Sunday, August 21, 2016

Preparing for Battle

Perryville Cleanup Day

August 20th 2016

Perryville, KY


Saturday morning on August 20--just after 9 am--we met with the park officials at Perryville Battlefield.  They gave us some tools, and we headed for the hill next to Starkweather Hill.

The job before us was to remove a modern wire fence that had put up after the Battle of Perryville.  This work in particular was important as we would be fighting the Saturday battle during the October reenactment across this land.  This was ground recently acquired by the park where few had ever been since the battle, and not far beyond this fence is where many of the original 1st Tennessee were buried after the battle.

At the bottom of the hill, Steven Winston had already started Friday afternoon, removing a good portion of the fence.  We started with bold cutters, pulling off fencing through weeds and overgrowth, folding the pieces up into piles to be carried away later.  Progress was slow and the ground was wet.  Steven Winston worked with Kurt (the curator of the park) in pulling the fence posts and placing them in piles to be pulled away.

At one point, Rick Compton needed to get something out of his truck at the top of the hill, and drove it back down to where we worked.  He got it in his head that there had to be an easier way to remove the fence.

He was proud of his four wheel drive Ford F-150 with with brush guards, and anxious to learn what all the newfangled buttons were for. Rick was giddy with delight at being able to use his truck in this manner, and I was more than happy to assist with this play time.  We hooked a strap to the front of his truck, then around some of the wire fence and he threw the truck into reverse, pulling the fence off taking about a hundred yards of of fence in short order.

Over the course of the day, we broke the 4000 pound strap a couple of times trying to pull the fence with Ricks truck out of a tree.

At 1 p.m. we had almost finished the fence with about a hundred yards to go, but were called in due to an incoming storm.

We met back at the Museum and then to the local Marathon station where there was food to eat for lunch, returning to the fence after the rains had cleared.

We finished the work after about an hour, returning to Danville to our hotel and eating at a local pizza place.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Rain

I was the first of the company to arrive at Hale Farm, and found we were assigned our usual location in the woods.  I started to drive my car down the trail into the woods, but rains had been pummeling the area, leaving rutted mud paths where the wheels of my car would only spin, so I parked just to the edge of the woods and started unloading.

I was soon confronted by Col Van Wey with a handshake.  Among a bit of small talk he pointed to the piles of dirt on the field where the battles would be held.  The crew that made those piles had not followed the instructions which included the digging of trenches.  However, it was probably good as we agreed we would probably end up reenacting the Parting of the Red Sea.

The rest of the company arrived, and all but myself decided to campaign, sleeping under a fly or shebang.  I came, not knowing what rank I would hold, so had gear for both private and lieutenant and needed a place to store my spare gear, so had the only A in camp.

With the threat of rain lasting all weekend long, our numbers were down.  None of our ladies attended.

The schedule Saturday was pretty light, with only picket duty being assigned.  An abundance of rations was issued early and timely, which included pork, potatoes, eggs, and apples.

We went into parade with my rifle in my hand.  We expected a new recruit to arrive who would be carrying my gun, but he had not shown yet, and we needed the rifles.

A quick morning parade, then we worked to improve the breastworks, adding logs to strengthen.  When we finished we were free to relax and enjoy the rest of our morning.

Our new recruit did finally show, and we outfitted him in time for battle, allowing me to carry a sword instead of a rifle.

We went into battle and defended the breastwork.  As the battle neared completion, the rains hit hard, first drenching the crowds, giving us a show as if the apocalypse was upon us as they scattered to shelter.  But the rains quickly hit us as well, and we had the men clear muskets and double-quick to the shelter of the woods.

The rains continued for hours, turning our camp into a lake.  Picket duty was canceled.  Dinner approached and Pvt Compton cooked a tasty dinner for us, combining the rations with corn, spinach, and onion, running out to the campfire when the rains let up and returning to shelter when the clouds opened up.

Pvt Matt Roberts showed up late into the night and joined us, setting up a shebang next to Cpl Silvers.

I settled for the night, getting dry in the warm night inside my tent.

Morning came to more wet.  Pvt Compton wanted to cook up breakfast for us, but finally gave up out of frustration, unable to get coals worked up between the heavy and constant rains.  Except for morning parade and the battle, all other activities were canceled.

Between parade and the battle, we broke camp and hauled off our gear to our cars, trying to beat the worst of the rains we heard were coming.

The battle proceeded, and we fought until we ran out of ammunition, but we held the breastworks.

And with nothing left dry in our possession, we left.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Bold and the Beautiful


Gathering at Garst
Greenville OH


July 30-31, 2016


I arrived late Friday to living history area at the Garst Museum in Greenville, OH for the Gathering at Garst event.

Greenville was a quiet event, with numbers down from previous years.  We set camp with four tents in a corner of the park and relaxed the night.  Rain was a concern for the weekend, as it the sky had angrily drenched the area earlier, but we were hopeful.  The air was dense with moisture--so thick that I could see my breath even though I was drenched in sweat.

As I lay on the ground in my tent in the warm air, I felt heat pulled from me, and realized that I would be uncomfortably cold once I fell asleep.  It occurred to me that the wet ground was responsible, so I slept on top of my blanket, instead of underneath it--and maintain a cozy body temperature throughout the night.

Saturday morning came and I fried up my regular bacon and eggs.  One soldier from Arkansas asked to fall in with us for the weekend, so we gave him a home, which we later grew to regret.

Once the park opened to the public, we received a visit from a young woman interested in history, one Caitlin.  Though Capt. Sharp, having removed his rank, dominated the conversation with covering everything from the materials of our uniform to the various battles of the 1st, the rest of us provided solid contributions.  I did hope that Capt. Sharp would continue for as long as possible as it kept Ms. Clark in our presence all the more.  Her only flaw was that she would soon be moving to Virginia.

We later met with a new recruit, David, another promising student of history.

Throughout the day we presented our living history, teaching about the life of the soldier and about the history of the 1st Tennessee.

Dinner time arrived and a few of us decided to pass on keeping with period and visited a local restaurant called "Maid Rite" and feasted on sandwiches of ground beef.

Back in camp, we held casual conversations, but reached levels of annoyance with our visiting soldier.  Throughout the day, this soldier tended to interject in conversations with little to add, usually interrupting a voice of value. During our evening conversations he hijaacked the night with tirades of how he was $5,000 upside-down on his car.  I tried to change the subject by commenting how fantastic Sgt. Carte's frock was--but the guest continued on without notice.  Pvt Myers and I both vacated the area for some moments to relieve ourselves at the porcelain palace, returning nearly ten minutes later without a single point of the hijaacking missed.  I think a clue finally crept into the man's obtuse cranium when Pvt Myers and I relocated our seats away from him and around the campfire, as he finally said his goodbyes (taking some ten minutes to do so) and departing. We were relieved that he had not set a tent.

Sunday was a bit lighter, with two of our numbers unable to return for the day.  The lesser numbers had little effect, however, since there was also lesser of the public visiting our camp.  We did, however, encounter one former fireman from Tennessee who expressed interest in joining our group--I gave him our contact information and hope to hear from him soon.  We also found a young college student who plans to study history that was interested in joining up with us, and I hope to hear from him soon as well.

Our soldier guest did return, to our chagrin--at one point annoying Sgt Carte that he finally spoke up scolded him when he started down a discussion with a member of the public about Bedford Forrest--the details of such subject had no relevance to our purpose.

Overall it was a relaxing weekend, exercising some of our demonstration skills and finding several potential recruits.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Through the Woods

Sharon Woods Heritage Village
Sharonville, Ohio

Photo courtesy Cincinnati Enquirer

July 9-10, 2016


Arriving Friday at Sharon Woods Heritage Village was unremarkable.  I was the first of the company to arrive, so I found our designated campsite and pitched my tent.  A steady stream arrived, and by nightfall most of the 1st Tennessee was present.

The night was warm, so I laid my poncho under a tree near my tent and slept there, undisturbed and rather comfortable through the night.

As I cooked my morning bacon and eggs, there were concerns for a light reenactor turnout.  Although the 1st Tennessee was there in force, with numbers that included several new recruits, many of the other companies, both Confederate and Yankee, lacked the expected numbers.  Capt Sharp, breveted to colonel for the weekend as the overall Confederate commander, worked on contigency plans in the event the necessary soldiers were AWOL for the battle, including the possibility of splitting the 1st into two companies, as we had nearly 20 rifles present.

With the duties of overall command, Capt. Sharp left the military responsiblities of the company to me.  We drilled for about an hour, spending extra time with wheels since there seemed to be difficulty in keeping a straight line.

After a break of a few hours for lunch, we formed with the battalion for battle.  The scenario for both days was the Battle of Balls Bluff.  Capt. Sharp reassigned about five of the 1st Tennessee to another company to balance the numbers.  In all, we had three companies to take into battle.  Capt Sharp led the first two onto the battlefield, while I took the 1st Tennessee the other way, down a trail into the woods.  At a point where the gravel path turned away, I led them off, heading up a hill.  The steep grade proved difficult for a few, so we paused at the top to catch our breath.

Continuing, I led them through, leaving the men guessing as to our destination.  We could hear the sound of cannon and muskets as we pushed our way through untraveled brush.  We soon came through the woods onto the road, following it to the top of the hill beside the battlefield.

Carefully finding out footing on the way down the hill, we reformed at the bottom, charging out to assault the Yankees.  The other two Confederate companies were being overwhelmed by the enemy, but rallied once we provided the numbers.  We pushed the Yankees back, turning the battle and quickly gaining victory.

Once the battle concluded, a couple of Yankee soldiers ran back and forth with a litter, overwhelmed as they carried off the dead and wounded.

We had a few hours after the battle to relax and got a few games of Euchre in.  It had been awhile since we had played, so it was nice to get back to tradition.

We formed for parade and held inspection shortly after the men were given enough time to clean their muskets.

Supper included barbeque chicken and shredded beef with macaroni and cheese.

Another warm night brought morning to more bacon and eggs.  We canceled drill, so most of the morning was relaxed to hanging around the campfire and playing some Euchre.

Capt Sharp met with the Yankee commanders to discuss the battle, and informed how impressed he was by the relationship that was building.  He told me they saluted him to honor him as the planner for the battle scenario.

As the time for battle arrived, the 4th Ohio joined us, switching uniforms to galvanize as the 4th Florida.  With their numbers, we were more balanced and did not need to split off the 1st into another company.  I was surprised to get a number of requests of the 1st Tennessee to repeat the action through the woods that we had done Saturday--which provided us less time to burn powder.

After we inspected arms, I again took the men down the trail through the woods, then up the hill.  When we came onto he field, we pushed hard and fast at the double-quick after the Yankees, quickly pushing back toward the creek.

As we neared the conclusion of hostilities, one of the soldiers experienced a malfunction in his musket.  The cleaning screw of his Springfield blew out.  A couple of men next to him received a bit of the blow-out, but no one--fortunately--was hurt.  One had a small cut, while another was protected from an eyepatch he was wearing for medical reasons.

Other than that malfunction, the weekend was a solid success.  We heard reports that the battle scenario was the best ever experienced at Sharon Woods.


More photos

Monday, June 13, 2016

Anybody want a gun?

Thunder in the Valley

Battle of Cross Keys

Port Republic, Virginia


June 11-12, 2016


With the long drive to Virginia, J.R. Sharp, Chad Cochran, Jeff Carte, Rick Compton, Mark Nichols, and I stopped in Lexington for a tour of Lee's Chapel at Washington and Lee University, and a tour of the museum at VMI.

Aftward, J.R. checked his smart phone for a local restaurant, finding the Southern Inn, which looked promising.  He reserved our place--but when we arrived and were seated, he realized by the superfluous amount of silverware he had picked the wrong restaurant.  Although the food was excellent, our casual dress put us a bit out of place, and the prices put a bit of a dent in our wallets.

Returning to the drive, we followed GPS coordinates to the address we were given for registration for Thunder in the Valley, and were led to a road the led to nowhere.  Fortunately, a bit of educated guessing got us on track, and we soon found our destination, unpacking and changing into our uniforms and gear (though J.R. and Chad chose to change back at Lee's Chapel).  Jeff and Mark parked their trucks at the parking lot a few miles away, returning by shuttle, while Rick and I watched the gear and J.R. and Chad headed for the officer's meeting.

For the weekend, J.R. took the rank of major.  Chad was corporal, posting with the color guard.  Jeff was also a corporal, while Mark, Rick and I were privates.

Once Mark and Jeff returned, we marched the distance to camp and bivouacked for the night.

The night was a bit cool as I had a little difficulty keeping warm under my blanket--eventually pulling out my shelter half out of my knapsack to use as an extra blanket.  The ground was uneven and highly sloped.  At one point during the night, Cpl Carte rolled a distance down the hill.

Morning finally came and I ate a supply of my pre-cooked bacon out of my haversack, along with a bit of other rations.  Cpl Cochran brought an abundance of essence of coffee, and was able to supply me with a hearty cup.  Though it was sweetened, it was satisfying.

The morning was spent relaxing, waiting, drilling, and holding battalion parade.  We had a long 3 mile march ahead of us in high heat, so Lt. Col. Ben Cwayna instructed us to leave behind anything that was not necessary.  Pvt Compton quickly took the lead, dumping whatever he could, even holding up his musket and asking, "Anybody want a gun?"

We marched out for the battle, facing the Yankees from behind a fence.  Skirmishers went out first, facing the Yankees beyond the crest of the hill and out of our sight, then falling back.  As we hunkered down behind the fence, we eventually saw the Stars and Stripes rise to our far right above the crest, followed by the Yankee battalion.

The split-rail fence was stacked in a jagged formation, and our line followed this formation, giving us difficulty in safely firing upon the Yankees, so our section worked out a routine where two would take to the fence and fire, falling back to reload while the next two filled the gap.  Eventually the Yankees were forced back and we pushed our way onto the field, eventually winning the day.

When we began our march, I immediately realized that we were marching at too fast a pace, complaining about it to those around me.  We might be fine for the first mile, but in this heat (in the 90s) I knew we would be suffering casualties.  Our rate was at a quick-step, instead of a normal common-time step.

We climbed the first hill on the asphat that steadily baked our feet, and Cpl Carte already had to step out.  I stood with him, to make sure he would be all right, continuing the march from the back with Major Sharp at the back of the column once Jeff was loaded into the follow vehicle.

We stopped for a short five-minute break to refill canteens, and continued on, Cpl Carte rejoining us, stopping again for about half an hour about halfway.  By now we already had about a half-dozen casualties.

We stopped again for another short five minutes to refill canteens, stopping at a crossroad in the sun.  I was able to march most of the way, but after this stop I found difficulty keeping the pace, eventually hitching a ride with the follow vehicle when I found myself at the back of the column, getting further and further behind.

We finally arrived at camp, near a fork of the river and many took to cooling off, wading through the cool waters.  I threw off all my gear and crashed.

As hunger set in for the evening, we heard rumors of someone selling cooked chicken halves.  She was eventually tracked down, and we happily enjoyed the chicken over rations we had carried.

I slept through the night in an unconscious stupor, keeping comfortable in the warm air.

We prepared for another march--this one a two-mile march to the next battlefield.  A number of soldiers decided to find a way to ride on a shuttle to the battlefield, and so I and Major Sharp decided to join them.  I figured I probably could have made the march--but I had nothing to prove and did not want to tear myself apart marching in the grueling sun.

We followed the column in the truck and picked up casualties as they fell, eventually arriving at the battlefield.

We rested at the edge of the wooded trail that led to the battlefield, finally marching single-file in.  We reformed at the foot of a hill to begin our assault.  One battalion pushed forward and was repulsed, then our battalion pushed up the hill until we were repulsed.  We made a second push up the hill, but the ground was steep and slick, and I could no longer keep up.  I eventually stumbled over a log to find Major Sharp recovering from the wounds of war, where I fell beside him to recover from my own wounds.

The battle soon ended, through I don't know who won.  I just know I was ready to sleep in the truck on the way home.

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Cycle Begins Again


Hartford City, IN

May 14-15, 2016

The sun Friday as I arrived gave a false promise of good weather for the weekend at Hartford City.  I was able to keep warm through the night, almost too warm, even.

But as I rose Saturday morning to wind and occasional cold spit from the skies we struggled to keep warm around the fire as we cooked for morning breakfast, tearing our eyes through the smokey burn of cedar.  Stories of the night of canvas flying off their posts from the wind and ridgepoles falling on the tent occupants circled around the fire.

It was to be a busy day, with a morning battle immediately after parade, followed by a drill at one, and a second battle at four.  The battle scenarios for both of Saturday's battles and for Sunday's battle centered around parts of First Manassas.

We were to lose that first battle.  I brought my wing down to face the Yankee wing, and we reached a stand-off with even numbers.  Capt Sharp told me he would cause the 1st Tennessee (7th Company) to break, giving the entire wing the excuse to collapse and fall back, if only the Yankees would fire a volley by wing--or even by company.  But they continued only at independent fire--so I ordered a fire by wing, and immediately withdrew the entire wing in an apparent panic withdrawal, to give the crowds the impression of a total collapse.  We reformed and gave enough pressure only to slow the Yankee advance, but not to stop it, eventually forcing us from the field.

We sat around the fire, shifting to the fly whenever cold spit started hitting us from the heavens, fighting to keep warm in any way we could.  As the time for drill approached, Colonel  Linkous decided to cancel drill to allow us the chance to stay warm and dry.

We formed for the afternoon battle.  The colonel instructed me that I was to take my wing to face a Yankee wing that would be down at the low point in the center of the battlefield, so I took the wing at the left flank onto the battlefield.  As I crested the hill, however, I saw that the Yankees were in fact much further to our left.  I had planned on simply fronting the wing, adjusting the line with a short wheel, if needed, but this was no longer appropriate.  Without thinking that the men were at the left flank, I ordered, "Companies into Line", followed by "Forward into line on the last company".

Taking cover from an artillery blast.
If you are not a reenactor, you won't realize how difficult this can be done at the left flank.  Maneuvers like this are almost never done at the left flank--so everything is pretty much an opposite mirror of what we are all used to doing.  To do "Companies into Line", each company does "Company into line", which forms each company into a battle line.  Normally, when doing this at the right flank, the companies form off their 1st sergeant (forming to the left), but at the left flank, it's off the second sergeant (forming to the right), which can be confusing if too much thought is put into the process.  And my "Forward into line" command, which (I believe) should have been "By inversion, forward into line," would normally be followed by a left half-wheel--but because we were marching inverted, is followed by a right half-wheel instead.

I have to say, that in spite of being at the left flank, and being inverted, and my not getting the last command right, the men executed the maneuvers perfectly.  I almost regretted performing these maneuvers, because at 1st Manassas, the men would not have been drilled very well, and I am not sure that the actual soldiers would have maneuvered as well as these men did this early in the war.

Once in our battleline, I took my time advancing.  We pushed a little, and the Yankee wing advanced to face us.  But at one point, the Yankees shifted to our left to try and flank us.  The error in that plan, however, was that it forced me to cause the 1st Tennessee to refuse, putting them at an angle that caused us to be directed toward the watching crowd.  The entire Yankee line soon joined the angle, so all I could do was to answer, wheeling the wing to face them.  For safety concerns, the 4th Florida refused to fire at the direction toward the crowd--and I held no issue with that.  Those Yankees were turning the battle into a farce.  I looked to the right to see the situation that right wing was in--and the Yankees they faced were near decimated while right wing was still at full strength.  This action the Yankees were doing was a fool's errand--we were even matched.  All I needed do was to stand fast and wait for right wing to join the fray, and the Yankees would be bottled up with no where to go.

The Yankees did finally get a brain in their midst and start to retreat before our right wing could join us, allowing us to readjust our angle away from the crowd.  It was a learning experience, and after the battle we discussed the action and how to prepare to prevent the Yankees from making such a move again--so for Sunday's battle we were prepared.

The meal offered that evening was quite enjoyable, though a number of the 1st Tennessee--including Capt Sharp--stayed in camp to have some Cowboy stew, which they regretted the next morning.  Though when I and Private Farrelly returned to camp with Cherry cobbler, they couldn't help but make the trek to the mess hall to grab some desserts of their own.

Through the night Saturday I was unable to keep warm, waking on occasion to shiver out enough warmth to drift to sleep again.  Once I woke to hear the sound of rain on my canvas.

A dreary light through the canvas woke me, and eventually I heard the sounds of the 1st Tennessee as they gathered by the campfire.  I gathered myself, tied my cravat, straightened my hair, put on my coat and boots, and trudged out to the fire to give my morning greetings in a grunt that acknowledged their presence.

The day looked to be better than Saturday, with the sun peaking through the clearing skies, but started much colder.

I cooked my breakfast and headed to headquarters to get the day's schedule.

We formed for parade at 10:30, and afterward drilled for about an hour.

We formed for the battle, which was planned to be Jackson's stand at Manassas.

I took the left wing out to the left in an inverted column, bringing them on the left into line once in position.

We pushed down the hill to the Yankee wing and met with solid resistance.  Unable to push, we began to fall back, but soon our lines broke as soldiers fled back.  I reformed the wing behind right-wing, who pushed forward in force to allow us to regroup.  We dressed to the right wing and pushed. When I saw the entire Yankee wing turn to retreat, I ordered us to push, stopping only when the Yankees turned to face us. I thought of ordering the men at the double-quick, but we were already pushing faster than the colors and the right wing.

I let Capt Sharp take the 7th company off on their own to flank the wing--but the Yankees kept falling back before he had the chance.  We pushed all the way to the Yankee artillery, and Capt Sharp took the chance to capture one of the guns.  The Yankees surrendered shortly after.


Article of Event

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Defencing the Line

PERRYVILLE CLEANUP DAY

Perryville, KY

April 23, 2016



We drove down to Perryville, KY and set up camp at the Baymont Inn in Harrodsburg, surviving the night with what sounded like someone sharpening a sword with a grindstone.

We broke camp early, arriving at the Perryville Battlefield at 9 am, meeting with Chad Greene for instructions.  Our simple goal was to progress the battlefield toward its condition at the time of the battle.  Because the actual clean-up day was the same day as our drill, the park set up this special day for cleanup exclusively for us.

One of the piles of wire fencing we removed.
He directed us to a wire fence with barbwire that needed removed.  Expectations were that it would take us the bulk of the day to remove the some three to four hundred yards of fencing, but the thirteen of us worked quickly, completely stripping the wire well before noon, having time to begin work in tearing a barn down.

Part way into the barn demolition
We stopped for lunch, eating hot dogs and chips provided by the caretakers of the battlefield.

We returned to the barn and finished stripping the sides off and removing boards inside.  The wood we saved was to be used in constructing a barn that will be burned down during the reenactment in October.  Once we cleared the construction, Chad Greene lashed a chain to the support beams and had a bobcat pull the barn down.  We finished our work removing the tin roof.

After cleaning up back in Harrodsburg, we made our way to the Kentucky Fudge Factory and relaxed to a quiet evening on the back porch.

We endured another night of sword sharpening, then headed home, stopping at the Lexington Cemetery to see the graves of a number of Confederate soldiers, including a member of the original 1st Tennessee Co B.