Sunday, April 24, 2016

Defencing the Line


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.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cold and the Wet

The season of wool and gunpowder opened with battalion drill.  The 44th Tennessee, 1st Tennessee, and a consolidation of the 50th Virginia, 5th Virginia, and 19th Virginia met at Hartford City, Indiana to work out the rust of the winter.

I arrived at camp early Friday, finding our new 1st Sergeant, Jeff Carte, unloading some of his gear.  We set up the fly and I started a campfire, reporting back to Capt Sharp to keep the beast from rearing for failing our duties.

Winds picked up and spurts of rain kept us running to the fly for cover.  A few of us, including Capt Sharp, Pvt Compton, Cpl Cochran, and Pvt Myers decided to try to campaign while the rest of us set up tents.  About three times through the night the campaigners had to move from the fire to under the fly to avoid the rain, returning when the drench passed.  The third time, Pvt Compton moved to his car when the fly collapsed, dumping a bucket on him.

The temperature dropped to freezing, chilling me awake and keeping from a good sleep.

Well had roll call, then formed the battalion.  The winds were high, but sky was clear, though cold.  The companies went separate ways to drill, the 1st staying at the cabins behind a hill, while the other two companies went to the top of the hill into a high gale.

After lunch, the weather turned bad, so we relocated battalion drill to the gymnasium at the Indiana National Guard Armory.  We drilled a number of maneuvers, but the space was limited.  We did finally make it through the day of drill, breaking by mid-afternoon for the weekend.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Last

Hartford City IN

October 10-11, 2015

I arrived at Hartford City late, around 7 pm and set up my camp in the fair evening weather.  With my camp set up, I changed into my major's uniform, including a new coat tailored by Jim Ruley, and headed to officers' call at headquarters where we discussed the scenarios for the weekend.

Saturday morning came early.  Though I was warm in my farby military-surplus sleeping bag, the allergens in the air made the night a bit rough.  I got up and cooked up some bacon and eggs and met for morning call.

We held morning parade at 9 am, then marched out for battle, which was to be the Battle of White Oak Road.  The battle started with the 5th Kentucky (the one from Columbus Ohio) watching guard in the woods.  The 5th KY and 1st Tennessee were the companies of my wing, and while 5th KY fought in the woods and was slowly pushed back, I held the 1st TN in reserve to cover the 5th's retreat.

Eventually we reformed as a complete wing and were pushed back further with a force of Yankees greater than ours.  We were pushed back as far as we could go.  We needed support, and we needed it quickly.  I turned up the field and saw the right wing form up to prepare an advance, but they held fast.  The artillery continued their firing, and I found that the right wing was waiting for a number of artillery rounds to fire before advancing.

When had reached our limit, the right wing began their advance and fired on the enemy.  The Yankees about-faced and retreated.  I took advantage of the retreat and pushed the wing.  I halted early--the right wing hardly had a chance to join the fight, so I didn't want to steal all the glory, but the fight didn't last much longer.  It was only moments later when the Yankees surrendered.

The rest of the day, until the afternoon battle went by with little incident.

The afternoon battle began at 4 pm, with the Battle of Five Forks scenario.  We marched through the field into position to face the Yankees, but were quickly forced back.  The Yankees sent a troop of cavalry around our flank, but I sent the 1st TN to repulse them. Unfortunately, the fight did not go well.  We were forced back, but because we were being pushed on our flank as well our line degenerated into a semi-circle.  As the commands to fall back were shouted, the 5th KY fell straight back, with tunnel-vision to keep from turning their backs on the enemy, not realizing they were not falling back with the battalion, but into the line of fire of the 1st Tennessee.  Shouts from me and from Sgt Major David Julian could not get their attention.  They were a big ball of muskets and soldiers out in isolation, nothing but confusion on their faces.   I would have laughed had I not been so pissed.

They did finally fill the gap in the battalion line that awaited them, though I know not what finally got them motivated.  I wonder if they would have backed all the way into the Union cavalry line, had it not been for mine and Sgt Major Julian's shouts.

We were pushed back into the artillery when we finally surrendered.

A group of us headed up to the front of the park and enjoyed the provided meal, then returned to camp to enjoy a quiet evening around the campfire, interrupted by the entire artillery force of both sides bombarding each other in the night.

