Monday, December 10, 2012

The Wall

Fredericksburg, VA

December 8, 2012

The last event of the season finally arrived and I began my long trek to Fredericksburg, Virginia crammed into a Ford Explorer with three other guys and their gear.  I joined Quinn Marcotte, Charles Russ, with Butch Foster in his SUV.

It was a long 11-hour trip with Butch arguing with my GPS about the way we should go.  The lady in the box was determined to always get even with us whenever we tried to veer off her planned path, always leading us back to her route.

It probably would have been a shorter trip if we had simply given in to the shrew.

We camped at Slaughter Pen Farm, which was the actual battleground where Jackson had his front lines.  That night we met with the colonel of our battalion, and Capt Steiner of the 5th KY (the unit we fell in with) requested we be deployed as skirmishers in the town of Fredericksburg as the Yankee invaders crossed the Rappahannock.  He had the experience of doing this for the 145th, and hoped we could do it again.  The colonel agreed to the request.

But in the morning the battalion sergeant major informed us we would be the color guard since we were a small unit (seven rifles plus the captain) and appeared to have the only flag.  With reluctance, we conceded, and Butch took the flag as the first bearer, the plan being that we would rotate around so all could have the opportunity to shoot.

Butch appeared near depression as he trudged with us into formation to mark the line for the battalion, carrying the 5th’s St Andrew’s Cross.  However, as we waited, another battalion officer came to us with a request.  He told us that a North Carolina unit requested the honor of being the color guard, to allow their flag the history of being in all the 150s.  Butch could not contain himself as he handed the flag to Quinn.  “Here, hold this,” he said as he charged off with the determination of a tiger seeking its prey, nearly trampling another battalion in the process.  He was after his rifle, and we had to holler after him to take the flag with him to return it to its cradle by the captain’s tent.

And it got even better when we were told we would be deployed as skirmishers after all.

It took two buses to transport our entire battalion over to the staging site near where we would confront the Yankees.  For awhile we had lost the colors in transport, but they managed to find their way to the battalion formation.

The colonel found a local resident willing to donate his small yard enclosed with a short stone wall as our defensive position.  Located directly across the street from the landing for the pontoon bridge, we were in a prime configuration for harassing the Yankees.

We were instructed that we were to die at that location.  So after harassing the Yankees as first a platoon landed from a pontoon boat, we started making ourselves easy targets.  But the Yankees must have been marching with horse blinders as they only aimed at the Yankee battalions in front of them up the hill beside us and down the street in front of us.  I put a few double-loads in hoping to make enough noise to attract their attention.  We were at the point that just one Yankee shooting in our direction would have experienced a miracle ricochet that would take out all four of us in that little alcove.

Capt Steiner, beside me, even started shouting orders to the Yankees.  “Fire to your oblique!” he shouted.

But nothing seem to work.  Capt Steiner kept mumbling, “How did they ever win the war?”  Imagine if this was for real—our little platoon had a total of nine rifles (two had fallen in with us looking for a home), and we were being completely ignored.  We could have probably succeeded in taking out more than an entire battalion.

We were finally overrun when a Yankee commander and a couple of other Yankees started chasing that other Confederate battalion up the hill beside us.  I think we caught that Yankee completely by surprise—he had been oblivious to our presence until he had practically stumbled upon us.  Capt Steiner started to pull out his sword and hollered, “SHOOT US!”

That Yankee was something better left out of print.  He was furious with us, shouting to us to not to shoot and being as threatening as he could have, never mind that if has been real, he would now be contributing donations of lead to future Yankees.  What could we do?  At that point we basically hid in that corner as the Yank stumbled on like something out of the Three Stooges and ignored us—no pickets to guard his prisoners or anything to cover for the scenario screw-up he caused.

All was well, however.  After the Yankees moved on, we regrouped and joined our battalion up the street behind the fighting.  We watched from behind as Rebel sharpshooters took potshots at the Yankee battalion, making each step a struggle for those Yankees.  As they moved on we shared lunch from food we stored in our haversacks.

Some of us were noticeable short on water in our canteens.  I had plenty in the half-gallon water buffalo I keep at my side, but others were not so fortunate.  Water could only be had by foraging for water facets about the nearby buildings.

Our battalion reformed and marched up to Marye’s Heights.  It seemed rather quiet, so someone—I believe it was Capt Steiner—asked me to lead us in “Bonnie Blue Flag”.  It was an honor that gave me a thrill to sing that song in remembrance of all those soldiers that lost their lives 150 years ago.  After finishing, the fifer played a few ditties, then returned to Bonnie Blue Flag, where I started up again.  The hike went about a mile up hill to Marye’s Heights, where we stacked arms and waited for the concluding battle.

We had plenty of time, so Quinn and I wandered to the visitors’ center and the original wall where the Yankees met their doom.  Not much remained of that original wall, but a sobering moment passed through me as I stood behind it and imaged a sea of blue falling against the wall of singing lead from the dragon breath that spewed forth from men defending their homes.  Or the awe and terror the Yankees must have felt facing that stonewall where an invincible wall of gray stood fast.

Back where we were to fight, which was at the end of the Sunken Road, a painted plywood wall was set up in a one acre plot to represent the stonewall.  The field felt cramped with our four Confederate battalions preparing to face the four Yankee battalions on a field barely large enough for a single battalion. They lined the gray backs four deep against that wall.  We worked the rifles, the front man passing his empty rifle back while the rear man loaded powder, the next up priming, and the second from the front trading muskets around.  Not long in, the field had such a fog of smoke we could barely see the blue as the planked the ground with their coats.

And we had forgotten the artillery battery parked up the hill, perhaps 30 yards behind us.  As we blazed away, a cannon blasted over our heads.  The hill sloped well enough to keep us well below the danger zone, but that concussion was sudden and severe.  At that point Quinn expressed his gratitude for having brown trousers, while Charles Russ, in his Irish accent, said, “I think I peed a little.”

The smoke was thick.  The muskets fired so quickly as to produce the steady rumble of machinery.  Men fell within five yards of the wall, yet were difficult to see through the cloud.  The battle ended when the Angel of Marye’s Heights scenario was reenacted.

Weather was amazing for December.  I had feared that it would be cold and wet—even snowing, like what those men experienced 150 years ago.  But the balmy air held in the sixties.  When we marched that mile march from the river to the heights, I found myself sweating.

Although I was well stocked with water, numerous others had issues with the water supply.  Once we were in the town we were completely on our own for water and latrine facilities, which was a problem since we had little break between the nine a.m. battle and the two p.m. battle.  But for me, the only real issue of the event was the wait for the buses to return us to camp.  The original trip into town did not take overly long as it was well planned with sufficient busses.  But returning to camp took a wait of nearly an hour as only two school busses traded loads.

However, overall it was spectacular.  Perryville was better, but there is much history here, and it was unique.

The trip back proved as long as the trip out, and having to listen to the single CD of Irish music that Charles Russ had purchased for the entire trip seemed to extend it even more.  I think it replayed around eleven times—we nearly memorized every song when we finally dropped Chuck off.

I enjoyed the time with these men and the 5th KY—we had become a band of brothers.  I look forward to more events with them, but the season is now over.  My next event is not until March with Hurricane—my addiction to wool will send withdrawal symptoms into overdrive.

Links: news desk.


Washington Post



Civil War Trust

Virginia Guard Public Affairs: (oops--guess the bridge is a little short)

Event Site:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Guyandotte and Weenie Dogs

Guyandotte WV 2012

November 3-4, 2012

Sgt Mergle getting carried off the battlefield.  He was dropped four times.
photo courtesy Toril Lavender For The Herald-Dispatch
Cpl Carte and I arrived early on Friday at Guyandotte WV to get settled in and kick back for the rest of the day.  It was around 2 when we pulled up next to the usual spot where the 5th KY set up.

With Capt Steiner and his men nowhere to be found, we just figured we were the first of the group to arrive.  But in our usual spot, another group had marked out a campsite, laying out canvas and poles to mark where the tents would go.  The real kicker was the flag--there seemed to be an awful lot of stripes on that furled flag--like somewhere around thirteen.  Confederate flags do not have that many stripes--only the first national has any stripes at all, and they stop at three stripes.

Something did not seem right.

Well, we went ahead and registered and asked them where the 5th Kentucky camp should set up, pointing out that the usual spot appeared taken.  The coordinator in charge of Confederate camping took us out to the regular spot, and suggested a vacant lot on the other side of the house.

Seemed fine, but there was still that thing about that flag of many stripes.  Pretty soon, Jonesey of the 5th KY showed up as well, and suggested we wait for the Captain.  As I was not keen on the idea of relocating after unloading, I was completely agreeable to this recommendation.

In the mean time, I noticed I had lost my heal plate to one of my brogans.  The plate was there at some point during our hike about the village, so it had to have fallen off somewhere nearby.  Cpl Carte assisted my retracing my steps, taking a different route than I in our excursion, and fortunately came across Capt Steiner pulling into the center village square to set up camp.

Capt Steiner had been in contact with the Confederate commander and was instructed that the camping locations were switched this year--the Yankee camp was where Confederate camp was last year, while the Confederate camp was where the Yankees had camped.  Or something like that.  There was a severe absence of significant coats of blue, and one Yankee infantry camp set up close behind us.

It was also a bit disconcerting that the coordinators seemed to have a bit of a communication problem--after all, had Cpl Carte and I set camp in that vacant lot, we would have been camped with a part of the Yankee contingent.

Capt Steiner expressed his concerns for the event.  The area, though in the heart of Huntington (Guyandotte had long since been annexed into the city of Huntington), nearly all businesses in the area were closed down.  The nearest restaurant was probably over a mile away--although the two bars (one being the VFW), were certainly within easy access.

Another bad sign was the tailless black cat that crossed our path as we marched out to the Saturday battle.

The fight was not much more that a short advance and fire street fight.  The colonel was putting on a show, but it was Capt Steiner that was really running the battle.  There were a few Yankees there I knew--one normally a Confederate (James Sturkler), but chose to galvanize to help with the numbers.  The 5th KY was the main Confederate force, and pretty much the only Confederate company as rebel numbers were down as well.

At one point during the evening, several of the 5th KY and I discussed Perryville.  Since I had taken a hit before the end of the Sunday battle at Perryville, I was unaware of how battle progressed near the end, but once the Independent Guard Battalion reached the last road, I was told there was a company of federals waving us on, to get us to push them across the road and up the hill beyond, and both the 5th KY and those federals were confused as to why we never crossed the road.  It had never occurred to me that the message simply had not been passed down the chain of command--at the battle walk-through that morning, we were very clearly made to understand that the road marked the end of the battle--under no condition were we to cross that road.  Only the companies that had rehearsed hand-to-hand were to cross the road.

Back in Guyandotte--the organizers did provide a decent breakfast and lunch both days, but no supper, so Capt Steiner’s men all headed out to a place called “Hillbilly Hot Dogs” about five miles down the road, while Cpl Carte and I watched camp, sharing in some of his homemade chili.  Capt Steiner gave such a good report of the place (particularly since he never stopped singing the “Weenie Song”), we stopped there on the way out after the event, but I think Cpl Carte and I had a better meal.

I almost always enjoy myself at an event, and Guyandotte was no exception, but I feel bad for the place--it does seem to have declined a lot in the past few years, and I am concerned it may not last much longer.  We can only wait and see.

Photo Gallery at the Herald-Dispatch, Huntington WV

Monday, October 29, 2012

Fallen Friend

October 27, 2012

One of our beloved comrades in arms suffered a heart attack.  Last week, Gary Shaw, former 1st Sergeant of the 1st Tennessee Company B, was admitted to Mount Carmel East in Columbus, Ohio.  A few of us visited him after the Ohio Leadership Conference.  He is doing fine, and is expected to return home on Tuesday.

I personally owe a lot to him.  If it were not for him, I am uncertain that I would be in this hobby today.

Our prayers are for him.

Monday, October 22, 2012

The Stump

Monroe OH

October 20-21, 2012

When I arrived at Monroe, I camped near the same place as the year before.  Sgt Nyman arrived about the same time as I and since we were the only ones of the 1st Tennessee to be camping, we chose a spot a little up the hill, where we could use an old tree stump as our campfire.  Only Pvt Quinn Marcotte and Pvt Jay Uilhein of the 9th Kentucky were there at the time, so we hoped more of the 9th would show up Saturday morning to give us a unit to fall in with. Pvt Kletzli lives close, so he chose to sleep in the warmth of his home.  Pvt Steve Battishill made an annual appearance both days for the battle, along with Pvt Jason Foust for Sunday’s battle.  Shawn Swart also showed up Sunday in a civilian suit of the period, bringing his wheelchair-bound wife along to enjoy the day with us.  Most of the 9th chose to come in later, with the 1st Sergeant making it just in time for the battle both days.  It did seem strange that most of the 9th Kentucky guys only came for the short time between drill and the battle, but they are entitled to run their company their way.

Wood seemed to be a bit of a problem.  There was plenty of it, but most were the diameter of telephone poles.  Still, with sticks from some piles and use of some of the smaller logs, we were able to get enough of a fire to meet our needs.  But I had a challenge to get that tree stump burned up.

Saturday went through, the weather was good, but the reenactor attendance was a bit light.  In the battle we pushed constantly forward, facing the Red Leg Yankees and a small Yankee infantry unit, and eventually we won the battle.  Their turn came Sunday.

The evening meal was provided by the same caterer as the year before, and was just as good with pork and potatoes.

That evening the event held candlelight tours through the park, with stations set up for presentations.  They asked for volunteers to play dead in the cold field while waiting for tours to go through.  Quinn volunteered and returned with a report of scaring a guy senseless as he jumped into the arms of his girlfriend when Quinn suddenly raised up and said, “Help me,” while grabbing the guy’s ankle. Quinn also spent time talking with some of the Red Legs, and said they seemed a good bunch of guys.

Sunday's battle had us being pushed back.  At one point, only one of the Red Leg Yankees was still standing, and we fired a company volley--and he did not go down.  I guess we all fired a bit high. Later, both Pvt Marcotte and Pvt Swart ran off the field as deserters.  Marcotte got his due when half the company turned and fired their muskets at him.  I cried out, "Hey--we've got Yankees in front of us!"  I guess they wanted to make sure Quinn was dead.

The weekend was light and there was not much to report, but it was a relaxing and enjoyable weekend.  And I did succeed in burning up that tree stump.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Gone with the Windy Shiloh of Indiana

Hartford City IN

October 13-14, 2012

Hartford City was always one of my largest events every year, and I had probably attended that last six years there.

But going there just a week after Perryville seemed anti-climatic.  None of the 1st Tennessee joined me to continue recovering from the onslaught experienced at Perryville (or perhaps they are just not quite as addicted to wool as I am).

I took the time to get to know members of the 19th Virginia and 50th Virginia better.  The 33rd Virginia and 44th Tennessee were also there, but camped a bit further off. 

Somehow we were outnumbered by the Yankees, which was unusual for this area, but we were lacking two regular companies, the 1st Tennessee and the 5th Kentucky.

The theme for the weekend was Shiloh, so all battles—two on Saturday, and one on Sunday—were representative of skirmishes from that battle.

The battalion came out at the start of the morning battle overrunning the temporary Yankee camp set up for the scenario.  The camp was a bit odd—one dog tent with one wood chair, and a bunch of blankets and bed rolls. All the blankets and bed rolls were our own—the Yankees only donated the one dog and chair for the scenario.  I guess it made it look better when we confiscated the blankets and returned to camp.

At the afternoon battle we had a bit of a strange addition.  One dandy in a lieutenant’s uniform came up with a mountain man and claimed to be scouts—that the would be there as observers.   I had seen the guy before on rare occasion and did not really have much to think about him.  The colonel approved them as observers thinking they would not cause much trouble, but when the mountain man began pouring powder straight from his powder horn down the Hawken he was carrying, the Lt Colonel stepped up and put an immediate stop to it. 

As a side, a general rule of thumb is that if you don’t drill with a company, you don’t play in the battle with the company.  We are playing with explosives, and people get injured at these things.  Injuries occur even when the best safety practices are followed. 

