Monday, June 29, 2015

The Copperhead Invasion

Ohio Village

Columbus, OH

June 27-28, 2015

I arrived Friday to Ohio Village and carried in my gear. After Red River, I decided to travel light, although this weekend that proved to be not so good an idea. No tent, no shelter--just a ground cloth, poncho, and wool blanket to sleep in. My knapsack carried all my supplies for the weekend.

The temperature was dropping and rain saturated the ground. I was able to keep somewhat dry through the night, but was not comfortable with the soggy ground stealing my heat.

Morning came and I collected morning reports. With the 1st Tennessee were the 27th Virginia that were from PACS, the 44th Tennessee from Indiana that are part of the Independent Guard Battalion, the 13th Virginia, the 6th Kentucky, and the Confederate Marines. The 13th VA and 6th KY were small enough that they consolidated as one for battalion maneuvers. We also expected the 5th Texas from Medich Battalion, but only two of them arrived for Saturday only, so we consolidated them with the 27th VA. We also expected Lt Col Greg Van Wey of Medich battalion, who was to command our left wing, but due to a family emergency was unable to come. I had looked forward to seeing him to share stories of Red River with him, but the stories will have to wait. His absence left me to command the left wing. Col Danny Linkous commanded right wing, while J.R. Sharp, as overall Confederate commander, commanded the provisional battalion.

At 10 a.m., we formed the battalion and marched them into town. The Yankee battalion joined us as we held a memorial service for one of our own reenactors--a member of the 6th KY. Once the service was over and the Yankees returned to camp, we held the village, setting pickets at each entrance. We placed the pickets on 30 minute shifts, and I requested Cpl Silvers of the 1st TN to serve as Corporal of the Guard, to help me with managing the shifts. As each shift formed, I gave some basic instruction to the pickets, including the countersign of "Fredericksburg". The Yankees were given the countersign--the pickets were more for show for the spectators--and we didn't want to prohibit access and enjoyment of the town to anyone. We only asked that the Yankees remove their blouses before entering town, though they did also have to give us the countersign. The Yankees would have the village Sunday, and we would give them the same courtesy.

The day progressed and I kept busy with preparing each shift practically upon deploying the previous shift. At 12:30 pm, I had Cpl Silvers relieve the last shift with no replacements so that we could form and be ready for the battle at 1.

The entire southern side of town was active for the battle. My wing took the road to the east, pushing quickly out, then wheeling near perpendicular to the road to hit the advancing Yankees. This gave us the advantage of being able to hit them early, but when the Yankees pushed, it put us in an awkward position to fall back toward the town. I could have done a reverse wheel, but that to me is just plain awkward, so instead I right-flanked them, then ordered, "on the right by file into line", followed by a right wheel, which put the wing across the road into good position to fight. Unfortunately, the moves needed to happen too quickly, so I had to order the right wheel before the the on the right by file into line was complete. It was a bit convoluted because of this, but we got into position. Afterward, I realized that first performing a by file right (instead of the on the right by file into line), then the on the right by file into line would have been less awkward and accomplished the same thing, though I would have had to start the on the right by file into line as soon as the first file turned for the by file right command.

The Yankees pushed us hard back into the village, and we fell back as they pushed, careful not to give too much ground, trying to keep even with the rest of the battalion as they faced their opponents. Once the Yankees reach the main boardwalk, we held fast, and when they started to falter, we began a hard push out. The Yankees on my wing were stubborn, however. Left wing had to fight hard for every inch, while right wing was handed ground easily. I pushed as much as I could, but it felt I could only inch my men forward. As we passed the meeting hall, the last building to our right, Col Sharp shouted to us to push and not stop. I looked about and could see right wing on the far end of the battlefield, capturing the bridge--too far away to offer any support to us. All I needed was a single company volley on the Yankee flank, and we could break them, but my wing was on our own. Finally, the Yankee wing fell back more than 20 yards at once, and I charged my wing forward at the double-quick to take everything they gave us at that instant, having the wing ready to fire before the Yankees could regroup. It was not long after that, and we won the day.

Dead and wounded lay all about around the village. I saw one portly short Yankee laying on the ground that I remembered from two weeks ago and tried to come up with a good quip for him, but my weary body stole the brain power from me, so I let him lay. I saw several soldiers, some wounded, standing about doing nothing, so requested their assistance in carrying the dead and wounded over to Doc's tent, so that they could be dealt with. I had the Yankees that were hovering about handle their own, while any free Confederate I assigned to handle the dead and wounded of ours.

We assigned one more shift of pickets, then steadily withdrew from the village to our camps.

Evening meal was provided to us in the town, where we witnessed a wedding party gather at the church.

The temperature dropped to uncomfortably cold, with the sky spitting at us and occasionally flushing down.

Perhaps it was wimping out, but having no tent to shelter me from the cold, wind, and rain, I chose to spend the night in my car.

Who would have thought that the end of June in Ohio would require great coats?

I awoke to daylight after a reasonable rest, ready for action.

We held morning parade at ten a.m., then broke until battle time.

They Yankees held the village today, but the public would not be entering until noon, so many of us were not ready when overly-anxious Yankee pickets stopped us around 11 am. Fortunately the countersign was publicly known as "Franklin", so there was no trouble, though. Sgt Major Dave Julian told me of one picket being confused to how he so readily knew the countersign, which is particularly funny since the countersigns for both days were chosen Friday and made publicly available to all reenactors--their sole purpose was to aid in the immersion show for the spectators.

I took the long morning to visit with Jim Ruley, who took measurements for a coat I was going to have him make for me. He did such a good job with Capt Sharp's coat, and I had been considering a new frock for some time, I thought it time to talk to him.

I was given word that there were a number of period-civilian activities during the day, but since the Yankees held the town, I was not aware what they were.

Courtesy Joe Patchen
We formed for battle, then sent the Confederate Marines into skirmish against a skirmish line of Yankees. After a small show, I brought left wing up to offer support and push the Yankee line back into the town.

As we pushed forward, we pushed hard down the street on the left. The Yankee skirmishers retreated down the center, between two buildings. The 44th Tennessee came up behind us and pushed in the center, while we pushed on the left into the town. The 1st Tennessee pushed on the right flank into town. My wing included the Confederate Marines, the 27th Virginia, and the 6th Kentucky. The 13th Virginia carried their colors (an ANV Confederate Battle Flag) as color company so was not with my wing like yesterday.

Entering the town, we faced an artillery piece down the other end of the street, so did not hang around long, shifting to rejoin the rest of the battalion in the center. We fought heavily for a time, but we were outnumbered, and the Yankees soon pushed back. We slowly fell back, then rushed back between the buildings. The Yankees pushed hard, and my wing was divided from the right by the town meeting house. Our numbers steadily dropped, and two Yankee companies were quickly upon us. Although three companies were on my wing, their numbers were small, about eight rifles in each. We were quickly being overwhelmed, but just as I was to be overrun, Col Sharp brought the 44th Tennessee to reinforce us. We were able to hold our ground longer, but the Yankee artillery moved their gun into position to hit us.

We fell back further, ducking at the artillery fire, but when a third company joined the fight on us, we could no longer stand against the overwhelming forces. Our men routed, and the battle was lost.

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