Monday, June 29, 2015

The Copperhead Invasion

Ohio Village

Columbus, OH

June 27-28, 2015

I arrived Friday to Ohio Village and carried in my gear. After Red River, I decided to travel light, although this weekend that proved to be not so good an idea. No tent, no shelter--just a ground cloth, poncho, and wool blanket to sleep in. My knapsack carried all my supplies for the weekend.


The temperature was dropping and rain saturated the ground. I was able to keep somewhat dry through the night, but was not comfortable with the soggy ground stealing my heat.

Morning came and I collected morning reports. With the 1st Tennessee were the 27th Virginia that were from PACS, the 44th Tennessee from Indiana that are part of the Independent Guard Battalion, the 13th Virginia, the 6th Kentucky, and the Confederate Marines. The 13th VA and 6th KY were small enough that they consolidated as one for battalion maneuvers. We also expected the 5th Texas from Medich Battalion, but only two of them arrived for Saturday only, so we consolidated them with the 27th VA. We also expected Lt Col Greg Van Wey of Medich battalion, who was to command our left wing, but due to a family emergency was unable to come. I had looked forward to seeing him to share stories of Red River with him, but the stories will have to wait. His absence left me to command the left wing. Col Danny Linkous commanded right wing, while J.R. Sharp, as overall Confederate commander, commanded the provisional battalion.


At 10 a.m., we formed the battalion and marched them into town. The Yankee battalion joined us as we held a memorial service for one of our own reenactors--a member of the 6th KY. Once the service was over and the Yankees returned to camp, we held the village, setting pickets at each entrance. We placed the pickets on 30 minute shifts, and I requested Cpl Silvers of the 1st TN to serve as Corporal of the Guard, to help me with managing the shifts. As each shift formed, I gave some basic instruction to the pickets, including the countersign of "Fredericksburg". The Yankees were given the countersign--the pickets were more for show for the spectators--and we didn't want to prohibit access and enjoyment of the town to anyone. We only asked that the Yankees remove their blouses before entering town, though they did also have to give us the countersign. The Yankees would have the village Sunday, and we would give them the same courtesy.


The day progressed and I kept busy with preparing each shift practically upon deploying the previous shift. At 12:30 pm, I had Cpl Silvers relieve the last shift with no replacements so that we could form and be ready for the battle at 1.


The entire southern side of town was active for the battle. My wing took the road to the east, pushing quickly out, then wheeling near perpendicular to the road to hit the advancing Yankees. This gave us the advantage of being able to hit them early, but when the Yankees pushed, it put us in an awkward position to fall back toward the town. I could have done a reverse wheel, but that to me is just plain awkward, so instead I right-flanked them, then ordered, "on the right by file into line", followed by a right wheel, which put the wing across the road into good position to fight. Unfortunately, the moves needed to happen too quickly, so I had to order the right wheel before the the on the right by file into line was complete. It was a bit convoluted because of this, but we got into position. Afterward, I realized that first performing a by file right (instead of the on the right by file into line), then the on the right by file into line would have been less awkward and accomplished the same thing, though I would have had to start the on the right by file into line as soon as the first file turned for the by file right command.


The Yankees pushed us hard back into the village, and we fell back as they pushed, careful not to give too much ground, trying to keep even with the rest of the battalion as they faced their opponents. Once the Yankees reach the main boardwalk, we held fast, and when they started to falter, we began a hard push out. The Yankees on my wing were stubborn, however. Left wing had to fight hard for every inch, while right wing was handed ground easily. I pushed as much as I could, but it felt I could only inch my men forward. As we passed the meeting hall, the last building to our right, Col Sharp shouted to us to push and not stop. I looked about and could see right wing on the far end of the battlefield, capturing the bridge--too far away to offer any support to us. All I needed was a single company volley on the Yankee flank, and we could break them, but my wing was on our own. Finally, the Yankee wing fell back more than 20 yards at once, and I charged my wing forward at the double-quick to take everything they gave us at that instant, having the wing ready to fire before the Yankees could regroup. It was not long after that, and we won the day.


Dead and wounded lay all about around the village. I saw one portly short Yankee laying on the ground that I remembered from two weeks ago and tried to come up with a good quip for him, but my weary body stole the brain power from me, so I let him lay. I saw several soldiers, some wounded, standing about doing nothing, so requested their assistance in carrying the dead and wounded over to Doc's tent, so that they could be dealt with. I had the Yankees that were hovering about handle their own, while any free Confederate I assigned to handle the dead and wounded of ours.


We assigned one more shift of pickets, then steadily withdrew from the village to our camps.


Evening meal was provided to us in the town, where we witnessed a wedding party gather at the church.

The temperature dropped to uncomfortably cold, with the sky spitting at us and occasionally flushing down.

Perhaps it was wimping out, but having no tent to shelter me from the cold, wind, and rain, I chose to spend the night in my car.


Who would have thought that the end of June in Ohio would require great coats?


I awoke to daylight after a reasonable rest, ready for action.


We held morning parade at ten a.m., then broke until battle time.


They Yankees held the village today, but the public would not be entering until noon, so many of us were not ready when overly-anxious Yankee pickets stopped us around 11 am. Fortunately the countersign was publicly known as "Franklin", so there was no trouble, though. Sgt Major Dave Julian told me of one picket being confused to how he so readily knew the countersign, which is particularly funny since the countersigns for both days were chosen Friday and made publicly available to all reenactors--their sole purpose was to aid in the immersion show for the spectators.


I took the long morning to visit with Jim Ruley, who took measurements for a coat I was going to have him make for me. He did such a good job with Capt Sharp's coat, and I had been considering a new frock for some time, I thought it time to talk to him.


I was given word that there were a number of period-civilian activities during the day, but since the Yankees held the town, I was not aware what they were.


Courtesy Joe Patchen
We formed for battle, then sent the Confederate Marines into skirmish against a skirmish line of Yankees. After a small show, I brought left wing up to offer support and push the Yankee line back into the town.


As we pushed forward, we pushed hard down the street on the left. The Yankee skirmishers retreated down the center, between two buildings. The 44th Tennessee came up behind us and pushed in the center, while we pushed on the left into the town. The 1st Tennessee pushed on the right flank into town. My wing included the Confederate Marines, the 27th Virginia, and the 6th Kentucky. The 13th Virginia carried their colors (an ANV Confederate Battle Flag) as color company so was not with my wing like yesterday.


Entering the town, we faced an artillery piece down the other end of the street, so did not hang around long, shifting to rejoin the rest of the battalion in the center. We fought heavily for a time, but we were outnumbered, and the Yankees soon pushed back. We slowly fell back, then rushed back between the buildings. The Yankees pushed hard, and my wing was divided from the right by the town meeting house. Our numbers steadily dropped, and two Yankee companies were quickly upon us. Although three companies were on my wing, their numbers were small, about eight rifles in each. We were quickly being overwhelmed, but just as I was to be overrun, Col Sharp brought the 44th Tennessee to reinforce us. We were able to hold our ground longer, but the Yankee artillery moved their gun into position to hit us.


We fell back further, ducking at the artillery fire, but when a third company joined the fight on us, we could no longer stand against the overwhelming forces. Our men routed, and the battle was lost.




Sunday, June 21, 2015

The Reformatory and the Civil War

The Ohio State Reformatory

Mansfield, OH

June 20, 2015


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Campaign

Red River 3

Washington, Arkansas

June 6-13, 2015

Courtesy Kristoff Schnee

The 7th Corps, 77th Ohio Regiment, arrived in Washington City, Arkansas, June 7, 1864, gathering ourselves for the Rebel forces on the hunt for us. We were in enemy territory, the day was hot, and the supply wagons were late.


Most of the command staff was lost due to various reasons, including medical, duty reassignment, and even death, leaving only Col. Robert Minton, Capt. Dan Schoun, Maj. Trevor Steinbach and myself on command.


We visited the local tavern and enjoyed a wonderful meal from the friendly townsfolk.


Col. Minton was a short man, but commanding in nature. He led with an attitude of cooperation, and not dictatorship--presuming that all branches were prepared to work together to route the enemy. Already stressed from the loss of staff, he prepared us for the additional duties we would need to perform to fill the needs of the army.



Courtesy Mary Bellow
Capt. Schoun, a tall, lanky man, but powerful and determined upon need, and originally assigned as quartermaster general,
would also fulfill the role of chief of staff. I found him a man who paid extreme attention to details--to a degree that was rare to be found, although at times he could volunteer details in conversation that could require a bit of patience to endure. He is a man I think highly of.


Major "Doc" Steinbach was the extent of our medical staff, without whom the regiment would not have survived. He set up his permanent camp in Washington near our headquarters with many medical provisions which he provided at his own cost. I am certain Capt Schoun submitted recompense requests up the chain of command, but in all likelihood, Maj. Steinbach will never see a penny of compensation.


As for myself, I served as Provost, rank of Lieutenant, and would fulfill any remaining needs. For those unfamiliar with the duties of Provost, I was normally responsible for the rear guard when the column was on the march, and responsible for both the outer pickets that watched for the enemy when we camped and any inner sentries that were needed, as well as any security required. I would also act as liaison for any civilians we encountered. Due to the regiment's reduced numbers, both the inner sentries and civilian liaison proved unnecessary (though there were a few minor issues I was involved with), which more readily freed me for supporting of the other needs of the regiment.


We also had one private with us at HQ, Bruce Grashel. He was an elderly man who did much to give a hand where needed.


The regiment had two artillery pieces led by Capt Angelo Piazza, whom we quickly nicknamed, "Firecracker". It seemed Firecracker likes to blow things up whether it be rounds from the cannon, or tree stumps blocking the path.


In charge of the cavalry was Col. Mike Church, who held a strong concern over his horses and a love for a good fight.


Maj. Dominic Dal Bello commanded the infantry, companies C and H of the 77th Ohio. Being an infantry man myself, I was most observant of the details of the infantry. Lt Shawn Mayless was the battalion adjutant, Company H was commanded by Capt. Simon Taylor, and Capt. Ted Parrott commanded Company C.


Maj. Dal Bello was a scholarly man, having written several military books, including a school of the battalion and a book for pickets and guards. Having been only recently promoted to Provost myself, I possessed a copy of his book on pickets that I studied in preparation for my position.


We also had a team of pioneers, led by Capt Jim Trent. Capt Trent talked with a thick southern accent, perhaps from Kentucky, and held great designs and ambitions, perhaps beyond that which our meager resources would allow.


Finally, we had two supply wagons to provide water and resources for the command staff, infantry and pioneers. The artillery had several teams of mules to transport their supplies, caissons, and guns. Being an infantry man, I did not pay close enough attention to detail the numbers, though I believe there were three teams.


Our first day's camp was some distance from the village of Washington. We were to start here in our departure from the Rebel forces who were pushing us. I was dropped off about a quarter mile from our intended camp with all headquarters gear and Doc while Col Minton and Capt Schoun attended to other duties. One infantry company had already arrived (I believe it was company C, though I may be mistaken) and was awaiting orders as to where to camp. When we had scouted the location earlier in the day, I placed my Harrison & Gondie folding chair to mark the path that forked from the road, and instructed the company to follow that path. I then proceeded, with some assistance from Doc, to haul the HQ gear to our camp and fly the regimental flag to mark headquarters.


With four packs and various gear, I wore out before I could really work on hauling the boxes, but was eventually able to get, with Doc's assistance, three of the boxes to camp. I don't remember how the fourth box made its way in, but it did somehow get there.


The artillery arrived somewhat after the first infantry company, setting camp in a small clearing in the wooded area by a pond supposedly infested with alligators. About an hour later the second infantry company arrived and bivouacked next to the first company. The cavalry and pioneers would not be arriving as the cavalry remained in advance at Washington City, while the pioneers camped at a creek crossing to build a bridge for our wagons to cross.


Dusk fell upon us and I was wiped out. The Arkansas wilderness was hot and my energy gone. I stretched my ground cloth near a pine and underneath a tiny sassafras sapling that was more visual distraction than shade. My weary body crashed there until the colonel and Capt Schoun arrived in the dark of night.


Courtesy Simon Taylor
Doc had a fly that he was prepared to set up, but the sky was clear and no sign of rain appeared imminent, so he laid it flat where he and Capt Schoun could sleep upon it. Unfortunately, Doc lay perpendicular to me, with his head a mere foot from mine. Throughout the night, a sound of lumberjacks with large saws milling their way through a forest would occasion itself upon my ears. I found that with slight manipulation of that little sassafras sapling I could put a sudden halt to the cacophony.


When morning arrived and reveille sounded, Doc complained of that little tree. I held my tongue.


We began the morning march early in an attempt to avoid the heat. We stashed the HQ gear on the infantry wagon and I took position with the rear guard, the artillery in front of us. Throughout the couple of miles of our march we could hear the occasional sound of Rebel wagons not far from us. We eventually arrived at a farm inhabited by a pleasant little old Arkansas lady who was most helpful to us. We were able to refill our canteens from her well. Firecracker set up guns per the colonel's orders in ambush for the Rebels that chased us on the corner of her field.


Unfortunately, Firecracker was a little anxious and fired the cannons before the Confederate forces were in sight, destroying any chance of surprise we possessed.


Courtesy Mary Bellow
We marched on, finding a field well suited for battle. The infantry marched to the far side of it, with all wagons following, all finding shade to wait under. The cavalry soon entered the field as well, awaiting for the opportunity catch the Rebels off their guard and win the day.


But as time passed, we soon found we did not have the landowner's permission to hold a battle at this location. So we gathered up and moved on.


Along the way we passed a large chicken farm, and I watched as a couple of soldiers from the infantry fell out and ran to the house at the corner of the property. Being Provost, I was particularly concerned that they might be causing trouble, but I also trusted that these Union men were gentlemen, and would not create a situation where I would need be involved. After entering the house, they soon made their way to the chicken house, exiting with a hen by its legs. Rage started welling up within me that they were stealing this hen, but when I heard them shout, "Thank you" to the landowner at the house, I realized they had permission, presumably purchasing the hen.


I'm not too certain what happened with that hen thereafter, other than a string was tied to one of its legs to keep it running off. But we soon engaged the enemy with that chicken in tow, and though it survived the battle, I don't believe it fared too well. It was fortunate the men had prepared to consume it that evening.


As we approached the planned location for that evening's camp, the Confederate forces engaged the rear guard. I double-quicked to catch up with the rest of the infantry battalion. The cavalry and artillery set up defenses in the field where we were to camp, while the infantry set an anchor point on the road to guide the Rebels into the trap. I approached Maj. Dal Bello and asked if he wanted the rear guard recalled. When he nodded the affirmative, he departed to retrieve his bugler to sound the recall, but I was anxious in what seemed a deterministic moment so shouted the recall down the road myself to the rear guard. When the major returned with his bugler, the rear guard was already
Courtesy Gavin Dawson
prepared to rejoin the battalion.


I stayed with the rear guard as well fell back past the entrance to the field where the artillery and cavalry awaited to set the trap. The rest of the infantry stood fast at the crossroad to our left, and the field was to our right. Our position was a bit precarious because if the Rebel force was able to overrun us, past the main forces, the could potentially slip into the field to the rear of the cavalry and disrupt the trap. Our numbers were insufficient to stop a single company, but the main infantry force was able to draw enough attention to keep the Rebels from advancing too far. The trapped worked perfectly--the Confederate cavalry saw forces in the field and like cowboys in a rodeo fair, charged in with guns blazing, facing our Federal cavalry and artillery on all sides in an instant. Our cavalry quickly captured the entire Confederate cavalry, leaving the infantry forces fighting to a stalemate.


A quick parley with the Confederate forces allowed them to retreat to avoid an indefinite ending to the infantry fight, and we set camp in the field, known as "Moonshine Cemetery". Headquarters was set in the northeast corner exit, with the infantry set along a short road on the west side of the field. Cavalry scatter their camp all over the edges of the field and the into another field directly south. The artillery also set camp in the field somewhere, but being an infantry man, I failed to notice where their camp was.


An issue with water quickly revealed itself. A large supply of water was left for drinking by the soldiers, but it was by far insufficient to supply water for horses, nor was it intended to be for horses. For the horses, a well was available, but apparently there was a problem with the pump, as no water presented itself.
Courtesy Brian Andrew Barton



A couple troopers, rightfully concerned for their horses, started filling buckets from the tank provided for soldiers, risking leaving the soldiers thirsty for tomorrow's march. Fortunately Capt Schoun was handy to stop them and preserve the water supply. He reported to Col Church to resolve the issue, who agreed with Capt Schoun, but insisted on rapid resolution of the water issue for the horses.


Fortunately we soon obtained assistance from a local and a separate valve was opened to allow the well water to flow for the horses.


Almost immediately, however, another issue became apparent as there was an insufficient supply of hay for the horses provided from the advance supply train. The local resident was kind enough to make up the difference, though, in short order.


Rations were distributed and included something called "Tasso", a rather tasty spiced pork. The quantity of rations were rather excessive, considering our weariness. I was the only one of HQ with some spare time, but was too exhausted to be concerned with a camp fire for supper, choosing instead to sleep for an hour or so.


The artillery discussed with the colonel about when they should depart for the bridge the pioneers were constructing. The colonel was only concerned that they leave ahead of the infantry, by 5 am the next morning. They chose to leave immediately and set camp a short distance from the pioneers.


Private Bruce put together a fire and fried some bacon and potatoes. He offered what he fried up to the rest of us and I ate a portion of it--no one else was hungry for the bacon and potatoes, though they did eat some of the Tasso.


A courier finally arrived with messages from the pioneers. In waiting for a courier, Capt Trent
Courtesy Brian Andrew Barton
stacked his messages intended for the colonel. The first requested I think 8 men for assistance, the second a team of mules, and the third stating little progress had been made. Due to the critical nature of the bridge, the colonel debated whether to immediately ride on our main supply wagon to the crossing to check the progress himself, or walk the 3 mile trek himself in the morning, an hour and a half before the infantry departure. Reluctant to leave the infantry without water, he chose the latter, departing at 5 am with a cavalry escort.


The night was rather quiet, except for a gunshot at 1 am that ruffled the feathers of the pickets. I heard a call for the corporal of the guard and a bugle call to arouse him. I checked in with a picket posted near headquarters, and all seemed normal. There was no further activity.


Reveille sounded at 5 am and the colonel quickly departed, Capt Schoun volunteering to pack the colonel's gear onto the wagon. We had planned to step off at 6:30 am, but Capt Schoun was concerned there would be a delay so put some pressure on the infantry to move, and we were able to step off ten minutes early. It was a forced march. We needed to get to the bridge site quickly to provide any needed assistance in finishing construction before the Rebel forces were upon us.
Courtesy Brian Andrew Barton



About a half hour into the march we climbed a lengthy hill. At one point I was walking backwards to check on the rear guard and for any Confederates that might be closing in on us, and stepped on a copperhead that had been run over by a wagon, and was still alive. Fortunately, I think it was in too much shock to strike, though I probably would have had good protection from my boots. The supply wagon still needed to pass by, so I grabbed a stick and pushed the snake into the woods at the side of the road, though by this time I believe the snake had expired.


The hill was too much for two soldiers with their packs, and they straggled back. Doc took care of one, and I believe he was able to finish the march up the hill. I took the other's pack and after a moment we were able to also continue up the hill. At the top of the hill, the battalion rested, refilling canteens and recovering from the challenging hill. I put the soldier's pack I was carrying onto the supply wagon.


Courtesy Gavin Dawson
At first we presumed we would need to hold this position and engage any rebels, to give the pioneers time to finish the bridge, but soon we were given word from a courier to advance. Several more stops and starts and we eventually reached the bridge. The rear guard joined the skirmish line with one company to hold back the Rebels should they come upon us, while the rest of the battalion helped with finishing the bridge. The artillery crew was already there tossing logs into the ditch.


Beside the trail were a couple of 2 foot wide pine trunks the pioneers had cut down to use as support beams. The trunks were too large for even a mule team to drag across the creek. Since time was out, they resorted to simply filling the three foot ditch with smaller logs. The colonel had been chopping trees with the artillery and pioneers since he arrived that morning.


Courtesy Gavin Dawson
The size of the finished bridge I saw was perhaps ten feet long, and almost precisely the width of the wagons. The first three wagons, which included the artillery made it across without too much difficulty. The mules and horses were unhitched and forded across, while a team of men pushed the wagon on a very specific track across the bridge. Slipping from the track by as much as a few inches meant the wagon would fall off.


The fourth wagon--the infantry supply wagon--was unhitched. We drained as much water as we could, filling all canteens, and started across. Soon, it slipped from the track, causing the left rear wheel to fall into the ditch. The wagon was now stuck, a tree stump blocking the front left wheel, preventing even a mule team from being able to pull it out.


Some digging and Firecracker set a charge. Sand blew into the air, but the stump held. More digging, and another charge set, blowing the stump high. With a mule team hitched, the wagon was quickly pulled clear.

Courtesy Gavin Dawson

On the other side, we moved the wagons up the trail, ready to continue on. Firecracker handed Capt Trent a pretty large set of charges to place them within the bridge. With all of us safe and ready to push on, Capt. Trent lit the charge and rushed to safety.


As the fuse burned down, a couple of Confederate cavalry troopers suddenly came charging down the hill--right toward the bridge and the explosive charge. Firecracker stepped forward and frantically started waving off the troopers, attempting to warn of the pending explosion. They stopped in time, perhaps a mere 20 yards from the bridge when it blew, creating a thick cloud blocking the view.


Courtesy Gavin Dawson
As the smoke cleared, we could see the entire Confederate cavalry setting up a line of attack. The infantry quickly rushed to recover from the awe of the explosion, and set up defenses to retreat from down the trail. One trooper attempted to flank to our rear, and I quickly found myself in the middle of the action, but he was quickly overwhelmed by an entire platoon of muskets pummeling him.


As we pulled back, the infantry spreading to a skirmish line through the woods, I believe the Confederate infantry also joined the battle, though it was difficult for me to see from the sloping of the hill and the fact that I was struggling to stay out of the middle of the fight, having only my six-shooter Remington for defense.


Courtesy Gavin Dawson
The fight was intense. We backed up to the top of the hill, and we tried to disengage. Our water supply was pretty depleted from the hard morning's work, but the Rebels kept pushing. Company H was able to pull out while Company C held ground. The fighting finally stopped, but Company C was at a stand-off with the Confederate Cavalry. They insisted on pushing forward, but Company C held. With the rest of the battalion and all wagons now moved off, there was no support for Company C. I rushed down the lane to see if support could be obtained, and came across the battalion adjutant, who informed me the order is to fall back. I quickly returned and instructed the Captain as such. He was very reluctant, but finally submitted and fell back. The Confederates were kind enough to cease their push, allowing us time to tend to our wounded, before vacating the area.


All wagons rushed to our camp in Washington City, including the infantry supply wagon, which had run out of water, leaving only the command staff and the infantry battalion in the woods, probably less than a mile from camp. The Confederate forces were near.


We were running out of water, having an insufficient supply to complete the journey to camp. The heat was unbearable. Col Minton scouted ahead a little and took the path that forked, hoping to find something that could take care of his troops.


He found a nearby farmer that was more than willing to supply water for the men. We took a short break, then trudged on to camp. To our surprise, the farm was right at the edge of Washington. We had no idea how close we were to the village.


Once we arrived to camp, I stripped down to my shirttails and crashed on the ground. A civilian came by and offer some fried apple and peach pies for sale--Col Minton bought two and gave me one, and I bought two more, relishing in the delicious sweet savor.


I sat in as plans for the rest of the week were discussed. Due to the heat, we realized that Prairie D'Ann, our original goal for confronting the Rebel forces once and for all, was out of reach. The horses and artillery would have no issue, but the men simply would not be able to endure the 26 mile march in the four days available to us. We instead devised to march about halfway the distance, to a field where we could make our stand.


A local woman invited the officers to a wonderful meal of cabbage stew and sweet tea. I cleaned up as best I could considering the heat, and followed the colonel to the citizens' camp.


It was a pleasant meal. The servants brought out the food and drink and we enjoyed pleasant conversation--that is, until the woman's son started heckling us as Yankees, shouting as us to return home. He was a spirited runt, and becoming quite annoying, but we managed through supper.


Courtesy Amy McCarty
The family living in that camp shortly held an entertainment session, singing songs to the soldiers as the gathered. The entertainment ended with E.N. McKlarty, the boy from dinner, performed on the trombone for us. As he completed his performance, spewing anti-union protests from time-to-time, Col. Minton made his way to the performance green. I followed close by with my shackles. His mother had put us up to it--we arrested him and I put the shackles on him--which proved a bit difficult due to the small size of his wrists. I ended up simply holding him until we got back to headquarters, where I put the shackles on his ankles around a post. We talked for a bit and tried to get him to pledge the oath of allegiance to the United States. After a while, we did finally release him, though he did manage to still work one leg free of the shackles.


I slept soundly. Wednesday morning came and I put together cheese grits and bacon, tracking down a campfire I could borrow a spot from. We planned to stay the day there, recovering from the march that brought us here and attempting to keep cool from the day's heat. However, before I could start cooking breakfast, the Rebels hit us at our camp. Our cav was ready, quickly pushing them back, and I told them to bring me a prisoner for interrupting my breakfast, which they failed to do.

Courtesy Mary Bellew

I got my breakfast and shared the large supply of cheese grits I made up with the rest of headquarters. At this point the quartermaster was choking us with rations--it seemed a near endless supply. I could only wonder if the Confederates were being fed as well.


By around noon, the Confederate commander entered camp to parley some terms with us. Well into the discussion, we were hit hard by the Confederate force, complicated by the fact that our pickets failed to sound the alarm. Our dismounted cavalry did manage to capture their gun, which had advanced far into the front lines. One of the artillery men suffered some powder burns in the scuffle, and the Rebels fell back.


Courtesy Mary Bellew
I later checked with the battalion adjutant as to what happened with the alarm from the pickets. He was as shocked as I at the failure of the alert, and assured me it would be dealt with. Later, the cavalry took over picket duty for awhile, so I checked in at each station to ensure they realized that if they saw the entire Confederate army come at them, they should fire a round, then retreat to safety.


A couple of privates brought a prisoner to me--a civilian they caught had a Confederate Provost pass on his person, along with a provost pass I issued him earlier. He claimed that one of the women planted the pass on him. I examined the pass and instructed the privates to hold him until the colonel returned to headquarters, where I could present the evidence and determine what to do with him.


The colonel examined the pass and heard his testimony, deciding to give the citizen the benefit of the doubt and release him. I confiscated the Confederate pass, however, before we sent him on his way.


We received a report of a handful of chickens that could be used for rations, so the colonel sent me on a run with a local in her wagon to retrieve them. The women drove me a few miles out of town to a home where I could find the hens. The home was a well-maintained, pleasant construction, with a large porch in front. Among a ton of clutter littering the porch were two ice-boxes.


I wrangled about seven hens, putting them in a box and returned to camp for the privates to enjoy.


Another night of rest and Thursday morning we were ready to step off by seven, but had to wait until 8:30 for the Rebel forces to pass us so that we could chase them. The pioneers took the rear guard, and I marched with them, ready to sound the alarm if the Confederate cav got creative and came up behind the column.
Courtesy Brian Andrew Barton


Captain Trent carried a bloody poke on a stick. Inside that poke they told me was Pericles, a chicken head from last night's supper. Pericles was their mascot, and they used it for their battle cry. Every so often, the pioneers would shout, "Pericles!"


As we marched through the field that led to a creek crossing where the Rebels were building a ford, we got a report of the fight ahead. Our cavalry reported capturing the Confederate Cavalry and artillery. We pushed forward to the ford, then soon came to a large tree between two and three feet in diameter that the Rebels felled to block the path. The pioneers were thrilled to have a task, so grabbed their tools and began hacking away.


The side branches were all removed and the main cut was chopped through, where it rested on the stump. They drilled some holes into the wood and asked one of the artillery crew to bring forward a cannon round, proceeding to dump the powder from the round into the hole. This had the result of infuriating Firecracker, as he had special rounds for blasting. The powder was poured so there was nothing that could be done other than detonate it. After a big poof, Firecracker grabbed a proper charge and handed it to the Pioneers for placement.


They waited to set the fuse, though. They first set a six mule team along the tree to pull it away once the explosives blew. When ready, they set the fuse and blew the charge, the mules rushing forward and carrying the log away. The whole blockade only delayed us by 45 minutes.


After a short break we marched on, chasing the Rebels through the fields and back onto the main road, but when we marched up a long hill, the hot day caught up to us as two of our men fell aside, overcome. One was a pioneer, the other from the infantry.


We stopped at a homestead to refresh and proceeded to evening camp. The road to Confederate camp came up to our right, so we posted the advance guard in a skirmish line on the side road. As we marched past, a shot was fired (I don't know if it came from our men or from the Confederate pickets). Before we knew, a squad of dismounted cav with shotguns was upon us. It wasn't much to worry about--the guard held back the squad with our .58 caliber Springfields with no problem at all.


Brian Andrew Barton
Once in camp, we found ourselves in an open and serene pine forest on a hillside next to a lake. Many of the men dipped in the lake to refresh.


Col Church provided a report of the cavalry's activity for the day. Apparently the cav captured the Rebel cavalry six times and one time captured all the Confederate wagons and one infantry company caught at stack arms and unbloused. He then proposed to harass the Confederates a few more times through the night, even offering to have the cav take over picket duty for the night to allow the infantry to rest. He also request the countersign to be something humorous. Since only the cavalry would be going through the pickets, I told him he could do whatever he wanted. He decided to have a password ("Damn") with a countersign ("Hot"). It was very appropriate for how hot the days have been.


Capt Trent came to Col Minton with plans for digging defenses on the field where we would stand against the Rebels. He showed a sketch and explained plans to dig a three foot trench all around, making the area large enough for the infantry. He described setting up abatis and other French-sounding defenses that I have no idea what they are (I'm an infantryman, not an engineer). He even named the construct, "Fort Minton".


To Capt Trent's dismay, the request was denied.


The next morning we delayed some to ensure we would not encounter the Confederates before we reached the battlefield. Since the morning before they delayed about an hour and a half, we thought it that stepping off at eight would be sufficient. We passed through the campsite the Confederates used, Capt Trent examining all choke points along the way. The heat was setting in so we had to stop once. Capt Trent requested to have the pioneers released to set up a blockade for the Confederates on our planned retreat.


Courtesy Mary Bellew
We heard the sound of artillery and gunfire in the distance as we approached the battlefield. The report I heard was that our cavalry lost an entire company in a single blow making a treacherous dash into the field to flank the enemy, unknowing of the precise position of the enemy forces. The cavalry and our artillery was able to push the Rebel forces back, so that by the time the infantry arrived and was able to enter the field, the Rebels had fallen back to the far end of the field.


Our cavalry took the flanks. The artillery worked in a position to the left of center, while the infantry battalion positioned to the right of center, in direct line with the Rebel infantry. Our numbers were near equal in all areas, even slightly greater. The distance was perhaps around 200 yards across the field to the enemy. The Rebel cavalry also took the flanks. I did not see where the Confederate artillery was as, being an infantry man, I was focused on the infantry.


Courtesy Mary Bellew
Col Minton gave instruction for the infantry to take position and advance upon the enemy as soon as possible. Our infantry reached their position and waited. The Rebel infantry fired a volley, and like a bear awakened from it's slumber, our infantry started its advance. Another Rebel battalion fire, our infantry continued forward another 30 yards and halted. They did fire, but the battalion's actions seemed lethargic. Frustrated at the sluggish activity of the battalion, Col. Minton walked across the field with Capt Shoun and I in tow, to determine the reason. When we arrived behind the battalion line, the Confederate infantry started a steady advance toward us, firing along the way. At about 20 yards, the Confederate force charged our line. There was a moment of chaos, and their Lt Colonel was captured. The Rebels fell back and reformed, resuming fire. We returned fire--but we were now at a stalemate. Col Minton instructed Maj. Dal Bello to either push the Rebels or retreat--our current position was precarious and could not be maintained.


The major order the battalion to fall back. Company H started first, double-quicking to the rear and left, with Company C not far behind. The Rebels continued to push us back, until we left the field to return our march back to our last camp.


Courtesy Mary Bellew
We left the Rebels at the field. The march led us to a small church where a number of civilians gathered for prayer. We stopped to water the mules and refill our canteens. There was a problem with the pump on the well, so the wagon moved to the neighbor's to fill from their well, while the rest of us enjoyed lemonade and sweet tea the citizens provided for us. Refilling the wagon took time--so long that the Rebels arrived while we rested. They were wiped out as well and in no mood for a fight, which was fortunate, so stacked arms near us and refreshed as well. The Confederate wagons pulled up, and while they waited, one of their horses fell and the wagon's puller broke. The wagonmaster was able to rescue the horse, but needed help getting the wagon to a safe place, up into the yard of the church. A group of our Federal infantry, including Col Minton, came to the Confederate wagon's aid and gave a good heave, bringing the wagon to safety where they could work on fixing it.


We left the church with the Confederates behind and marched non-stop back through Confederate camp and on to our camp. We passed by our pioneers at a choke point in Confederate camp, who quickly set up the barrier they worked on as we finished passing.

Courtesy Kirstoff Schnee

The rest of the day in camp passed quickly. I don't remember if I had anything to eat--I was too exhausted to care. The heat was high all week long, and all we saw was the occasional cloud and no rain. I laid against a pine steadily drifting into sleep, which was interrupted by the first few drops of rain we saw all week. Desperate for rain all week to cool us down--the only time we see it is when we want it the least. I dragged my gear and ground cloth to a nearby shelter and lay on my back, using my rubberized poncho to keep parts of my legs that I couldn't get under the shelter dry.


Darkness came, and the first bugle call sounded declaring all quiet would be coming soon. The artillery crew was exhilarated from the week's events so pulled out beer and began to celebrate. It was also Private Bruce's birthday, so Firecracker decided to celebrate by firing a few rounds from the gun. After the second earth-shattering blast in camp, Capt Schoun marched to artillery camp from HQ on the opposite side of our bivouac area, with me following. The infantry bugler sounded all quiet. When we arrived, Capt Schoun expressed his displeasure in the ruckus and informed Firecracker that he should have informed headquarters first. They had already loaded one final round, so the Captain allowed the last round to be fired. At that point, all went quiet. After a short while, resting back on our ground cloths, we could hear the Confederate artillery respond with three shots from their gun.

Courtesy Mary Bellew

Some time late into the night, we were awakened by the Confederate cavalry in the woods around our camp, firing randomly. It stopped as quickly as it started, and they left. However, we were so exhausted that even though the entire camp was probably awake, not a sound could be heard from any of the men. I think we figured if we just ignored them--they would go away.


We were awakened to the cavalry bugler at 5 am. We had plenty of time as the scheduled stepping off to return to Washington City was at 6:50, so all of us at headquarters just lay and kept relaxed. Col Minton was on his ground cloth a mere two feet from me when I heard a horse approach us. When I looked up, I saw the silhouette of one of the cavalry horses walking directly for Col Minton and me. Thoughts of the level of insanity the trooper had ran through me as I shouted for him to stop his horse, but there was nothing to be done--the trooper was nowhere close to his horse and had lost all control of it. That horse walked right between Col Minton and I, a mere two feet apart from each other, in the dark long before dawn. Col Minton told me that horse had set a hoof just eight inches from his hand. Fortunately, that horse continued on and no one was hurt, but in my mind that was simply a level of irresponsibility rarely seen. The trooper claimed the horse had simply gotten away from him, but in a field full of men sleeping on the ground--such is absolutely inexcusable. I do not know if disciplinary action was taken against the trooper.


As we readied for departure, the cavalry left the camp and one of the mules for our wagons left with them, putting our expected stepping-off time at risk. Fortunately, the cavalry caught it before it got too far and we were able to get everything together and step off only five minutes late. The march to Washington went quickly. We stopped at the high point of the march to recover from the hill climb and refill our canteens. I stayed with the rear guard. We really didn't expect the Confederates to harass us at this point, because we were sure they were as weary as we were, but we couldn't take any chances. The main body stepped off from our rest, and the rear guard went to the supply wagon to refill their canteens.
Courtesy Mary Bellew


As I watched over the departing infantry, I was suddenly distracted by one, then another of the rear guard loading their muskets. When I reached their position at the crest of the hill, I could see the Confederate cavalry advancing toward us. I told the rear guard to not engage the cavalry. It was still a couple of miles to Washington, and I had images of being forced to fight the Rebels the entire way. This guard were men from Company C, and their lieutenant was with us. I raised my hand to the Confederates to halt, and they obliged, fortunately. With the last canteen filled, we left the area. That lieutenant was clearly upset at being prevented from engaging the entire Rebel cavalry behind us and asked why would shouldn't fire on them if they came up on us. I pointed out that yes, if they came up on us we should fire on them--but they weren't coming on us.


The rest of the march was quiet, and we never saw the Rebels again.


Finally back at Washington, we gathered briefly for a tin-type, then accepted our furloughs, departing our own directions. I examined my gear--one boot was falling apart and will need repaired soon and the covering on my canteen needs more patches, despite already being a patchwork of patches on patches. I found in my rations that I had only one horehound drop left. It was the size of my fist, melded together from the original handful by the heat and humidity.


The campaign was the longest I had ever been on, and I was glad to have it over. There were plenty of stresses throughout the week. I was grateful that as an officer I was able to have my pack carried by the wagon--I am not sure I could have carried my own pack through all the heat over the 25 or so miles we marched, like the infantry had to do. It was a unique experience I will always remember.
Courtesy Mary Bellew







Lessons Learned:



1. On a campaign-level event such as this, pack as light as absolutely possible. In cooler weather, you might get by with packing heavier, but in our ninety-plus heat, ALL of us lightened our loads after the second day. The best thing--after you've packed everything for the campaign, unpack all your gear and leave 1/3 of it behind before repacking it. That should put you about right.


2. Be prepared for the long march. I was much more fortunate than some, but by the third day I was starting to struggle with blisters on my right foot. Doc had moleskin for everyone, which helped, but I found what worked best for me was to use the wrap I brought around my ankle and heel, which got me through to the end of the march. Had I done that from the start, I probably would not have had any problems at all.


3. I did get a number of bug bites, but wasn't really bothered by them--but others were pretty much eaten alive. Ticks and mosquitoes are both disease carriers, so cheating by using Deet or some equivalent is better than taking home a long-term experience such as Lyme disease or Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever.


4. Know the vegetation of the area where you dig your latrines. Yeah, it's a bad idea to dig a sink around a bunch of poison ivy. I overheard a report of at least one soldier suffering pretty severely due to this misjudgment.


5. Use common sense, and if you don't have any, ask for some. Why does someone have to be told not to wash dishes in the horse trough? Why does someone have to be told not to clean their musket in the public restroom? Why does someone have to be told not to put a drying towel down the porcelain toilet? Yes, these were all problems that occurred, all when we were camped in Washington. All I know is, you can't fix stupid.





Sunday, May 24, 2015

Preserving the Battlefield

Perryville Cleanup Day

Perryville, KY

May 23, 2015


We arrived at the Perryville Battlefield early ready to work. It was their cleanup day, and we hoped we could avoid the hazards we encountered from last year.

Ten of us from the 1st Tennessee were ready to work. Chad Greene assigned us to work on a couple of out buildings and a barn at the Bottom House, all of which had been built after the Civil War.

I started work on the roof of one of the out-buildings, using a crowbar to pull up the nails and tin. I figured this was a better choice than pulling out the hundred years of garbage that had collected in the area below.

It wasn't long when all the garbage was removed and they had me come down from the roof. They had a medium-sized tractor and used it to push the structure over. It didn't have any of the supports that the barn from last year had, so the building went down quick, and we piled the rubble into piles to be taken away or burned.

I moved on to removing siding from the main barn. Fortunately, we weren't going to be involved in taking this barn down. It had as much support beams as the previous year's barn, so I was relieved from that nightmare. I worked with a crowbar for awhile, separating the tin from the wood beams they were nailed to, but I decided to follow Chad Greene's lead and use a mallet to pound the tin away.

Some of the higher pieces were tough to deal with, so several of us worked together with a long wooden post jamming away at the pieces.


With the side ripped away, Chad decided to use have the tractor begin work in pulling down part of the barn. With a chainsaw, he weakened two corner beams in the back lean-to part of the barn, and had the tractor pull with a chain.

There was enough support remaining that the roof held. He proceeded with the next inner supports, then with the other corner, continuing until all the supports were down and the roof collapsed. It was smooth and scientific.

We broke for lunch, well worn from the hard work of the morning. Hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and beans replenished our strength.

We returned for more work, but all that remained were us from the 1st Tennessee and the Perryville staff, including Micah Trent and and a few others. The rest apparently had enough and went home.

With the roof down, Rick Compton and I worked with Steve Winston and Jackson Nyman's friend Moe all worked on stripping the tin from the fallen roof. The work was hard--a scattering of roofing screws held down the tin, making it rough to pull up until Steve and Moe pulled up all the screws with power drills.

Even with the screws up the work was hard, but eventually Rick and I figured out that by using shovels and working together, the tin rolled off like and orange peel.

While we worked on the roofing, the rest of the 1st TN either worked cleaning out the barn, or pulling up fencing.

At the end of the work, J.R. took us down the path the original 1st Tennessee took in the Battle of Perryville. We wanted to get some ariel footage, so I attempted to use my drone for some overhead video-but the Chinglish manual was a bit difficult to decipher, and so the footage did not come out.

When all was said and done, we headed back to the hotel to clean up, and enjoy a meal at the Kentucky Chocolate Factory in Harrodsburg.

Friends of Perryville Battlefield State Historic Site Facebook Page

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The New Guard

Conner Prairie

Fishers, Indiana

May 16-17, 2015

A threat of rain was of some concern over the projection of warm weather, but it was a weekend I looked forward to as the first battalion event of the season.  This would be the first event with Danny Linkous as colonel of the Independent Guard Battalion.  Duane Clarke and I retained our positions of Lt Colonel and Major, respectively.  "Black" John Porter was on sick call that kept him from participating, so the colonel asked Lt Jim of the 19th Virginia to fill in as adjutant.  

The companies joining the Independent Guard included the 1st Tennessee, with members from the 9th Kentucky and 19th Virginia falling in with them, the 44th Tennessee, the 5th Kentucky, 50th Virginia, 5th Virginia, 4th Virginia, and Austin's Battalion.  5th Virginia consolidated with the 5th Kentucky to form a significant company.

With lows above sixty, it was simple to keep warm Friday night in my A, and in the morning I decided to pass on breakfast before attending the sergeant's call and officer's call.  We were to win the day's battle, but there was much question as to how it would go, since the Yankee commander was also new and unknown.  Col. Linkous had the feel that Col Jesse Poe of the Army of  Wabash had a fighting style similar to his own--one that was aggressive--so we were hopeful for a battle that would prove an enjoyable challenge.

Morning parade opened with Col Linkous taking the adjutant's role since acting-adjutant Lt Jim was not familiar with the parade duties of the adjutant, and the colonel also wanted to be sure to walk through the process with the companies to correct mistakes.

Once through parade, Col Linkous had the battalion break into separate wings for drill, I taking the left wing with the 1st Tennessee, Austin's Battalion, and the 4th Virginia.  I took the men down to the battlefield and kept drill pretty short--perhaps 10 minutes--covering the skirmish drills and wheels that Col Linkous was concerned about.  After I was satisfied with the results--the companies all seemed to handle the commands well (though I saw a little rust build-up in one of the companies), I turned the drilling over to the individual companies to drill at their discretion.

We were to win the afternoon battle.  The colonel split the battalion four ways--right wing waited on the left flank of the battlefield, among the viewing crowd, the 4th VA deployed as skirmishers to harass the Yankees, the colonel would attach to the 44th Tennessee and put pressure on the far right, while I took the left wing at the rear. 

As rain drizzled down, soaking our wool (except mine, since I was among the few who wore a poncho) I took the men down to the road we were to defend as planned, and waited.  I expected to face an entire Yankee company, but none was to be found. Instead, a small band of Henrys and a few cavalry challenged us.  The 4th VA, deployed as skirmishers faced a far stronger force near where the right wing would join the battle, but with the force before us, and I not sure where more Yankees might be hiding (was there more that would enter to our right flank?) and also not sure if the 44th TN would be able to come around in time to support us, I held ground, deployed as skirmishers instead of advancing.  The pressure was light, with the cav only briefly attempting to flank us, when the captain of Austin's expressed a bit of his impatience to put some pressure on them, though it was not until Capt Sharp decided to push forward that I moved the wing to keep up.

From that point, the battle went quick.  It seemed that for every step we took, the Henrys fell back three.  I halted the wing when the Yankees took defensive positions behind the fence.  At that time, I saw a clear opening on the right that was undefended and unnoticed. As I glanced around to see how the rest of the battle was progressing, both Capt Sharp and Austin's Captain came to me to request that Austin's take that far right position on the Yankee's flank, Capt Sharp suggesting he would provide support for the maneuver.  Since they were reading my mind, I just shouted, "Go, Go! Go!"  As Austin's got into position, only one Yankee noticed and responded, turning to direct his fire on Austin's.  Austin's managed to get a single volley off, and the Yankees surrendered, ending the battle.

The rain continued for awhile, and most of us were pretty soaked.  Everything below my knees was drenched.  The weather cleared up when we headed to the dining hall to enjoy a meal of chicken Parmesan.

Late that night, Col Linkous came to our camp in the 1st Tennessee with the Yankee commander.  We learned that Col Jesse Poe was a member of the 44th Indiana and fought us at Fort Wayne a few years back.  Our conversation directed to goals of working together to support the hobby.  I was impressed with the man, and hopeful of seeing more corroboration between the two sides of the reenacting hobby.

Through the night I struggled to keep warm since keeping dry was not possible, though remembering the frigid weather of Franklin helped to heat me.

At daybreak I fried up some bacon and eggs before heading over to officers' call.  Today we would lose, and only divide by wings, with the Lt Col detaching with the 5th KY as vanguard skirmishers.  Based on the plan Col Linkous discussed, I drilled my wing even shorter than Saturday, covering the basic maneuvers I was concerned with only twice.  The companies nailed the maneuvers each time, so I was confident that we would take the field for the battle in good order.

The sun shone brightly as we set our positions on the battlefield that afternoon.  I had my wing stack arms and rest at the back of the field, waiting for the Yankees to enter the field and engage the 5th KY.

When the fighting began, Col Linkous had me wait until the second artillery barrage to take arms and join the fight.  I advanced the wing in a column of companies, bringing them forward into line once we were within range to support the 5th KY.  We fought hard, and when the Yankee cavalry tried to flank us, I had Austin's refuse.

But it was not long before we were on the retreat.  I ordered a backward march for about ten paces.  We managed a single firing, but the Yankees kept the pressure on.  We could hardly keep up--each time I brought the men back, they were lucky to fire a single shot before having to fall back more.  The rest of the battalion soon joined up with us, but we were taking casualties all over the place.  The battle quickly turned to complete chaos--it was at the point of fast reaction and survival.  The companies were all mixed up.  At one point Capt Sharp took a hit, falling into the grass and somehow getting a blade of grass up his nose all the way into his throat.

When we fell back to the road, those of us that remained surrendered, ending the battle.

The battle was among the best I had been involved in, even though we lost.  Both days were my first commanding solo, and I found that I think I actually like losing better than winning.  When you are supposed to win, you have to be careful not to push so fast and hard as to end the battle in five minutes, but you also must take care not to leave an opening where the opposing force can take advantage of, and then alter the entire scenario (or try to save the scenario by reacting in an irrational way).  When losing, you can throw all caution to the wind and try things without regard to caution.  If your actions throw the balance in your favor, you only need to open opportunities to the enemy to give the advantage back to the opposing force.

This battle confirmed that Col Poe of the Army of the Wabash is the aggressive type of commander Col Linkous suspected.  I look forward to meeting them again.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Season Begins

Spring Drill

Tawawa Park, Sidney, Ohio

April 25, 2015




The 2015 reenacting season finally arrived with the 1st Tennessee Spring Drill, at Tawawa Park in Sidney, Ohio. Our camp was located at the back entrance to the park, which proved a bit confusing to find. There was no sign to the back entrance, which looked like a residential driveway, with the only building near that entrance looking like a house. I drove past the entrance twice before seeing others of the 1st trying to figure out where the camp needed set up.

Cpl Silvers and I were the ranking NCOs on site at the time, but we had GPS coordinates set by Capt Sharp, so tracked the Google Maps marker like a witching rod to the right spot and staked our tents.

The drill was only planned for Saturday, so about half of the 1st chose to not camp, but instead arrive in the morning and leave Saturday night. Private Winston, the designated firestarter, set up our campfire and we relaxed around it long into the night. The weather didn't feel all that cold, and we were all able to keep warm enough, though fearful of our memories of Franklin.

Light rain tormented us off and on throughout the following morning, but was never enough to keep us from our drills, where we drilled by platoons, and covered the manual of arms and did a good part of the school of the soldier. Eventually, Capt Sharp brought us back together and we performed additional drill as a company, including skirmish drills.

After a break from the drilling, Capt Sharp broke us into two platoons and limited us to five rounds per man, and sent us into a tactical of platoon versus platoon.

First platoon, commanded by Sgt Kletzli double-quicked down the path to the objective, while Sgt Carte gathered second platoon, with me as the corporal for second platoon, and began a mosey down the other path, keeping an eye out for the caches of ammunition.

Sgt Carte sent privates Cochran and Broughton off to scout our flank, and we advanced down the trail, approaching the marker indicating the objective, where encountered a few of the first platoon re-positioning to defend their ground.

I ran to locate Cochran and Broughton to gather our force. Upon locating them, I considered taking them back to second platoon, or flanking around and up the hill to create a distraction at first platoon's rear. Returning to the platoon could lose a time, but advancing around would leave us out of communication, and hoping that Sgt Carte might not know that we have engaged.

Cochran, Broughton, and I headed up the hill behind first platoon, trying to make it to the top undetected. Climbing the hill, we somehow lost Pvt Cochran, but kept pushing forward, until we ran into Cpl Silvers and Sgt Nyman of first platoon defending one of the ammunition caches--or at least that is what they claimed.

We charged once they fired, but it was of no use.

In the end, first platoon held the objective, as second platoon was unable to push them away.

After the tactical, rain decided to let loose and turn the rest of our day into a chilling torment, never ceasing and turning the area around our campfire into a soup of mud.

The city of Sidney sponsored our time at the park, providing necessities and Saturday dinner. The chicken meal was a delightful way to conclude a long day. After the meal, a few of us participated in the dance the historical society held.

That evening nearly all of the 1st returned home, packing up in the rain. Only Sgt Kletzli, Private Winston, and myself braved the weather to sleep the night in the park. We were all too tired and wet to deal with packing up in the waning light, and with at least an hour and a half drive home, we didn't want to have to deal with fighting sleep while driving. Though the night was a bit colder than the previous, and the rain did stop around 10 pm. I did still struggle a bit with the cold, but managed to get sufficient rest.

Despite the rain, I think all of us agree that this drill was one of the more successful spring drills the company has had in its history. Our turnout was among the highest at around twenty, and we worked the winter rust out of our system in record time. We are more than ready for the season ahead.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Frozen to the Ground

150th Battle of Franklin

Franklin, TN

November 15-16, 2014


I set up my pitiful excuse for a dog tent, grumbling about my need to make longer uprights for it.  One of these days I’ll get around to it.
My pitiful dog tent

No shovel, but the fire pit had to be dug.  I was assigned the detail of digging the pit, and with the assistance of Pvt Myers we moved the dirt with a hatchet and bayonet.  Pvt Foust used his ingenuity and procured a shovel from a neighboring camp and finished the pit out for us.

We were informed that firewood for Friday evening was in short supply, but more would come in the morning.  We were to take only what we needed.  We set up a stack and I piled some wood in the pit to ready a fire, but we waited to start it so that we could make a trip into town to visit the local pub for some burgers.

We first hit a few of the Franklin Battlefield sites about the town, seeing where several significant actions took place, then made our way to dinner.

A few, including Capt Sharp, stayed behind to cook their meal.  I chose to join the crew for burgers as I like to be lazy the first night after the work of setting camp—plus I wasn’t sure I had brought enough provisions to include Friday evening meal.  Within the warmth of the pub and full on what must have been a half pound of beef, I received word that Capt Sharp was having difficulty getting the fire going.  Since Sgt Kletzi was unable to attend due to surgery, I knew that he couldn’t be the source of the difficulty, so I was a bit confused as to why the captain would have trouble.  My pile included plenty of kindling plus a couple of firestarters, so a single match should be all it took to get a good bonfire.

I found my explanation when I returned to camp.  By the time I arrived a small fire was smoldering in the pit, but almost no flame nor heat came from it.  It looked as though the men were gathered around a candle trying to keep warm.  The cold had started to hit, but the fire refused to warm us due to wood that was extremely green.  It was as though the wood had been chopped down from living trees the night before.  I piled a few more logs onto the flames, but it was to no avail.  It took until well into the night before a decent flame was emitted within the dense cloud of smoke pouring out of the pit.

The night was cold.  Well, that does not quite describe it.  The night was very cold.  Bitter cold.  Artic cold.  So cold even the fire couldn’t burn.  It might not have been a night where hell was freezing over, but certainly the lake of fire needed stoking.  The morning report told us that Louisville experienced a record low of 16 degrees.  We heard mixed reports of somewhere between 18 and 22 for us.

Pvt Foust struggles to get warm.
Thank the Lord, I’m not a hard-core campaigner.  Though I used a dog tent (and a pitiful one at that), I did have a modern army sleeping bag and one of those hand-warmers.  Capt Sharp loaned me a spare Zippo hand-warmer.   I was able to keep satisfactorily warm during the night, getting a decent sleep, and ready for action in the morning.  I was far more fortunate than Privates Foust and Hampton, both of whom roughed it by going true campaign-style with only a couple of blankets and a ground cloth.  Pvt Foust had it worse with only a summer quilt and ground cloth.  No end came to his informing us in the morning of just how cold he was.

As company clerk, my duty for this event was the morning reports.  In total, we had 18 soldiers, seventeen rifles, including Sgt Carte’s as acting 1st Sergeant.  We made it through the night, but supplies were grim.  No water buffalos, though we were promised them the night before.  Sufficient water was provided within the time of our need for them, but only by a supply of one gallon jugs.  Porta johns were sufficient, but only convenient for the Yankees—we could only get to them by trudging through the Yankee camps, which fortunately was not far, but still—a little awkward.  Servicing of the porta-lets was non-existent, so by Saturday afternoon they had become unusable—but the park gave us all-night access to the permanent facilities.

Overall, there was an air of disorganization about, but it was what it was.

The battle itself went well, following a decent scenario from the Battle of Franklin, though there was a bit of confusion from not knowing the colonel’s command style, which was far different from the various battalions we’ve fallen in with in the past.

We opened forming a skirmish line, and I found my new trousers to be troublesome as the smaller pockets kept spitting out all my possessions all over the battlefield.  Somewhere is a pocket knife someone else will enjoy.

We soon advanced in waves upon the Federal breastworks, eventually failing the charge.

Saturday evening a few of us wanted to try to make for Stone’s River to see a bit of the museum, but unfortunately were delayed by a technical issue with one of the vehicles, so opted instead to run to the local Taco Bell for supper.

Upon our return, Pvt Hampton somehow succeeded in creating a blaze that stood to his reputation, warming us to the point that vests were all that were sufficient to hold back the cold.  The night was warming than the previous, but rumors were abounding of possible sleet hitting us during the early morning hours.  Some of the Rebels, scared off by the rumors, deserted.  We discussed the option of leaving, but decided it best to stay and await for what the morning would hold for us.  We had come this far and had been through the worst with the night before—we should at least see what was in store for us in the morning.

I woke Sunday morning almost too warm, not quite so tightly bundled in my sleeping bag as I had been the night before.  A light pattering of spitting rain danced on my canvas as I struggled to convince myself to squirm out of my coverings.

A glance about revealed by the absence of canvas that a large portion of the Rebel force had gone AWOL due to the weather, with the Yankees across the field soon following.  It did surprise us a bit to see the Confederate forces leaving first, as in the North we’re used to seeing the Yankees desert first at the sign of inclement weather.  We decided to join the crowd and abandon the cause, packing up our gear.  We were held up by another technical issue—one of ours locking their keys in their car—so we held on in the rain.  Soon, the captain of the other 1st TN came over to tell us the event was canceled, so once our comrade freed the keys from his vehicle, we made our way to Stone’s River to view the museum, stopping first at the Confederate Cemetery at the edge of the park.

We viewed the museum and drove around the battleground, spending little time out due to the continuous rain.  From there, we drove to the Sam Davis Homestead, where artifacts from the original 1st Tennessee were said to be.  Unfortunately, we found the place closed on Sundays, so settled for a few cameo photos of the cotton field.

We finished our day driving to the Civil War Museum in Bardstown, Kentucky, arriving about a half hour before they closed.  It was an experience to see this museum, and I wish we had more time, as the artifacts were more than could be viewed in the little time we had.  An elderly volunteer, however, offered to take us up to another location of the museum, just to the top of the hill, and show us the flag captured with John Hunt Morgan, in spite of it being after-hours.  We were able to see that among many other things in that other part of the museum.



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The battle hot and heavy, I’m fighting for my home.
The Yanks have got Nashville, and the lead is falling down.
My mate Frank fires his musket, a ball takes me down.
And on this field I lay, wondering if tomorrow I'll be home.

A victory or defeat escapes my eyes and ears
For I am buried to keep the crows from feeding
Upon my flesh which finally stopped bleeding
And leaves my kin in tears.

But one day comes and I am dragged
to one corner of that field
Where with my mate Frank I lay
And rest through the years.

Time goes by and a Juniper grows
That forgotten may we not lay
Marked by a stone that all may see
That Frank and John fought and died
And now lay under the Juniper tree.