So a number of safety issues were suddenly thrown at us—a guy we didn’t know was going to fire a weapon amongst us, he was not part of any of the companies, and he was pouring straight from a powder horn (the scariest part of all).

That dandy tried to defend the mountain man.  After the Lt Col had his say and left, the dandy kept talking back to me, since he was on my wing.  The whole issue was brought to the colonel’s attention and he backed the Lt Col, so when the dandy spoke to me and asked in arrogance, “And just who does he think he is?!” I simply responded, “He’s the overall Confederate commander—and his word goes.”  That put a stop to the whole mess.  The dandy left the event in a huff after the battle.  Good riddance.  This hobby does not need that kind.

A solid pattering of rain hit about the time for supper and continued for a few hours.  But the weather warmed significantly from the night before.  I spent most of the rest of my evening trading stories with the colonel and his wife.

Winds whipped up in the morning.  It helped with getting a good roaring fire going for breakfast, but as the day progressed, so did the strength of the winds.

The battle was scheduled for 2 pm, but after flies started demonstrating bird-like behavior, many started packing up.  There was a thread of a storm, and most wanted to get packed up while they could still drop dry canvas.

I lost another corner to my tent.  I had just sewn the second lost corner Friday after losing it at Perryville, so now I have another repair before my next event.  With the loss of that corner and fearing of losing my entire tent, I finally gave into the peer pressure and broke my camp, cramming everything in rush into my car.  This left only the colonel’s tent standing, but even he lost part of his fly by end of the battle.  It was strange and eerie to see all tents gone, with a battle yet to come.  Many sutlers also packed up early.  The sun was out for the battle, though.

The battle went okay—by the end of it, the battalion had lost all officers, captains and NCOs.  Only a few privates were left carrying the wind-whipped flag, commanded by the guy who does General Pickett, and I’m not sure he’s ever done this kind of thing before.

The weekend good, and I got to greet with some of my friends of 4th OVI I hadn’t seen in awhile. I said my goodbyes to the battalion staff and many from the companies, as this was the last battalion event until next year.  But the season is not over for me—there are still three more events.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The First National

Perryville Battle, 150th Commemoration

Perryville KY

I grew up in Ohio, and my idea of seafood was something from Red Lobster.  It was something passable for supper, but stank fishy.

But then I visited Barcelona, Spain, and had fish fresh from the Mediterranean.  I realized Ohio does not have seafood—it only serves spoiled fish.  Seafood can actually taste good.
Courtesy David Stephenson of the Lexington Herald-Leader

A national event was an experience that has escaped me until now, so when I arrive at Perryville, Kentucky, I was not sure what to expect.  But after this weekend I realized I had not really experienced a reenactment before—the thrill in contrast to what I had been attending was that much different.

Since this weekend was a battalion event, so I held my new rank of major.  Studying up on the rank’s duties, I realized that since our adjutant was not able to come, his duties fell to me—and of all times to fulfill extra duties, this was the one weekend with the most work.

I drove down in the midst of a seven-car caravan of the 1st Tennessee, setting up camp in the “mixed” camp (as opposed to the “military” camp).  The mixed camp was the 1st Tennessee’s choice so that many of their wives could join us.

After setup, I hunted down colonel, locating him in military camp on the other side of a hill, half a mile away.  That half-mile is no exaggeration.  The Confederate commander had measured the distance—0.62 miles if you took the easy, winding road, or .45 miles if you took the shortcut that took you up a steep hill of which even a mule would be leery. It was a long ten-minute walk.  That first Friday evening alone I had to make the trip about four times—once after locating him, once after the brigade officers meeting, once to get all the adjutant’s (my duty, remember) company and battalion forms I had forgotten in mixed camp for the battalion officers meeting, and once more when the colonel of mixed camp informed me battle was moved from 7 am to 8 am, to confirm with Colonel Julian. I believe by the end of the weekend I made a total of eight round-trips.

I already experienced the level of activity of an entire weekend, and the weekend had not even started.  I drained my sixty-four ounce canteen plus in all that walking on that first evening.

In addition to Lt. Porter unable to attend to fulfill the adjutant’s position, Lt Col Clark was also unable to attend, so Colonel Julian brevetted Ben Cwyana of the 12th South Carolina to fulfill this role. Cwyana was the one who filled the role of major for the Saturday battle at Jackson, Michigan.  Since I had never served with him before, I was not sure what to expect.  I had no issue with not being brevetted myself since I have not had the opportunity to prove myself as major.

Saturday morning, and my first duty, as battalion adjutant, was to deliver the morning reports—in military camp.  A half-mile hike, up a long, steep hill, to Independent Guard headquarters to consolidate the reports from the mixed-camp units of the 1st Tennessee Company B and the 9th Kentucky Company D with the military camp units of the 12th South Carolina and the 5th Kentucky Company B.  Then a return hike to Confederate headquarters to deliver the reports.  There was no point of returning to mixed camp at this point—the battle started in under an hour.  I marched out with the military camp units to the rendezvous point on the battlefield.

In a sense, I wish the battle started at the original earlier hour.  I had heard that fog always fills the hills for the morning battle that adds to the ambiance of the weekend.  There was no fog, but to watch two full brigades populated by five battalions was an experience I have not been privy to before.  The battlefield was large—perhaps among the largest I had seen at an event—but did not appear anything out of the ordinary.  But it was on the grounds of the original battle that the event was reenacting.  However, after seeing what I thought was the entire field for our battle, I came under the impression that the grounds we were using to fight on were a scaled-down version of the actual thing.

In preparation for this weekend I studied various battle maps ahead of time.  I learned that the battle front of Maney’s Brigade fell on the same location where the 1st Tennessee was camped.  There were many details of the battle I did not know, but I did know that the space filled by both the original armies was vast.  I had not realized that the morning battle only gave us a taste of things to come, as we ended it just before we crested the hill at the end of that field.

After the battle we held morning parade.  I misplaced my little cheat sheet of the commands the adjutant was to call, so went from memory, only missing the final “Present, arms”.  Capt Sharp later told me that I rattled off the commands way too fast, threatening to put me on Riddlin, thinking I was nervous.  I was not nervous—I do not get nervous—that speed was just the adrenalin rush I was feeling from the excitement of the weekend. Or maybe it was just the coffee.

After parade, the park presented us with the flags we used for the morning battle.  The concept appeared as strange to us as it sounds reading it.

The flags used for the battles were all authentic reproductions of the actual battle flags.  When Capt Sharp heard that the park was going to give us the flags to use, he was concerned that they would be cheap nylon and polyester farbie banners that would embarrass us on the field, so offered to use the 1st Tennessee’s banner, which was a careful reproduction Polk-pattern flag.  However, when he saw there was practically no difference between the 1st Tennessee’s flag and the flag presented by the park, he was at ease.  The only thing he could find wrong with the park’s flag was the lack of seams in particular places.

The second battle started halfway up the hill about where morning battle ended.  I had a bit of confusion about this start point and expected the battle to be short; there did not seem anywhere we could go once we reached the top of that hill.
Courtesy David Stephenson of the Lexington Herald-Leader

But when we got to the top of the hill, the field continued on.  We went down the hill and up another.  The field turned to the right.  Up yet another hill, and it turned to the right.  Up another hill and it continued on.  Up another hill and it turned to the left.  In all, that battlefield must have been at least a mile long.  It had to have taken half an hour to return to camp, as we stopped occasionally in shade to take a break.

At one point near the end, we were taking severe casualties, and Capt Sharp tried to get his men to take hits.  He ordered Jackson Nyman to take a hit, but the private was oblivious.  Capt Sharp repeated his command, then resorted threatening to pistol-whip him if he did not take a hit.  I am not sure what went on in Pvt Nyman’s head—he seemed confused by what Capt Sharp wanted.  Finally, someone told Pvt Nyman to lie down—so he turned around and carefully laid down.  It took all I had to keep my composure and not roll on the ground with laughter.

I was probably the only casualty in that battle from friendly fire.  During the confusion, my wing took massive casualties, and I lost track of who was still standing.  While I worked to orient myself in front, the battle line suddenly leveled muskets to fire, one musket firing unsafely close to me, leaving a bit of ringing in my ears and peppering my face with some residue.   It was a bit of my fault for not paying closer attention to the situation, but it did give me a scare.  I went down to call it a day for me—but let the sergeant who got me know that I was all right—he was pretty shaken up himself from the incident.

That evening, the ladies of the 1st Tennessee made an enjoyable pot roast.  I am sure the soldiers of the Civil War did not eat as well as we did.

Sunday morning came around and I again delivered the morning reports.  At Confederate headquarters, I informed him this was my first time at Perryville.  He told me it was his first as well.  When I told him it was my first national, he commented that he could not tell.  I took that comment with pride that I was succeeding in my duties as major and adjutant.

The battalion commanders all met later that morning for the battle walk-through.  This battle was a little more involved than Saturdays—we were to fight on the opposite side of the park, north of the mixed camp, ending through the same cornfield noted in the original battle.  Due to this year’s drought, the cornfield was more of a field of tall weeds.

As I joined the meeting, I watched a drill between one Confederate battalion and one Yankee battalion, with the confederates charging and entering into hand-to-hand combat—I knew something was planned for battle.

The battle was quite the thrill.  For the infantry, it started ahead of the artillery pieces as we crossed a fence, cramped in against the other four battalions.  The plan was that we could take casualties on the approach to the Federal artillery, and then I would take them up as “walking wounded” and rejoin battalion.  But I think all the men had their dander going as no one took any hits until much later (or they did not believe I would bring them up to rejoin).  As we went up the hill to the artillery, the right wing started a double-quick charge after the signal that guns done. I took the cue and ordered my wing to double-quick.

At the top, the artillery changed uniforms and turned the guns—and we advanced down the hill toward the cornfield

Courtesy Erik Weisgerber
The original 1st Tennessee Company B had almost no survivors through that cornfield, and the Independent Guard Battalion was representing the 1st Tennessee Regiment for this battle.  At the point of entering the cornfield, we had taken no casualties yet.  In honor of that original 1st Tennessee, the modern 1st Tennessee Company B planned to all become casualties in the cornfield.  As we advanced, I was completely hidden by the tall weeds, so I raised my sword to be seen.  As we progressed, I could see the weeds starting to clear, so I took my hit—anyone watching would have seen the sword just suddenly disappear.  I turned on my back to watch for the advancing battalion—I did not want them to step on me. A rabbit wandered by, but ran off as I drew my sword to capture some lunch.

I wandered as a walking wounded back to the rally point Capt Sharp set for our return. I marched back with them to the museum to return the flag.

It was an exciting weekend—and I am ready for more.  Like this Ohioan experiencing fresh seafood for the first time, I feel as if I had experienced the elephant for the first time.

This event does end the season for the 1st Tennessee, but not for me.  I still have a few months left to my season.

1st Tennessee Company B

Video of start of final battle.
Final battle--part 2
Final battle Part 3
Final Battle part 4
Final Battle part 5
Final Battle--through the cornfield

Artillery Fire

Monday, October 1, 2012

Taking a Hit

Pioneer Village
Caesar's Creek
Waynesville, OH

Courtesy Civil War Sites
When I finally crashed on Friday evening at Pioneer Village in Caesar's Creek, I was reminded of sleeping under the street lights of Grove City.

But this time there was no electricity-there were no street lights.  It was the light of the full moon that gave the appearance of dusk all night long.

There was a definite lack of indigo-dyed coats at the event. I came prepared to galvanize, along with a few others, but we were fortunate enough to have a handful of Yankees to play with.

Capt Sharp was trying a few different things this weekend.  For Saturday, Sgt Mott played private or corporal or something, and Cpl Kletzli was brevetted to 1st Sergeant.  James Sturkler fell in with us as Lieutenant.

Due to the lack of blue targets, there did not seem to be much to the skirmish.  We came out on right by file into line, then advanced. We quickly deployed into skirmish lines and broke the company into separate platoons, ending with the first platoon-the platoon I was in-pinned down by cannon.  With the battery distracted with us, Lt Sturkler walked up with 2nd platoon from their flank and said, "Hi!" to the artillery crew, finishing the fight.

Much beyond that, I spent a portion of the day preparing for the ball, as I was to call it that night.  The ladies of the 1st served us a terrific fried chicken dinner.  The event probably served something, but I do not think it would compare to that fried chicken.

I do not call dances very often, but that is all I really desire.  Pioneer Village is of a perfect size for calling the kind of balls I like, so I am grateful to be given the opportunity here.

One dance I do not particularly care for is one called, "The Hat Dance".  I always try to skip it, but every time someone always requests it.  I think I am going to give up any thoughts of skipping it from now on.

In the past I have stayed with familiar dances as most already know them, so they are easy to teach.  This time, however, I tried a few new ones.  The crowd wore out before I could get to all the dances I planned, so I was only able to get to two new ones, one called "The Irish Washerwoman" and the other "The Physical Snob".

I had called the Irish Washerwoman once, something like seven years ago, but it is an easy dance to a tune of the same name.  The band had that song on their repertoire, so I thought it would be good to bring this dance up.

I had forgotten how simple the dance was.  Basically, four couples form a circle, march to the center, tap four times, back out, swing the corner, then promenade the partner.  There were enough dancers for two circles, and after about the first or second time, each circle started counting their taps.

It was not long, and at some point the circles somehow got out of sync, where one circle was counting just after the second circle.  It soon became a competition-the first circle counting to four, the second counting from five through eight, the first then counting nine to twelve, etc.  Soon it was a competition to see who could come up with the most creative counting means-such as switching to Spanish or German, or rattling off the words to "100 Bottles of Beer".  I think those dancers had more fun on that simple dance than any other.

The Physical Snob was a dance I had never called before, but it was not complex.  Unfortunately most of the crowd had left (it was after ten and getting late), so I did not have much to work with.  It called for three couples to form a line, and all I had to work with were five gentlemen and a lady.  The ladies are always complaining there are not enough men to dance with-they missed their opportunity here.  They were all relatively inexperienced dancers, but we still had fun with the dance, but I realized it was time to bring the ball to a close and had the band play the last waltz.

Courtesy Civil War Sites
Sunday was a new day with a new 1st Sergeant.  Capt Sharp brevetted Cpl Carte and returned Cpl Kletzli to his position.

Capt. Sharp's whole point of giving turns at 1st Sergeant was to give experience with it.  Although for Perryville next week I will be a bit out-of-touch with the inside of the 1st Tennessee as I will be on battalion staff, I'm sure Sgt Mott will return to his role as 1st Sergeant for such a significant event.

The skirmish scenario for Sunday was to be a continuation of Saturday, and worked out surprisingly well.  We won Saturday, so it was the Yankee's turn to win, but since our numbers were so much greater than Yankees, we had to set ourselves up to be in a bit of a state of confusion.  2nd platoon foraged for supplies through the village buildings, using our own gear and supplies as the bounty, while 1st platoon (where I was) passed the time with a game of Euchre on period cards.  And since they were period cards, Capt Sharp stayed out of the game-he complains that it is too difficult to tell difference between the different face cards.  Someone keeps suggesting I write a "K" or a "J" beside the faces, but would that not defeat the purpose of using period cards?

During the battle, I finished off my rounds as we pulled back to our camp, and then waited for a rifle fire to take a hit.

Jen Mott said my hit was spectacular.  Except that it felt like I jarred my teeth loose from my jaw.  Somehow, during my fall, I managed to rifle-butt myself in my chin with my musket.  As I laid in agony, I felt my chin to make sure everything was still in place-and had a bit of a shock when I found my fingers covered in blood after feeling something wet on my chin.  This was not a pleasant moment-there I lay, concerned I may actually be in a position to have to call for a medic-and the last thing I wanted was to get everyone mad at me for stopping the battle for a simple bump.  I glanced to one of the houses and saw Doc Gill standing in back and hoped to get his attention, but he was preoccupied becoming part of the scenario as the Yankees stormed forward.  Fortunately, when I pulled out my rag to blot the blood, Trish Carte came over with a damp cloth to help me out.  The injury was not bad-though I have a nasty-looking gash in my chin and an aching jaw, but otherwise I was unharmed.

I believe this event was better than the previous year, and I hope it continues to improve by attracting more Yankees.  The coordinators have already invited me to call next year's ball, so unless something comes up, I will return.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Double-Quick Up the Hill

Fort Recovery, OH

Sept 8-9, 2012

The change in perspective from private to major is dramatic.  As a private, all I saw during a battle was the blue target in front of me.  I fired my musket on command.  I right-faced on command.  I marched on command.

But now, as major, my job is to know what is going on and assist the colonel in commanding a battalion of muskets.  I give commands. I look for not just one, but all the blue targets on the field.  I work with the colonel to get the battalion out of the line of fire and into position to fire upon the coats of blue.

Where before I would wonder, "Why are we running all over the field?" Now I wonder, "How do I get out of here?"

Wet.  Friday opened the weekend at Fort Recovery very wet.  I was fortunate to get my tent and fly set up at battalion headquarters before the rain started, but once the much-needed torrent started a little after dark, it never stopped until about six the next morning.

I kept an eye out for Colonel Julian.  He had let me know he would not be there until 11 pm on Friday, but as the hour passed, he was still not present.  I found out that when he arrived at 12:30 in the morning, he was kept from entering the park with his car for fear his car could get stuck in the mud.

I was up before daybreak, as the dawn comes much later this time of year, and the hour I arise does not change.  The fire pit I dug the night before was now a pond, and would have had ducks swimming in it were it not for the lake that blocked passage to the plastic palace.  Fortunately, Steve Winston was up and finished with his shovel after digging a trench to drain his fire pit, and he let me borrow it to bail the water out of my pit.

Getting the fire going proved the largest challenge of the weekend.  Pvt Winston, determined to use nothing but flint and steel, had to work through three charcloths to finally sustain a blaze.

I was lucky to have a camp next to the battalion headquarters with an established campfire.  They were kind enough to lend out a few coals.  I stacked my wood high to keep the coals out of the moist soil.  Both the adjutant, Lt Porter, and I fought that fire to blaze up.  Although the wood was relatively dry, there was still a high level of humidity in the air.

When finally we had a blaze large enough to use (which was now well into daybreak), I balanced my coffee pot on the stack, only to lose all of the water into the pit.

At least the reenactor portraying General Picket (Dwight Hensley) camped nearby was kind enough to offer cup.  It was not the tar I like, but it was sufficient.

Other than that early drowning, the weather was perfect for reenacting.

Battalion drill started with a safety meeting to discuss the rules concerning the pyrotechnics that were used on the field, and after going through a few maneuvers, the companies broke off to drill independently and skirmish against imaginary Yankees.  Skirmishes were on the schedule, but those Federals chose not to come out and play.

Capt Sharp took the 1st Tennessee out and drilled them on deploying into skirmish lines forward.  They had never trained deploying forward in the groups of four-only deploying on the flank for when already on the battleline.  I was out watching with the 27th South Carolina captain, and noticed that Capt Sharp kept maneuvering his men at me, then having them fire.  Every time I would move, he would reposition his men.  The 27th SC captain backed away from me, and Capt Sharp finally surrounded me.  I thought it best to take a hit when the entire company fired upon me.

Saturday and Sunday battles were very similar.  Both had pyrotechnics, but we were to be decimated on Sunday.

At the Sunday officer's meeting, the Yankee colonel complimented us on our maneuvering, commenting that as soon as he got his lines in position to fire on us, we would move, and he would have to reposition.  I think some back in camp thought the Yankee colonel was complaining, since we seem to get a bit of that (like one Yankee at Reynoldsburg complaining about us "messing up his lines"), but I think this Federal actually enjoyed the challenge we were giving him.

Capt Craig Schmidt had good humor with his company, the 19th Virginia.  He only had his 1st Sgt, his Lt and two privates show.  But because we needed three companies to be able to carry the battalion flag, the 19th VA was kept as a separate company.  He commanded his company with grandeur, as if 30 men were under his command.  But it is difficult to keep a straight face when commanding the company to wheel with only two soldiers in line.  Right and left face nearly caused his company to disappear.  At one point, he brought his company up to the battalion, then had them count off by twos.  The two privates repeated the one-two about a dozen times to sound like a much larger company.

At rest before the battle

For the Sunday battle, we followed a similar path as Saturday: 1st TN, with the Adjutant, Lt Porter, sent a skirmish line in first to face the Yankees, then the rest of the battalion (with both Col Julian and I) followed in.  We progressively left flanked and double-quicked up the hill to flank the Yankee battalion until we reached the high point behind a small barricade.  As the Yankees got into position, a small federal howitzer was brought up beside them to fire on us.

Being that we were to lose on the Sunday battle, and that we were now cornered, our options were limited.  The 1st TN was keeping the bulk of the Yankee battalion and the howitzer occupied on the right flank, but we on the left flank had to deal with a hand full of Yankees with Henrys.  Col Julian ordered the 2nd and 3rd companies to the left, sending us into those Henrys, which put me at the front of the battalion, which was now starting to quickly shrink.  I ordered a double-quick, and as we approached those Henrys, it occurred to me that we could not stop to deal with the Henrys as both they and the Yankee battalion would finish us off, so I ordered a charge, not realizing that Col Julian at the back of the battalion also ordered a charge.  I took a hit about 10 yards from the skirmish line, but saw enough of the battalion fall to know this was our final stop.  I overheard someone checking on Col Julian, so I guessed that we did not have a single survivor, especially considering that there was not a single survivor of the battalion staff.

We were a bit surprised that the Federal cavalry did not seem to do much. I'm not sure if they got their run out at the start during the artillery barrage, or if they were focusing on scouting.  We were somewhat prepared-we had drilled forming a square, though we seemed to have a bit of a confusion concerning how to get out of that square.

Numbers were down significantly from the last two years at Fort Recovery, but I still think it was a terrific event.  There is room there to easily double the numbers of both sides.  Yankee numbers were surprisingly equal or slightly greater than ours.  Perhaps next year we will see better numbers.


Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Federals and the Copperheads

Durbin Bean Bake

Sept 1-3, 2012

The Durbin Bean Bake is a Labor Day only event, but the 1st Tennessee makes its own fun Saturday and Sunday.

I arrived early Saturday expecting to be pretty much alone most of that first day, so planned on taking advantage of the time by bringing a bunch of extra gear to repair this and that, patch my canteen, sew the ten missing buttons on the ends of my dog tent, do a bit of gunsmithing on my period Colt pistol, roll up my last pound of powder, and fill the 400 tube order for Pvt Zack Carte.

I found Pvt Steve Winston there already when I arrived at 11:30 am-he had arrived at 9 am.

It was a hot and humid day, and with nothing really planned I took my time setting camp.  I usually try to arrive in uniform, but this time I was in modern wear until my tent was up.

Beforehand we had already established that half the unit would galvanize for the 40th Ohio, while the other half would come representing a rabble of Copperheads.  Federal veterans of the Civil War established the Bean Bake over a hundred years ago, so it was only right that we honored the tradition of the Bean Bake with a Federal presence instead of our normal Confederate issue.

As I changed into my Federal gear, I discovered my Federal sky blue trousers were missing-I had left them behind.  I only had my Confederate jean wool trousers.  Since I had established my name as the token Yankee, I very well could not represent a Copperhead.  Fortunately, my humble call to Sgt (and 40th OVI Capt) Mott proved fruitful as he had a spare pair of Federal trousers to loan me.

It started to rain lightly as the time for dinner arrived.  I ran into Celina, only about six miles away, to pick up ice and pizza for the two of us.  I became aware that this weekend was to turn into a comedy of errors for me as I loaded my cooler with ice and somehow pierced a can of Mountain Dew Voltage, spraying a fine blue mist onto the flap of my tent.  Lucky for me, all it took was some water to wash it off.

As we set up the pizza on a table under my fly, the rain picked up and we suddenly realized that the fly seemed to lack purpose.  Water dripped on us at all points as the fly served the exclusive purpose of water purification, as opposed to a shelter from the elements.

The only time I can recall my tent being in the rain since I bought it a year ago was during a rather light drizzle at Hurricane WV this year, where the fly was absent, so my knowledge of this shelter imposter eluded my comprehension until this day.  Steve and I quickly gathered everything into the tent and away from that cheesecloth, where we finished the pizza in crammed quarters as all my stuff, including all my extra crap I brought to work on, was piled around.  Yes, it was embarrassing for me to share the innards of my tent with Steve, where normally I leave a flap open to impress on others a somewhat period look, only to now feel like a refugee of a disaster zone.

The rain did not last long.  With only two of us, Euchre was out of the question, so Steve pulled out the chess set he made from Minie balls.  It had been awhile since I had last played chess, and it was a good, close game.  In the end, Steve won.

Sunday was an easy day, and I managed to get caught up on a lot of the work I brought up.  There were a few more arrivals during the day, and our Federal Captain Andrew Mott started a tactical for us, breaking us into two teams of two-Zack and I on one team, and Jeff and Steve on the other.  The tactical was basically a treasure hunt with no rules, just "guidelines".  In the end, Steve and Jeff won.  There were many was to get points, but the kicker was where we started with ten rounds and were penalized for every round less than ten at the end.  Steve and Jeff figured out there was no rule regarding returning to camp and refilling the cartridge box-a concept that eluded both Zack and I.

Jen Mott and Barb Moore provided dinner of ham and potatoes.

The tactical challenged finished with a drill with specific maneuvers.  With only two, the drill presented an odd challenge, plus I had to remember the specific maneuvers.  One of the main reasons I write this blog is that I would probably forget what happened a week later.

The Motts have a place nearby they stayed at, so the evening left us with just four-Steve, Jeff, Zack, and myself; just enough for Euchre.  Steve is not much of a Euchre player, but he managed to catch on pretty well.  Although a constant drizzle kept the night in a watery mantra, Andrew was kind enough to set his fly up for us so we would not have to play under my cheesecloth.

Monday morning brought my usual bacon and eggs with tar for drink.  Capt Mott brought me his loaner Federal trousers, and the rest of the 1st Tennessee soon arrived, including the surprise arrival of our former captain, Gary Evens.

A mandatory speed shoot competition was held before the skirmish, where we divided into two groups of about five each.  I won first heat, but in final heat I first dropped my ramrod, then several times my ramrod got stuck after being returned.  I had recently had some gunsmithing done to my rifle, and some of the adjustments threw things a bit out of wack.  I may need to go back to that gunsmith for a bit of tweaking.

The scenario was for us, as federal soldiers, to be attacked by the rabble of Copperheads during our drill. The Copperhead gang, led by Capt JR Sharp, wore the same as usual, except for the lack of their coats to look more civilian.  Mott captained 40th Ohio group.

I carried massive flag of 40th OVI, and as instructed by Mott, took an early hit, which Mercer picked up from me.

For the past two years prior we always spent a good amount of time stirring the beans, but somehow got out of it this time, though I think some of the Copperheads filled the duty.

It was a great time.  I got some things done, others undone (and so ended up with a lot more crap on site than I really needed), and now have more guns to clean.

Girth was originally 1st Sgt for the 40th OVI at the start of this weekend, but was given a promotion to Lieutenant.  JR got the idea to be sure to get a picture of Girth in his Lieutenant's uniform (which was easy since Girth is such a ham).

Plans and plots are always afoot in the 1st Tennessee.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Rising through the Ranks

Jackson, Michigan

August 25-26, 2012

Jackson usually is an event that the 1st Tennessee shows in force, but for some reason was not voted for at the Regimental meeting.  I had debated about whether going to Jackson, or to Richmond, Kentucky, which also had a large event this same weekend.  In the end I decided on Jackson since it was an Independent Guard Battalion event and since Jackson was the event that the battalion holds its annual meeting, and since this year the battalion was holding its election for staff officers—and I was running for major for the Independent Guard.  Capt Sharp of the 1st Tennessee pointed out it might not look good for me if I was absent at these elections.

Four of us from the 1st Tennessee arrived on Friday—Sgt Jack Nyman, Cpl Jeff Carte, Pvt Zack Carte, and myself.  Enough for a few good rounds of Euchre.

Although Col. Julian had brevetted me to major at Reynoldsburg, he asked if I would be willing to allow a long-time staff member play major one last time for the Saturday battle.  Since I technically did not have the title yet, I was more than happy to step aside for him.

We fell in with 50th Virginia Company D.  They proved a great group to fall in with, although they used the face-burning Gilham’s tactics.  Captain Jim Lemon’s hospitality toward the 1st Tennessee was on a level of being more than happy we could join them.  Their numbers were also down for the event, so with our guns, it brought their size to an acceptable level for being a stand-alone company.

It is nice to have groups that are happy to have you fall in with them.  Sometimes you are not sure what they expect—I keep thinking one of these units we fall in with will think they are doing us a favor by letting us fall in with them, but so far I have not encountered that—they always seem genuinely impressed with our abilities and more than happy to share the company lines with us—and the 50th Virginia was no exception.  I watched them at Ft Wayne and was impressed with how well they performed with skirmish deployment.  At Ft Wayne I watched the 50th Virgina deploy forward in their groups of four—and it looked good.  It was good to fall in with them at Jackson.

The battalion had three companies that weekend—the minimum needed to form a battalion.  The 50th Virginia was designated 2nd and color company.

Seeing the Jackson battlefield, I couldn’t help but think of the size of Ft Wayne.  The battlefield seemed smaller than I remembered—maybe the entire Ft Wayne park would have trouble fitting in this field—but it would certainly be close.

Battalion drill helped work out some issues.  Although as private I had my own positions to worry about, I studied the Lt Colonel for where he positioned himself, to try to understand where my job would be once I was elected Major.  I am not sure where the other major was for drill—but he was only available at the battle.

As usual, I visited the sutlers—and as a quick note, they list are among the best of the year, but their numbers seemed a bit less than in the past.

Courtesy Jackson Citizen-Patriot
The battle seemed to go okay—though it was divided into two parts, and as private I was not sure what that was about.  Basically, we pounced on the Yankees, the battle was halted, we marched off the field, then a new phase in the battle resumed.  Fortunately there was no strange action like last year where a Yankee battalion marched upon a Confederate battalion and shook hands with them.   I think this year had a different Yankee commander than last.

However, I found out later that the battle scenario had gotten mucked up (at least, much more than usual).  Confederate forces were supposed to lose—we were to get decimated from an artillery barrage.  Unfortunately, the artillery ran out of ammunition, so could not launch that decimation—causing a Confederate victory.

We got some good Euchre that evening—something that had not happened much since our marathon at Nelsonville last year.  It was good to play a bit after the hiatus from it.

The weather cooperated for the weekend by keeping dry—but the heat and lack of wind seemed to stagnate the air.  Even after taking one of my allergy pills I awoke about 4 am Sunday morning hacking up a lung.  There was not much else to do other than get the campfire going and get the coffee ready.  By daybreak, the tar was ready, and it tasted better than usual.

Sunday I got to play major.  The battalion parade and drill were uneventful—but I used it to study where my place would be.  At the end of drill, the battalion was gathered for the annual meeting, where we decided to attend the GAC Gettysburg to fall in with PACS (as opposed to the BGA Gettysburg).  The battalion staff was then elected, with Col Julian being re-elected, Duane Clark being elected to the Lt Col position that he had been brevetted to after the departure of Gary Wade, and I was elected to major, filling the gap left when Lt Col Clark was brevetted.

Battalion formation for the battle was to be at 1:15, but at ten minutes to one, Col. Julian started rushing us to get ready.  I rushed over to his tent, confused as to such an early and rushed first call, only to find that the battery on the colonel’s watch had died at 12:10, and he had not realized that the hour hand was still on 12—he thought it was 1:10.  I showed him that it was only 12:50, and from that point on he made me the battalion’s official time-keeper, which proved to be a whole new problem, as I quickly learned that if I keep my watch in my vest pocket, I need to keep my frock unbuttoned.  I also learned that jute makes for a terrible substitute for a watch chain as at some point during the battle the string either broke or came untied from my vest buttonhole, causing me to lose the watch—leaving me at odds when asked the time.  Fortunately, Pvt Carte found my watch and returned it to me.

The battle was interesting to say least—and being on battalion staff puts a new perspective on the scenario.  Because of the unexpected victory yesterday, we had no idea if we were to win or lose today.  The time to start neared and Col Julian had not talked with Col Nick Medich—the overall Confederate commander—so did not know the details of the scenario for the battle, but Medich Battalion was no where to be found.  How could you hide a battalion in this park?  Col Julian even sent the Lt Colonel and myself out to find the other battalion, which we failed to do.  Col Medich finally did appear and provide Col Julian with his orders.

That's me, in the straw hat, taking my wing to flank
the Yankee hoards.
Courtesy Jackson Citizen-Patriot
Battle was again in two parts, and although the first part was exciting for me, there was not much that seemed memorable, other than we started with firing through the woods to make a bunch of noise and not be seen, then pushed the Yankees away from the captured batteries.

In the second half, we were to support Medich Battalion as they attempted to capture the Yankee artillery.  Medich Battalion ended up getting decimated and captured.  We were to retreat from the field in relative chaos.

As we closed in on the Yankees before our retreat, we lined up right at the edge of the artillery safety zone.  Artillery was firing and the captain of 3rd Company (14th South Carolina, and my entire wing) realized how unrealistic it was for there to be many survivors and so had his entire company go down at a cannon blast.  Somehow, however, one lone private of his did not quite get the message.  He was young, maybe as young as sixteen.  I told him, “You’re the only one left of your company.”  He looked around in surprise as he realized his situation.  I told him just to attach to color company, and then reported to the colonel that I no longer had a wing to command.

Getting pampered.
That heat wiped us out.  It has been a hot year, but perhaps that stagnate air wore us out more.  We returned to our camp, and Cpl Carte’s face was a red as a ripe tomato.   He usually gets pretty red after a battle, but I think he was a bit worse than usual.  The battalion’s fifer was camped with his wife next to our camp, and startled by his redness, she began pampering him with ice and wet clothes to cool him down.

Even though the battlefield at Jackson seems so terribly small for the four battalions, eight artillery pieces, and cavalry, it seems we are never at a loss for action and maneuvering.  Capt Sharp has said that he enjoys working in the tight area as it forces us to react and maneuver.  Being major I experienced what Capt Sharp meant, and I agree.  The tight area seemed to prevent the mere forward and back football maneuvering, and keeps the battle interesting for both reenactor and public.

Rising from private to major in a day is quite a change in perspective—but that is what makes this nation great.  Only in America—even if it is not Confederate.

News article of event
News article of event
Youtube video
Youtube video

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Yankee Hoards

Hale Farm
Bath Ohio

August 11-12, 2012

Most of the events we, the 1st Tennessee, go to seem to have a lack of jackets dyed in indigo.  We’ve been to events where a few of us have to change our gray over to blue so that we can have someone to shoot at.  I have wondered, “Where are all the Yankees?”

Well, I found them.

It seems they have all been hiding out in northeast Ohio. Hale Farm had them in droves.  I think we should have raced back to General Bragg to get reinforcements.

I had worked out ahead of time with Captain Greg Van Wey of the 5th Texas Company A to fall in with them so that we could guarantee we would not end up with the 7th Battalion of the Army of Northern Virginia—the battalion that left us a bad taste at Zoar last year.  He is a great captain and his unit has a lot of similarity to the 1st Tennessee, so we were a good fit.  The 5th Kentucky was also there from a last minute decision—they also were reluctant to come due to the ANV, but the corporal of the 5th Texas convinced them the ANV would not be an issue.

We love blue targets—there are not enough blue targets on the west side of Ohio where most of our events are, but at Hale Farm, we were outnumbered about four to one.

The event was on grounds that reminded us of the historic village at Sharon Woods—only on a larger scale.  There were a lot more grounds and a much larger battlefield.  We were a single battalion of four companies (which included the 5th Kentucky) against what appeared to be two full Federal battalions, not to mention too many cavalry to count, and a solid artillery force.

The morning tactical was interesting, and left me with the impression that the indigo dye must have some strange affect on the brain.  The Yankee objective for the tactical was to get at least one Yankee in the village.   We, as the Confederate defenders, had to keep every Yankee out.

Being a private for the weekend, my focus was to burn powder through my musket, but I had a good view over the unmowed battlefield.  There were several ways the Federals could take to progress to the village.  The most obvious was through the center of the large field, or they could have marched along one edge—or even found a way around the field through the woods.

Remember—they outnumbered us greatly.  They only needed to get one Yankee through.  There were a number of tactics they could have employed to get to the village—and afterwards we thought of how they could have done it.  They could have taken a platoon off around our flank along the far side of the battlefield, and there would have been nothing we could have done to stop them since we were fully occupied by the tremendous hoards of blue.

But somehow, that little concept escaped them—they simply continued a direct assault on our lines, which meant that our force blocked their path to the village, and in the end the tactical ended in a Confederate victory, although we would be pretty much decimated.  We achieved our objective in the time we had and kept the Yankees out of the village.

Christine—my musket—was not happy about the drizzle, however.  Most of Saturday morning was spent getting sneezed on by the overcast sky, and Christine had never been in that kind of weather during a battle, before.  It took a few misfires for her to get going—and she would be fine for awhile.  Then we would have to stop to maneuver, and she would get upset all over again.  I would have to coax her into getting that blackpowder to burn.

Hale Farm was a terrific event, and definitely outsized Reynoldsburg’s claim as the largest event in Ohio.  My only complaint for Hale Farm was that the battlefield was highly uneven—there were a lot of gopher holes and other ruts that we had to be careful marching through.  The coordinators might want to find a way to deal with this issue to keep someone from getting hurt.  The field was left unmowed—grass was taller than our knees.  Being very wet, I left the field soaked to the bone over all my trousers.  But tall grass is not an issue—in my opinion it makes the event more authentic, though it does make marching at the double-quick difficult.

But the event went the distance otherwise—trenches were dug for us to take cover in.  There were even a few rifle pits.  Had it not been for the lengthy and heavy recent rains, and the drizzle that lasted all of Saturday morning, we might have been more willing to dive in and make full use of those pits.    We did use the trenches for the Saturday afternoon battle, but the mud did give a bit of difficulty, though many were looking at the positive side by commenting on the patina that was added to their uniforms for the Maryland, My Maryland event coming next month.  Sunday was much dryer, so we made heavy use of those pits and trenches then.

Somehow the 5th Texas managed to significantly increase their numbers for the Sunday battle.  With three of us from the 1st Tennessee, there were a total of 24 rifles in their ranks.  It is not often you see a company that large—I do not think I have ever seen the 1st Tennessee with that many on the field at once.

Something we rarely see is a band that we can march to.  The Yankees had the Camp Chase Fife and Drums, while we had a small band with a fife and a couple of drums.  This was the first time I had experienced marching out into battle with this.  There had been the occasional young drummer boy beating cadence for us—and we were usually lucky if he had a somewhat regular tempo.  This band at Hale Farm was experienced—they did an excellent job with a series of Southern tunes.

During Sunday battalion drill, we got to experience something else that was completely new to me.  Although I have drilled forming a box around officers and defending against cavalry, I had never actually had cavalry to defend against—it was just something we drilled.  But during the drill, the Yankee cav came out to play with us—charging us at full gallop while we were in a defend against cavalry stance, stopping just five yards from us.

Reynoldsburg did outdo Hale Farm on the sutlers—but there were still a good number at Hale Farm, including a gunsmith I happened to need when my gun sight got knocked off when fixing bayonets.

Much of the spare time we had we spent trading our reenacting stories.  I had never met the 5th Texas before, and they did not know much about the 1st Tennessee.  Cpl Jeff Carte and Private Sean Swart joined me, and I was later surprised by the arrival of Pvt Tim Ellifrit for Saturday.

One way or another Hale Farm will be an event I will return to.  Having made friends with the 5th Texas, we know we will be welcome with them.  In many ways they were like the 1st Tennessee—well drilled and aggressive on the field.  I was right at home with them.  I hope I can get more of the 1st Tennessee to join us for next year.

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Monday, July 30, 2012

Can I Pet the Horse?

Greenville, OH
July 28-29,2012

The horse was called Norman.

I arrived at my usual time Friday evening at the Garst Museum in Greenville, Ohio.  Being the first to arrive and the contact for the unit with the event coordinators, I met with the blacksmith, who (with one other) was the living history organizer for the event.

Since this was a timeline event and the Civil War needed to be kept together, he took me to the 4th Indiana Light Artillery.  Since we represented the opposing side in our War of Northern Aggression, he suggested a nice little corner under the shade near the artillery unit.  Between us was a small space where a horse was going to be hitched.

I made sure to give a wide berth to the area so the horse would not be trampling my tent. Cpl Carte and Sgt Nyman camped beside me.

The timeline event had reenactors all the way from the French and Indian War to the American Civil War.  Numbers were small, but that is generally to be expected at an event in its second year.  The horse belonged to an old friend of my from my days in Revolutionary War reenacting—one Cindy Jackson.

The horse was fine overall—my only complaint was that it must have thought it was a rooster as it decided to make a 4:30 am wake-up call.

Besides our living history area, the event also had a festival of sorts across the street from us where various vendors and artisans sold their modern wares.  They even had a Beatles tribute band play for a while at 7 pm Saturday evening.  None of this was an issue for us as it was completely separated from the living history area, and the noise was not noticeable.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Before the event I kept in communication with Rob Frost, commander of the 4th Indiana Light Artillery.  We gave some ideas of our numbers and sketched out some rough scenarios we could have for a skirmish.  Since his was the only Union unit there, and we were the only Confederate unit, and we were infantry and his was artillery, we discussed the possibility of some of us galvanizing Federal to provide infantry support, and he galvanizing a cannon to give us artillery support.  But neither of us had quite the turn-out we were hoping, so we worked it out that we would each stay with our units, and the 1st Tennessee would attack a gun.  Since we had about 10 for Saturday and would be losing a lot for Sunday, we decided the 1st would win on Saturday, and then all die a glorious and dramatic death on Sunday. Some of 4th seemed reluctant to play due to the low turnout, but we could make something happen.  I never turn down an opportunity to burn powder.

“Can I pet the horse?”

I saw many of Rev War guys I knew—I was surprised to learn that the Mad River Light Artillery works closely with 4th Indiana—many members of both units.  Some of the Mad River Light Artillery were old friends of mine—I even was their powder monkey once at a battle at the Fair at New Boston.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Since our unit only infantry unit there, and since I was the one to organize getting infantry unit there, I somehow ended up Confederate commander.  Sgt Mott came without stripes (intentionally), and Sgt Nyman, Cpl Carte, and Cpl Kletzli all conceded command to me.  My rule of thumb at auxiliary events such as this is this (those not voted on by the company at the Regimental Meeting), is that all officers and NCOs attending the event keep their rank, with highest rank in attendance holding command.  All have the option to relinquish their rank for the event—as it is sometimes more relaxing not to worry about the responsibility of the rank.  As private, I am last in line for command on these auxiliary events, although since I organize them, I am first in line among the privates.  Sgt Mott suggested that since I am shooting for Major on the Independent Guard Battalion, I should have the experience—so after ensuring all NCOs agreed, I took command for Saturday.

It was good experience.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The breakfast both days held a good choice of donuts with coffee, but I also fried my bacon and eggs.

There were a few sutlers, though more geared for the Rev War period, but the blacksmith had a good choice of items.  The Annie Oakley Festival also in town same weekend (on the fairgrounds on the opposite end of town), so we got lots of public from festival coming here.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Which brings me to the main problem with camping next to a horse.

“Can I pet the horse?”

Every member of the public, and I do mean every, seemed very interested in that horse.  Every time someone passed by our camp, which was very frequently since we were right on the main footpath, they would stop at the horse and ask us if they could pet it—or perhaps ask some other question about the horse.

“Can I pet the horse?”

So, for every time we were asked that question, we had to give the same answer.

“It’s not our horse.”

It gave me an endearing sympathy for the cavalry units.  We were always nice enough to direct them to Cindy, who finally told us that anyone could pet the horse—they just needed to watch that the horse didn’t step on them.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The Cannon demonstrations started at 10am for every two hours, with the one at 2pm scheduled the same time as our skirmish.  So we planned to take to the field and attack at the end of that demonstration.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We drilled twice for about ten minutes each before the skirmish, blowing some powder to show off a little to public. I realized halfway through I never called a single manual of arms—then started calling the shoulder arms part.

“Can I pet the horse?”

The time came for the skirmish and we marched to our start.  I asked Sgt/Pvt Mott to sing a tune on way.  I had prepared him ahead of time if he could do one—and he was ready only for either “Eliza Jane” or “Pick a Bail of Cotton”. I told him to choose based on how much he wished to annoy Cpl Kletzli.  Apparently he had a high desire for annoyance—he chose “Pick a Bail of Cotton”.

“Can I pet the horse?”

At the far end of the battlefield, Kletzli and Mott found a trail that led to the flank of the artillery, so they took Pvt Mercer down trail to wait for us and provide a nice surprise.

We advanced on field, swinging to opposite flank in a skirmish line.  I made mistake of putting Pvt Jackson Nyman on left end of my line.  To shift to left side of field, several times I ordered “to the left flank, by files right, march”.  But each time I got this strange look from Pvt Nyman as if he were asking, “You want me to do WHAT?”  I’ll have to remember that each end of the line must have a skilled private, if I don’t have an NCO to put there.

“Can I pet the horse?”
Other than a few minor difficulties, the battle went well—they moved the small mountain howitzer into position to fight us. The howitzer misfired a few times, and I was trying to drag things out, so I took my time advancing my line.  At the appointed time, Mott’s crew advanced onto the field from the opposite flank, and we had them in a good crossfire.  One of the Rev War regulars from the 6-pound Rev cannon assisted the Howizter by firing his flintlock at us, which had only slightly better reliability than that howitzer.

When I finally thought that the battle had dragged on long enough (I really have no idea how long we went), I waited for a final successful shot from the cannon and then ordered and advance at the double-quick to take the gun.  Pvt Ellifrit’s only disappointment was that he could not take a hit since he never had anyone shooting at him.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We lost all but four of us after the skirmish.  No supper was provided, but vendors on the grounds across the street did have a good selection.  I had a pork chop sandwich.  Cpl Carte had a buffalo burger.  One of the organizers allowed us into the museum to explore a bit—which was good to see.  Overall the organizers were great—free ice, showers, and porcelain.

“Can I pet the horse?”

As there were only four of us Sunday, I carried a rifle for the battle and gave Sgt Nyman the command.  We knew we would lose, so Sgt Nyman, Cpl Carte, and I all made a devious little plan for Pvt Nyman (Sgt Nyman’s son).  We decided that at the right time, we would all die, and not tell Pvt Nyman.  Basically, Pvt Nyman was to be the last man standing.  I don’t think any of us had any real idea what he might do.

“Can I pet the horse?”

We followed the trail around the field Kletzli and Mott found on Saturday and awaited for the demonstration artillery fire, then took the field.  Spread out as skirmishers, the four of us advanced quickly as we fired.  The artillery fired once from the six-pounder Napolean gun, and we advanced some more.  Then the Revolutionary War cannon gave us a surprised as they joined the fight with a blast from their six-pounder.  Two shots—the third was when we were supposed to die.  The Civil War gun prepared their second shot, and I and Cpl Carte drifted toward Sgt Nyman so the cannon could make a good kill shot (oops—the Rev War gun wasn’t supposed to count).  The three of us went down at the gun’s blast, leaving Pvt Nyman, in a state of total confusion.  I heard a good applause from the crowd—they liked our dramatic deaths.  Pvt Nyman at least did not give up any ground—he scrambled to the edge of the woods and continued with some pot shots at the artillery.  The Civil War Napolean turned toward Nyman and made a final blast, taking the private down.

“Can I pet the horse?”

It was a good event—we had a great time. Simple breakfast was the only provided food, but as long as we know in advance, I am okay with that.  Our starving private suggested they add a Saturday meal—they were unaware that is the standard for most events, so they said they would consider it for next year.  I know we will be back.

And yes, you can pet the horse—his name is Norman.  Just watch that you don’t let it step on you.

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