Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Reformatory and the Civil War

The Ohio State Reformatory

Mansfield, OH

June 20, 2015

Still recovering from Red River, my apartment looking like a reenactor exploded, I rode with Capt. J.R. Sharp and his family to the one-day event at the Ohio State Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio.

We arrived at the 1st Tennessee camp to a light rain. Sgt Kevin Harris of the 1st Ohio Light Artillery, Battery A came to us and discussed a need for a few volunteers to assist with the noon firing from their howitzer, so I, along with Private Rick Compton and Private Darren Myers stepped forward to participate in the experience. Private Compton held position number 2, the worm, and Private Myers was number 4, the one to fire the piece. I took position number 3, in charge of the vent and prick.

Sgt Harris took us through the drill, giving Pvt Myers a primer of questionable quality and a lanyard with a string that was a bit elastic. We went through the drill, not actually loading the piece, through Pvt Myers inserting the primer in the vent.

When the command, "Fire" was given, Pvt Myers pulled on the lanyard, and nothing happened. He failed to give enough force to trigger the primer. He tried again, and the elasticity of the string was such that he had a rather difficult time giving enough force to trigger the primer. A third pull, and the primer fired.

We ran through the drill a couple more times, and now satisfied, Sgt Harris dismissed us until the noon firing.

When the noon hour approached, we reformed at the howitzer, and ran through the drill once more. Then, we loaded and fired the piece for real. A second time, this time Sgt Harris approached the spectators and described each step of the process, with us following the process as he commanded, and we fired again. Finally, we ran through the process one last time and fired.

We held various living history vignettes throughout the grounds and in the reformatory construct. At three, the howitzer was fired again, this time using a Yankee crew.

Supper was served, featuring lasagna, with plenty to fill us, after which we set up several new vignettes of living history throughout the inside of the reformatory for a series of spectators to come through and witness. We presented a typical life in camp, playing cards, having lice races, and having Capt. Sharp's son come through, as if he were seeking his father, one Robert Hamilton of the original 1st Tennessee.

The evening ended late, with us forming on the hill in the dark, assaulting the howitzer and three or so Yankees. We fired upon them in a skirmish line, while they and the piece fired back, neither of us able to see the other, save for the muzzle flashes. We continued, occasionally double-loading, until we received the report that the Yankees were out of ammunition. We then formed as a battalion with the artillery piece and Yankees, and fired three volleys, concluding the evening.

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