Sunday, April 14, 2013

One Weekend--Two Spring Drills

April 13-14

Fort Recovery OH

Do two separate spring drills in two separate locations count as two events?  I have looked over my schedule and have a total of 21 events lined up for 2013.  But if I can count the Independent Guard Battalion spring drill in Fort Recovery and the 1st Tennessee Co B spring drill in Caesar's Creek on this last weekend as two separate events, then I'll have 22 for 2013.

Well, the 1st Tennessee had already committed to their spring drill on this date at Pioneer Village long before the IG scheduled their battalion drill for the same weekend. But the plan for battalion drill was for Saturday only, leaving Sunday for the individual companies to do their company drill.  Which meant my battalion duties as major would be finished Saturday night--so I decided to join my home unit for Sunday (falling in as private)--since they were only an hour or two drive apart from each other.

At least, that was the plan.  I arrived at Ambassador Park in Fort Recovery on Friday evening after work to find only Capt Schmidt of the 19th Virginia and one of his men still setting up camp--and no one else.  "So where's battalion headquarters?" I asked.

"Wherever you want."

Col. Julian was expected a little after nine that evening.  Being the first of the staff to arrive, I picked a spot across the gravel road from Capt Schmidt against the woods, making sure there was enough space for a line of tents for the entire staff.

The evening was cold and wet, but I had packed light, planning to disembark the next evening for Caesar's Creek.  While setting my camp, Capt Lemon of the 50th Virginia arrived with his first sergeant, setting camp about fifty yards distant.  I managed to get my tent up and campfire started before Capt Schmidt completed his camp--but he did have a large wall and fly to set up, which always takes a lot of time.  As I visited with Capt Schmidt as he finished his camp, Lt Col Clark arrived with a private from the 50th VA.

This was not looking promising.  Darkness was falling, and a total of seven men were there for battalion drill, and we had only one rifle.  Col Julian arrived later in the dark, making a total of eight men, along with a few family members.

The night was cold, wet, and windy.  Fredericksburg, held in December, had better weather.  I managed to survive the night, sleeping on my tarp and canvas floor in my army sleeping bag and under enough blankets and great coats to nearly completely immobilize me.

The morning did not bring any hope.  The other member of the 19th VA (Perry) complained of running out of propane for his heater in the middle of the night and grumbled about the temperate--inside his tent--had dropped to 35.

The group of us gathered around Capt Schmidt's fire, since it was the best in the camp, and held officer's call.  Since it was officer's call, the private was not invited.  We discussed the plans for the Gettysburg 150th event, including how Col Julian was being brevetted to brigade command, leaving Lt Col Clark brevetted to the battalion command, and me being brevetted to the Lt. Colonel's position.

We also discussed plans for Conner Prairie next month and how things have changed from previous years.  I only knew of the issues second hand, having only been there once some seven years ago (which is a story all its own).

The morning finished with us waiting for the fire to die down.  It is a little difficult to drill a battalion with one private and two captains.

Pioneer Village, Caesar's Creek, Waynesville OH

But, that left more time than I had originally planned with the 1st Tennessee.  I punched in the location for Pioneer Village into my GPS and made the two hour drive down to Waynesville, listening to "Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me" on a local NPR station, arriving at one that afternoon.  I pulled in and started unloading my car just as the company returned from a bivouac in the woods.  I quickly changed my jacket to one without rank insignia and cootered up to fall in, fumbling through the gear in my truck to snatch my musket.  Capt Sharp snatched the officer's nuts off my hat to put away before I fell in.  I suppose they felt threatening to him.

The weather now was perfect.  Sunny and warm, but cool enough to be comfortable in the jackets.

We drilled some in the field, exploring marches by platoon to give the unit exposure to battalion maneuvers--since they are pretty much the same (but on a smaller scale). 

Shortly before supper, the officers and civilians embarked on a scenario for us called "A Spy Amongst Us", where it was our job to locate the spy in the village.  Sgt Kletzli wanted to just question everyone, and if they said they weren't the spy, just shoot them.  But he told us (grumbling) that he was overruled.  We went out in platoons in opposite directions around the village and questioned each of the civilians of the 1st Tennessee we came across.  Somehow, Sgt Kletzli got information from Barb Moore that one "Samuel Bell" was the spy.

Of course, that didn't leave us with many options.  Shawn Swart was enlisted to participate as civilian due to his extensive experience and good ability for first person, and Lt Mott, being an officer, took on the civilian part.

The 7th Kansas Cavalry was there as well (they drilled with the 1st TN earlier that morning, before I arrived), and did play along with the scenario a bit, so they were also potential candidates for the spy--but since they were a Federal unit, it did seem a bit counter-productive for one of them to be the spy.

Anyway, we eventually tracked down that "Samuel Bell" (Andrew Mott), and promptly shot him.  Unfortunately, it was too late.  Some sort of spy message had already been handed off to Jen Mott, and delivered to its target.

Well, okay, that was interesting.

But it did degenerated into a tactical against the 7th Kansas.  We cornered them and shot at them, taking care not to get shot in return.

It might have gone a little quicker had we realized they had no ammunition.  Yeah, we were told in advance they were out, but can you really believe your captain when he tells you this just before the start of a scenario?

Stew was cooked by the men for supper.  Pvt Feeman offered a multitude of spices to the mix, enhancing the taste to a level rarely known by a campfire dinner.

We wrapped the evening with a round of Euchre, Capt Sharp my partner against Pvt Feeman and Pvt Zack Carte.  The game went well, and Pvt Feeman made an unexpected move of genius--ordering the right bower into Capt Sharp's nearly lay-down loner hand.  Had Capt Sharp been able to call trump with his loner, it would have been a guaranteed four points.   But with Pvt Feeman calling it, we could only gain two points.  The move was so disconcerting to Capt Sharp, he discarded a card different than he intended.  The move probably saved the game for Pvt Feeman, with him and Pvt Carte winning.

The night did get a bit uncomfortably cold again, but not nearly as bad as the night before.  I fried up the last of my bacon and eggs, finishing breakfast shortly before 1st call.  We fell in for drill, formed the much smaller company than the day before.  Capt Sharp ordered "Right face", followed by "Front", finishing with "break ranks".  It probably set a record for the shortest drill session.

We hung around the fire for a bit longer, shooting the breeze and enjoying the fine weather and each other.  The time with the 1st TN made up for my disappointment with battalion drill (er, the lack thereof), and it was a fine weekend.

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