Wilderness Reenactment - Brandy Station, VA

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Wilderness Reenactment
Jun 17-20, 1999

by Pvt. Barney Cline

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Thursday- Day 1

Campsite (45KB)Arriving around 5:30 Thursday evening, you knew it was going to be big after seeing the huge flashing road sign near the highway turn off, especially since almost every car on Hwy. 29 seemed to be taking that exit.

Capt. Stanley had his tent set up when we arrived. I think he must have arrived a week early by the way he was chomping at the bit for some action. It wasn't long before the camp began to fill with canvas, men and horses. The excitement about the coming weekend hung thick as the campfire smoke that wafted through the valley.

Acting Cpl. Glaze sent a detail to fetch firewood. A couple of the boys took a goat wagon and made their way to the huge wood pile. Unfortunately, this took them through the enemy camp where they were bombarded with cat calls and harassed about their cute little goat cart. Seems the comment, "Can I have a ride?" came at every turn. I'm happy to report the boys made it through unscathed.

Picketline (61KB)Regrettably, the first casualty, Ramius, somehow took a chunk out of his leg and was put on the injury list. If we could have read his mind I'm sure the poor fellow was extremely disappointed.

Dusk fell on the camp as the men supped on rations and divided up horse watch. Candle and lamp light flickered through the valley and mingled with the smoke. What a sight!


Friday- Day 2

Battle of Saunder's Field

Saddling 1 (56KB)As day broke the camp began to fill with folks who weren't lucky enough to get Thursday off. An easy morning soon changed to an active one as the men made ready the guns, harness and horses for the afternoon battle of Saunder's Field.  Communications from Lee's camp was sketchy at best and the boys wondered if the battle plans had been drawn up with invisible ink. At last, the order to move out. Eagerly we grabbed up our gear and formed ranks. And then we marched... and then we stopped. Doug Kid (79KB)Changes from the top brass had us waiting behind Doug Kidd's tent, the fellow that makes our saddle and harnesses. Doug stopped working and came out to admire how his handiwork looks in action, or non-action, as it was at that time.

As we waited and stood in the shade eating goobers, over the hill appears a strange rider. The horse looked familiar, but the rider seemed unusual. Who is that guy? Upon reaching us we realized it was Lt. Stewart wearing a bizarre uniform and sporting some type of hair growth on his chin. He informed us that he could not get past the sentries with his equipment and would not be joining us in the battle at Saunder's Field. Of course, if he had joined us no one would've known who's side he was on and both sides would've most likely shot at him.

 Jason, Gary, Chris (50KB) Bill, John, Kerry (61KB) Bill and Chris (61KB) Campsite (48KB)

Thru the Woods (82KB)Finally, the Captain said, "Move out, boys!" We stepped out of the piles of empty peanut husks and marched... and marched... and marched. Several of the men began thinking about becoming drivers. Over the river and through the woods we marched, and through possibly the largest patch of poison ivy on Earth. Alas, we couldn't be stopped, determined to reach the battle. Traversing through the forest, chopping down trees with only a knife and sweat, the 1st NC Artillery at last makes its stand on top of a hill.. And we wait for the fight... and wait... and wait...
Gun Crew 1 (50KB)Listening to heavy gunfire of the battle in the woods on the far hill we just knew that soon the enemy would come rushing from the hedgerow to try to take our position. The gunfire soon trickles to a few sporadic pops. Was that it? Oh, well, we decided we'd live to fight another day when Union Calvary appears from no where. They looked like they were lost or something. No matter, we swung the gun around in short order and fired. Strange, double canister shot at 100 yards yet no Yanks fall?!! They must've been wearing those secret 1862 flak jackets. They rushed the gun thinking they had taken us. Ha! We really knew who won that little skirmish.

Saturday- Day 3

Gun Crew 3 (39KB)Cussing and rolling out of our tents at 4:00 am the men chugged a quick cup of coffee and formed ranks. Rubbing the sleep from our eyes we sucked in our guts for the long march... over to the gun trailer where we piled on and rode in style over to the battlefield. Getting jealous looks and grumbles from the infantry we waved and smiled like perfect gentlemen. Surely they would want us fresh for the upcoming battle?

Battle of Mule Shoe

Undoubtedly the best battle of the weekend. We take our positions as the sun rises just over the far hill. Rows and rows of Union troops numbering in the thousands are outlined in the dim light of dawn. We're not worried. Surely they can see the massive row of cannons lining the top of the hill on the Confederate side, this and the multitudes of Rebs huddled in the trenches waiting for them. The men check their weapons. Tension builds as the Union troops march down the hill toward our trenches.

Gun Crew 2 (42 KB)In a massive blast the battle starts with horrendous roar of cannon. Musket volleys rip through the morning air at the advancing troops. Still they come. Smoke soon turns the morning sun orange bathing the battlefield in a surreal light. Round after round of cannon blows holes in the thickening smoke if only for a moment, soon to be swallowed by the growing clouds of burnt powder. Cut down to almost nothing, visibility drops. Only the sounds of their guns let us know the Yanks are still there.

Advance the round! Load! Fire! The noise was deafening. Up to five rounds a minute we fired. Not even taking the time to retrieve the round dropped in the water bucket by Pvt. Kinnard. He claims his thumb got in the way. We know he just felt sorry for the enemy. We pounded them with no mercy.

Union soldiers reach our trenches. It's up to the infantry now. Through the fog of battle the barely visible silhouettes of soldiers clash in the trenches. Then, as quickly as it started, it's over.

Gun Crew 2 (31KB) Matt and Battle Background (44KB) Gun Crew 2 (42KB) Gun Crew 1 (39KB)
Capt. Stanley and 1st Lt. Stewart (42KB) Gun Crew 2 (25KB) Gun Crew 3 (37KB) Gun Crew 2 (59KB)

With sweat dripping in our eyes and running down into the upturned corners of our grinning mouths, we know we have just witnessed something special. We relax, thankful and extremely glad it wasn't real. It is truly impossible to comprehend how those men of 135 years ago must have suffered.

CampsiteOur boys loaded the cannons on the trailer and rode back, picking up some fellows from South Carolina. They much appreciated the lift. Soon we were chowing down on a hot breakfast. The Commissary, headed up by Cpl. Glaze's wife, Alys, along with Mrs. Horne, Mimi, Donna, Amy, Annie and Leah, fussed over the tired men with food, coffee and snacks. Grateful for such attention the boys enjoyed this part of camp life immensely to be sure.

Campsite (49KB) Alys Glaze (38KB) Leah and Ramius (44KB) Donna and Matt (43KB)


Battle of Laurel Hill

Laurel Hill 1 (35KB)We rolled up on top of the hill to a spectacular sight. Thousands of spectators and thousands of troops lined the hill and down into the valley. An airplane, no doubt from the north, began flying over the battlefield with a banner about a flying circus. Capt. Stanley told Cpl. Glaze to take it out. The Corporal decided that solid shot would do the trick. The men waited to see the Corporal shoulder the gun like a rocket launcher, but for some reason he changed his mind.

The battle began with a volley of artillery fire between both sides. Union troops advanced and kept coming and coming. Moving to the left they tried to push our boys back and the fierce gunfire had musket barrels hot and smoking. It wasn't long before the valley filled with smoke and men. Mad Dog rushed his team down near Union lines and fired a few rounds. He must have had second thoughts and withdrew to safer ground.

Gun Crew 1 (54KB)Unfortunately, the battle moved onto the area where the pyrotechnics were located which prevented them from being used. It would have been a fine sight to see rounds "slamming" into the dirt. The battle ended in somewhat of a draw and both sides congratulated each other for a fine show.

Capt Stanley and 1LT Stewart (44KB) On the Move (71KB) Mad Dog and Capt. Stanley (61KB) Saddling (63KB)


Sunday- Day 4

Reilly's Battery (43KB)The rain began about 12:30 Saturday night during my horse watch. The drizzle continued most of the night and into the morning. The 1st NC crawled out into the damp air. Condolences were mentioned about the one man, Jason, who volunteered (??) for cannon guard duty. It must have been a long and wet night for him for sure.

Pvt. Prisk learned a good lesson about letting one's ground cloth protrude outside the tent. The inside of his sleeping quarters had become a small lake.

The men assembled under Capt. Stanley's tent fly to vote if we wanted to fight or pack up. We voted to fight. Luckily, two of the guns remained on the battlefield so the horses didn't have to endure the rain and muck. Some of the men volunteered to remain behind and pack while the rest assembled their gear and marched off for the final battle.

Battle of Cold Harbor

Mike and Tom (39KB)Battle of Cold Harbor, or soon to be known as the Battle of Red Mud, was set for 1:30 pm. Trenches and gun placements turned to goo sticking to boots and brogans like wet red cement.

A much smaller lot of spectators stood anxiously on the sidelines. The rain hadn't dimmed their spirits nor those of the troops in the ranks. Both armies were itching for a fight. Curiously, instead of lying on the ground with muskets over the lip of the trenches, the Rebs seemed to prefer to stand. Could it be the thick wet mud oozing in the bottom of the trenches? No way. It must be their eagerness to fight.

As in previous battles the artillery set the stage with a massive volley. The thunder echoed through the valley as gun after gun sent rounds into the enemy. Soon advancing Union soldiers moved toward Rebel positions. Wasn't long before those Yanks were dropping like flies.

A group of Zouaves advanced toward our guns. They looked sharp in those fancy outfits. Unfortunately for them, their red pantaloons made fine targets for our gunners. When the smoke from the cannons cleared those red legged soldiers sprawled across the battlefield looking like a garden of flowers planted on the hill.

Then it was over. "Dead" Union troops filled the battlefield. They took a bad licking. No doubt when they "recover," they'll be ready to test the mettle of the South's determination once more. That's okay, we'll be ready.

Bill and Chris (59KB) Gun Crew 2 (21KB) Jason Stewart (25KB)

1st Lt. Stewart (28KB) Moving (42KB)

Finally, packing up, heading home. One word - yuck.

See you boys soon!

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