocket.  Since I was at the end of the line, I felt safe using them.

The only thing that really stood out between the battles and battalion drill was that we had a couple of guys from some other unit fall in with us.  On wheels, one of those guys appeared clueless as to what he needed to do and kept messing up our line.  Pvt Silvers was getting pretty upset with him for not following his instruction. He did eventually do an acceptable job on the wheels, though.

We managed to get some Euchre in that day.  Edd Sharp joined us for the day as he is basically still the head of the unit, although he no longer fights with us on the battlefield.  He and Capt. Evens were partners, while Lt. JR Sharp, Edd’s son, and who normally has Capt. Evens as his partner, decided to choose from the best for his next regular partner—me.  And the combined strength of Sharp and I proved itself worthy as we defeated the Evens-Sharp team two games out of two.

By the way, I suppose it is a running joke, but it is because of the name of the two Sharps in our unit that we do not have any sharpshooters.

The day ended with me donning my Captain’s uniform and heading over to the 4H building offsite for the ball.  There were attempts to locate the ball onsite, but for some reason it fell through.  The weather for the event was perfect, so there really was no reason we could have had it onsite.  I was at least able to enjoy the night artillery barrage due to the later scheduling of the ball.

The ball went very well.  A few times I forgot to tell the band, the Tri-County Revelers, the music I wanted and what dance I was doing, but they did an excellent job of choosing something based on the dance I taught to the dancers.  I think the Tri-County Revelers are among the best bands I have worked with, but they do have solid experience working period balls.  They never need more than about 30 seconds before each dance to work something out.

The ball, however, ended on a rather somber note as we had one serious injury near the end of the evening.  My wife, Carol, who regularly does the area Dr. Mary Walker impression, took a spill and cracked her head pretty good.  I called in the EMTs as it was clear she was seriously hurt.  The good news is that she was able to leave without a trip to the hospital—it was apparently only a mild concussion.  But she will be suffering a pretty nasty headache for the next couple of days.

This prompted discussion with the man who I believe was the primary event coordinator.  He had fought to have the event moved onsite instead of the usual location at the 4H building.  We both agree that the issues with the 4H building are that it is a significant distance offsite—about a mile—and that the dance floor is polished concrete, which has always been about as slick as snot on an icepack.  This was the first time it was not bad for me as the soles of my boots were extraordinarily worn.  But most reenactors have leather-soled brogans and boots, many with heel plates.  Those of the board of the event do not understand how slippery that floor is under those conditions.  The reenactors who dance commonly put stuff like duct tape on their soles to keep from slipping.  It has only been by the grace of God that there has not been a serious injury before in all the years the ball has been held at the 4H building.

The distance is also an issue—I commonly am asked were the ball was afterward, only to be surprised how far away it was.  And we never see very many spectators, even though for the artillery night-fire the number of spectators are quite large.  Many of the reenactors from the 1st Tennessee like to go to watch, but with it offsite do no really see it worth their while.  Plus, many have trailers to haul around—who is going to want to deal with that?

The only issue with having the ball onsite is the weather.  If it is rainy, it will be miserable, and admittedly it is difficult to find a tent large enough to house all the dancers at this event.  But I also have to note that in the five years I have been calling this ball, I have yet to see rain during the ball—although there have been times that if the rain simply shifted by a day or so, we could have ended up with a massive soaking.

And enough about that—Sunday brought a new day.  Weather was again spectacular at upper seventies and sunny, almost too hot for this time of year.

We started the day with a tactical.  It did not quite work out like last year, and at one point the Yankees did almost have us, but there were a few things they did that gave us the advantage.  I do not know if it is a good idea to point out the one significant mistake that made the real difference for us, but when it comes to games—which is what a tactical really is—I am one that I like to help my opponent improve so that he can make the game more challenging and fun for me.  So the one thing that seems apparent to me that the Yankees could have done would be to hide a small contingent to guard the small path we came up.  Because that path was unguarded, we were able to come up behind the Yankee company guarding the hill, and surprise them.  Had a force been away from that hilltop and to the far side of that small path’s opening, they would have put us in a bind as we quickly advanced up that path to outflank that Yankee force.

Now, I might get into trouble from my captain for pointing that out—but like I said, I like a challenge, and if my opponent improves, then I am forced to improve to keep ahead of him.  The Independent Guard now claims four consecutive years of victory on the tactical at Hartford City—and I want to see that continue, but not because the opponent was simply less skilled.  I like to claim victory after I have been given a run for my money.  The victory is far more satisfying that way.

The Sunday battle also gave Capt Evens a chance to leave his mark.  We reenacted Henry Hill, using the event’s entire field for the event, with the rail fence marking the center.  The size of the field was roughly three times the size of the one of Jackson, Michigan.  Plenty of space to maneuver.  We had around ten cannons on our side with comparable numbers on the Yankee side to open the battle.  The Yankee artillery was located at the center of the field only the fence.  We advanced toward the Union artillery, and one of our Confederate units, dressed in the blue used during that time, took possession of one of the guns as part of the scenario.

We then advanced beyond the Yankee artillery, with the artillerymen changing their coats and turning their guns around to give the impression of being captured by Confederate forces.

I need to point out that there were cavalry around and on the battlefield in significant numbers, but I must apologize to them for not saying much about them—being in the infantry they do not really stand out much to me.  I am sure they are doing a great job, and I know the public loves to see them, but I am focused on my task at hand—watching men on horses galloping about, shooting each other and swinging swords at each other is not really part of my focus.

I did note a skirmish line of dismounted Yankee cavalry with Henrys.  Although the battle was an early-war battle and Henrys were unlikely, they fired those things like they should—taking the time to aim each shot so that each shot counted.  No machine-gun fire.  I made a point of watching them a bit for what they were doing.  Their shots came quick, but their shots came sure.  Kudos to them for doing it right.  Keep it up.  I also heard others from the 1st Tennessee happy about what they saw from that unit.  I only wish I knew which unit it was so I could name them here.

Our battalion had formed on the far side of the fence to advance on the Yankees, splitting into two wings.  Capt Evens saw an opportunity, and I think he upset our major by taking an impromptu charge on the Yankee force, pushing them into a retreating run.  He then had us double-time it back to the battalion wing, only to do it again.  I figured out later that the 4th OVI, my old unit, was part of that Yankee force we kept charging.  I would love to hear there opinion—I hope we made it as enjoyable to them as it was to us.  At one point we flanked the Yankee force and followed them down the hill as they did an organized retreat, forcing them to refuse their flank.  It looked like we had them pretty well boxed in against the public.  If that did not get the Yankee’s adrenaline rushing, nothing would.

Capt. Evens succeeded in making his last battle a memorable one.

This event marks the last of the year for most of the 1st Tennessee, so I will not see many of them until next year—though I will see many at next month’s Euchre tournament and a few at Monroe in two weeks and a few at Guyandotte the first weekend in November.  This has been the longest string of events in a row for me—at about seven, attending an event every weekend since Jackson the end of August.  I can tell you that even for someone addicted to wool and blackpowder, it is really too many in a row.  I am glad for a break, even if only for one weekend.  I almost even had a bit of a dredge—almost—of coming to Hartford City due to the long string of events.  I really wish there were more in the early part of the season and less in the late part.  I do not mind the events in the hottest part of the year—I can take the heat (yeah, I know I missed 1st Manassas with its 105 degree temperatures).  If you are an event coordinator looking to schedule your event, please consider earlier in the year—just not opposite some other established event.

And with that, I will be back in two weeks.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Comments welcome, but will be moderated.