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Ft. Lee AAR
Colonel Joseph Leo, cmdg
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
I herewith submit my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry, in the actions at Ft. Lee on March 26-27.
On Friday evening, a small detachment of Co. H began to arrive at the site. It proved a reasonable trip, about two hours from central CT. Directions were good, although the entrance to the park could be more well marked.
Besides myself, we were represented by Sgt. Major Sullivan (John Maloney), Pvt. Schliephake (Craig Kovacs), and, attending his first event, Pvt. Markoe (Marc Bassos). We were joined on Saturday by Pvt. Gardner (Bill Maisano) and Pvt. Pitts (Tim Fisher), making a total of six soldiers representing the 1st.
We were directed to our campsite, which was located virtually under the George Washington Bridge. It was a beautiful view, although rather unlike that at any other reenactment. We set up what was by our standards, a rather spartan, though most comfortable, camp. It was a chilly evening, but the firewood was excellent and plentiful, and the company was great. We passed a most pleasant evening.
Saturday dawned, a beautiful and sunny day. Confederate forces consisted of an excellent turnout from Lee's Light Horse, the host unit, and small detachments from the 1st, 2nd Florida, and the 55th Virginia, whose three soldiers braved the long trip from northern Vermont to support the event. We also had the support of 5th Alabama Field Music for Saturday only, and the Sumter Rifles, aided by two soldiers on detached duty from the 12th GA, and who acted as color guard for the event.
It was decided to combine the non Lee's forces into one company. I was honored to be offered command of the composite company. Capt. Rich Rathbun did me the honor of acting as 1st Sergeant, and we had the further assistance of Cpl. Leroy Clark of the 55th, and Lance Cpl. Gardner (Maisano) of the 1st. The 2nd FL pulled in rather late, so company drill consisted of the 1st and 55th elements, and, while it took place in a parking lot, had good effect.
The Florida component was able to join us for battalion drill. Unfortunately, the drill area was filled with boulders, one of which almost caused my early demise. I did pick myself up with little harm done. Perhaps in future years the lower battlefield area could be used for drill,
Drill was followed by a parade of the troops of both sides through the town of Ft. Lee, and brief opening ceremonies at what seemed to be a sort of town green. While spectator turnout was disappointing, all went as planned. It was invigorating to march to the music again!
As an aside, company officers, I suggest you make clear to your men that at small early season events, there may not be many sutlers. My men, all very new, did not all come prepared with rounds and caps. I take responsibility for this, and we managed to get them supplied. Sgt. Major Sullivan (Maloney), and Pvt. Pitts (Fisher), were most helpful in this regard. Pvt. Schliephake (Kovacs) had only one round with him! When the Sgt. Major was handing out caps, I suggested giving the private 5. Two to cap off before the battle, two to clear after the battle, and one to fire his round. However, thanks to the generosity of the aforementioned men, our needs were supplied.
The afternoon battle was staged from the visitors center. My company was sent out first, in skirmish order. Unfortunately, we had little time for drill, and had not got to skirmish drill. Drill consisted of a minute and a half of explanation, and then we were out fighting. All things considered, I was very proud of how the men under my command performed.
It was a great pleasure to see the return of Colonel, oops, Major ( or is that General?) Steven Huddleston, who came out to lead our men in a flanking maneuver. Actually, I think he was trying to take us back to Maryland with him, by way of every thorn in the woods. Nonetheless, it was great to be under his command once again.
Also of note was the debut of Lee's Light Horse's artillery piece. They will make a great addition to our forces this season.
The battlefield area was very small, at least in terms of open ground where we could be seen by spectators. A much larger body of troops would have made it a problem, but with the small numbers, we put on an effective display. The only worry was the loss of the 2nd FL's Pvt Bill Helmstetter's excellent period spectacles, after his valiant but doomed charge on the enemy. I am happy to report that they were located.
In the after battle hours we began to see a few spectators in the camps. Many of these seemed to be out for a walk, and had not realized there was an encampment there. Still, we were finally able to stretch our living
historian legs a bit.
As the afternoon slipped into evening, we began to see the overcast, and threatened storm approach. The 5th Alabama left, leaving us no music for the color ceremony. I would like to thank Pvt. Pitts (Fisher) for the loan of
his bugle so that I might play "To the Color". With a strange instrument and the cold, it may not have been my best, but the job got done.
The evening passed with a little light rain and cold, but comfortably enough. Some of the boys enjoyed themselves greatly at Lee's light Horse's excellently run casino, the primary entertainment for the evening. Some of us for some odd reason chose to spend part of the evening in the Sgt. Major's carriage. (Go UConn!)
We were all ensconced in our tents before 12:00, and slept most soundly. So much so that none of us were even aware of the powerful rain storm which roared through about 3:00 AM. By the time we arose, things were wet, but little more rain fell.
Company drill was canceled due to the raw cold conditions, but Company Parade was held as scheduled, with particularly fine instruction in Manual of Arms, by Lance Cpl. Gardner (Maisano). It was so raw that, rather than holding a separate church service in the Confederate camp, we would join our federal brethren in theirs in the auditorium at the visitors center. The chaplain of the 14th Brooklyn conducted on excellent service. I am happy to report perfect attendance from the 1st at divine services, with the exception of one who was most likely detained by his important duties.
We hurried back from church for battalion dress parade. Decked out in our finest, we arrived on line, to find that it too, had been canceled. Hearing forecasts of more severe weather, we used the remainder of the morning time to pack up our camp, there being no spectators to admire it anyway. The men of the 55th, with a very long trip ahead of them, were excused so that they might get on there way.
The afternoon battle was moved up to 1:30 for the same reasons. We were down to four men from the 1st Maryland, with the Sgt. Major, of course, on duty with the battalion, and four from the 2nd Florida. I retained command, with the most able assistance of now Lance Sergeant Gardner (Maisano).
The fight took the form of a tactical, a running fight through the woods, with the small Federal force being pushed from position to position, and finally hemmed in on three sides, with the cliff at the fourth. Even with the lack of drill time, and the lack of seasoned NCO's, my men performed most ably.
After the battle, we returned to the auditorium for post event awards. Robert Stevenson has reported those, but I would most especially like tomention Pvt. Brian Patton of the 12th GA, by way of the Sumter Rifles, who was cited for best Confederate impression, a well deserved honor. I would also like to thank the event for naming our modest little four tent camp best Confederate camp. We are very appreciative!
There are many men who deserve mention in this report. I much appreciate the help and good company of Capt. Rich Rathbun of the 55th VA, who was willing to act as 1st Sgt. on Saturday. Thank you Rich for making the long trip. It was a great pleasure to reacquaint myself with men of the 2nd FL, most particularly to make the acquaintance of Pvt. Bill Helmstetter, a most enjoyable fellow. I would particularly like to cite the work of my lance NCO, Bill Maisano, who was thrust into the role unexpectedly. Excellent job Bill! I would also like to point out that Pvt. Markoe (Bassos) has seen the elephant! It was a great pleasure to get know him around our camp fire, and in the flickering light of the Sgt. Major's carriage.
I would also like to compliment the host unit, Lee's, and their commander Major Dave Golager. The event was well run. Special thanks go to Robert Stevenson in this regard!
It was great to once again serve under the best staff in the hobby, Southern Legion HQ. Lt. Col. Boyle, Capt. Pereira, Sgt. Major Maloney, and of course, yourself Col Leo, are to be commended.
As to the events future, it was too bad to hear Robert Stevenson announce that he would no longer be event coordinator, although I can sympathize. He has done wonderful work. I hope the events future can be secured. There are, as at any event positives and negatives.
On the most positive side, this is a historic site, though not from our period. The Visitor's Center has much information on the New York campaign in the Revolution. It was worth the trip alone. It is a beautiful site,
although, ones doe have to wait a bit for the CW moment. It's hard to get that under the GW bridge, although it was a beautiful sight.
The prime negative is that it is a small site, with little room for drill and spectator battle. Perhaps there is more property than we saw, but it is hard to imagine the event getting much bigger. Still, in all, we had an excellent
time, and look forward to supporting this event in future years.
your obedient servant.
Captain, Co.H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion