Monday, October 10, 2016

The Endless Hills

Perryville KY

October 6-9, 2016

Early morning behind our camp.

I made an early start to Perryville, arriving Thursday afternoon. I located our camp by finding the tall bald Cpl Cochran standing next to Capt Sharp smoking his vapor pipe.

Capt Sharp had a rather large role in the planning of the event and was both the mixed camp coordinator and an engineer for the battle scenarios.  His duties kept him away from camp, so I was assigned the duty of leading the 1st Tennessee for the weekend. 

I set my camp and enjoyed the day.  By supper there was a small group of us, so we made our way back to the village of Perryville and grabbed some burgers from the local grill.

There was supposed to be a tactical early Friday morning, but with very few of the 1st on site, and none of whom were interested in an early hike, so we chose to sleep in. 

Capt. Sharp's duties never ended as tried to manage arrivals as they camped, ignoring the maps that indicated sites and encroached into various battalion perimeters.  With nothing to do for the day, except for an eight pm officer's call, I relaxed by my tent reading "Maney's Confederate Brigade at the Battle of Perryville" by Stuart Sanders--an excellent book I would recommend to anyone interested in learning about the battle.

All of the men arrived by supper to enjoy the wonderful chicken chili dinner the ladies cooked for us.

At officers' call for the Independent Guard Battalion, we discussed the plans for the weekend and decided about uniting with the Tennessee Valley Battalion to form a new brigade to represent us and to cooperate together in this area of the country.

The night was surprisingly warm--or at least seemed so with the hand warmers I kept under my covers.

Saturday morning started early with a seven a.m. officers' meeting, followed soon after with battalion parade, where we voted for the positions of colonel, lt. colonel, and major.  The three nominated to those positions were unopposed, so were quickly voted in.  Danny Linkous was re-elected to colonel, I was elected to lt. colonel, and Richard DeWitt was elected to major.

We then formed with the Tennessee Valley Battalion to hold a regimental parade, followed by drill.  It was after 10 am when we finally made it back to camp, with only about 90 minutes to enjoy the hearty breakfast the ladies had cooked for us.

We formed the company for battle and I led the men into battalion formation, where we joined the Tennessee Valley Battalion to go into battle as the 1st Tennessee Regiment.  We were last company, the 12th company of the regiment, and we were led into battle with our own company colors, the only of two colors taken into battle belonging to a private group.  The rest of the colors were issued by the park--but ours was allowed to be used due to its accuracy to the original. 

Andrew Enyart was responsible for making our colors about nine years ago.  He visited a museum in Nashville, Tennessee, took pictures and made careful measurements to ensure our flag was as close as possible to the original.  His efforts gave us something to be proud of.

The regiment we formed included us, the 1st Tennessee Co B of the Independent Guard Battalion, and the 1st Tennessee Co D of the Tennessee Valley Battalion, so it was a great honor for us to be representing the 1st Tennessee Regiment in this battle.

Before going into battle, we stopped at the memorial cemetery.  Both us and Company D were called forward to offer a firing salute to those who had fallen on this field.
As the battle started, we were in the reserve, so were the last onto the field.  As we pushed up the hill, at times we were ordered to fire by company.  I was thrilled to be able to be able to give the order, "Rock City Guards, Ready! Aim! Fire!"

The battle ended short with many of my men only firing around ten rounds.  
As the brigades returned to camp, Co D joined us as we marched nearby to where thirty of the original 1st Tennessee soldiers had fallen to hold a small memorial service to them. Each of us had been given a couple of Polk-pattern flags to match the 1st Tennessee's battle flag, and the names of the fallen were read off.  Each flag had a name, and as that name was called off, we placed the flag into the ground.  When all names were called off, the line of flags represented a battle line as they might have had at the battle.

We finished the ceremony by retiring our own flag, an emotional moment for many of us.  Sgt Nyman carried the flag in review before each of Co B, and then the flag was folded, never to be unfurled again.  A monument will be constructed to mark the place where the soldiers of the 1st Tennessee Regiment fell, and underneath that monument our flag will be buried.

We returned to camp to enjoy another meal our ladies provided.  I cannot express enough gratitude for the meals that the ladies of the 1st Tennessee Co B cooked for us.

As dark encroached, most of us loaded our knapsacks with extra blankets and put on our great coats to march back to Starkweather Hill.  Our goal was to come as close as we could determine to where Marcus Toney wrote that he had buried the dead from the original Company B.  It was a dark march as Company D from the Tennessee Valley Battalion joined us and we only had a couple of lanterns and moonlight to guide the way.  Capt Sharp led the way into the woods, hitting his shin on a rock when deciding we were probably as close as we were going to get.  We laid our ground cloths down on the incline and covered up for the night.  Pvt Compton brought some charcoal to get a fire going, but I think we were all too tired to really care about much of one, but Capt Sharp did put together a bit of dead brush for a ten minute fire.  

Marching back to camp after our overnight stay near Starkweather Hill
Cpl Cochran did seem to express concern about ghosts in the area, but other than a rather strange and loud howl of some unknown sort that woke us all up, it was a rather uneventful night.  The sound is difficult for me to describe as I only heard it in a half-waking state, but others described it as the sound from a deflating balloon--I suppose similar to when you stretch the end of it to get it to screech.  It gave quite a start to many of the men, but I was back asleep before I heard anyone comment on it.  The next day, some commented that it may have been a bobcat.

Sunday morning was light.  We had a quick battalion parade to inspect weapons, then returned to camp and enjoyed a pancake breakfast, then had until noon to form for the afternoon battle near the Bottom House, on the opposite end of the battlefield from our battle Saturday.

The march to the battlefield was long and arduous.  Though we didn't march with our packs like we did on Saturday, it was a longer march under seemingly hotter weather.  We had plenty of time to recover once we reached our staging area for the battle, so we were good and ready to go when our turn into the fight came.  Representing the 13th Arkansas, we pushed across Doctor's Creek, getting our feet a bit wet, and our uniforms muddy as we scrambled up the embankment on the far side of the creek.  The entire battle we pushed uphill, and it proved overwhelming to a number of the men.  Col Linkous had to fall out for a little to catch his breath, and Dave Julian, brevetted to Lt Col. also was out for a little, leaving Major Rick DeWitt in charge.  Still green, I think at one point he, seeking advice, even asked me, "Should we just go to independent fire?" To which I responded, "Sounds good to me, sir!"  Major DeWitt strikes me as one who will do the work to learn his role as major--and being put into trial by fire probably was one of the best training points he could have gotten.  I'm certain he will prove an excellent resource in his new position.

Col Linkous did return to command once he was able to catch back up with us, pushing us on to the top of the hill.  The battle ended for us, though, when one of the privates of the consolidated 10th Tennessee/Austen's Battalion had a malfunction with his rifle where the nipple blew out and burned his hand.  He'll probably be wearing a bandage for a week or so, but otherwise he seemed to be okay.

I formed the men up for the last time for the weekend and started to give them a quick speech for their excellent service when I was interrupted by Capt Sharp running up to us.  "What do you think you're doing with my men!" he shouted at me and then saluted and said, "Lt Judge, you are relieved," to which I replied, "I am relieved, sir!" I stepped aside to let Capt Sharp give the closing message, and then mosey us to the parking lot to our cars.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

I'm not wearing my glasses

Sidney Ohio

September 17-18, 2016

After setting camp, rain threatened, but never materialized.  We hoped to have as many as 20 rifles show, but arrivals were light.  In the end, the 1st had around ten rifles plus a handful from the 13th VA and 9th KY.

The night was comfortable, interrupted by light rain and a thunderstorm.

With Capt Sharp as overall commander of a two company battalion, I had command of the 1st Tennessee.  Because of Capt Sharp's high level of involvement in the planning for the event, he was given a gator to be able to quickly travel about the park.  He got a bit of enjoyment out of riding it around, dropping off wood for all the camps, and threatened to four-wheel it through the creek around midnight.

Saturday morning brought rations in excess, and I ate a hearty breakfast, though I decided to not break my teeth on the hardtack.

After battalion parade, the other company went on patrol while members of the 1st Tennessee were assigned picket duty.

Rain arrived and soaked the grounds, and Capt Sharp had me go ahead and pull the pickets.  We heard reports of the possibility of delaying the battle, but we were able to keep to the schedule.

A few of us, including myself, put on ponchos to try to keep from getting much wetter as we went into the battle.  I tried to follow Capt Sharp's guide as I led the 1st Tennessee, but my game was off.  I did okay, but I felt like a deer staring down headlights, messing up commands and sluggish with the delivery.  We crossed the creek beside the covered bridge and made our way across the battlefield against the Yankees.  The other company soon joined us, but were in a bit of disarray as they were a consolidation of about five companies with too many NCOs. We were pushed back to the bridge, and we left the field.

With how much I felt I messed things up, I started blaming it on the fact I wasn't wearing my glasses.

The event served supper for us back in the civilian area.  The meal was a delicious and healthy serving of pulled-pork and chicken with potatoes.

When the night got dark, we marched out to the creek for a night battle.   The infantry lit up the night with barrage after barrage, with an occasional blast from artillery.  Occasionally Lt James Sturckler shouted random orders to make it sound like we had more going on, such as "Bring up the ammo wagon!"  I responded, "Ammo wagon coming forward, sir!"  It was black, and only the light from our the muzzles gave any indication of where we were.

Sunday morning we were assigned a patrol action to a ford along the creek.  We expected to encounter the enemy, so when we reached the ford, I sent Sgt Carte with a squad to scout ahead.  When they signaled us clear, I sent the rest of the company across while the first squad remained at the ready, expecting the enemy to arrive at any time.  On the far side, we set up defensive positions, then eyed over the top of the banks to find the field clear.  The Yankees must have gotten lost or something.  We followed a canal tow path down toward the Yankee camp at 10 pace intervals for a time, until we came to a bridge that a few Yankees held.  Rapidly moving each file into position on the path to fire, then vacating for the next file, we pushed our way to the bridge and took it.  The Yankees took position down a small ravine, giving us the high ground.  They continued their retreat, and we pursued them from the high ground in quickly moving skirmish lines all the way back to civilian camp.  Capt Sharp noticed that Yankee reinforcements might soon arrive, and a Union gun started to move into position, so we abandoned the pursuit and made our way back across the creek.

For the battle, the 1st Tennessee staged near the civilian camp behind the spectators.  The plan was that we would be the reinforcements into the battle.  As the battle progressed, our other company was pushed back nearly completely off the field, and Capt Sharp called us onto the field.  I ordered the 1st down at the double-quick, bringing us onto the field a mere ten feet from a lone soldier with a Henry.  After a quick foul word of shock, that soldier skedaddled off.

We pushed the Yankees back, and eventually took the field.

As we marched back to camp to end the weekend, I ordered "Right shoulder-shift".  My brain started messing things up again, and wanted to say "march", but I knew the execution was "arms"--causing it to come out "marms".  I wasn't wearing my glasses.


Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Outnumbered at Shawshank

Ohio State Reformatory

Mansfield, OH

August 27, 2016

With a significant number of promises from the men of meeting Capt Sharp at the Ohio Reformatory in Mansfield, Ohio, we planned to spend a good portion of the day in drill, fine-tuning our skills for the next couple of events.

But much of that number went AWOL, leaving us with little more than a squad, so any idea of drill was quickly forgotten.

Pvt Steve Winston pitched his tent and started the fire.  Sgt Jeff Carte set up a tent and the fly.  But as this was a one-day event, most arrived Saturday morning in time for roll-call.

Instead, we spent much of the day in discussion.  Capt Sharp spent some time with us working out ideas for first-person impressions.  We did have a short drill, but a second drill, planned as consolidated with the Yankee contingent, was canceled when Capt Sharp was called away to assist in convincing a very ailing Doc Gill to report to Q Company.

When night fell, after visiting several scenes of era civilians headed by Elizabeth Topping, a tour of the public came out to meet with us.  Capt Sharp gave a talk discussing our life as soldiers while a couple of men stood picket a ways off, and the rest of us just hung around looking busy.  Eventually a small Yankee contingent attacked.  We pushed them off, and the night concluded.

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


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