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Colonel Joseph Leo, commanding
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion
Herewith, I submit my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry, in the actions at Sutton, August 7 and 8.
A small detachment of 10 soldiers and 6 civilians, abetted by our new friends from Florida, Rick and Gail Marsden and their nephew, arrived on site Friday afternoon and set up camp. The campsite was lovely and
spacious, marred only by the reenactor parking, which extended almost into the camp. It is nice to have easy access to the vehicles, but it would be better to have them a bit further away, preferably out of site.
Camp set up proceeded smoothly and canvas was up well in time to provide us with shelter from the thunderstorm, which swept through that evening. With our large fly, we passed a sociable and comfortable evening.
Saturday broke in with a lovely morning, warm but not hot and low humidity. Since our numbers were low, we combined forces with our friends from the 7th Tennessee, the redoubtable Captain Walter shouldering a rifle for the event. Morning drill was held at 8:00 AM, and consisted of review of close order drill by both flanks, and the basics of skirmish drill.
After a quick trip to the sutlers for a new timepiece and white gloves that were actually white, I returned for battalion drill at 10:00. As an aside, it was nice to see a fair number of sutlers at this event. They have been lacking at many of this season's events.
The battalion was formed from soldiers of Legion companies, the 12th and 21st combining as we did with the 7th. We were also very pleased to see our friends from the 36th Alabama and the 3rd Arkansas, who have been sorely missed in New England, and who combined to form a company. Even though they were new to our drill, all proceeded well.
At 11:00, Captains Wrona and Pereira, Lt. Certusi and myself, accompanied by Mrs. Johnson (Liz Jones), Mrs. Davis (Maureen Barker), and Miss Sullivan (Sarah Maloney) as well as Mrs. Davis' grandson Josh, passed our way to the nearby church, where we were honored to attend the wedding of Sally Mumy and Paul Raffaniello. For those who do not know, Sally is the reenactor who portrays Mrs. Lincoln at many events, while Paul portrays an Italian military observer. It was a lovely period ceremony, closing with the sword arch as they left the church. It made for a wonderful break in the midst of the day.
The battalion was formed again at 2:15 for the afternoon spectator battle. Prior to the formation on the company parade, Pvt. Marsden was presented with a Calvert cross pin, as a token of his excellent service with us for these last two events. We hope we can renew acquaintance with them next season. Since the event organizers evidently wanted Confederate forces to be kept out of sight until appearing on the battlefield, we were led along a strange pathway through the woods. While I am always happy for a nature walk, this was unnecessary. It is my experience that spectators enjoy watching the troops march by, and I hope we will be allowed to march along the road next year.
On our way, our company was joined by four soldiers from the 2nd South Carolina, another non-Legion New England unit which has been absent too much from our local events. Thus reinforced, we arrived at the battlefield.
The battlefield itself was another negative point in the event. While very picturesque, with split rail fences marking a riding area, it is very small, with a pond that diminishes it all the more. For the size of the field, there was a lot of artillery, the two mountain howitzers of Morton's Battery joined by one from the Richmond Howitzers. Our numbers being light, Dement's Battery did not take the field this weekend, although we did contribute to Morton's gun crew. There also two guns on the Federal side.
Pyrotechnics were advertised as a draw in event promotion. I hope the organizers rethink this next year. Not only were the extremely dry conditions a problem (one grass fire was started), but the effect was rather phony looking. This was compounded by the ten minute interruption while the wires were taken up. It is my considered opinion, echoed by many that pyrotechnics are far more trouble than they are worth.
Our company deployed as skirmishers along the rail fence (corral). During the lull, My knees being tired, and no enemy to face, I rose to my feet and surveyed the ground. It was then that Pvt. Schliephake (Craig Kovacs) who had been making merry the night before, had a vision. "There is our brave Major Johnson, standing like a fencepost." I now seem to be known as "Fencepost" Johnson.
After the lull, Federal dismounted cavalry advanced on our position. Despite our fortified position, and outnumbering them 2-1, they pushed very close.
It might be nice to have an eye to reality. Those soldiers would have been annihilated before advancing any distance at all.
At any rate, the main bodies of both sides were soon engaged. We assembled into close order and rejoined the battalion. Our hot fire pushed the Federals back into their artillery.
Well, they weren't really supposed to fall back into their artillery. The proximity of the limber chests made firing impossible, and you, quite wisely, ended the proceedings. We then marched back to camp.
In all honesty, a scripted battle should follow a script. The skirmishers that appeared on our right flank were unplanned, and the main infantry were supposed to fall back into the woods, not on their guns. Broken plans produce melees, not good shows at best, and at worst can create unsafe conditions.
At any rate, we settled in for the remainder of the afternoon. Since we had no company cook for this weekend, we assembled a potluck dinner. The main courses were Sgt. Major Sullivan's excellent chili and a stew concoction that lance Sgt. Hebb (Paul Plante) and I threw together. To this was added Mrs. Davis's (Barker) excellent salad, and Pvt. Grayson's (Scillia) cracklin' bread and sausage. We were very pleased that you accepted our invitation to dinner, not only for the good company, but to eat up some of the food!
After dinner, we settled in for the evening. A number of us took advantage of the dance that was provided. The Sgt. Major was particularly resplendent as he escorted Miss Sullivan (Sarah). Reports were that the dance was excellent. The evening was comfortable and pleasantly sociable.
We awoke Sunday to that dreaded sound of rain on canvas. Sure enough, the day was gray and drizzly. It abated a bit for morning parade and drill, which was ably conducted by lance 1st Sgt. Hebb (Plante). Drill consisted of close order, with the able assistance of Sgt. Steven Shelly of the 7th as left guide. The rain began to fall again before we could proceed to skirmish drill, and so drill was curtailed.
The rain also caused divine services to be moved under the protection of the 1st's fly. Services were conducted by Chaplain's John Loftus and Hal Hoffner, and were very well attended. Pvt. Marsden, who in the 20th century is an Episcopal priest, suggested that perhaps next season he might contribute a communion service. This would be a fine addition to our array of services.
Dress Parade was held at 10:00, and was most ably conducted by Capt. Perkins, our adjutant. We were informed that, due the prospects of very severe weather, that Sunday's schedule would be canceled, and we could break camp immediately after drill. Drill involved work on closing the column in mass and taking wheeling distance, and wheeling into line from a close column. I believe all were a bit distracted by the potential for foul weather. I am sure we will follow up in future drills.
Liz and I received much help in breaking camp, and were done in 1hour 45 minutes, a record for us. As it turned out, the warnings did not bear out. However, this is the fourth time in my reenacting career that an event wa canceled. The first three times it was very necessary. In this case, it was wise to be safe.
In all, this event has great potential. It was extremely well supported by the town, and the campsite, if the cars can be moved, is wonderful. The size of the battlefield is a concern for growth of the event. If a larger space for battles can be secured, this event has the potential to be a cornerstone of our schedule.
This was an event that saw the return on non-Legion units that have been missed in the last couple of years. I hope we can expect to see much more of the 36th Alabama, 3rd Arkansas, and the 2nd South Carolina. I believe we will all be richer for the experience
The event was also memorable for new friends. I have spoken much of Rick and Gail Marsden, who added so much. It was also a true delight to see the Sgt. Major's daughter Sarah participate and enjoy herself as much as we enjoyed her company. We look forward to having her with us again at Wickham Park, where, by the way Captain Dement and the 1st Maryland Flying Artillery will be in attendance!
Bradley "Fencepost" Johnson
Captain, Co.H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion