Chancellorsville Reenactment - Camp Picket, VA

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Chancellorsville Reenactment
Sep 22-24, 2000

 Article by CPT Stanley

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Chancellorsville will long be remembered in our ranks and in the ranks of many other units for the outstanding performance of the horsedrawn guns that made their presence felt throughout the weekend!

John and I arrive at exactly the same time on Thursday afternoon with 9 horses, Ed and Rex in tow. We all went through registration and Coggins checks and proceeded to camp. During a recon a few weeks earlier, all the major elements of General Stepp's Division had staked out their locations. There was still a great deal of brush to clear and John broke out his chainsaw and trees began to fall. Rex, Ed and I had our hands full clearing brush and staying out of his way….we started to wonder if he had relatives in Texas.

After getting camp settled, John and I headed back to Burke to pick-up the 3rd limber and the Marathon Cart. We arrived back in camp around 1000 p.m…tired but clean…having worshipped the porcelain god one last time.

We discussed the weather forecast that was calling for downpours of rain throughout the weekend, and then made our camping areas as waterproof as possible. We decided that with that many horses we need to pull horsewatch and an incident later that evening proved this was a good decision. Ramius attempted to commit suicide by wrapping himself up in his picket line. We got him free, which was no small task, and finished the evening without further incident. Numerous other folks, horses and equipment arrived throughout the night and Friday dawned without the promised rain. Everyone who had come up from North Carolina had passed through heavy showers and the forecast was still calling for torrential downpours the next two days. On Friday we continued to improve the camp while providing two demonstrations for visiting school kids. 

Saturday morning arrived and we prepared to "go Federal" since the scenario had no place for Confederate horsedrawn guns. Major Bealing, Chief of Federal Artillery, had a place for us in his line of 8 guns that were opposed by 30 Confederate guns, hub to hub, on Marye's Heights. The fog and the smoke from the burning powder made the exchange of fire during the artillery very eerie. Men and guns would disappear in the smoke only to be shrouded again when the guns fired.

Lt. Stewart held our guns in reserve during the initial phase of the battle. As the Federals pushed the Confederates off the hill, we began moving on the Federal's flank providing fire support as they pushed the Confederates back. General Heim, who is always happy to have us serving with him, ensured that we were provided infantry support to protect us against possible attack by the Confederates. Lt. Stewart and I began leapfrogging the guns as the Federals pushed the Confederates even harder.

Leaving Lt. Stewart in charge, I headed back to find "Mad Dog" to make coordination for the afternoon's flank march. Listening to those two guns coming back to camp was awesome. The very distinct noise they make as they coming rolling up the hills certainly added to the ambiance of the weekend. Thus far, both men and horses had done very well. Even with several new members in our ranks we had given a good account of ourselves. Billy had replaced Ramius, who had reported to sick call after the events from the last evening, and did a great job!

Later that day, we were back in our gray uniforms, after cross-dressing that morning. As we formed for the flank march, we were all excited, this was the first use of us as Stepp's Divisional Artillery since Bentonville. We were to support the skirmishers as they made the initial contact with the Federals. Following Major Smith's Horse Battalion we led the Division on the march. The 2nd Virginia's gun fell into our line of March, now horses and guns were leading the way. After we crested a loooong hill we halted as Major Smith moved his skirmishers into the woods. After what seemed like an eternity (yes reenactors are so authentic they do the hurry up and wait thing also) we were told to move and then just as quickly told that something was amuck and we were not going in where we had anticipated. The infantry from both Division's deployed around us and there we sat…..$120,000 worth of equipment with nothing to do. I grabbed Lt Sexton from the 2nd Va and moved out with two couriers in tow. Lt. Stewart formed the battery and began to follow behind us. We got our maps out and searched for possible roads that would get us into the fight. Pvt. Seabock was invaluable with keeping us in contact with Lt. Stewart, guiding the guns toward the position we had selected. It was again inspiring to watch those three teams maneuver into position and begin firing. The situation had eliminated us from the fight - our ability to maneuver got us back into the fight.

Cpl Rhew (my guidon bearer) and I moved forward to explore a new position and I sent Pvt. Seabock back to move the guns forward. I watched them limber up and cross the field, exhausted gunners trailing behind. Seconds later Lt. Stewart rode up to tell me one of the guns had lost a wheel. The battle ended and after Taps was sounded we moved back to access the damage. With the assistance of the 2nd Virginia, we pulled the barrel, lifted the carriage and replaced the wheel in 15 minutes (what a pit crew!!!). We then relimbered and moved back to camp. Spectators and reenactors lined the road and complimented us as we moved through the Federal Camp on our way home. We stopped briefly at Doug Kidd's tent to make a breeching harness adjustment and headed home. Both men and horses were tired, but satisfied that they had done a GREAT job! We brushed and watered the horses and went out to eat at a local restaurant that John and I had tried earlier. The locals welcomed us with open arms and a good time was had by all! As we left, the rain had begun to fall, but we were all too satisfied and tired to care. By the time we all had turned in, the rain had stopped and the forecast was calling for a nice Sunday.

Sunday morning came too early for both men and horses. We were again to provide support as General Stepp's Divisional Artillery. Our vehicles were quite a distance away from Camp and we developed a plan for the ladies to get the trucks while we were away fighting. Sgt. Rhyne had to leave early and we got him loaded, participated in a period funeral and broke down camp prior to the battle. We moved out and in the confusion marched with General Clark's Division onto the field. As we passed them and moved up the hill the entire division began to cheer for us….certainly we did offer a sight…two horsedrawn guns and crews moving into battle. We linked up with General Stepp's Division and again Major Smith's cavalry troopers moved into a position to support us. We retrieved a Palmetto Light Artillery gun and now had three guns serving in our Battalion. Lt. Stewart took command of the guns covering the road and we kept one gun limbered and ready to move. The battle began with a Cavalry fight and as this ended the 2nd Virginia fell in on our second gun that had maneuvered onto a hillside behind the infantry battleline. General Stepp said that as he looked back he could see all four guns of his artillery, employed, as it should be in an impressive line in front of the tree-line.

As we looked for a new position the battle ended and we headed for home. As we rounded the corner for our camp a grand site awaited us. The ladies had all of our vehicles in camp and ready to load, smiles could be seen on everyone faces as the weekend drew to a close. Both horses and men had performed in an outstanding manner. The horses were the best they had ever been (See Lt. Stewart's and my comments below). We packed up and said our good-byes and headed home.


Postscript

Most of the pulling horses were galled on the shoulders, we need to take better care of them and the equipment at these extended events. Their shoulders need to be washed daily with absorbine or alcohol to toughen their skin and the harness cleaned. We must begin to use pads with the collars. Many of the horses still showed signs of the injury 3 weeks later at Manassas. Capt. Stanley

Dedication and Care

"They are artillery horses." I first heard those words at Antietam in the early days of our unit when Charles Tarbox spoke about them when he was asked if his horses could move into a tight position. The full impact of that meaning really did not hit me until the event at Chancellorsville. Gentlemen, we have artillery horses. We have horses that will give their full measure to do what we need them to do. Our drivers had to have had the time of their lives working with our horses at Chancellorsville. It was almost Biblical the way the horses worked the feats they did: "Ask and thou shall receive." For three days, I really felt that we had come of age.

As we loaded the horses after the event, I could tell that some were sore and it would take a few days of rest to get back into top condition. TLC goes a long way with these horses; there isn't a one that doesn't love the special attention they get when they are groomed. Brushing and sponging is a treat they relish. After drinking cool water and eating hay, raking and cleaning their area at the picket line gives them a place to lie down, if they wish. After a day on the battlefield, they deserve the best treatment we can give them.

Cannons that sit on the field must wait for the action to come to them. They are completely alone on the battlefield. Because our horses allow us to move our cannons anywhere we want them to go, we have a real edge over the stationary guns. The difference our horses make and the effort they put into helping our tactics succeed give us a reason to continue our careful care of them. We must be sure we take adequate time to keep them well-groomed, watered, and fed, which will ultimately keep our horses at their peak performance. So, find a horse you get along with; you and a friend make that horse feel special! Lt. Stewart

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