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South Hero AAR
(I have always tried to present events in as good a light as possible,
yet I must be honest here, this was the worst event in the history of
Colonel Joseph Leo, cmdg
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
Herewith is submitted my report of the operations of the Southern Legion in the action at South Hero, June 26-27 inst.
I arrived, with a very small detachment of the 1st Maryland, numbering five, including the Provost Marshall. The trip was a little under 4 1/2 hours from central CT, rather less than expected, and was a very easy ride, with
little or no impeding traffic.
We found the ground to be rather smaller than expected, which, with the small forces engaged was not a severe problem, but also rutted and covered with short hard fresh cut stems, that made setup difficult, and sleeping
without a cot nearly impossible. Setup was further hampered by the swarms of mosquitoes from the nearby swamp.
We were quickly informed of your wife's unfortunate accident, and that you would be unable to attend. I therefore took command of Confederate forces for the event.
Headquarters was well represented by adjutant, Capt. Perkins, AIG, Capt. Pereira, and Provost Marshall, Capt. Bass, (John Prushko) who made a very welcome return to our fold.
Saturday dawned, bright and unusually warm, though not very humid. As morning reports were returned, we formed our battalion into two companies, the first consisting of the 16th NCT and 55th VA, under the command of Capt. R. Rathbun. The second company consisted of the 7th TN, who made an excellent showing considering the long trip, 21st VA, and add-ons from the 12th GA (2) and the 1st (1), under the command of Capt. Walter.
We were greatly enhanced by the presence of Morton's Battery, under Capt. Hendricks, with one mountain howitzer, and the Middlesex Light Artillery, under command of Capt. T. Rathbun, with another. Artillery was under the overall command of Major Alden Whyte.
I met with the federal commander, Col. "Skippy" MacMullen, not to be confused with his brother, Lt. Col. Bill MacMullen of the CS Marines. I learned of the weakness of Federal forces, and devised a battle scenario to
address the iniquity. Lt. Matt Burbank made a suggestion that Confederate forces make an attempt to rescue a wounded General officer. I thereby promoted Capt. Pereira to Brig. General, and ordered him to be wounded
Two members of the 2nd Michigan, who had intended to fight with the 55th that weekend, consented to galvanize, as did Pvt. Brian Patton of the 12th GA. Also, the Middlesex Light agreed to shoot on the blue side, to equalize the fight.
Seeing the situation, I decided to focus on the event as a training session, focusing on battalion drill, which the northern tier units get little opportunity to practice, and which would also benefit the rather new 7th.
Both companies drilled independently before battalion drill. The morning's battalion drill focused on by the Right of Companies to the Rear and Front, by the Right of Companies to the Rear into Column, Forward into Line, Change Front Forward on either Company, Left into Line Wheel, By Company Right Wheel, and By Company by the Right Flank by File Left. Both companies performed splendidly, as did their officers.
We then broke for lunch and rest, as the heat was beginning to tell. Battalion formation and inspection of arms for the battle was at 1:30. The 2nd company was dispatched to wander through the woods, to perform a
flanking movement. The first company rested in the shade of the trees awaiting the artillery duel, which began the battle.
Once Federal artillery was taken out, Capt. Rathbun deployed his 1st platoon (primarily 16th NCT) as skirmishers, under the command of Lt. Forquer. The execution was excellent and the Federal skirmishers were quickly driven back. The main body (about 6) appeared by surprise (i.e. not according to plan) on our left. Capt. Rathbun quickly met them with his reserve.
Since the Federals did not exactly meet the plan. Capt. Walter's flanking movement did not occur, so the 2nd company arrived as reinforcements, and allowed the 55th to rescue Gen. Pereira. Once all the federal forces had
been driven into the woods, we ended the engagement. It lasted about 1/2 hour, and seemed to be well received by the spectators.
From 2:30 till 3:00 we saw many spectators. Many seemed most interested, and asked intelligent questions. We were asked if our uniforms were hot, but no one asked if the fire was real.
Unfortunately, Major Whyte became ill after the battle. He had an angry rash along his left calf, which he thought may have come from a bite earlier this week. As a precaution, he was transported to Fletcher Allen Hospital in Burlington, and was cleared. He did need to leave for home, and, of course, was accompanied by Morton's Battery.
Brian Patton, of the 12th GA, attended Major Whyte, but was himself taken by the heat, and went home. Having gone to Grant v. Lee the past weekend, he may have overextended. We hope he returned home safely, and give him thanks for the assistance he has given so many of us these last couple of years.
Beyond that, the afternoon passed well. We had an excellent meal, cooked by Mrs. Johnson (Liz Jones) which the 1st enjoyed, joined by the remaining member of the 12th. Capt. Duckett, please assist me, Paul Stan??? He told
me his name a number of times, but I guess I had too much on my mind. At any rate, he was a distinct asset to our camp, both in all the help he gave, and his excellent comradeship. He will always be welcome in our camp.
Senior officers traveled over to the Federal headquarters for a reception. This was a nice touch by the otherwise evil Col. Skippy!
Returning from the reception, I was treated to the 16th, under the command of Lt. Forquer, with the help of Capt. Rathbun, drilling skirmish drill. While I had a couple a couple of minor points to add, I must say that their
skirmish drill is of a superior nature, which made me very pleased that they were so deployed that afternoon.
The candlelight tour was effectively managed by the Middlesex Light, who gave an excellent show of night artillery fire.
The rest of the evening passed very well. The campfires drove off the mosquitoes, and it was a great pleasure to renew friendships that are not often enough acquainted. I hate to leave anyone out, but I must mention Rich Rathbun, Tom Rathbun, Ed Forquer, Mike and Jacob Lamitie, and Doug Tichnor in particular. We have become close in a short time, and time will allow that to blossom. The joy in seeing John Prushko in the field again was indescribable. I am assured that he will be in the thick of battalion affairs again before long.
We awoke to another bright, very warm, but fairly dry dawn. Capt. (Gen.) Pereira had not been able to sleep owing to the mosquitoes, and had to leave. As I prepared the service of Morning Prayer, Lt. Col. MacMullen (not
to be confused with Skippy) gave me the news that the Federal contingent had pulled up stakes and left! This solved the problem of what to do with the one remaining field piece, by canceling the battle. While I was pleased
that the scheduled bloodshed could be avoided, there was the question of what could be done. An officers call was quickly held, and it was decided that a second battalion drill would be held at 12:30, which should provide a show for the media and whatever spectators arrived.
Divine services passed well, and led to the 10:00 battalion formation. We had Dress Parade, and inspection according to CS Regulations. This led to an excellent battalion drill, where we reviewed all evolutions practiced the day before. The only difference of note was that Capt. Rathbun passed command of the 1st Company to Lt. Forquer, and excellent example of shared leadership. Both companies and officers performed admirably, as we reviewed the evolutions practiced the day before.
Our interval of rest was needed, as the day was even warmer than before. Still our men fell in for battalion drill at 12:30. We held the CS Reg's inspection, and maneuvered for drill, as we had before. We also covered firing by battalion, and, most importantly, firing by file. The firings in particular were drilled while the newspaper photographer was present. By the end of the drill, the spectators seemed satisfied, and the reenactors seemed to have felt they had learned something.
To sum up this event is difficult. To see my friends again in the 55th and 16th is always a joy! While I didn't see my friends in the 21st VA as much as I might have liked, it was also a pleasure. To see Capt. Prushko again is also a joy beyond expression. This was an excellent weekend !
Unfortunately, the future of this event is in some question. The lack of Federals, even when they were there was a problem. Even with improvement on the site , I wonder if it will be enough. To get Southern New England
troops, regardless of blue or gray, to attend, it will require something exceptional in a site. I am not sure that this is it.
Capt. Co.H 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion