Monday, August 26, 2013

A Decline in Numbers

Jackson, MI

August 24-25, 2013

Jackson, Michigan has been one of my annual staples since 2010, when I went all-out for Civil War reenacting.  For the number of reenactors that attended--normally several hundred--the battlefield is rather small, but forces those in command to think quickly and maneuver in tight quarters.  This was my second year here on battalion staff.

But numbers were down.  We considered a lot had to do with Gettysburg, but we weren't really sure.  Of the Independent Guard companies that attended, only the 50th Virginia and the 12th South Carolina were there.  We were too small to even carry our flag on the field.

Another Confederate battalion was there as well--Medich battalion, but their colonel was unable to attend, leaving the command to their Lt Colonel.  I'm not sure how in such situations overall Confederate command is decided, but Col Medich is normally overall commander for this event, and I think that was how the event coordinators decided to make their Lt Colonel overall commander.

Because of our small numbers we had a lot more interaction with Medich battalion that we normally do.  Usually all we see is Medich battalion doing their thing on the battlefield, while we do ours.  Col Julian will discuss a few things with Col Medich, but that is about the extent of it.  This year, however, there were a few times where we appended ourselves onto Medich Battalion to make us look like one large battalion.  We still pretty much had our autonomy, but we worked much closer with Medich battalion to accomplish the tasks.

Lt John Porter was also unable to attend, so I filled in as acting adjutant for the weekend, though with only two companies, there wasn't much for me to do.  In addition to my role as major, I basically brought the two companies on line and formed the parade.  Lt Porter also handles attendance roles, but there was not much worrying about that this weekend.

Saturday morning proved a bit of a rough start.  At four in the morning I awoke to a coughing fit due to allergy problems.  My allergy medication takes about an hour to kick in, so I was up for the day.

I started the fire with the wood the park provided--it was probably the greenest wood I had seen at an event.  It was all spruce and pine and some of the spruce wood still had sprouts with green needles.  The pine sap made it easy to start the fire, but the green wood made it difficult to keep the fire burning well.

The Saturday battle was not overly memorable.  It was a scenario from Chancellorsville, though I don't know the intended details.  We had the 12th SC start out without their coats to give the impression they were Yankee militia, and they started fighting against us.  The plan was that they would be captured almost immediately, then our battalion--which was only the 50th VA at that time--would take them as prisoners, where they would put their coats back on and rejoin us into battle.

Something didn't go quite right.  As soon as we took the 12th SC as prisoners, we were ordered back on line to defend the left flank.  The 12th quickly put their coats on and joined us.  I guess we could say that we paroled them--and they decided to join us.

From there, all I know is that both battalions pushed the Yankees across the field, with the 12th SC flanking them on the right, and Medich's last company flanking on the left.

Supper that evening left something to be desired.  Two slices of roast pork, a roll or cornbread, and potato or macaroni salad.  Not much to fill up on, and not much taste.  Fortunately, the Lt Colonel offered me some lunch meat to supplement my meal.

My allergies were a little better Sunday morning--I had taken some Benedryl the night before, but I still had a bit of a coughing fit around 1:30 in the morning.  I found, however, that I wasn't alone in my allergy problems.  Col Julian also expressed problems with allergies, along with a number of others.  There was apparently something in the air at Jackson that was giving all of us problems.  My best guess was that horribly green spruce and pine wood--burning that wood must have put allergens in the air that made us ill.

I did manage to sleep later, waking to the bugle call of reveille from the Yankees.

This day seemed a bit lighter--we started drill with our annual meeting, voting for the Sergeant Major and Adjutant positions.  Since both Len Kiser and John Porter ran unopposed for those positions, we only had to re-affirm them, though both seem to have been granted their positions for life.

We then went into a simple drill with Medich Battalion, forming a column of companies and circling the battlefield--basically making sure the companies do their wheelings correctly while in a column of companies--though we never needed to use this again.

After drill, Jeff, Trish and I wandered the sutlers.  My drawers were falling apart--I had patches upon patches--and managed to find a decent pair at James Country.

The battle had an intermission like Saturday's battle.  Jackson did this last year as well--and I'm not sure what that is all about, other than it lengthens the battle time.  Perhaps it works well--it's tough to make an impression from my perspective.

The first part of the battle was not very memorable--it was something from Gettysburg, but I couldn't tell you what. However, the second part of the battle was a success.  We did Pickett's Charge, forming three battalions of two companies each, with Medich splitting their battalion, while we stood on our own.  The field was small, so we didn't have far to go.  Each battalion advanced and fired one battalion volley, loading once more for all of us to fire at once.

We then advanced hard on the Yankees.  The fight didn't last long.  The entire IG Battalion was decimated.  I took a leg wound and started dragging myself to the rear of the battlefield.

I do enjoy this event--but it would be better if we can see a return to solid numbers.  Perhaps next year, when the big 150th events will be in the past.

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