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Colonel Joseph Leo, commanding,
Army of Northern Virginia
I herewith submit my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry in the engagement at Orwell, Sept. 9-11.
A small detachment of Company H, consisting of 6 soldiers and two civilians began to arrive Friday afternoon. Unfortunately, none of our number were able to participate in the school presentations, which form an important
part of this event. The drive up was three hours and a quarter, and was both lovely and relaxing, with barely a hint of traffic.
Miss Liz and myself arrived at about 9:00 PM, and were greeted, as seems to be usual, by Lt. Ed Forquer of the 16th NCT, who directed us to our camp. As is also usual, we found the camp well laid out by Cpl. Purnell (the Yeti) and Major Pereira, who took command in your absence, already set up.
We were very pleased to be joined in camp by our fellow Marylanders, Co. B, 21st Virginia. It was great to have Jack Jeanne and Lee in our midst, and must especially cite Lee for all his help in setting up our camp. Despite the darkness, camp was set up with dispatch.
Headquarters was also represented by our adjutant, Capt. Perkins, and our chaplain, Capt, Hoffner, as well as our Provost Marshall, Capt. Bass (Prushko) who made the arduous 10 minute trek from Vergennes.
We awoke to a rather misty morning, and which masked the beautiful panorama before us, which, as Major Pereira pointed out, could easily have been a northern version of the Shenandoah Valley. Breakfast was prepared from the ample provisions supplied to us by event organizers.
Morning reports indicated that our battalion be dressed as two companies. First company was the 16th NCT and elements of the 21st Virginia, under the command of Lt. Forquer, and the second had elements of the 55th Virginia, 1st Maryland, 21st Virginia, and non battalion units, the 13th NCT and 10th Texas, and was under my command.
Our forces were augmented by the Middlesex Artillery, under the command of Captain Tom Rathbun, and galvanized mounted cavalry from the 1st New Hampshire. It was particularly good to see them, as this is one of the few fields on which we fight with more than ample room for mounted troopers.
We were opposed by three Federal guns, one crew of whom also galvanized to equalize forces. Federal infantry was a little under 35, giving us a slight numerical advantage.
An officers' meeting was held to sort out the battle schedule. This event has an unusual schedule of two short battles, morning and afternoon, both running a bit less than half an hour. The positive side of this is the fights are very active, with no lulls created in order to "stretch it out". The negative is the need to clean rifles more frequently, and the tendency for soldiers not to clean them. With the relatively small numbers engaged, the positive outweighed the negative.
A loose battle plan was adopted, giving a way to kick off the fight, and then let it develop as it develops. This proved an excellent way to arrange the affairs, particularly with the huge field with which we were graced.
The morning battle began with some mounted cavalry skirmishing, some saber fighting and an exchange of pistol fire. The artillery opened up, and Major Pereira noticed Federal infantry advancing on the guns from our left. He quickly dispatched my company to deal with the Federals.
A quick deployment of skirmishers arrested their advance, and soon there were few Federals on our flank. I left four skirmishers to hold the flank, and, just as Major Pereira ran over to suggest a change of our front, I wheeled the skirmish line to the right and began to advance on their guns.
While the advance was resisted, most of the Federal infantry was occupied by the 16th NCT under Lt. Forquer. We pushed forward, and adjusted front, so as to bear down from their right. The 16th's advance proved successful, shutting down their guns, when the battle ended.
The result was a little inconclusive, but it was an action packed 25 minutes, and put on a good show for the spectators.
There was no lunch ration per se, but we did receive quite a variety of fresh vegetables, which our friends from the 21st transformed into an absolutely delicious soup! I had it for both lunches, and was privileged to bring a goodly quantity home with me.
After lunch, we formed company for the afternoon battle. There was an unfortunate accident involving one of the mounted troopers, who was breaking in a new mount. The horse became disturbed, and the trooper was kicked in the mouth, or so I am given to understand. He suffered facial injuries and the loss of two teeth, which, fortunately, were reimplanted. Since the ambulance came from Middlebury, about 20 minutes away, the battle was delayed about a half hour or so.
The afternoon fight began for our second company, when Major Pereira sent on an exploratory mission on our left flank. With a four man advance guard, under the command of 1st Sergeant Dorsey (Svejk), we found no enemy to our left, and, moving along the tree line to the left, we quickly advanced to the point of getting in the rear of the Federal gun emplacement. Amazingly, Federal infantry virtually ignored our progress, and concentrated on Lt. Forquer's North Carolinians.
The only resistance we encountered came from a few members of the gun crew, armed with Henrys. In one of the very few safety violations of the weekend, I was amazed to see these soldiers, not only taking cover behind their own limber, but firing through the spokes of its wheels!!
Realistically, we should have pushed through and taken the guns quickly, but a five minute battle would not have done a real service so we arrested our advance and waited the arrival of the Federal infantry to "stop" us.
As my report is on the actions of my company, I will leave it to others to report more completely on the total action.
I will say once again that fighting on this field is a totally different experience from what we are used to. Our two companies good both spread out in skirmish order, and still leave room to maneuver the lines.
I would also like to underscore the effectiveness of an action packed 25 to 30 minutes, as opposed to trying to "stretch it out" for the benefit of the spectators.
The late start to the battle led to a later than normal end, but there was still time for a visit to the sutlers. It was not a huge turnout of sutlers, but it was a good mix, particularly with Old Sutler John's establishment for the soldier, and Miss Patricia and the Politician for the ladies. Miss Liz was able to pick up a new outfit, and I purchased a few necessary items myself.
All the while we were entertained most agreeably by the 2nd New Hampshire Regimental Band, who performed with little break throughout the day. They played beautifully, on period instruments, and would be a welcome addition to any event. We were personally most pleased at the frequent renditions of "Maryland, my Maryland" although I suspect a few of the spectators may have been confused at what seemed to them to be Holiday music in September!
We went over to the designated supply area and picked up our provisions for the evening repast, chicken breasts, potatoes, ears of corn, bread and more, which Pvt. William Colston (Jeff Mansir) prepared, assisted by Sgt. Jack McCoy of the 21st VA. Our two units ate together, and we were most pleased to
be joined by Major Pereira and Captain Perkins. Dinner was delicious, and the company was splendid.
It had been decided at the officers meeting that the evening tactical would be fought on the main field, rather than the wooded area. While, due to the early darkness, this was the only sensible choice, it was a shame to utilize
the wooded acreage. This venue would make a superb site for a non-spectator tactical weekend.
About half the Confederate force, mostly from the 16th, fell in for the tactical. I accompanied, not in a command capacity, but as an observer. It was a confusing, at times exhilarating, and fortunately safe half hour of action. Superior Federal numbers made the opening of the fight difficult, but we wisely rallied at a better defensive position, and held our own.
The defensive position selected was at the Federal gun emplacement of the daytime battles. One gun, with its limber, had been left in place. Remembering the little adventure of the afternoon, I detached myself from our forces and "died" on the limber.
The fight ended inconclusively, as most fights in the dark do. I would like to commend Capt. Richard Rathbun of the 55th. With a couple of members of his unit, he was all over the field, meeting danger and fending it off.
Returning to camp, we settled in for an evening of socialization under the Orwell stars
(For a full description of the night skis at Orwell, see last years AAR, at www.1stmaryland.org)
We were very pleased to have members of the 6th visit at our fire, most notably 1st Sgt. Mike Lamitie, and Lt. Ed Forquer. Talk turned to the rest of the season. It looks like we may both come in a little light at Brick
House and Cedar Creek. We made an arrangement to combine our companies. At Brick House, Lt. Forquer will be in command. Since both 1st Sgt. Lamitie and 1st Sgt. Dorsey (Svejk) will be absent on mission vital to the safety of the Confederacy, our 1st Sgt. will be E. Tarleton Russell (yours truly).
At Cedar Creek, Lt. Forquer will command one day, with 1st Dorsey, and I will command the other, with 1st Sgt. Lamitie. Our units will camp together and fight as one. I look forward with great anticipation to this combination of two outstanding battalion units from different parts of our area. It should be a great opportunity for our members to get to know each other better.
It was a great joy to make reaquaintance with so many friends I had not seen in too long a time. Finally, under the lovely stars, we took our rest.
Sunday broke, a lovely morning. Breakfast was again coked with the provided food, and was delicious. Much of the rest of the day, we were encouraged to take home the left over eggs. I look forward to Capt. Bass' (Prushko's)
pickled eggs at Brick House.
The morning officers' call confirmed the good impression of Saturday's events. There was a good feeling of working together.
At 9:00, Chaplain Hoffner conducted divine services for an excellent turnout from both Federal and Confederate camps. He took the unusual but effective path of preaching on the text of a hymn, rather than a scriptural reading.
Feeling uplifted, we returned to camp. Dress parade was conducted in the usual most able fashion by Capt. Perkins. I would particularly like to commend the 55th Virginia Field Music for their exemplary performance on very short notice.
Dress parade was followed by inspection according to regulations, and battalion drill. I commend Major Pereira for holding battalion dill. It can be just as effective a teaching experience as with eight companies.
The one battle for the day was scheduled early, at 1:30, to allow for an early start for the many reenactors who had traveled four hours or more.
The battle began with cavalry skirmishing, with the 1st NH and 2nd VT putting on an excellent show.
The 16th was dispatched to the left flank, where they held off a Federal advance on our guns. My second company of Marylanders, Tarheels, Texans and Virginians advanced on the Federal guns from our right, under a screen of skirmishers commanded by 1st Sgt. Dorsey.
Seeing an opportunity as the Federals engaged the skirmishers, I ran my boys down the flank, and poured withering fire into them.
The battle stalled a bit at that point, as the 16th disposed of the threat to our left. Faced with a far superior force, I adopted the daring tactic of dividing my already weak company, sending four men under Capt. R. Rathbun, to get in the Federal rear and menace their guns. Unfortunately, Lt Mike Blakeslee saw how weakened our force was and charged us, forcing us to withdraw to our line of skirmishers, up the gentle Shenandoah hill.
Copt. Rathbun, however, was successful in getting in the rear of the Federals, drawing the attention of their cavalry and gun crews. My weakened force being virtually depleted, we were heartened by the arrival of the
16th, whose firepower won us the day!
Again, the entire fight lasted only half an hour, with no static forward and back, pouring volleys into each other. It was fast paced and exciting.
We were back in camp shortly after 2:00, and partook of lemonade made by our esteemed chaplain!
Camp was struck in good order. I hate to leave out the many who helped us, but I will give special mention to Pvt. and Mrs. Gardiner, (Bill and Margi Maisano) and Pvt. Colston (Jeff Mansir), as well as Cpl Purnell (Yeti) and 1st Sgt. Dorsey, who are always of so much assistance.
I would like to thank all of the 1st Marylanders who took time to attend this event. I would also like to thank all of the members of staff who took the time to come. I am sure it meant a great deal to our Northern friends.
In closing, I would like to offer an appeal to all members of the 1st, and to all members of Legion units. We are wasting a reenactors dream here. This site could easily accommodate six guns a side, twice as much mounted
cavalry, and at least two battalions of infantry a side. Even with that, we have barely scratched the surface of the available space!
Next year, come to Orwell! You will not regret the trip!
your obedient servant,
McHenry Howard (Lee Jones)
Captain, Co.H, 1st Maryland Infantry
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion.