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Colonel Joseph Leo, commanding
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
It is with great pleasure that I herewith submit my report of the operations of Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry, in the operations at Sutton, on the 4-6th inst.
Our advance party arrived mid-day on Friday, to find that Major MacMullen of the engineers had the camp layout well in hand. Our detachment arrived throughout the afternoon and evening eventually reaching an excellent turnout of 17 soldiers, two musicians, and five civilians for the event. The day was bright, clear and dry, and camp was set up with dispatch. The evening was spent renewing our friendships. I was most pleased to be able to spend an excellent time with my friend Capt. John Wrona, under his fly. We were joined later by Sgt. Rick Devine, of the Richmond Howitzers. After a while, Capt. Wrona and Sgt Devine had to leave on some small errand, and I sidled over one street to greet and socialize with another great friend, Capt. Jim Duckett of the 12th Georgia.
I have many great friends in this hobby, but none greater than these two men. We all started within a year or two of each other in our respective companies, rose up from private soldiers, were NCO's together, and now, in our dotage, are company captains together. It was a blessing to spend some time with John and Jim Bob this weekend, even more so than at many other events.
Saturday dawned equally bright and clear, and it was fine to start the day, although I might have preferred that Morning Gun could have taken place somewhere other than right outside my tent. Maybe it was just as well, for,
as I could hear the commands clearly, I had some forewarning of the imminent explosion.
Morning Parade was held at 8:00 AM, followed immediately by company drill. Our precision in close order drill, even when performed by the left flank, has progressed so well, that most of the 45 minute drill was spent on skirmish drill, with concentration on forward deployments. The action against the enemy later that weekend made this a fortuitous decision on my part.
At officers call, I was pleased to see our unit joined at the event by the 12th, 21st, 7th Tennessee, 17th Virginia, Sumter Rifles, and our old new friends from the 36th Alabama. The 17th and Sumter were combined as color company, the 36th were supported by elements of the 3rd Arkansas, and the 12th took on elements from the 33rd NCT and the 35th Virginia Cav, giving us an excellent six company battalion. The infantry was to be ably supported by Morton's Battery and the Richmond Howitzers.
Battalion drill was held at 10:00 AM. While the season has been very light, affording little opportunity for us to work together, drill evolutions were remarkably smooth.
The battalion was then marched into a shady spot for a rest. As there was a merchant nearby, I decided to refresh myself with a root beer, and convinced my 1st Sgt, Ezekial Dorsey (Chris Svejk) to join with me in this simple pleasure.
Following the short break, the battalion was marched to a cemetery near the town green, were the remains of a son of Sutton were reinterred. While the remarks made at the grave were a bit insensitive to Southern sensibilities, it is our privilege to render honor to all who fought and died, on both sides of the terrible conflict.
This brought us back to camp for lunch. The battlefield was said to be some distance away, about a mile, so we formed up unusually early for the 3:00 PM battle. The field proved to be much nearer, so once again, we were at the site much sooner than necessary, giving time to rest in the shade.
I had been informed by Lt. Col. Boyle, our wing commander, that Co. H would be sent out first as skirmishers, and that the battle would begin at my discretion. To our surprise, we heard firing begin 17 minutes before the battle was to begin. The members of the first were quite impressed that my discretion reached to a field upon which we had yet to enter.
Actually, the Federal dismounted skirmishers had begun to fire on the left wing, as they marched to their staging area before the battle began. I suppose that the mistake was understandable, but, as a result, nothing worked quite right from that point on.
We responded to the fire by taking the field. We moved by the right flank past our artillery, and by the left flank up to the point of the guns, then quickly deployed a skirmish line forward on the center file, firing as we advanced, and rolling the light dismounted skirmish line ahead of us. Giving orders in skirmish line was greatly assisted by the presence of Pvt. John Phillips (Dan Baily) our company bugler. There were three gun emplaced at the crest of the hill. These were supported only by the very light skirmish line. I had visions of rolling them up, taking the guns as our main body deployed behind us, and rolling on to Boston, I mean Washington.
However, I had the forethought to have consulted Col. Leo before the battle, and learned that we were expected to lose the battle, and that taking the Federal guns in the first five minutes would not really be a good idea.
So we halted our advance at a safe distance from the artillery and awaited the appearance of the Federal main body, popping away at the skirmishers and gun crews, occasionally hugging the ground while the volleys of canister passed conveniently over our heads.
And we waited, continuing to pop away.
And we waited, continuing to pop away.
And we waited, continuing to pop away, rapidly running out of ammunition.
As it turns out, the Federal infantry, carefully watching the clock, was waiting to make their surprise appearance at its pre-designated time, not taking into account that the cavalry had begun the battle 15 minutes early. Our ten minutes of skirmishing turned itself into over 25. I had just about made up my mind to go ahead and take the guns, and see if could arrange to lose the battle sometime before reaching Boston, I mean Washington, when, finally, the Federal main body made its appearance on the field.
We fought a fighting retreat, slowing the advance, and allowing our battalion to deploy. When the line was formed and ready to fire, we rallied on the battalion, forming behind the second company, and taking a moment for water and a deep breath. We then moved by the right flank and the left, back into our position on the firing line in a neatly executed maneuver.
We then settled into rather a stalemate for several minutes, as we exchanged fierce volleys, actually dropping, at one point, two Federal soldiers! Our left wing, now functioning independently as a second battalion, came up from our right, and we actually had them caught in a rather nice enfilade.
Of course, as we were scheduled to lose, Major Pereira chose not to press his advantage. We then settled back into slogging it out. At one point a Federal battalion turned to fire upon the left wing, conveniently offering us their completely exposed flank. We placed raking fire on them but due, I guess to our execrable aim, it had no effect.
The Federals seemed uninterested in exploiting their numerical advantage, so finally, Col. Leo determined to advance upon them, losing half our number and allowing them the victory.
In retrospect, the battle actually was pretty satisfying, compared to many that we do, and, despite the difficulties in maintaining the scenario, presented a good show to the spectators. Still, our Federal counterparts seem to have difficulty moving quickly enough to develop an advantage, and seem most reluctant to exploit one once it is handed to them. We hope this can be changed.
While the field we worked on was larger than that used last year, we still find the difficulty of keeping both artillery and infantry involved in a battle. When the artillery is firing actively, the infantry has no room to maneuver. When the infantry begins to maneuver, the guns pretty much have to be shut down. I fear there is no answer to the problem, other than larger fields, which seem in short supply in Southern New England.
We then returned to camp, and refreshed greatly by Miss Liz's lemonade, settled in for a rest. I was so at peace, that I almost forgot completely the social to which we had been invited, put on by the newly formed New England Brigade, an attempt to develop cohesive Federal command at New England events. We wish them well in their efforts. Fortunately, most other officers in the Confederate camp were equally tardy, and we were able to make our trek to the Federal camp together.
This social, a response to Major Pereira's effort at Ft. Adam's, is an excellent idea, allowing officers on both sides to become better acquainted with each other. I hope we can see this lead to friendships among rank and file as well. Our sister unit relationship with the 8th CT, and the 21st Mississippi's similar relationship with the 25th Mass are also excellent steps in this direction.
On our return to camp, we had a delicious repast. About half our number opted for the chicken dinner provided for a modest fee by the event, while the rest of us ate a delicious "Bubble and Squeak" a traditional dish of sausage, potatoes and cabbage, prepared expertly by Miss Liz. After eating more than my fill, I began to feel the lack of sleep, the penalty I had to pay for the fine time I had spent with my friends the night before. An hour's nap did wonders however, and I awoke with just enough light to light lanterns and settle in for the evening.
The dance and social put on at the town green, was evidently wonderful, and a few of our folks participated, most notably Sgt. Major Sullivan (John Maloney) accompanied by his lovely daughter Sara. Many of us stayed in camp, enjoying the fine company of good friends, , while still able to enjoy the sounds of the brass band, wafting through the clear night. We enjoyed the newest in spectator sports, championship cribbage! Half a dozen of us sat in rapt attention at a close match played by our guest Pvt. Richard Oberg, of the 36th Alabama, and our own Cpl. Purnell (Emile "The Yeti" Roux). In an exciting match, Pvt. Oberg just pulled out the victory. I am glad to report that Pvt. Oberg was alive the next morning, and not been eaten in his sleep. (He's kind of stringy, that might have saved him.)
Tired by the exertions of the day, one by one, our tired soldiers sought the solace of their tents. Night owl that I am, I slipped over one street, to the fly of my good friend Captain Wrona, and spent another hour of companionship, and sharing the tales of our early days in reenacting.
On Sunday, another beautiful morning, Morning Gun once more resounded from right outside my tent. After making my way down from my ridge pole back to my cot, I slept a bit more, and arose in time for the 8:00 AM company Morning Parade, run expertly as usual by 1st Sgt. Dorsey (Chris Svejk) Chaplain Hal Hoffner had scheduled an early service, at 8:30, realizing that there was a 9:30 service on the green that would conflict with our normal battalion drill at 10:00. However, battalion staff, realizing that there should no military activity during divine services, rescheduled drill for 11:00, giving us the option of two services. I opted for the 8:30, allowing a little packing time, and time to consult with engineer MacMullen on his excellent camps and brainstorming further improvements. We were joined by Lt. Bill Proal of the 12th Georgia, and came up with some very interesting ideas.
Miss Liz decided to attend both services, and was joined at 9:30, by Pvt. Schliephake "the screaming drunkard" (Craig Kovacs, perhaps the best sport in the unit), who seems to have found great solace in services. He returned in time for company drill at 10:30, run by 1st Sgt Dorsey (Svejk) in my absence, due to officers' call.
After officers' call, I rejoined Company H in time to fall in for dress parade. A high note :) was struck by Pvt. Demetrius Coode (Joe Murphy) who took the field for the first time as drummer, and participated in the troop of the music. (Bravo, Joe, the first time is the hardest.) His cadence was excellent during drill, and made the march to and from battle in the afternoon much easier.
We then proceeded to inspection, and thence to drill, which was shortened, in order to allow for a battalion wide meeting. Many good points were raised at the meeting, but I most pleased to hear Capt. Duckett announce the return of the Confederate Memorial Day encampment at South Woodstock, CT, the last weekend in April, for the 2001 season. Capt. Duckett gallantly canceled the event this year, due to the ANV max effort event at Ben Salem, PA. As a member of the SCV, this event is near and dear to me, and I welcome its return.
South Woodstock was our traditional drill training camp at the beginning of the season. Drill being a special interest of mine, I have even more interest in welcoming its return. In the interest of planning ahead, I would like to announce the First (for real) 6th Battalion String Band Jam, to be held Saturday evening. I will be there with my five string banjo, and I am sure Capt. Duckett will join in on the four string. For all musicians in the battalion, mark your calendars now!
The meeting did go on a bit, leaving a quick window for lunch before the formation for the 2:00 PM battle. As the battalion quickly dispersed, 1st Sgt. Svejk and I noticed that the stacks of arms were being abandoned behind
Headquarters Row. While our ever vigilant Provost Marshal, Capt. Bass (John Prushko) was on duty as usual, he have to keep an eye on the rest of the camp as well, my friend Zeke and I decided to forgo lunch and watch the stacks. He was kind enough to buy a tin of coffee, cold, bubbly, yet oddly refreshing coffee, from a pair of young civilian girls, who seemed to want to help the war effort. Indeed they called themselves "Girl Scouts". It is most
heartening to see the devotion to the cause displayed by the fairer sex.
After this lunch period, the battalion reassembled for the afternoon battle at 2:00 PM. On reaching our staging area, we discovered, to our dismay, that we were halted on a large patch of poison ivy! Pvt. John Gill (John
Grasse) who is very allergic, was dispatched some distance away, and the rest of were careful to avoid the substance.
Lt. Col Boyle left to consult with Col. Leo, giving me instructions to from the wing, now an independent battalion, in a column by company. I ployed the battalion into column, and upon Lt. Col. Boyle's return, he moved us out onto the field.
Seeing our artillery menaced by Federal skirmishers, Lt. Col. Boyle quickly ordered our company to meet the attack. We deployed forward on the center file, and arrested the Federal advance. While we could have forced them from the field, we halted to allow our artillery to rake them with canister fire, which, though hot, seemed to have little effect. (I guess the gunners of both sides need to depress their pieces more.)
The Federal dismounted pressed their advance, and we meet it with a vicious attack. They gave way quickly before us, and we pressed them nearly off the field. While their main body came out, ours deployed very quickly and allowed us to press the advantage before they were properly deployed. As soon as our line was in firing position, we rallied on the battalion, took a quick rest and took water, and returned to our place in line by a neat
Lt. Col. Boyle saw our opportunity to turn their flank. While their left was too close to the tree line to allow a flank, Col. Boyle ordered Company H to move as far to our right as possible. This maneuver had the effect of moving the Federals away from the tree line, allowing out battalion to race into a true flanking position.
This brilliant maneuver, combined with Major Pereira's command pushing hard on the Federal left, caused the Federals to retreat into a horse corral, firing behind the fence. Lt. Col. Boyle's keen eye saw immediately that this maneuver left their flank and rear completely open, and charged us into a superb position, driving them quickly from their fortification. Skirmishers were thrown up quickly, but I was able to refuse our flank, and, combined with the rapid and aggressive advance of Major Pereira's battalion, made the Federal position untenable. Having run out of room to retreat, the gallant Col. Bob Burbank had no choice but to surrender his command. In all, the attack, under the overall direction of Col Leo, was a brilliant success!
The aggressive field strategy shown by our command staff made for one of the most action packed hours I have ever spent in reenacting. The Federal brigade is to be commended for their fierce resistance and determination, but there was no stopping the Confederate juggernaut on this day! In all, this was perhaps our finest day of the season, save perhaps the brilliant defensive skirmish on the Saturday at Neshaminy.
The only negative I can find is, again, the size of the battlefield with numbers of artillery engaged. Our initial skirmish advance had to be held up to allow the Confederate guns to stay active. We were able to move forward only when the Federal dismounted moved within our artillery's safety zone. It would wonderful to be able to allow the guns to stay active for more of the battle, without eliminating infantry deployments. Still, I nitpick. This was a superb battle!
Our battalion was reformed, and marched back to the town green for closing ceremonies. In all honesty, I feel such niceties could be dispensed with, without ill effect, particularly with the increasing threatening skies. Still despite the interesting command of "Attention, Army", it was short and sweet, and did give us the opportunity to deliver a cheer to Steve LeClaire, who has worked so long and hard to make this the excellent event it was!
Once arriving back at camp, we were once again refreshed by Miss Liz's Lemonade, a blessing that cannot be too much praised! After a brief rest, we went to the work of striking the tents. I would like to thank Pvt. Augustus Williams (Dave Barret) for his tremendous help in packing up our equipment. Also, thanks to Pvt. Fetter Hoblitzel (Ray Brunelle) who, simply stopping by to say goodbye, remained to drop and fold the fly and wall tent and then stayed to help others. Without the assistance of such superb soldiers, (and great friends) I could not maintain the camp I do.
The skies remained dry just long enough, beginning to drop a few drops of rain as we dropped Zeke's (Chris Svejk's) tent to the ground. We bade adieu to those remaining, Pvt. Dave Patenode and family, the father of the 7th Tennessee, our engineering staff, Bill MacMullen and Harry Adams, who did such great work this weekend, and my great friend Capt. Jim-Bob Duckett!
My compliments also to our command staff, Major Pereira, Lt. Co. Boyle, who did such marvelous work with their commands, and yourself, Col. Leo, for orchestrating the spectacular military maneuvers evidenced in this action. It is difficult to imagine a battalion that can match us.
And, to members of the 1st, it is impossible to imagine a company that can match us!
On to Orwell!!!! On to Montreal, I mean Washington!!!
MacHenry Howard, (Leonidas Jones) commanding,
Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion