Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Changing of the Guard

Hartford City IN

October 11-12, 2014


Hartford City was a busy event as usual, with parade at nine and skirmish drills through the afternoon, and pay call of real cash awarded to random individuals (including myself) but it was different from usual.

For one thing, the usual Sunday morning tactical was no longer on the schedule.  It seems the Yankees got tired of always losing, and finally acknowledged they had no chance of winning, so decided to stop trying.

But this was also Col Dave Julian’s last event as colonel of the Independent Guard battalion.  Elections for Colonel, Lt. Colonel, and Major were this year.  The annual meeting had always been held in Jackson, Michigan, but due to low attendance from battalion member companies at Jackson, the election was moved to Hartford City.

After morning parade, we had a quick skirmish against the Yankees, pushing them up the hill to the rail fence.  Once finished, we rehearsed some basic hand-to-hand combat that we would do for the battle at four pm.  Many were a bit uncomfortable with this—particularly members of the 1st Tennessee (including myself, though I was on battalion staff), but they gave us the out to simply take hits in the battle before encountering the hand-to-hand.  Our discomfort was with not really knowing the Yankee companies we’d be facing.  Back in Ohio, several of the events we know the Yankees—such as the 4th Ohio, and members of McCooks Brigade, so I think we’d be more comfortable with prepared hand-to-hand with them than with these Indiana companies.

After the rehearsal for the hand-to-hand, the Independent Guard held its election.  Col Julian had announced his retirement from the position, leaving Danny Linkus from the 44th TN running unopposed for colonel.  For lt colonel, Duane Clark was running for re-election, being opposed by Richard DeWitt.  Finally, I ran unopposed for major.

Finally, Sgt Major Len Kizer had announced he was also retiring from his position.  Since the position would not be up for election until next year, Col Julian announced that as for his last action as colonel, he would appoint the replacement sgt major, appointing himself to the positon.

It was a close vote, but Duane Clark was selected for lt. Colonel.

We had a long break until battle, with the individual companies going onto the battlefield for half an hour each for drill or skirmish (if the Yankees played along).  I used the break to pick up a few necessities from a sutler.

The 4 pm battle seemed to go quick.  We pushed up the hill.  The 1st TN broke off to put pressure on a company with repeaters—I stayed with the 1st, since they were on my wing, to facilitate communication with Col Julian.  Capt Sharp was pleased to see the repeaters firing normally, and not like a machine gun being fired from the hip like some cowboy—like what we see far too often.  To show his pleasure, he used the opportunity to avoid the hand-to-hand and have the 1st take massive hits from the repeaters.

The 1st TN ladies cooked dinner for us—a meal of chicken and noodles and potatoes.  The event offered food too, but I think the chicken and noodles as a far better choice.  There quantity was a bit over-estimated, perhaps prepared for twice the number that had attended, but there were a number of no-shows.

The night grew cold and I was worn out by the time the night cannon fire lit the night.  I managed drift off in my tent in the middle of the blasting.

Sunday was a slow day—breakfast, morning parade, and a 2pm battle.

The battle was a bit quick.  We faced up to the Yankees and pushed.  The faced up to us and pushed forward.  One Yankee company broke off and tried to flank us, but the 1st TN refused them, getting decimated in the process.  The battle ended with nearly the entire Confederate force marked up as casualties.


Monday, October 6, 2014

Choking in Chaplin Hills

152nd Anniversary, Battle of Perryville

Perryville KY
October 4-5, 2014


We knew the turnout for this off-year event would not be anything like the big anniversary years, but there was still enough to field a battalion on each side, though the 4th Kentucky had to galvanize for the battle each day.  I was told that 75 Confederates were expected.

I was able to keep warm in my Army sleeping bag despite the cold night, but morning came with the sounds of a drum beating away beside our camp.  We never found out who was responsible for the drum, because even Confederate headquarters was upset with the disturbance.

We were supplied with an over-abundance of rations, including hardtack, salt pork, beef, potatoes, onions, oatmeal, and more.

Larry, a new recruit, joined us that morning.  He is probably one of the most enthusiastic recruits I have ever seen—arriving nearly fully equipped with all new gear.  We drilled him a bit and gave some basic training.  He picked up everything quickly.

We held a short ceremony for Joe Bellas.  His health is forcing him to retire from the hobby, and he has contributed much over the years.  Capt Sharp presented him with an award for his service.

The battle was simple, our three-company battalion facing three Yankee companies, pushing them over a hill.

Later, Capt Sharp walked us on a tour of the battlefield, as he had done in the Spring.  The walk went well, and we learned more about the 1st Tennessee and their part in the Battle of Perryville.

We feasted Sunday morning on more of the rations from Saturday, finishing with enough left over for the next event.

We formed for the battle, and a spoonful of apple cider vinegar was given to each of us. I didn’t have a spoon, so had an ounce or two poured into my cup.

I have had various forms of vinegar before, from apple cider vinegar, to white vinegar, red wine vinegar, even drank pickle juice like it was a soda.  But I had never had more than a spoonful of apple cider vinegar before, so was not prepared for the reaction my throat took when I gulped that few ounces down.  At first, it was like I had a frog in my throat, and had a bit of difficulty talking.  But then I could not get any air, as nothing but squeaking came out with each gasp I took.  Horror came to me as it occurred that I might not get the rather necessary air I needed, as my throat nearly complete closed up.  The major turned to me and realized I could be in trouble, asking if I was okay.  When I shook my head with a no, unable to get a word out, he and a few others gather around.  He asked what he wanted me to do, which really wasn’t a helpful question since I could only gasp.  He made an attempt at some sort of Heimlich maneuver, which he fortunately didn’t get quite right or he might have broken a rib—but he did put some good compression on my lungs which did help.

It fortunately cleared up about as quickly as it came on, and I was soon back to normal—with only a slightly scratchy throat—but it was quite a scare for me and all around.

Note to self: no more than a spoonful of vinegar at any given time.

At the battle the first was sent out separately as skirmishers.  We advanced for a while, rejoining the battalion. Capt Sharp took a hit, leaving Sgt Kletzli in charge.  We pushed and fell back a few times, but eventually pushed the Yankees completely across the field.

The event proved enjoyable, and I look forward to the next big national here in 2016.  Although next year will likely be small scale like this, I am certain the 1st Tennessee will return in 2015 to be a part of this event again.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Unending upon the Day

Hale Farm

Bath, Ohio

August 9-10, 2014


It was a rough ride to Hale Farm Friday evening.  I had gotten lazy and trusted the voice recognition of my smart phone when I spoke the location into the navigation.  It was the correct direction out of Columbus, so it must have been correct.  But when I passed the exit onto the I-80 Turnpike, I knew something was wrong.  I checked the GPS out, and somehow it decided to direct me to a William Tricker Inc on Tanglewood Dr in Cleveland.  How it got that out of “Hale Farm, Bath Ohio,” I’ll never know.  I’m beginning to think that Google is trying to take over the world by slowly directing us to drive into a lake—one-by-one.

I wasn’t able to get off early from work, so it was near nightfall when I finally arrived.  Last year, when I was with the 4th OVI, the Yankees were in the village, so I assumed the 1st TN would be setting up camp in the village this year.  But when I reached the deep part of the village, near the church, and ran into Capt Boham of the 4th, I thought there was some kind of mistake—but then realized I was surrounded by Yankees.  Ah—so it seems it’s an arbitrary thing as to where each side camps.  I made my way to the Confederate camp—with Col Bob Minton ribbing me for getting lost as I passed him.

I finally found the 1st Tennessee Camp, thanks to the help of Capt Sharp as he called me on my phone to direct me when he saw me driving up and down past them.  The camp was a bit out-of-the-way, in a wooded area.  The road was mud and a bit risky to take a car through, so I was left to carry my gear in.  Fortunately, I was going pretty light, having left my car packed from Greenville, so I only had a few trips.  I probably could have reduced the trips if I had packed my knapsack properly—but life has its way of keeping one from getting things done.

It was dark by the time my shebang was up, and I still had a pile of gear and blankets to sort through, but I managed to throw together a makeshift sleeping area.

Saturday morning held an early start as we formed up to attack the Yankees in their camp for a tactical.  The original start was scheduled for 6 am, but the Yankees, apparently needing some extra rest, requested the time be pushed back to 8 am.

Col Medich, as overall Confederate commander, split the battalion into two groups.  The 1st Tennessee was part of the vanguard group that attacked the village from the far east side, waiting until the sound of the second group’s gunfire on the west side to attack.   We encountered the Yankees at the edge of the village, fog hiding our and their numbers, neither of us able to push against the other.  Lt. Col Van Wey finally realized that success would come if we only held them—we were against about two-thirds the Yankee force, but our main force was pushing through the village to reinforce us.  By merely keeping the bulk of the Yankee force busy, our victory was ensured.

Formation for drill came at 10 am.  We maneuvered through some challenging drills, then went into a cavalry demonstration where we formed a square to guard against cavalry, and the 6th Ohio Cavalry charged around us, providing quite a thrill.

Back to camp for a short break, and we formed again for an artillery demonstration.  The plan was simple.  Three guns, three sections to the battalion.  The 1st Tennessee as the 4th company and the 5th company would all go down at once when the left gun fired, and the rest of the battalion going down in similar fashion.

We exited the woods and began our advance against the battery.  We marched forward at the half-step, to give the guns plenty of time to load and fire.  The advance continued—and continued—we began to wonder if they would fire.  We finally crested the last hill before reaching the guns—right at the edge of the safety zone.  We fired a few volleys to keep from looking too overly stupid, and continued to wait.  Was it a misfire?  Finally, the left gun fired—we wasted no time and hit the ground.  Shortly after, the next gun, and finally the last.

But in the time it took for those guns to fire—we would have captured and turned them if this were a real battle.

We resurrected, returned to the woods, only to turn around and head back out to start the afternoon battle.  We split into two groups, with the right wing heading up into the village to hold back the Yankees while us on the left wing fought the Yankees in the field.

The ground was a bit uneven, there were holes in places we had to be very careful about—some were deep enough to take a leg off.  It was enough of a problem that I would suggest the coordinators take effort to deal with it for next year—before someone gets hurt.

The Yankees came out of the woods against us, and we fired a round or two, when suddenly there was a call for a medic.

What most of the spectators aren’t aware of is that when there is a call for a medic—the battle stops.  Major Bill “Pork Pie” Adams was in charge of our wing, and he sent a runner to the Yankees who were oblivious of the situation—to have the halt the battle while EMTs arrived.

It turned out two of the artillery crew passed out from the heat.   Perhaps that explained the poor firing capability of the cannons.

After a delay, the battle finally started.  We formed up in plain view of the Yankees and proceeded to fire upon them.

The battle finally ended with us routed.

Afterward we heard complaints from the Yankees that they couldn’t shoot at us because they couldn’t see us.  The crest of the hill we were on obscured us from the Yankees.

How did the Confederacy lose the war?

Pay call was to be about an hour after the battle.  We waited for over an hour and nothing.  I got a good sleep, but pay call never came.  We returned to camp.

Sunday morning had a bit of a later start as there was no tactical.  I needed to get the rations for the company, but they were not available as the bacon was locked.  The rations did arrive shortly before drill, which gave us insufficient time to cook it, but we were able to get the food started, and while we drilled, the ladies finished the cooking.  Upon our return, most of the food was ready.  The eggs were all that was left, so I quickly scrambled them.  The food was abundant—and we couldn’t finish it all.

Another attempt at Pay Call was made—and we waited.  It finally came to twenty minutes before we’d form for battle, so we returned to camp.

At this point I ran into my brother and six-year old nephew.  We didn’t have much time together, but it was good to see him.  I think I managed to give him enough a taste of reenacting that he might try it out next year.


The battle started and we made a point of advancing far enough for the Yankees to be able to see us.  No point in making them think they were shooting at nothing but blackpowder smoke.

There was a lot of kneeling and rising as we battered down the Yanks.  The 1st TN finally broke off to the left to flank the Yankees, but they outnumbered us.  We held while we could, but the Yankees pushed down upon us.

The weekend was a busy one—and a terrific time.  The schedule was too tight to do regularly, but the occasional event with a heavy schedule is good to have.  Hale Farm is definitely among the best events in Ohio.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A Quiet Living History

Greenville OH

July 26-27, 2014


It seems to every event I attend, I forget one item of importance.  I forgot my skillet at Sharon Woods, so had to borrow a skillet to fry my food.  This weekend—I forgot my food.

After a rough night in my shelter due to allergies from the weather change, we had some donuts provided by the event.  Capt Sharp had plenty of extra bacon and corn meal, but required I cook the food if I were to share in it.  With the extra bacon grease, J.R. mixed in corn meal and water to make a sort-of pancake.

Most of the day Pvt John Farrelly gave the living history education to the spectators as they wandered through our camp, though we also drilled some to test Sgt Kletzli at command and put us in skirmish drills.

Being a timeline event, there were reenactors from every time period between the French and Indian War to the Civil War.  One of the groups there was a Yankee Civil War artillery group, who brought their cannon, but never fired it.  Three other artillery groups were there and fired their cannons.  One of the members of this group—I think they were something like “Ohio Valley Civil War Association”—was overheard by Sgt Kletzli to say to a spectator that it was disrespectful for a Confederate group to be there, as if we should try to forget half of America.  I don’t really know who that reenactor thinks he is or if he is representative of his organization—but the very comment left me with an extreme negative opinion of the group.  This was our third year here and their first, and what about representing a part of our history is disrespectful?  It advertised a level of stupidity of that group—the comment was highly offensive.

At supper, we wandered to the vendor area, where I purchased a gyro from a good selection.

Taking a slight break from the Civil War, J.R. and Tim Ellifrit introduced a bit of the other time-period they reenact by bringing a bazooka to test fire for a D-Day reenactment, after the public had dwindled for the evening.  I'm a little worried about the pictures we might see from this--a Civil War Confederate launching a bazooka.  It was cool to see--but at the same time, "farb" is going to be a comment we hear.  Well--it was out for just a short time, at least.  We went back to normal after they were done playing.

Evening came with the threat of thunderstorms and lightning flashed through the skies, but only a light rain washed the ground for about twenty minutes.  We gathered under a fly and J.R. read from an obituary he found of Colonel Hume Field, who served as commander over the 1st Tennessee Infantry during the Civil War.  It was fascinating to hear the story from another perspective.

I slept a little better that night, but still felt a bit like a zombie in the morning.  More donuts, and J.R. brought out salt pork, which he first boiled once to get much of the salt out, then battered them in flour and fried them in the bacon grease from Saturday’s breakfast, followed by more corn meal cakes.  I finally learned how to properly cook salt pork.

We held a couple of speed-shooting competitions for the spectators.

We drilled some, this time with Sgt Nyman in command, again with more skirmish drills.

The weekend did seem to go quickly, but perhaps it was because I felt I was in too much a daze from allergy problems.  It was an enjoyable weekend, and the organizers treated us exceptionally well—I look forward to returning next year.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Slow Yankees

Sharon Woods

Sharonville, Ohio

July 12-13, 2014


It was hot, and I was tired, so I tossed the very minimum of needs into my car for Sharon Woods, opting for a dog, my officer’s uniform, and basic gear.  I was in such a mood that I forgot completely to pack my skillet and eating utensils.

I set my dog as a shebang, hanging the ends over the front to provide a bit of extra shelter.  So long as it didn’t rain, it was plenty.  I set up against a tree to use the mulch for the soft ground, though it was sloped bad, so made it feel like I’d roll away if I wasn’t careful.

J.R. Sharp worked with Chris Edwards for most of the scenario planning.  Dave Julian took overall Confederate command, which gave me the opportunity to come as battalion major.

The 4th Ohio came to galvanize to help us with the expected low Confederate numbers.  The 9th Kentucky was also there in force.  The Confederate Marines was there as our artillery.

We formed for morning parade and I had a bit of difficulty getting them on line.  Working with the colonel, I determined that my problem was in not enforcing the companies to bring their guides to the line.  I was following a shortcut I had seen in having them simply dress to each other.

We were supposed to lose the battle Saturday, starting deep into the village and be pushed back to the field.  But the Yankees moved like a drunk slug.  It was clear they would not take ground from us—we would have to pull back and give it to them.

The battle went sluggish—the Yankees only advancing when we pulled back to give them ground.  Once we were finally pushed into the field, the men ran low on ammunition.  But the Yankees stopped to parlez, so the battle ended with us holding the field.

Supper was noodles and salad—a bit of a let-down from Ohio Village, but the meal from Ohio Village cannot be topped.

After supper, I relaxed awhile.  We could hear the music of the ball, and eventually Keisha Farelly came to me and asked if I could dance with Cheyenne, Trish Carte’s five year old granddaughter.

Making a child happy is always a good thing.  I took the short toddler to the dance floor, but the dance we were to do was the Spanish Waltz, a somewhat complex dance difficult to teach to beginners.  I tried working with her a bit with Keisha and John (who also were beginners at the period dance), and found failure.  Cheyenne was easily distracted and confused—we were making no progress—so I pulled us out to wait for the next dance.

The next dance was rather simple, being similar to the Virginia Reel, called the Liberty Reel.  It was energetic, and by the end of the dance I was drenched in sweat, but Cheyenne loved the dance.

I slept somewhat well.    The day went pretty quiet, with a couple games of Euchre.

We formed for battle.  There was a rather huge amount of attrition in the Yankee numbers, so the 4th Ohio switched to blue.

The battle started at the train depot, and was to push us back to the hill where we would defend and win.  This time the Yankees pushed much better, but clearly the 4th Ohio was also a significant portion of the Yankees we faced.

We were pushed back to the field and made a rush to the woods to make our stand.  Unfortunately, as we prepared our fight, lightning strikes nearby unsettled some of the soldiers.  Personally, I thought it was a bit early to call the fight, but the threat of electrocution was a bit too much, so we ended the fight there.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Invasion of the North

Ohio Village

Columbus, OH

June 21-22, 2014 (June 21-22, 1864)


Plans were made leading up to the assault against a little village around the area of Columbus Ohio.  General Johnston formed a small battalion to attack Ohio Village for its strategic importance, brevetting Captain J.R. Sharp of the 1st Tennessee Co B to the temporary rank of colonel to lead four companies behind enemy lines to obtain supplies and information from sympathizers in the town.

It was a melting pot of companies, with Col Dave Julian of the Independent Guard taking command of the right wing of this provisional battalion, the Copperhead Battalion, and Lt Col Greg Van Wey of Medich Battalion leading the left wing.  Capt Sharp selected me as the battalion adjutant.  The companies that joined the fight included the 1st Tennessee Co B temporarily commanded by Capt Danny Linkus, 5th Kentucky Co B, commanded by Capt Jeff Steiner, 5th Texas Co A, who I believe was led by Dave Puechel as 1st Sgt since Lt Col Van Wey normally leads them, and a consolidated company which included the 13th Virginia and 6th Kentucky, commanded by Rick Compton.

We were also given a detail of the Confederate Marines to supply an artillery piece for us.  They were apparently going to join us by way of the Scioto River.  A cavalry unit, commanded by Merle Collins was to assist, as well.

Joe Johnston’s orders were to disband the battalion at the conclusion of the objective and have all units return to their home regiments.

Our information told us that we would be up against the Army of the Ohio, commanded by Col Bob Minton.  I am not certain of all the Yankee companies that were involved, but I do know they included the 4th Ohio Co B—commanded by Trent Boham, 41st Ohio (I don’t know who commands them), and a consolidation of the companies from McCook’s Brigade, commanded by Andrew Mott.  We were concerned about the two artillery pieces that they had to defend with, too, but we knew, at least, that they had no cavalry.

The space we had did not suit well for organized streets for our camp, so we camped in rather disorganized array.  The various units were at least able to camp together. I supplied each of the infantry units with blank morning report forms.

We held a brief parlay with the enemy in the village square Friday evening, perhaps hoping the Yankees would see our numbers and avoid harassing us.  All commanding officers were there and we each introduced ourselves.  But the meeting ended only with the certainty that a battle would occur Saturday afternoon.
Early Saturday morning I received the morning reports and held the officer’s meeting, making the basic plans for the day.  Word of the impending attack also apparently had become known to the local reporters, as we were accosted by them.  Capt Sharp tried to avoid meeting with them, delegating private Bob (whose last name escapes me) to the task, since he is a teacher and had the ability to sound knowledgeable, without giving away any of our plans.  But those reporters are tricky.  They somehow cornered both Capt Sharp and I, involving us both in the interview.  I’m sure I sounded like a stuttering fool, but Capt Sharp seemed to come through as a sharp-tongued serpent.

Having passed that first test, we formed the battalion for drill, but things seemed sluggish.  It felt as if we were leading a pack of turtles with ropes.  The drill was to rehearse our assault against the village, but all the companies were slow to follow the commands, and it seemed difficult to keep them organized.  Perhaps it was the heat.  We troubled ourselves to understand the unusual difficulties we had.
Again under a flag of truce, a ceremony was held for Edd Sharp, former captain of the 1st TN.  Honors were granted to him for mapping the trail under which John Hunt Morgan traveled in his invasion of Ohio.
Fortunately, we received word that the Yankees were having similar difficulties.

We started the battle outside the gated area for the village.  A Yankee company approached our camp, and we began the assault.  This company extended in a skirmish line, but collapsed quickly.  We chased them into the area where they played rounders, where that company was joined by at least two more Yankee companies.

All was going well.  We pushed the Yankees into the town and continued to decimate their forces.  But the Yankees had a stronger force there than we expected.  Yankee reinforcements entered the village from the north side and pushed us out.  Back in that rounders field, Lt Col Van Wey took his wing to flank on the Yankee’s left, while the rest of the battalion spread out to cover the right.

The area through which the Yankees could come out was tight.  As they exited the town, their battle line was more of a battle ball, with confusion hitting at every corner. It bought us a little time to get ourselves into some organization, but we knew we would not be successful in taking the village.  We fell back.  The Yankees pursued us a little, but broke it off before getting too far from the town.

They were at least kind enough to escort their captives back to us.

That evening the Yankees agreed to a flag of truce while a local Amish family—the Der Dutchmans—supplied food for soldiers of both sides.  Having gone hungry all day, it had been a long time since I had eaten that well, with a couple of pieces of broasted chicken, fresh green beans, potatoes and a roll, not to mention an exceptional peanut butter and chocolate pie for desert.  I think perhaps these Amish had an underlying purpose in their generosity—I believe that they hoped our overstuffed soldiers would be too weighed down from the food to be able to fight the next day.

The village’s tavern opened for a few hours under that flag of truce.  I watched soldiers of both sides spend time together, completely forgetting this War, laughing and having a good time.  It was a terrible thought that these men would be killing each other tomorrow.

It had been a long day and I was weary.  Capt Sharp discussed some business with me, which went to the early hours when we retired.  At some point during the night, I was told that one of the ladies that were with the 5th Kentucky became seriously ill and nearly died.  She was discovered passed out late by a couple of the 1st Tennessee guys as they returned from visiting their friends with the 4th Ohio.  Capt Sharp provided assistance and sent out a telegraph to the local medics, who promptly took her to the nearby hospital.  I received word later that although she is in intensive care, she is recovering.

I slept well.  As this was one of the warmest nights of the year so far, I experienced one of my first nights not shivering, and barely needed a blanket.

I awoke at daybreak and made my morning ritual, including a pot of coffee.  I managed one cup out of my pot—but when I went for a second I was disappointed to find the pot empty.  At first I was ready to find someone to blame, but then saw a small pinhole that had released all the remainder of my coffee onto the campfire.

Our numbers dwindled some as a few deserters lost the courage to face another battle against the Yankees, but we still held a significant force.  We received word that the Yankee numbers had dwindled a little as well.  Now, instead of numbers that exceed three soldiers to each our one, they only doubled our numbers.
Word also came to us that the Yankees intended to attack us in our camp from the south, so we quickly advanced to the village, taking it without incident. The Yankees completely abandoned the village in their enthusiasm to hit us.

But our victory was not to last.  The Yankees came at us hard.  We sent Capt Compton’s group out as skirmishers first, but they were forced back once the remaining companies obtained positions to defend our take.

We covered the gaps between each of the buildings on the south side of the village.  I ran back and forth between each of the companies to ensure a path of communication between them and Capt Sharp.  And the Yankees kept coming.

They pushed us back into the village square where we made our stand.  With numbers dwindling, the Yankees started to break, giving us the chance to push back and keep the village.

But I took a hit in my shin.  I knew the farmhouse on the northwest side of town was sympathetic to the Southern cause, so I had a private help me up and assist me to this home.

There, I, uh, changed my hat and coat and transformed myself into a civilian.

I met with photographer John Rys and proceeded to assist him as he photographed the aftermath of the battle.  He handed me the exposed plate, which I carried to the dressmaker’s shop where he had set up his lab, returning with a new plate for him to use.

We found Private Tim Ellifrit of the 1st Tennessee dead on the road.  We tried a few different poses for him, trying to convey an emotion that would attract the attention of some publishers.  First I rested his musket on his belly and put his hand on it, but something about it didn’t seem right.  So we moved the corpse over to a tree and tried to sit him up—but apparently these Confederate soldiers are getting fed much better than what we have heard—or maybe it was just the Der Dutchman meal from the night before still being digested.  Anyway—he was too heavy for me to pull him to the tree in my present weary state.  Perhaps if the battle had occurred early in the morning I would have been fresh and able to pull him up.  I settled on simply resting his head on his haversack.

John still was not satisfied with the pose, finally pulling out a small photo of his wife and placing it in the soldier’s hands, to make it appear he died viewing his love.  I had to agree the photo would definitely be a candidate of choice.


I do hope you enjoyed my first person attempt at telling my story of the Ohio Village Reenactment—it is a means to reflect the level of immersion the event is trying to reach for spectators, taking this hobby to the next level beyond simply blowing powder at each other for 45 minutes, then blowing a bugle to have everyone get up and walk off.  To me, this event is again an unqualified success—meeting the success of the year before.  As the battalion adjutant, I was worn weary with my duties—but it was worth every effort.  And Capt Sharp gave me the highest of compliments for my efforts.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The Captain in Blue at the Reformatory

Ohio State Reformatory

Mansfield, Ohio

June 7-8, 2014


The Ohio State Reformatory has come into a bit of fame for a few reasons, including being the filming location of “The Shawshank Redemption”.  This weekend we were there to hold a Civil War living history.
Being the first year, numbers were small, but the huge old building had a lot of history.  Bob Minton of the Army of the Ohio led a group of Yankees.  JR Sharp led the 1st Tennessee.  Bob Mergel was there for the Topographical Engineers.  The 110th OVI was there with their Henry’s, the original regiment having been mustered out of Mansfield.
I arrived Friday evening and set up my dog tent.  Trying to correct some of the problems from Painesville, I used a rope for my ridge instead of the pole.  The dog tent did stay up better, but it was still rather pathetic.   I am left with having to fabricate taller uprights.
As the sun set, our hosts led us through a ghost tour of the building.  We were led from room to room and told of some old story of how someone died there and was still haunting the area.  JR and I kept looking for a way out to return to camp and escape the sheer boredom, but the place was a poorly lit maze of twists and turns—and we would have gotten lost.
The night in my dog tent proved a bit cold as I had forgotten an extra blanket. I did have my army sleeping blanket which keeps me warm even in freezing weather, but it was still in my car, and I was too lazy to get up to extract it.
Morning finally came, but when I readied my pan to fry my bacon, I realized I left my cooler in JR’s tent—and with the captain sleeping with his wife, I felt it unwise to intrude just to get my bacon and eggs.  When JR did finally rise, I quickly relocated my cooler to the company supply tent.
The day was pretty light and easy, with the occasional member of the public passing by and asking questions.  One reporter from the local paper revealed just how clueless she was when she interviewed Jared.  She asked that since we represented Confederate soldiers, did that mean we also supported their ideals, including slavery?
To even ask such a question is rather offensive, perhaps even bigoted.  It also showed a lack of understanding of what the war was about.  Jared proceeded to explain and instruct the reporter.
When time for drill came, I realized I had forgotten to bring a sufficient supply of my own water, so filled my canteen with some Poweraide.  I very strongly recommend against this.  I learned the hard way on this one.  About halfway through drill I noticed the drink gaining a strange and nasty taste.  By the end of drill, the Poweraide was downright disgusting.  All I could figure is that something in the drink reacted with the inside of my canteen.  And unfortunately, the side effects that I knew were about to come on were inevitable.  From within half an hour after drill till about supper I had the authentic Civil War experience, making regular rushing runs to the porcelain facilities as my system dealt with the Georgia Quick Step.  Fortunately, JR had a couple of Immodium pills that settled me in time for the pulled-pork supper.
Early afternoon we held a pay call.  As company clerk, it was my responsibility to hand out the pay.  As each member of the 1st TN came forward, I checked off their name, announced their rank, and their pay.  I’m sure normally their pay would not have been announced, but I presumed this was for educational purposes.
However, when Pvt Chad Cochran came forward, I did something different.  Using the excuse of his being late to morning formation (he had overslept), I refused his pay and handed him over to guards for court marshal.
Defended by Jared Springer, Chad faced a tribunal presided over by Capt Sharp, with George Moore prosecuting.  Witnesses were brought forth and questions, with Chad eventually being found guilty.
George read the list of possible penalties for desertion, which was the charge made against Chad.  The penalties included a list from refusal of pay to execution.  Since the Confederate army needed every rifle, George recommended leniency and suggested he only be served bread and water for two weeks.
After supper we were placed at several stations within the building for an evening candlelight tour for the public.  I was at the first stop in my officer’s uniform.  Captain Sharp donned a Union brigadier general’s uniform, while Bob Mergel portrayed a lieutenant general in overall command.  We performed a short skit whereby Mergel held a war council, planning his attack on Atlanta.  I came in with a Yankee prisoner to perform a prisoner exchange, and the sketch ended with a drunk Yankee facing the general to be taken for court marshal.  We performed the skit about six times.
Other reenactors located themselves at various stations within the building.  Col Minton stationed himself as a guard over Steve Winston, who portrayed Jefferson Davis.
After the series of skits, we exited to the front lawn where we grabbed our muskets.  The union lined up against one side of the building with an artillery piece and a company, while we formed a skirmish line on the other side of the building.  Being dark, we only knew would could not advance more than twenty feet.  It wasn’t a battle, but more of a night fire at each other.
But apparently one local resident was not amused.  Threatening to call the police he ran to the border fence by us, shouting at us.  It was both amusing and annoying.  We pretty much told him to go ahead and call the police.  Since there was already a car on site—their response should be pretty quick.
We ended the skirmish with the artillery signaling by securing their piece.  We then formed a single battalion with the Yankees and followed the command of Bob Minton for several final firings, all sounding near perfect.
I slept much better that night than the previous—I used my army sleeping bag as a blanket and was plenty warm.  However, I woke Sunday morning with threatening storm clouds looming toward us.
I find it quite amazing just how quickly a dog tent and all gear inside could be tossed into a car.  I must have had the whole thing down and away in ten minutes.
Most everyone else had wedge tents, so left their tent up when the rains hit.  The rains were heavy at times, but we were located on high ground.  The Yankees, however, were not.  A few wound up floating in the lake that formed.
The rain pretty much ended the event.  There were a few clearings from the rain, but never enough to bring significant crowds.
Overall the event went very well, in spite of the rain.  Many were discussing how we were looking forward to next year.  Our hosts discussed also that instead of a ghost walk for his, they will more likely focus on the history of the building—something which all of us are much more interested in.  We built a friendship with these Yankees we hope will further the cause of this hobby.

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