Sunday morning we formed for dress parade at 10:30.    We held the election for our adjutant, sergeant major, and ordinance sergeant, all of which were running unopposed.  In order to discuss the order of business, we needed to form the companies close around.  I ordered the 5th KY to right wheel to complete my wing of the formation--and immediately the left wheeled.  I was so shocked by the obvious incorrect response that I glanced down to my arms and asked myself, "Did I give the correct command?"  Let's see--right, left.  Yeah I gave the correct command.  What the hell were they doing?

With the help of Capt Steiner and their sergeant, the 5th KY backed up when I started shouted at them to get them back into position.  But trying to get them back dressed on their 1st sergeant was like pulling the teeth out of a mule.  The concept of a line was completely alien to them.  Five times I shouted, "Dress on your sergeant!" before they finally grasped the concept.  I was glad I didn't consider what I was going to face with them during the battle, with a simple wheel such a conundrum.

Once the election was over, I had Capt Steiner return his men back into battalion line, which fortunately went well.

For the weekend, the 1st Tennessee's 1st Sergeant was brevetted to lieutenant, since Capt Sharp could not attend due to other obligations.  Since this was the last weekend that 1st Sergeant Kletzli would be serving in this role, we decided to leave a little parting gift for him.

Col Linkous ordered Kletzli front and center, and I ordered Sgt Carte to assign a guard detail to escort him.  There, the colonel read the charges of impersonating an officer, along with other charges, whereupon he was further escorted to a firing line.  I brought the 1st TN up and ordered the firing.  I guess I brought them too close, as they elevated a bit and missed.  I ordered again, and they missed again, so we released him.

After parade, Col Linkous and I met with the Federal commander and one of his officers to talk to Fall Creek Sutler.  The man who ran the Hartford City event was retiring this year, having run the event for all of the past 26 years, and a collection had been raised to get him a parting gift.  Enough funds had been raised to get the man a number of things.

The battle scenario was Appomattox .  The colonel split the wings, having us form at different ends of the field.  The colonel sent our flag bearer with our battalion colors (the first national) to me, while he kept a flag bearer with the St Andrew's Cross for the right wing.

The time to form came and I set the colors for the line.  The 5th KY dressed, and then the 1st TN came forward.  Lt Kletzli brought the men up at the right flank and dressed.  The number of rifles for the 1st TN were small enough that I didn't realize they weren't fronted, but it didn't look right, and when I asked Kletzli to take his place in line, he informed me they were at the flank.  I got a little abrupt with the lieutenant asking him what he was doing, and informed he that he knew what he supposed to do, telling him to fix it.  Corporal Silvers expressed excessively extensive concern over Kletzli's behavior, so I took the lieutenant aside.  He had just gotten some disturbing news that was distracting him, but when he told me he fine and would be good for battle, I considered the matter closed and had him return to his company.

The colonel wanted a synchronized advance.  I moved my wing into position at the right flank to await the signal, and ordered "By companies into line" to bring us into a column of companies.  I feel we don't see enough battalion-level maneuvers on the field during battle, so wanted to be at least a little fancy, though there were only two companies.  Unfortunately, the 5th KY mistook the command to come into battalion line after going to company into line, so I had to quickly move redirect the 5th KY back behind the 1st TN, and halted the column.  When the 5th KY dressed behind the 1st TN, they formed closed in mass, leaving no room to wheel, and I doubted they would be able to handle in mass maneuvers, so ordered the 1st TN 4 steps forward to give wheeling distance.  I thought my command was clear that it was for the 1st TN only, but I had to rush around the 1st TN to keep the 5th KY from advancing.

In that position, we waited a few more minutes before the signal to advance came.  Quickly after ordering forward, and commanded the wing forward into line, and the 5th KY maneuvered well into battle line.  We advanced halfway across the field and waged against the Yankees.

As we fought, I saw a potential opportunity to flank the Yankees on their right.  I assessed the situation, be careful not to separate us too much from the right wing, and decided that since the 5th KY was on our far end they would be best positioned to execute the flanking maneuver, and approached Capt Steiner to discuss the plan, and he expressed the same idea.  Unfortunately, just as I was about to order the move, the Yankees must have been reading my lips, because they sent two companies to start flanking us, preventing us from taking the offensive.

We fell back and refused those two companies.  As the right wing fell back, we continued to retreat, but our artillery was continuing their fire.  We backed as far as we could, but the 5th KY informed me that the  guns were still hot--and without markers for the safety zone, it appeared we were right at the edge of safety with those guns, so we held position, unable to fall back any further.  I hoped the guns would cease their firing so we had a place to retreat to, but they kept on.

I had the 5th KY extend our line by forming a single rank, and the two Yankee companies split again to further attempt to flank us.  Impatient, the 5th KY charged the company on our furthest flank.  The company the 1st TN faced was about equal in size, so I could do nothing to support the 5th.  Eventually, the 5th reformed to the 1st and the far Yankee company reformed to their wing.

I received a message from the colonel to reform to the right wing, and sent a response that I would do so as soon as it was convenient, as we were still engaged.  I looked for an opportunity and sent the 1st TN alone to rejoin the battalion, while I had the 5th KY cover the withdrawal.  Once the 1st was in position, I pulled the 5th KY at the double-quick. The battle was over quickly after.

We reformed our line across from the Yankee battalion and we watched surrender at Appomattox Courthouse.

Afterwards, we held a ceremony for Orville Uggen, the organizer for Hartford City, and presented him with the gifts we that the collection had purchased.


Monday, October 5, 2015

Touching the Sacred Grounds

Perryville, KY

October 3-4, 2015

The muck and mire from a week of rain threatened to swallow our vehicles whole as we arrived in Perryville for the weekend.  The air provided a spitting mist that slowly soaked our very being.  Golf carts were deployed to haul our gear from the parking lot to our camp.

The night was cold but having learned from the previous events of the year, I was prepared and comfortable, though I never did fully dry in my A.

Morning came and I realized I had forgotten my plate as I prepared my breakfast of bacon and eggs.  Battalion drill was originally scheduled for nine, but the rain forced cancellation.

Capt Sharp held a staff meeting where we took the time to discuss how we could work further to improve the unit.

Rations were issued and cooked, which included bacon, ham, and beans, providing a fulfilling meal.

Although the threat of rain haunted us the entire day, the sky only stayed darkly overcast, with a few seconds of occasional spitting.

We formed for battle, with various maneuvering drills performed on the way to the battlefield.  Once at the battlefield, we entered battle marching through the artillery and pushed against the Yankees.

Afterward Capt Sharp took us to the goat barn, an area of the battlefield that the park had recently acquired.  The area was where the original 1st Tennessee had fought and were stopped, many of whom buried on those grounds where they fell.  We were the first reenactors in 150 years to have ever set foot on those sacred grounds.  Capt Sharp took us through the hills and gullies where the  soldiers fought.

That night I gathered myself into my sleeping bag and tried to light my candle.  It would fizzle for awhile and go out, wet from the heavy, saturated air.  It took several tries before I was finally able to get light.

Sunday opened to sun and warmth.  After breakfast, we formed up and read letters giving biographies on each of the original soldiers from Company D of the 1st Tennessee.

For the afternoon battle, we again formed up and drilled on the way to the battlefield. The 1st pushed toward the guns, and we eventually overwhelmed the Yankees.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Curse of the Captain's Coat

Hale Farm

Bath Ohio

August 8-9, 2015

Courtesy Brittany Wellman

Heavy rains accompanied every event where Capt Sharp's new officer's frock was present, including Spring Drill, Sharon Woods, and Ohio Village.  This coincidental harrowing weather left the company to believe that the coat was cursed.  The men offered to donate the cost of the coat if the rains returned for Hale Farm, so that it could be burned in the campfire.

The captain brevetted me to lieutenant for the weekend as we gathered at Hale Farm and Village in Bath Ohio.  1st Sgt Kletzli was unable to attend due to injury, leaving Sgt Jeff Carte to take his place.  I arrived to see Sgt Carte setting the camp, along with Pvt Jon Farrelly.

Trisha Carte identified a perfect location for our campfire--a group of dead stumps.  Pvt Farrelly started to dig a bit of a pit when he noticed a some yellow jackets flying around.  Before he knew it, an entire swarm was gathering around and some started to sting.

As the rest of us received stings, except for Sgt Carte who had stepped away, we realized that the only way we would get a campfire was to spray down the now-exposed ground next with bug spray, after the nest settled enough for us to get close.
Courtesy Brittany Wellman

Once sprayed down and fire blazing on the nest, the rest of the company arrived, giving us about 15 rifles for Saturday.

I slept on the ground in my A, and late into the night the air grew cold, making it difficult to sleep without getting a chill.

Saturday held a tight, though dynamic schedule.  We formed for parade with Medich Battalion, aligning as fourth company, after which we broke to shortly reform for battle, but the battle was delayed.

After the morning battle, we marched out for the cavalry demonstration, where we would form a square and defend against cavalry.  We marched out to the field, only to learn the cavalry had unsaddled their horses and tied them up to cool, so we marched back to camp.

Rations were issued and we scrambled to get lunch together, saving the rations for Sunday and gathering food we brought, for we had less than an hour to form for the afternoon battle.

The sun disappeared to an overcast day, and reports of a thunderstorm in Toledo gave us fear that the curse of the Captain's coat was upon us.  The battle progressed, and we were pushed back.  We lost half our company and Capt. Sharp took a hit, leaving me in charge.  We fell back to a fence line, and the 1st TN survivors got split up as we found positions along the fence to defend ourselves.  There wasn't much for me to do other than run to each of the spread out men and ensure they kept firing.  It wasn't long and the Union cavalry flanked us to the rear, completely surrounding our forces, leaving us no choice but to surrender.  All that remained of the 1st TN at this point was Chad Cochran, brevetted to corporal for the weekend, and I.  We were taken prisoner and escorted off the field, where I turned to Cpl Cochran and told him, "We are the fourth company."

The rains held off, at least, so there was promise that the curse of the Captain's coat might have lost some of its power.

Before we broke back to camps, the Sgt Major asked for volunteers for night guard watch.  Bvt Cpl Andy Enyart volunteered for the 4 to 6 am shift.

For supper, our ladies cooked up an excellent meal.

Later, Lt. Col. Greg Van Wey gathered Medich Battalion together for a "Town Hall" meeting.  There, Capt Sharp told about the 2016 Perryville event to garner interest, but then we had to leave for a meeting with the Ohio Village Yankee commanders to discuss a bit for an after-action report and plans for the 2016 Ohio Village.
Courtesy Hale Farm and Village

I crashed a little early, lying down in my tent with my legs still sticking out, waking hours later in the dark of night, unable to get warm.  After struggling to warm up for an hour, I relocated my gum and wool blankets next to the campfire.

The Sunday schedule was immediately blown with reveille coming a half hour later than originally scheduled.

1st Sergeant's call came at 7 am at the Sgt Major's call.  Upon Sgt Carte's return, he immediately called first call.  Most of the 1st Tennessee was still asleep, so we struggled to get everyone up and awake and geared-up.

Someone got the weather report and it looked like there would be rain in the afternoon, about the time of the battle.  We feared that the curse of the Captain's coat might still hold, and discussed the plans for burning the coat.

We marched out to a ceremony for Col Nick Medich.  This was his last event as the leader of Medich Battalion as command was transferred to Col Greg Van Wey.  The Yankee brigade joined the ceremony as all of us passed in review.

We returned to camp and given a short break, then reformed to present the Appomattox surrender scenario.  We waited--apparently the Yankees were on a different schedule--then marched out and waited some more.  And then we were marched back to camp.

Finally our schedule synced up with the Yankees and we marched up to the Hale House and made our surrender, dropping our packs and weapons, and signing and returning home.

Courtesy Hale Farm and Village
We had about an hour break before we had to reform for battle, though we had a bit more waiting as our schedule seemed a bit off again.

We were marched to the far side of the battlefield to advance down upon the Yankee formations.  After a fashion, the Yankees pushed us back, and the numbers of the 1st Tennessee steadily declined.

Capt. Sharp took a hit, and Sgt Carte announced, "Captain down," telling me that I was now in command.  I checked on the captain, since the battalion was not moving at the moment, then took the captain's position.

We were pushed back further.  Capt Sharp struggled up and wandered the field like a dazed and confused injured soldier, going down upon a volley from the Yankees.  Sgt Carte told me, "He likes to be such an actor."

We were pushed back to the fence, before we finally finished the battle.  We then returned to camp, where we were released.

And with that, not a drop of rain touching us, the curse of the Captain's coat was broken.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Slow Days

Greenville, OH

July 25-26, 2015

The Gathering at Garst in Greenville looked to be a rather relaxed event.  Capt Sharp couldn't attend due to a business conflict, and Sgt Kletzli had medical issues that kept him away.  Since this event was not part of the max-effort list of the 1st Tennessee and I had been part of getting the 1st TN at this event every year for the past 4, Capt Sharp brevetted me to Lieutenant for the weekend.

Friday evening we set up camp and I dug the fire pit, while Jeff and Trish Carte and Jon and Kiesha Farrelly set up their tents.

The night was clear and cool, and in the morning I cooked some bacon and eggs. Hank, the blacksmith and one of the event coordinators, brought in some donuts for us and supplied us with ice.

Chris Silvers arrived and set up his shelter.

Public came into the park in a slow trickle.  After awhile, Gary Evens, former captain of the 1st Tennessee, showed up in a period civilian outfit and helped us with our living history demonstrations.

The 19th Indiana Light Artillery was there along with the Rev War group the Mad River Light Artillery, and they fired their cannons every hour.

I led the four rifles in short skirmish drills three times, ending with a series of manual of arms, and stepping Cpl Silvers in loading in nine times per the Hardee's School of the Soldier.

We flew our Polk-pattern flag, and I was surprised at how it opened many conversations.  I was also surprised at how Rebel-friendly the people of Greenville seemed to be. Many expressed their gratitude for our appearance.

It was a warm night, but I slept well.  Chris Silvers complained of being assaulted by a brigade of mosquitoes, though.

In the morning I had more bacon and eggs, and donuts were provided, but the day held only the Farrellys, Carte's, Chris Silvers, and I.  Spectator turnout seemed low, so we were able to keep up.  Having only three rifles, I joined the ranks as a private with my musket during the one skirmish drill we held, but again narrated Chris Silvers performing load in nine times.

With the low numbers of spectators we had a lot of time for Euchre, so Chris determined that we try to break the record for number of games in a single day.  We only reached eight games.

It was a relaxed weekend, but we provided good education to the public, and possibly gained a recruit or two.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

The Surrender

Sharon Woods Heritage Village

Sharonville, Ohio

July 11-12, 2015

Courtesy David Burns
Saturday morning at Sharon Woods was quiet.  I didn't feel like much for breakfast, so had a couple of slices of the banana nut bread and coffee the organizers offered.  The coffee wasn't my four-cups-in-one, but it was passable, and the bread was satisfying.

As we prepared for the day, Pvt Chris Wellman, a relatively new recruit for the 1st Tennessee, needed to borrow a musket.  His musket had become non-functional with a problem with his mainspring, so I loaned him Christine, my musket.  Capt Sharp, in returned, placed me as flag-bearer.

This event was solemn.  For the first time in its over 20 year history, the 1st Tennessee would be surrendering.  The event was using Appomattox as the scenario.

Since we represent a western-theater company, our 1st Tennessee, which was part of Maney's brigade, was not at Appomattox.  But Turney's brigade was, and there was a second 1st Tennessee that was part of Turney's, so we bore the flag of the Army of Northern Virginia, the St Andrew's Cross and Confederate Battle flag, instead of our flag, which was the Polk pattern flag.

We formed for parade, and Capt. Sharp gave the announcements.  The battle plan laid out, we were ready for fighting a skirmish we were to lose.

We were a battalion of three companies.  As flag bearer, I was attached to the 9th Kentucky, which was second company.  A consolidated company consisting mostly of the 13th Virginia was first company, and the 1st Tennessee was third company.

The 9th Kentucky started the fight as soon as a couple of Yankee scouts made an appearance, forming a skirmish line just outside the picket fence marking the edge of the battlefield.

We fought a hard battle, pushing the Yankees in skirmish, then pushed back to defeat.

We recovered our dead and wounded and marched off, awaiting for the results of General Lee's parley with General Grant.

Since the flag I bore belonged to Andy Enyart, I switched roles with him--he bearing the flag while I took his musket.

After a time, we marched back to the train depot.  Capt Sharp opened our ranks and had us ground arms.  Each company carried their own flags, and trailed them through the ranks.  Emotions were high.  This marked the epitome of what we reenacted.

The flags were brought to the front, and Capt Sharp ordered them furled, presented to the Yankees.

That evening held a dinner of barbecue chicken and pork.

Sunday morning introduced us to a deluge.  Rain flooded the camps starting around 5 am and proceeding through the seven o'clock hour.  Many of the tents were flooded inside and out.

I was among the lucky.  Instead of setting up a tent, I chose to sleep on the back porch of one of the homes.  It was well sheltered from the rain, and all my gear remained dry.

Due to the drenching rain, many of the reenactors left before the gates opened to the public.

A good number stayed, however, but there were insufficient numbers to hold a battle, so we presented a living history.

Among the scenarios that remained included Lee's surrender.  The event coordinator needed someone to portray Col. Marshall and Sgt Tucker, who were part of the surrender.  Capt Sharp asked me if I would portray Col Marshall, and gave me his coat, while Sgt Kletzli portrayed Tucker.

A narrator spoke through the script, and we, with Generals Lee and Grant walked into the home to give the impression of the signing of the surrender.  I felt a bit of emotion to go through this, even participating in a little period small-talk with the Lee impressionist.

The event was a good experience, one that enlightened us to this time of turmoil.