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Colonel Joseph Leo, commanding,
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
I hereby submit my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry, in the action at Millis, this Sept. 17-19.
A small detachment of 9 soldiers and 4 civilians of the 1st arrived Friday afternoon and evening for setup. While the nine seems like a fair number, two were underage and attached to the color guard, one was our redoubtable Sgt. Major Sullivan (John Maloney), of course attached to HQ, and two were alternating day-trippers. The turnout was quite disappointing. Still, we were glad to see those who arrived. The storm had abated, leaving a sunny day, but high winds, which caused quite an adventure, not mention several cracked poles, in setting up camp. Still the campsite, as adjusted by the Sgt. Major, was a good one, fairly level and mown. Once camp was set, we spent a fine evening.
Saturday proved that the organizers were correct in going ahead. It was bright, but seasonably cool, with a gentle breeze as the only reminder of the severe weather we had experienced. Our only concern was that Major Pereira had not yet appeared. At 8:15, the Sgt. Major and I decided to mee with the Federal commander, who proved to be Lt. Col. Bob Burbank of the 25th Mass. We agreed to meet at 9:00 at the white house. On our return to camp, I was most pleased, not to mention relieved, to see Major Pereira. I turned command over to him at that point.
We returned to the house for the aforementioned meeting, where the Federal officers presented a complete, though simple and effective plan for the spectator battle that afternoon. We returned to camp for the 10:30 dress
parade and drill.
Due to the lack of an adjutant, dress parade was dispensed with, and we went directly to drill. While the 1st's turnout was disappointing, the Confederate battalion was quite good, numbering over 50 men in the ranks dressed as four companies. I had command of the 1st company, consisting of four men from the 1st, and 8 from the 4th Alabama. I would have given command to Captain Cipriani, but he was unable to attend, although there was a soldier, Private Cipriani, I believe his cousin, who was almost identical to him. These soldiers proved to be very well trained, and it was a pleasure to be their commander.
The other companies were the 21st Miss, as color company working with the Sumter Rifles, the 15th Alabama, under Capt. Normand Roy, who had an impressive showing, and the 17th VA, combined with the 12th GA. There were also 5 dismounted troopers from the 35th VA, and a full gun crew from the Richmond Howitzers, under Sgt. Rick Devine, who took it on himself to procure the license for the artillery fire for the weekend. I suggest a special commendation for him.
Drill proceeded well, with Major Pereira in firm command. Having two companies inexperienced in battalion drill caused some interesting evolutions, but it was still a good experience. We practiced Forward into Line, by the Right of Companies to the Rear, and into Column, on the Right into Line, and changing front.
We returned to camp at 11:15, leaving two hours off until afternoon formation. The schedule called for "unscheduled military activity throughout the day". I think this sort of tactical is unwise, given recent safety problems, but in this case, the half dozen or so Confederates who did participate were under the command of at least a sergeant, and all weapons were cleaned and passed inspection before the 1:15 formation. This activity took place in the wooded area and did not approach the camps at all.
After inspection, Major Pereira marched us out through the field, and into the woods, to await the surprise Federal patrol, scheduled for 2:00 PM. Skirmishers from the 35th VA were posted. When they were engaged, I took the right wing, consisting of the 4th-1st composite, and the 21st-Sumter color company, out by the right flank at the double quick, then by the left flank into line of battle, and delivered a withering volley on the enemy. Outnumbered, they began to retreat, and we pursued hotly.
Major Pereira deployed the rest of the battalion on our left, and we pushed up to and occupied the highly fortified breastworks in the center of the field. (Okay, they were very thin rail fences, built by the Federals, but they did provide a break in the open field. More host units should provide such fortifications. I am reminded of the extensive rifle pits and redans built by the 16th NCT for the Wilder Farm event, which helped turn an open field into an interesting battlefield.)
At this point, Federal reinforcements having been deployed, their resistance stiffened, and a fierce fire fight ensued. Major Pereira ordered me to take the right wing and advance on the right, but Battery F, 1st RILA, which we had understood would be shut down at that point, was in fact loaded and prepared to fire, so I had to retreat back to the fortified position. Major Pereira than moved the left wing to the left, and we were able to advance on the center of the field, ably supported on our right flank by the Richmond Howitzers. This movement effectively took Federal artillery out of the battle, and we able to roll up the remnants of their infantry, resulting in a resounding victory.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend federal command for their battle plan, which, while not followed to the letter, was functional and resulted in an excellent show. I would also like to note that all were agreed that approximately 30 minutes would be enough, rather, then, as so often happens, trying to stretch matters out for an hour. Here again we see that a hot 30 minutes is far better than a stagnant hour.
On our return to camp, I took a quick poll, and discovered that the 4th Alabama troops were there for the day only. While this was disappointing, I was very happy to have had the chance to work with them. They are well drilled and disciplined troops, who are an asset to our battalion when they participate. I can only hope that Private "Buddy" Cipriani conveyed my compliments to his identical cousin.
The rest of the afternoon was given over to rifle cleaning and socializing. This proves to be a laid back late season event, conducive to this. We partook of an outstanding meal of roast chicken and scalloped potatoes (thanks to Charlie Czelk of Morton's for the recipe) prepared by Mrs. John Davis (Maureen Barker).
We then had our October meeting, which was conducted with efficient dispatch by our president, Mrs. Anna Hebb (Trish Plante). We then settled in for a lovely evening, marred only by several groups of spectators who wandered up from the candlelight tours conducted in the Federal camp. While they meant well, it would be good if spectators, after dark, were conducted by tour guides only. We have all tripped over our own fly ropes and fire pits enough to realize the hazards.
Sunday dawned, another spectacular morning, cool, with a very gentle breeze. Divine services were ably conducted by Chaplain Hal Hoffner, of Morton's Battery. We are very pleased that Hal and Becky have taken out an associate membership in the 1st, a continuation of the close relations between the 1st and Morton's.
Major Pereira, Sgt. Major Sullivan (Maloney) and I attended officers call, were it was decided to simply reverse the previous day's plan, resulting in Federal victory. We then returned for battalion drill at 10:30.
Sunday's battalion was comprised of a 1st company of the 12th GA, who had picked up day trippers, and the four soldiers of the 1st, led by Cpl. H.J. Hebb, (Paul Plante), under the command of Lt. Bill Proal. 2nd Company was the 21st Miss-Sumter Rifles color company, this time under the able command of Lt. Roger Coyne. 3rd Company was the 15th Alabama, and 4th Company was the 17th VA. We were joined for drill by the 35th VA troopers. Since Captain Wrona and myself were without company commands, we took the posts of wing commanders, Capt. Wrona taking the right wing, and I taking the left. Major Pereira instructed us in the evolutions of the preceding day, with markedly improved performance.
Major Pereira called for a 1:30 formation for the 2:00 battle, but our eager warriors formed themselves at 1:20. After inspection, we marched off to the field finding some shade. Major Pereira dispatched the 17th and 35th on patrol to find any opposition in the area. They smoked out the Federals, who deployed what seemed an enormous force, much larger that the day before. Major Pereira sent Capt. Wrona up with the right wing, who deployed on the mighty breastwork on our left. I then brought up the left wing, now consisting only of the 15th Alabama, to try to reach the breastwork across the field on our right. We marched at the double quick, and then at the run, and just beat the more slowly deploying Federals to the position.
We delivered hot fire, and held the position as long as possible, but were moved back by the overwhelming odds. We fought a fighting withdrawal, but suffered heavy casualties, and were forced to retire to the woods.
We actually were supposed, according to plan, to force them back and then withdraw, but the numbers, considering our casualties made that impossible. If the Federals had taken a hit from a near point blank (considering safety range) blast from the Richmond Howitzers (instead of ignoring it), we could have extended the fight. Ah for lost opportunities!
Still, the battle was very effective for the spectators. The plan was simple, and effective. The ground, while it seemed narrow at first, presents possibilities. The two armies met in mid field and presented arms to each other, a nice close to the weekend.
We returned to camp. The battalion very happily gave three cheers to Major Pereira on his first Legion command. They were well deserved! Breakdown began once formation was dismissed. I would like to thank Cpl. H.J. Hebb and his wife Anna (Paul and Trish Plante), the "screaming drunkard" Pvt. Shleiphake (Craig Kovacs and Sally) Cara Scognamiglio, and Mrs. Davis (Maureen Barker) for their help in breaking down our extensive camp.
This event merits consideration for inclusion on our schedule for next year. Amenities were amply provided, and the camp-site was a good one. The battlefield is a good size, and could probably be improved by more extensive works. The only problem is the location. While easily accessible from Boston, it is awkward to approach from points west. Still, I feel the positives outweigh the negatives, and I recommend it for next year schedule.
I would like to take this opportunity to commend Major Pereira for his excellent work this weekend. He has proven that his promotion at Wickham was well deserved. It was a great pleasure to serve under him.
Major Bradley Tyler Johnson
Capt., Co.H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion