BACK to AARS
BACK to LibertyGreys.org
Colonel Joseph Leo, cmdg
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
This past weekend, a party of 16 soldiers and 6 civilians from CO.H arrived at Chase Farm in Lincoln RI, for military actions. This is a return of a much loved site and event hosted by our sister unit, Co.H, 21st Mississippi. We were very pleased to find a camp site beautifully prepared and laid out by Captain Wrona's men. Although vehicle access was tight, it was well controlled by Captain Bass (John Prusko) and caused little, if any, difficulty.
Saturday morning proved lovely. We began with company drill at 8:00. Review of close order was excellent, requiring no special instruction from me. We also had a very good review of skirmish drill. The men performed well, although 2nd Sergeant Dorsey (Matt Svejk) did feel it necessary to chastise the left most skirmish team for forgetting to "leapfrog" when advancing or retreating while firing.
Let me take a moment here to point out to company commanders that skirmish drill is probably the most abused section of Hardee's by the reenactor. Please note that most of what we learned as privates is simply not in the book. There is no provision for a company volley, none for all the front rank firing at once, or all the ones, no command for all the twos to advance, etc. etc. etc. To the best of my knowledge, this has all been made up, as a way to fake skirmish drill for spectators. If anyone has documentation to the contrary, I would dearly love to improve my knowledge. Absent such documentation, lets not "fake it". We are better than that. Lets leave that to the boys in blue. Gen. Hardee tells us how it was done.
The official event schedule began with opening ceremonies. While such opening and closing ceremonies were once common in the hobby, they have fortunately been cast aside at most events. One hopes that the town of Lincoln will also see the light and not add to the time we spend standing in the unusually hot late september sun.
Battalion drill quickly made clear the one mistake made in event organization. The field, which served as both drill and battle field, had not been mown in quite some time. There were numerous chuck holes and pricker bushes that could not be seen. Even though there were no serious injuries, the strain of trying to march through grass that was, in places, knee high, was exhausting. The event coordinators were well aware of the problem, and will address it for future events. In all, however, battalion drill was very sharp indeed.
In the interval between drill and battle, several members of Co.H had the opportunity to be trained on Morton's Battery's mountain howitzers. This has been an ongoing process, which began at the Leesburg event this August, and continued at Wickham Park. While we have incentive of training to operate our own gun, I recommend this type of cross training to all infantry units. It breaks down any fear of artillery, and replaces it with understanding and respect. Morton's has been wonderful to us in this training, and in allowing several of our members, myself included, to work on their gun crews in battle. My thanks to them!
After artillery drill several of our members took a stroll down the hill to sutlers row, where we found a somewhat disappointing number of merchants. I am sure that the late decision to go ahead with the event affected both the
turnout in sutlers and reenactors.
This brought us to the afternoon battle. For those who have never been to Chase Farm, The Confederate camp is situated on very level ground at the crest of an impressive hill, protected by a tree line. It was most stirringto see it even further protected by five Confederate artillery pieces, Morton's two, a mountain howitzer from the 55th Virginia, whose cannoneers made the long trek from the New York North Country, and two pieces from the Palmetto Battery. Even though faced by five Federal pieces at the bottom of the hill, our position was impregnable.
The battle began with an advance of Federal skirmishers, who appeared rather earlier than expected. They were met with fierce resistance by skirmishers from the 12th Georgia, 33rd North Carolina, and the 7th Tennessee.
After this skirmishing, the main body of our infantry took the field, In command of the 1st division ( non military types, please note that this is a union of two companies, not what you might think) I was much disturbed to find a latge company of Federals to our front, who fired on us. The division formed line rapidly and returned fire. The elements of the battalion reformed, and began a steady push across the field, driving the Federals back to their gun line, and winning victory for the day.
As an aside, despite the very difficult terrain and high grass, it was a joy to see the tremendous improvement in the battalion's ability to advance in line of battle, a problem in many events this year. Credit goes to you, Colonel, for causing us to practice this in drill, and special thanks to Color Sergeant Jeff Fioravanti, whose steady step as color bearer was a great assistance. We wish him luck in building the Sumter Rifles as a color guard.
