BACK to AARS
BACK to LibertyGreys.org
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 Wilmington, July 23-25.
Friday afternoon, a party of 14 soldiers and 6 civilians of Co. H, began to arrive at the site of this non-Legion event in Wilmington. We were augmented by Pvt. Rick Marsden and his wife, Gail, of the 3rd Florida (really from Florida!), and by Chaplain Hal Hoffner and his wife Becky, of Morton's Battery, making our total strength 16 and 8. The 12th Georgia contributed Pvt. Paul Stankelis, the 35th Virginia Cavalry added two dismounted troopers, and we were very pleased to have a brass Napolean from Lafayette Artillery, who have taken the Confederate designation of Lloyd's Battery, and are interested in Legion membership.
The site was very small, and near the brook was an old oil tank, which we quickly christened the "Hunley".
It was extremely hot and uncomfortable, but setup was made easier by the excellent work of Pvt. John Sullivan (John Maloney), the twin of our well-known Sgt. Major Sullivan. It was of particular good effect that he convinced event organizers that the allotted space, which was very rutted, was not suitable. A hard rainstorm of 15 minutes duration, which was fully horizontal to the ground, made for a delay, but no harm was done, and the resulting rainbow was most beautiful. Setup progressed well, and we passed a most sociable evening, and a comfortable night.
We arose quite early, with the expectation of a 6:00 AM morning gun, which, as it turned out, was postponed so as not to disturb neighboring homes. Morning Parade and drill was held, with a review of all close order, and some excellent work on skirmish drill.
Drill ended in time for Lt. Northrup of the 35th, 1st Sgt. Holland of Lloyd's and myself, to attend officer's call at 9:00 AM. There we learned that not only could you not attend, due to illness as you had informed us, but Col. William "Skippy" MacMullen, the scheduled Federal commander was also unavailable, due to a work conflict. Captain Russ Mayette, of the 9th Massachusetts Artillery, and myself took command of our respective forces. A battle plan was formed to make best use of the very limited space. However, I tried to point out several times that much of the action was going to take place out of sight of the spectators. I was assured that this was not a problem, and, though somewhat bemused, assented.
Camp opened to spectators at 10:00 AM. In lieu of the normal battalion drill, we staged another company drill at 10:30, covering the same material as earlier. Special attention was given to maneuvering a skirmish line. Drill was most effective.
At 1:00 PM, Pvt. Sullivan and Chaplain Hoffner had the good grace to go to the stage for "Meet the Reenactor". Both returned in time for the 1:30 spectator battle, Pvt. Sullivan to our ranks, and Chap. Hoffner detached to help serve Lloyd's gun.
We marched out of sight of the spectators, across a rickety bridge over the brook (we should have taken the "Hunley") and found ourselves on a well marked path through the woods, that just permitted us to pass in company front (column of company??). We found a patch of shade, and waited. At about 1:35, the artillery duel commenced. Some 8 minutes later, I dispatched Lt. Northrup and his trooper to take point and discover any Federal infantry that may be ahead of us. Sure enough, some two minutes later, we heard the report of small arms. Around the bend in the path came the Federals, delayed by the cavalry. We fought a hotly contested withdrawal (out of sight of the spectators), and worked our way back to the bridge. Covered by the cav skirmishers, we marched across the bridge, where I detached four infantrymen, under the command of 1st Sgt. Dorsey (Chris Svejk), to reinforce Lt. Northrup. This detachment held the Federal infantry at the bridge, while our main body retreated to the field, where we were able to deliver covering fire. (We could see a target, but as far as the spectators could see, we were standing in an open field, shooting at trees.)
Finally, the overwhelming numbers forced Lt. Northrup's retreat. The skirmishers deployed again in the field, and our main body fired in line. After a hotly contested and grudging retreat, the 9th Mass deployed their mountain howitzer, ( a lovely original piece) and, with one shot, caused the untimely demise of what remained of our main body, including myself. 1st Sgt. Dorsey took command, but was unable to accomplish more than a fighting withdrawal from the field, ending the battle.
Camps were to remain open until 4:00, but the extremes of both heat and humidity took their toll on reenactor and spectator alike. There was not much in the way of activity, as most of took refuge under my fly, and waited for the heat to abate. Finally, around 5:00, we roused ourselves to get the fire started and cook our meal. As we had no cook, we had a potluck, which proved most delicious.
After our July unit meeting, which included a birthday surprise for the ever industrious Pvt. Sullivan (Maloney), Mrs. Johnson (Liz Jones) and myself took a walk. We ran across some folks, and, taking out banjo and guitar, began to sing. We stayed at it nearly two hours, interrupted for a space by an artillery duel around 9:00. Our music seemed well received, and returned to camp to spend the remainder of the evening in sociable conversation.
The night was a comfortable one for sleeping, disturbed only by a passing shower, and, at one point, by a short period of screaming from down the street. We arose the next morning, to discover that the screaming was from the tent of Pvt. Henry Schiephake (Craig Kovacs), who had a nightmare. Pvt. Schliephake's unfortunate predisposition for spiritous liquors has been documented in earlier reports. I regret to say that has now become know to the men as "the Screaming Drunkard". (Poor Craig! For those new to these reports, I hasten to add that the problem was the historic Schliephake's, not Craig's.)
The morning was a lovely one, and while the heat returned quickly, we were blessed with much less humid conditions. It being my turn to lead divine worship, we decided to postpone Morning Parade until 10:30, to allow me to prepare, and then to attend officers' call. I found a patch of shade and, assisted ably by Chaplain Hoffner, who read the appointed lessons, we had a fine service. We were most pleased to welcome Rick and Gail Marsden, who are vacationing up here, to our congregation. Rick, as it turns out, is a priest in the Episcopal Diocese of Florida. We will be most fortunate to have them in our midst at Sutton, and I invite all of you to get to know these excellent folks.
Pvt. Schliephake (I am sure under the good influence of his modern counterpart, Craig) also attended and seemed most soothed.
Lt. Northrup and I attended officers' call, where we were told that spectators had complained that there had not been enough action in the field, where they could see. (Sigh!) Thus, the battle plan was amended to bring us out earlier.
An effective drill was held, on the same lines as Saturdays. Most notable was the excellent performance of Lance Sgt. H.J. Hebb (Paul Plante) as left guide. Pvt. Stankelis also found himself in command of a skirmish team, and had his first opportunity to yell orders, which he did with great zeal. At first he was having a little trouble marching the men back to line when assembling and resorted to the following command:
"1. Follow 2. Me."
Those who have been reading the 1891 comparison will realize that this is the command given by a corporal in command of a squad. Pvt. Stankelis is simply ahead of his time!
We then took our ease for the last part of the morning. As it came to be 1:00 PM, we realized that we had neglected to send someone for "Meet the Reenactor". As a result, this took about five minutes, at which time the spectators were told that the battle would begin in five minutes, and they were herded to their spot. Of course, we had not even had 1st call for the scheduled 1:30 battle. When we did form up, we performed some close order drill for the folks, few though they were, who had waited so patiently.
We marched out as we had yesterday, to the same location. This time I immediately deployed Lt. Northrup's detail. At the first sound of small arms, the cannonade began. After a short while, the Federal infantry came on us. We retreated quickly, though in good order, and crossed the bridge, ably covered by Lt. Northrup. He gave me time to deploy my men in the field, and deploy the first platoon as skirmishers, joined by the cavalry. The second platoon, under the command of Sgt. Hebb (Plante) was sent to assist Lloyd's in moving their piece to a safer location, and then returned to act as reserve.
We fought a hard withdrawal. The first platoon was spent, so the second was deployed to relieve them. We fell back and to the left, (wheeling around the "Hunley"). While we fought hard, the deployment of two Federal field pieces, the 9th's mountain howitzer and the 2nd Vermont's Napolean, made our position untenable. A blast from the mountain howitzer caused the unfortunate demise of the reserve. As this included both 1st Sgt. Dorsey and myself, and Lt. Northrup having been picked off earlier, it left Sgt. Hebb in command. While he fought valiantly, there was no avail, and, though we fought with great courage, we lost for the second time in two days.
I would like to take this moment to praise the Federal infantry, made up mostly of the 20th Massachusetts. Infantry battle plans were followed almost to the letter, with no surprises. This is too often not the case.
After clearing weapons, both sides formed for closing ceremonies. While most events have, quite wisely, dispensed with this, the early and short battle made it less of a problem. I am pleased to report that the 1st Maryland won several awards. Our company cook, Mrs. Charles Grogan (Janet O'Connor) won the pie baking contest, with Miz Becky Hoffner receiving an honorable mention. Best Civil War Lady's impression was won by Mrs. Johnson (Liz Jones), much to my personal pleasure, and the redoutable Pvt. Sullivan (Maloney) won Best Confederate Soldier impression. I should also make note that Lloyd's Battery won best Confederate Camp.
Since this site is intended as a one year stopgap, I will not criticize it. If this were to be used next year, I doubt that I could recommend the event. Still amenities were well supplied, and replenished when needed. Next year, the 9th Mass will be hosting Greenfield MA, on a 200 acre site, on this same weekend. The LHA is considering a return to the Camelot Village site, in Bennington, where a event was held a few years ago, on a date to be announced. Since we have traditionaly done an event on this weekend, I look forward to joining the rest of the Legion at Greenfield next year, should that be the decision.
Captain, Co. H, 1st Maryland Infantry
Major, 6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV
The Southern Legion