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.

Local article about event

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