On return to camp, as the exhilaration of battle faded, we discovered that we were most fatigued, perhaps more so than any event this year save Gettysburg. The combination of the hill, high grass, and extreme heat and humidity, took their toll. I am glad to report that our men all hydrated themselves well before and during the fight, and despite the exhaustion of their efforts, no one was injured by heat.
While we think much about the dangers posed by our weapons, especially with recent years accidents around the country, we must realize that heat is likely our greatest danger. With proper precautions, while we may get tired, our health will not be impaired.
Camp was, for this reason very quiet till dusk, as we recouped our energies. We were faced with an unexpected candlelight tour, made necessary by a bus load of spectators which arrived for the night artillery firing some 45
minutes early. I chanced to listen in on some of Captain Wrona's improvised talk to the spectators. My compliments on a job well done in unexpected circumstances.
The night artillery display was most impressive, and educational, illustrating the power of these weapons. My compliments to the cannoneers of both sides.
After officers call, there were no special activities scheduled, but, in fact none seemed needed. The conviviality of good friends, both within our camp and throughout the battalion, was activity enough. With the season winding
down, it was a special time to spend with our best friends. As the camp settled in, a gentle rain began, which lulled those few of us still awake, to a sound sleep.
The morning dawned still somewhat grim, but still warm. Company drill was kept to a minimal review of skirmish order, remembering the exhaustion of the day before. Divine services were held at 9:00 on the crest of the hill in front of the Palmetto guns, a breathtaking vista, which added to our worship experience.
Dress Parade was held at 10:00, followed by battalion drill. Your decision to drill on the flat ground behind camp, and for a short time, was a wise and appreciated one. Despite the short drill, our precision in drill evolutions was as good or better than any event this year.
We again took part in Morton's drill, joined by the Colonel. He and I were ably trained in the vital number 3 position. I again strongly recommend this cross training to other units.
Shortened drills gave us increased down time, which was important as the sun burned through the cloud cover, giving us a day even more hot and humid than the day before. Formation for battle was earlier, as is customary on Sundays, to allow breakdown time.
The battle began this time with an advance of skirmishers from the 1st Maryland. I was most proud of the fine display my men gave. We were met with light opposition, and pushed almost to the Federal gun line, where we
were reenforced by the men of the 21st Mississippi. We could easily have taken the guns and ended the battle there, since we were not pushed at all. Had you not ordered us back to the treeline, we would have done so.
For those who may wonder, spectator battles are scripted, and the Colonels command was according to scenario. It would be nice if our Federal counterparts could give us a reason to withdraw when the script calls for it. We were outnumbered 3-1 at this event, but the force they committed would not have driven our two companies from the field.
As we returned to the field from the treeline, I was relieved to find our presented flank ably defended by the dismounted troopers of the 35th Virginia, giving us a chance to form our line relieved from immediate fire. The
battalion again advanced across the field in excellent order to a point about 50 yards from the Federal guns, where Co.H was detached for a flanking manuever. Amazingly, despite having to move in clear sight of the Federals, they seemed unaware of our intentions, and allowed us to pour withering fire on their flank, until we were sighted in by Federal artillery, who fired on us with double canister, causing our unfortunate, painful, demise. The rest of the battalion struggled on valiantly, but to no avail.
After reforming and clearing weapons, we advanced to closing ceremonies, showing off some of our drill evolutions with great pride. I would like to take this opprtunity to thank Captain Wrona for announcing our event for next year at the closing. This step in alternating years for events could help greatly in avoiding the logjam of events that periodically faces us.
In all, it was a grand pleasure to see the return of the Lincoln event. While the turnout of reenactors and sutlers may have disappointed a bit, it was an excellent start in reestablishing one of New England's prime events. My
compliments to Captain Wrona and the 21st. I hope we do them proud next year in our turn!
Captain, Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion