Monday, July 16, 2012

Where's the Park?

Fort Wayne, IN

July 14-15, 2012

We had never been to this event in Fort Wayne, known as the Camp Allen Muster.  I stumbled across this one by accident looking for alternative events last year.  It was scheduled the same time as our usual event at McConnelsville, OH, but when it came up for a vote at our Regimental meeting, somehow Fort Wayne won out.  Capt Sharp had his concerns, since we knew nothing about the event.  All we really knew of it was that there were picture’s on the park’s website of members of the 19th Virginia from past events.  I had looked at the satellite view of the park from Google Maps, and the site looked of reasonable size.

But that Google Maps thing can really be deceiving.

The 1st TN attacking the fort. Nearly the entire park is in view.
I arrived Friday.  I drove up Spy Run Drive where the park was located and could see some of the fort buildings, so I knew I was at the site.  I saw what looked like some kind of private access road into the park with red wooden barricades, so thought the main entrance was perhaps up a bit.  I drove all the way up to the next streetlight, and there was nothing.  I turned to go around where the park was and passed by a gravel driveway at a trailhead, but nothing to indicate an entrance to the park.  I drove all the way around the park and came back to that access road.  I did not know what else to do, so I turned down the road.  About fifty feet down I came to a stop and asked a couple setting up an apparent sutler tent about registration and who I need to talk to, to which they pointed me in the right direction.  I looked around at the park—at the fort which took about one third of the panorama, the access road, which was really a large walkway, that went along a river on the left side, forking in front of my car to lead directly to the fort about one hundred feet in front of me, and I noted two buildings beside me.  It looked neat, but I kept wondering where the rest of the park was.  I could not imagine where I would even park my car, much less where some tents might be set up.

Except—that was the entire park.  Okay, we had complained about the small battlefield at Jackson, Michigan.  Four battalions fight on that battlefield and barely have room to maneuver.  Well, this entire park in Fort Wayne, Indiana, would fit in that battlefield in Michigan.  We figured this was probably about the size of the park we have to work with at the Durbin Bean Bake.

About sixteen (eleven rifles) of 1st Tennessee showed up.  The 50th Virginia was also there, although they had no privates arrive—all were NCOs or officers.  I guess they ended up demoting a few of them.  Major Duane (last name) of the Independent Guard was there, falling in the 50th VA, his old unit.  The Federal force was the 44th Indiana, who I do not think I had ever met before.  In total, there were about twenty soldiers per side. Col Julian of the Independent Guard was also there.  Col Julian did ask if I was going to join him on the battalion staff, but Capt Sharp needed the rifles, so I informed him I would be a private under JR this weekend.

Col Julian asked if he could play captain over the combined Confederate force, as a company, and asked Capt Sharp if he would play Lieutenant.  JR was rather reluctant, but he agreed in order to please his colonel.

We drilled for a bit on Saturday as a combined company.  Capt Sharp did not think Col. Julian had ever been a captain of a company, to which I replied that perhaps he was using this event as an excuse to try out being a captain.  It is a bit different from being colonel, and I know that in reenacting it is always enjoyable to experience something new.

Our drill soon turned into a skirmish as the Federals decided to intrude on our drill.  It was certainly refreshing seeing blue coats itching to play with us.

The main battle started not long after our drill.   There is not much to say about what happened, since the area is so small to work in.  The Federals pushed out from fort.  We pushed back—the rebels won.

JR took us through a lot of drill later, but we needed it, and it was good.  We worked out a few more kinks.

A fire ban provided an unfortunate experience.  Due to the drought we have been experiencing, we were not allowed a campfire. This meant no hot water for coffee or cleaning guns, and no bacon and eggs for breakfast (which is a staple for me).  The fire ban was not the fault of the park—it is just something that happens.  They were kind enough to provide coffee and a continental breakfast for us.  Some of us used the hose to flush cold water through their guns.  The park officials allowed us access to hot faucet water, and suggested possibly running water through the coffee makers to get near boiling water, which I think a few of us did.  I simply used my fallback method of using nothing but blackpowder solvent when hot water is not available—takes a bit longer and uses a lot more cleaning patches, but mine comes out the cleanest gun.  I had even bet Capt Sharp that he could not get a mark on my hand from rubbing the ramrod end into the breach of my rifle—a bet I won.

Saturday supper was catered fried and baked chicken, with the reenactors providing potluck sides.  It was a good meal.

Cpl Moore (Girth) and Pvt Springer (Mercer) spent some time that evening with the Federals that stationed in the fort.  When they returned some time after dark, they were excited about the 44th Indiana.  “These are like the best Federals ever!” they said.  They even said that if they had not liked JR and 1st Tennessee so much, they would be Federal with the 44th.  The fort had fans, TVs refrigerators—all the modern conveniences.  The 44th were enjoying pizza.  Girth and Mercer were harping on how cool all that was—this coming from the guys who always campaign next to the campfire every night.

Capt Sharp with Little Pud, his prize from the festival.
One major negative of this event is that occurred during some kind of major festival of some sort.  This festival, which had a rock concert every evening (which at least ended by 11 pm).  The festival was tolerable even though it was across the river from us, but it would have been nice if was not there.  An air boat gave rides down the river, which was not tolerable—every time air boat came past he opened up the throttle and drowned out all other sounds, even our own thoughts.  However, the coordinators did say they were looking at rescheduling the event for the end of October in 2013.  We gave the some tips on how to avoid conflicts with our schedule and with significant events.

There were some issues of parking cars—they had us park either across the street or around the corner, both of which competed against the festival.  One car vandalized, so they allowed us to park cars within the park, which was patrolled.  I would strongly recommend parking within the park during the night—if they continue to allow that—and then parking in one of the lots in the morning.

The public walked through the park, following the trail all day, starting at daybreak, going to late at night, never trying closing.  The security was there to prevent any issues.

Sunday was much more laid back.  No morning drill, and nothing planned until the battalion—er company drill—at 1 pm.  The drill was little more than marching around the park and firing at the fort.  The battle started shortly after.  It started with us in possession of the fort and the Federals trying to drive us out.  The final objective was for us to take their artillery piece.  One thing is for sure—the 44th Indiana does like to play.  We sometimes have a hard time finding blue targets that like to give us a challenge.  I hope we run into the 44th again.

Although the park was small—you really could not have more than 40 or so reenactors—it was an excellent event.  There is no hope to see cavalry there due to it’s small size.  The festival was a problem, along with the airboat rides that stormed up and down the river, but the coordinators are looking at changing the date of the event to late October in 2013, so the festival and other noise issues should not be around.  It is located just north of downtown Fort Wayne, so security is a bit important.  They let us park our cars on the grounds (right by our tents) overnight where a security guard patrolled, and I would strongly recommend doing so, and the relocating the cars back to the parking lot in the morning.  This event was opposite McConnelsville, which is what we usually do on this date, so I asked Capt Sharp which event he thought was better—he gave his vote for Fort Wayne.  A powder bounty was also given to us, much to our surprise, which equated to about a third of a pound each.

I think we all had a good time at this event.  The big events with something planned every hour have their place and are enjoyable, but these small events give us time to spend together.  I am sure Fort Wayne is an event we will attend again.

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