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Ft. Warren AAR
Colonel Joseph Leo, cmdg
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
Here enscribed is my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland, at the recent engagement at Ft Warren, in Boston Harbor.
A very small detachment of 4 members of the 1st arrived for the event, Capt Bass (John Prusko), Pvt. Washington Yellot (Ailen Rafferty), Pvt. Daniel Wright (Dan Rafferty), and Sgt. Major Elisha T. Russell (Lee Jones), who was replacing Sgt. Major John Sullivan, who was on detached duty.
We were joined on Charles Island by small elements of 4 from the 21st Mississippi, 5 from Lee's Light Horse, 6 from the Palmetto Battery, who disappeared by Sunday, only to be replaced by Battery F, 1st RILA, approximately 8 from the Confederate Marines, and 6 from the 4th Alabama. Co. F of the 12th Georgia turned out in good numbers for the action. It was also nice to hear the 5th Alabama Field Music, as we had not heard them since Hammonassett.
The 35th Virginia Cavalry, also had a good show of 8 dismounted troopers.
Camp was set up, as per your suggestion, in the picnic area on the side of the fort. This was a nice spot, affording excellent shade from the trees, and convenient access to the composting toilet facilities. The only drawback was
the invasion by the picnickers, which raised some security concerns, dealt with admirably by the provost detachment of Capt. Bass and Cpl. Lincoln. I would recommend retaining this site for the future. Lee's Light Horse, the 21st, and elements of the 1st set up in the fort, as in past years, and also seemed quite comfortable.
Morning dawned to a hard rain, which continued off and on for most of the morning. Capt. Duckett did manage to work in an infantry drill, despite a light drizzle. There was some concern that the rest of the days activities
might be washed out, but the greater concern was that of command. We later learned that important duties required your presence elsewhere (darn that 20th century, anyway), and Capt. Duckett, as senior officer present at the time, assumed command. We later learned that Major Goliger was on the island, and
was offered command, but he most graciously allowed Capt. Duckett to continue.
The Captain and I met with the Federal commander, Col. Harbinson, learned of the battle plans, and finally received a schedule, thanks to his courtesy. The rain abaited and allowed the spectator battle to continue.
An interesting arrangement was conceived whereby the interior of the fort was Ft. Warren, and any Confederate inside was considered a prisoner, while once outside, we were at a Confederate fort in South Carolina. The afternoon's fight consisted of an assault on that fort by the Federal forces. Their landing party landed at the front of the fort, at the docks, and proceded around towards our camp area. They were intercepted by the Marine detachment, who were quickly reinforced by the dismounted cavalry. After a hard fight, the Federals pushed their way to the top of the rise, where they were met by infantry fire. That, the continued harassment by our skirmishers, and artillery fire won the day for us.
The high point of the weekend for me, occurred at the passing of the schooner. From our position, all we could see was a tall mast, with a First National flying bravely. I had never actually seen a Confederate flag flown from a ship, and I found it a most stirring and exciting moment.
There was a brief interruption, caused by spectators wandering out onto the field. It was dealt with by the park staff. The only other concern was a Federal sharpshooter who fired on Sgt. Juan Otero, of the 12th GA, at a very
close range. Sgt. Otero took an acrobatic hit, leading us to fear he had been injured, but he was well. The sharpshooter than took refuge in the demi lune, and fired through the rifle ports. While this may have seemed a good idea tactically, as an unscripted addition to the battle, it was unwise. In all, however, it was a satisfying fight.
The remainder of the afternoon was given over to living history. The evening's agenda included a dance in the hospital rooms of the fort, the only one with electric lighting, and the famous Lee's Light Horse casino, held in
the bakery. Both were very popular. While I stopped in at both locations, the bulk of my evening was spent in the 12th Georgia camp, with many very pleasant conversations, most notably with Pvt Wrona of the 21st (there was
much consternation this weekend over the many changes in rank, both permanant and temporary for the event), and with Sgt Otero, who talked with me about general Civil War and Mexican War history, and on specific matters of drill. In all, it was a fine evening.
Sunday morning opened once again to rain, this time light and shortlived. At 9:00 AM, I conducted Morning Prayer, in front of the memorial to those who died at Fort Warren. I was ably assisted by Lt. John Loftus, chaplain of the 12th, who read the appointed scripture passages. Attendance was quite good, and gave us all an excellent sharing opportunity. I was told later that the commandant of the fort was an episcopalian, who often read Morning Prayer for the prisoners.
The morning's infantry drill was begun with an announcement of promotions in the 12th GA. 1st Sgt Roger Borgerson received a promotion to 1st Lieutenant, and Cpl. Bill Proal was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant. The new first Sgt is Jim Hollister, the new second is Juan Otero, and the resulting coparal vancancy will be filled by Dave Clark. For Cpl. Clark, it was sort of a demotion ceremony, as he spent the weekend as 1st Lieutenant of Marines. As noted earlier, it was a confusing weekend for rank recognition.
Drill was particularly interesting in one regard. The "mythical" rank of file closers, so named by me because we never actually see them, came to life! We had 4 LT's and 3 Sgt's in that usually invisible third rank. We saw, and
drilled the distinction between About Face, and Face by the rear Rank, About Face, the distinction being that, in the former, the file closers face about and lead the march in retreat, whereas in the latter, the file closers move to the new rear. We also discovered the file closers maneuver in On the Right (Left) by File into Line, waiting for four men of the rear rank to fall in, before peeling into our stations.
The rest of the morning was given over to living history and lunch. The afternoon spectator battle was a Confederate assault on Ft. Warren. Staged from the landing area beside the docks, our cavalry went into action as skirmishers, fired upon from the rifle ports. Infantry was brought up as support, also in skirmish order, and a hot fight ensued. We pushed near to the fort, but were driven back by their main body. Our ranks were decimated by cannon fire. We were fortunate that a Confederate sharpshooter, who had worked his way to the roof of the fort (cleared, by the way, before the battle), kept the No. 2 cannoneer pinned down, allowing them only two shots.
Our ranks were destroyed, but the color was saved by the Marines, who managed to row it to the schooner, joined by Pvt. Ken Muldar of the 12th, who had a most refreshing swim!
In all, it was the single most satifying battle in which I have participated
at the event, over the years.
There was one safety concern. A couple of Fedreal dismounted took it on themselves to club our wounded to death. While this was questionale enough itself, one of them chose to do it with a loaded sharps carbine, nearly
blowing his own ear off in the process. The problem was brought to Federal command, who dealt with it promptly and effectively, but it remains another example of why unscripted hand to hand of any type should be discouraged most strongly.
In all this was a very small but very enjoyable event. The changes of camp site and battle locations were both great improvements. The scale of the event has dipped dramatically in the last four years, perhaps largely due to
the horror stories of getting on and off the island. I should report here that the problems are greatly exaggerated. If you can campaign, as I did, carry everthing in on your back, there is no problem at all. Even with a moderately heavy impression, an A tent and a few boxes of gear, the use of park trucks makes it quite easy. Load your gear onto a truck in Hull, and It is sailed across, and drops it off at your campsite. That process is reversed
Since the event has scaled back, the one big problem, the one landing craft at a time, which caused long waits, is not so bad. If it is desired to enlarge the event again, something would need to be done about securing other boats.
In all, I recommend this event. Indeed, if you have never been to Ft. Warren, I would call it a must, at least once.
Sergeant Major, FT. Warren '98
Captain, Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion