Monday, June 25, 2012

The Battle of Blacklick Creek

Reynoldsburg, OH
June 23-24, 2012

Someone is calling this Ohio's largest Civil War reenactment, but I'm not sure where they get that.  It is large,  and definitely in the running for the largest, but the Confederate side only had three companies to form the single battalion.  There were something like four artillery pieces per side, and perhaps 15 cavalry--which are impressive numbers.  Blue targets on foot were also impressive--but appeared to be about equal to us. I would like to know how they qualify the Reynoldsburg as the largest in Ohio.  I am under the understanding that Hale Farm shows two full battalions per side.  Fort Recovery's numbers aren't quite up to Reynoldsburg, but they aren't far off--I think last year had more Rebels, but lacked comparable Yankees.

But anyway, it was an excellent weekend.  Saturday had two battles, and one battle for Sunday.  Plus Saturday lunch and dinner provided, along with a healthy Sunday breakfast.  None of it was period food--but who's noticing anyhow?  The number of sutlers there was also quite extensive.  At least two gunsmiths, and three large sutlers.  The number of sutlers, in my opinion, puts it in competition with the number of sutlers at Jackson, Michigan.  Jackson still has quite a bit more, but this is only the third year for this event as a full scale event on its own standing.   If based on the number of sutlers--this is definitely the largest event in Ohio.
Pvt Quinn Marcotte's camp

This weekend Capt. Sharp challenged the unit to go on the campaign--to prepare us for some of the nationals we were planning for 2013.  I packed up my knapsack with a full dog tent--complete with both ends--my skillet and plate, my lantern, my coffee pot (very important), poles for the dog, about seven stakes, and plenty of rope.  I topped it off my strapping one of my chairs to the package.  I stuffed both my haversacks with as much food as they could hold.  Once I parked my car, I cootered up, and attempted to put on the knapsack.  I could see the campsite from where I was parked--perhaps only about 200 yards, so I didn't worry about having problems going that far.  But after the third attempt at putting the knapsack on, I began to worry I would be able to get past my car.

I did finally get the pack on--with the poles swing every-which-way and the chair barely hanging on.  As I walked, I could feel the lantern and coffee pot bumping against my backside.  I had originally planned on walking in with my full cooler in my arms, as well, but thought better of it after working for the best way to carry my musket.

I did make it to camp without much trouble--but ascertained that this would be a bad idea if the hike was much longer.  I figured I might be able to go about a quarter to half a mile before dropping over dead.

I set up my dog tent, which was quite the experience since I had never done one before.  The poles I cut were a bit thin--but they were very green, so I figured they would do the job and not break.  It was a bit of a struggle trying to work a balancing act to get everything positioned so it wouldn't fall over, but I finally succeeded.  What I hadn't counted on was that the uprights were extremely flimsy--they would hold the dog, but they certainly wouldn't take the added weight of a canteen or lantern.  One could easily push down on the ridge pole and lower the top all the way to the ground.  The green uprights wouldn't snap, but it sure would spring up in a hurry like a trampoline once you let go.

I was surprised at how well I slept.  I had feared my back would ache halfway through the night, but the only  problem I ran into was a bit of achiness in my calves (I have no idea why).  I did struggle a bit to keep warm enough--some time during the night I lost my nightcap.  I had to use the kerchief in my pocket over my head.  The wool blanket was also just shy of warm enough.

Capt Sharp had a discussion with Colonel David Julian of the Independent Guard Battalion.  The 1st Tennessee is a member of this battalion, and I had expressed interest in running for the position of major on the battalion staff.  The captain ordered me to meet with the colonel, who brevetted me to the position of major for the weekend--or at least until Jackson in August when the elections are held (assuming I at least give the impression I know what I'm doing).  The officer who had been elected to the position of major was not there this weekend, and I had heard he had be brevetted to Lt Colonel.

Being green to command I was not sure what to expect.  I knew what I needed to do for battalion parade and all, but the battlefield was a bit different.  We had only three companies, which gave me third company as my wing.

The morning battle was a challenge.  It went well--we were supposed to lose, though.  Despite this, it had quite the thrill.  It started off standard enough, except the colonel quickly separated my wing off on the left, meaning my first command started at the first shot. 

We were beside an opening in the woods, and we know Federal cavalry might try to work their way through.  So I kept my attention on that hole while the wing attacked the enemy to our front.  I wasn't long before I saw some saddles approach the hole from the other side of the woods, so attempted to get my wing to refuse the flank, knowing they had to move quickly.  My idea was to about-face the company, left wheel them, then about-face.  They would be in perfect position to defend our flank.  Unfortunately, it didn't work out like that.  We knew their level of drill was not on par with the rest of us, but I was hoping they would simply trust me and do as I commanded, not worrying with the enemy to the front.  At the first command, "Right-about face", all I got were a few confused stares.  I finally pointed at the cav units, who were now breaking out of the hole, and said, "You have enemy to your flank!!!".  Somehow, they got into position and shooed them off.  When it happened again, my command simply changed to "Refuse the flank".  The captain did a better job of getting his men at that point.

The last time we had the cav problem I tried to get the wing into position, and was still struggling with them.  I heard someone shout at me from behind and turned and saw the 1st Tennessee about to barrel down on me.  "Now what do I do?" I thought.  I managed to get the men to fall back, but somehow the 1st Tennessee got split.  Their front rank was to the right of my wing, while their rear rank was to my left.  Well, at least we had a solid line with which to defend.

The battle ended fighting on two fronts.  The Federal cavalry was to our rear, while the Yankee infantry ran up our front.  I finally tried to decide whether or not I should sheave my sword--I was down to only one man left to command.

When the dead came back to life, we reformed the battalion to do the normal charge at the public.  When the Independent Guard does this, it is organized.  At the command "Charge," the bayonets are lowered, but the march step remains unchanged--the line is maintained.  The Rebel Yell starts at the command.

Unfortunately, not all units understand that this is the correct way of doing this per the drill manuals.  Many units, including many of the Federal units there that day, think that at the command "Charge", you lower the bayonet and start running full steam ahead.  This is not only totally FARBIE, but also very dangerous--what if you trip in your sprint toward the public?  Next thing you know, you've skewered some kid.

Now I go on this tangent to to explain what happened next.  Third company is not normally with the Independent Guard.  In fact, I was informed that the only time we see them is at this event.  At the command, "Charge", third company began a sprint to the crowd.  There was quite the look of terror on the colonel's face when he saw that.

The second battle was good as well.  I don't remember quite as much from it--it didn't hold quite the significant memories of the first, other than we won.  When we started our charge to the crowd, however, the colonel passed on the fix bayonet command, so the charge was done without bayonets.

Sunday I got up feeling good, despite sleeping on the ground.  My sleeping cap stayed on my head and this time I added my poncho on top of my blanket to keep warm.  I put on my frock and straw hat and got the fire going--it always seems I'm the first one up, so there's never a fire going other than a couple of embers.  What's an officer to do?

The officer's meeting for the battle was much better than Saturday.   The rank insignia must have been kept plenty warm overnight.  The planning was quick--Capt Steiner gave the colonel his two-headed quarter and allowed him to call for the victor of the day's battle. The only disappointment was that the tactical was canceled--for the third time in a row.  The past two years had rain as an excuse, but this weekend was dry.  But the excuse give was that with the tactical at 9am and the main battle at 1:30 pm, the men might be worn out for the battle and not be able to put on a good show.  The captains, however, were offered the opportunity to work with each other the hold a tactical of their own, if they desired.  

The colonel of a Federal battalion that was not otherwise present was there to rally both sides to help guide the future of this hobby--I believe he was from the Army of the Ohio.  He described how in the past units and battalions would have animosity toward each other and not even know why, finally to get together recently and decide to make a change.  What he had to say offered a great hope for the future of this hobby. Too many times I have seen units and leaders try too hard to assert themselves as the most import to this hobby at the cost of chasing away the reenactors who can truly make a difference to the future of this hobby.  Now, perhaps that they will start seeing that we are all peers, regardless of rank or affiliation.  The various units, battalions, and divisions can all work together to continue to improve this hobby--educating the pubic instead of chasing them away with infighting.  There's nothing better than shooting each other down during the battle, only to shake hands afterward, thanking each other for a good time and looking forward to the next.

The colonel also mentioned that the Ohio Village is planning a reenactment sometime next year--something that sounds quite the thrill to us all.  The Ohio Village is probably among the best places to hold a reenactment.  Having grown up in Columbus, I've been to the Village a number of times, and it would be spectacular what we could do on those grounds.  The only concern, which was brought up, was that the Columbus Crew stadium is nearby, and they held vulgar rock concerts there, where foul language could be heard from loud speakers from quite a distance away--perhaps if we encounter that, the Columbus Police will be happy to intervene, as they should have the first time that occurred.

After the meeting, the colonel discussed with the staff his intentions of a breastworks around the makeshift town we were to defend for the scenario.  The battalion was then formed and taken out to the battle field where we took the split rail fencing and bails of straw to secure ourselves for the battle.  During this time, Capt. Sharp notice a platoon of Federals crossing the end of the field, so ordered a few of his men after them--I guess the tactical was on again.  

Once the breastworks were finished, the colonel reformed the battalion and passed command to me to march them back to camp.  Not much to do, but it was an honor.

Back in camp, Pvt Silvers returned from his excursion after the Yankees and relayed his experience of retaking an artillery piece three times.

That afternoon battle was a thrill.  It surprised us that the Federals only chose one direction from which to attack us, making our defense much easier.  In order to have a good line-of-site to them, my wing had to form in front of the breastworks.  Fire was heavy.  I managed to get my pistol emptied somewhere.  I kept my eye on the colonel, and saw him signal me to advance.  Third company's captain must have also seen the signal as he ordered his me out--at the mosey.  As we were advancing out to outflank the Federals, I saw the 1st Tennessee double-quick into a line in front of us and realized that if we didn't hurry, we were going to miss the rest of the battle, so ordered them into the line at the double-quick.  At some point, the Rebel forces uncovered a Gatling gun and mowed down the surviving Federals--at least that was what I was told.  I was so occupied, I didn't notice the Gatling being brought out, even though I knew it was coming.  Yeah, we knew it probably was unlikely Confederates would have a Gatling gun, but it was withheld until the end of the battle, and was used only as a tool to bring the battle to a conclusion--not as something to be the center of attention.  I can only wonder at what the public's impression was.

We again had to do our final charge at the public to give them their thrill.  Despite all the implied warnings, I was concerned third company still didn't understand what we were saying, and it didn't help when we saw the Federals charge in chaos.  So I planted myself in the center of third company at the beginning of the march.  The colonel was requested to allow the fixing of bayonets, and he reluctantly agreed.  I know the concern was only with third company, so I made sure that everything could be done to minimize the concern.  As we approached, the colonel commanded, "Charge", where by first company charged bayonets, color company (1st Tennessee, which out of safety concerns, does not charge bayonets) held at port arms, and third company charged bayonets, then began running forward.  I caught them in time, about-facing and using my sword to force them to keep the line, ordering them to keep in the line.  I was surprised how well it worked.  The line was a bit jumbled, but their race to the finish changed to the organized march the charge was intended to be.

As a final say on third company--the 43rd Tennessee--I like them.  They are aggressive on the battlefield--a good thing--I had to halt their advance a few times to keep them from ending up in the middle of the fray--the captain was quick to command the advances.  I think that they just need to work on some drills.  The charge issue is more of a thing of the Independent Guard--we do things by the drill manuals, and the 43rd is not a member of our battalion.  I think if they spend a bit more time on their drills, they have the potential for being a crack unit out there--they have the heart and energy to do the job well.

I have to say that so far this was by far the best weekend of the year.  Stuffed silly and battling like crazy--even though my normal quantity of powder burnt reached near zero.

Local News Article

Monday, June 4, 2012

Sitting By the Roadside

Grove City, OH

June 2-3, 2012

Arriving late afternoon on Friday, I was surprised at how cool the weather had come, especially after suffering from 90 degrees plus last weekend.  I was the first one of the Confederates to arrive, so I looked around for someone to tells us where the Confederate camp was supposed to be.  I stumbled into the 76th Ohio's camp and asked them--who weren't much help.  They suggested I camp out a few miles down the highway.  I just smiled, nodded, and backed away quietly--off to look for someone with a clipboard who looked a bit frazzled (or at least hopefully so).  It took awhile, but I did stumble into just the person.

He gave us a general area--anywhere between this gravel walk and the treeline in the distance.  Since it seemed to balance us with the Federals and kept us reasonably close to the public, I choose to set camp right next to the gravel walkway.  I should have noticed the lamppost I was setting up underneath--but I was focused on getting my canvas up so that I could relax for the evening.

I never did experience nightfall.  That lamppost made my canvas shine like the morning sun all night long.

But we got to chat a bit with the sutlers set up across from our camp.  That's one thing I have to say about this event--the sutlers were far better that Sharon Woods, even though this was a decidedly smaller event.  I replaced my cartridge box with the sutlers we talked with for one that I could fit tins in (my regular box was too small for tins, and I have another box I use for Federal only as it has a "USA" plate on the front).  A few other of our unit found other items to add to their gear.

The event coordinators did not have anything planned for us other than to be living history.  It was a timeline event, though there seemed to be a bit lacking from the timeline.  I saw a bit from Rev War, and some scraps from here and there that I'm not real sure what they were representing.  Capt. Sharp got with Capt. Jenkins of the 76th OVI to get something going.  We held a morning drill, made a raid on a sniper up a hill, then held a small assault on the Federal forces.

The event has potential--there seems to be good ground for us to work in.  Perhaps if the event is held next year, we can do more for it, though I doubt the 1st Tennessee will put it on its official schedule like they did this year.  It makes for a good auxiliary (filler) event, but as a strong all-out event, it is quite lacking.  I'm looking forward to Reynoldsburg at the end of this month.