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Colonel Joseph Pereira
commanding, 6th Regiment,
1st Division, ANV
Herewith, I submit my report of the operations of the 6th Regiment (Liberty Greys) in the actions at Borderland State Park, June 15-17.
Mrs. Johnson and I traveled mostly by train, and arrived at the camp at about 8:30 PM. We were most pleased at the location of the camp, having been prepared for the low lying ground, but were happy to see our camp
on the hight ground, by the mansion. This got the weekend off to a most positive start.
Our camp was set up swiftly and efficiently, assisted by the excellent layout arranged by Sgt. Major O'Toole, in the absence of our Quartermaster Sergeant. Acting Adjutant Porteus and I arranged for the next day's schedule, and we settled in for a fine evening, renewing the acquaintances of many of our great friends.
We passed a most comfortable, though cool night, and awoke to a lovely morning. NCO call took place at 7:30, and companies drilled at the appointed hour of 8:00. We had set up combined companies, based on the morning reports turned into Capt. Porteus. 1st Company consisted of elements of the 1st Maryland and the 15th Alabama. 2nd Company was made up of the 7th Tennessee, 3rd Arkansas, and 12th Georgia. 3rd Company was the 5th Virginia and Co. B, 4th Alabama. This gave us two lighter wing companies, and a strong center company. Total infantry was just shy of 50, and was supported by the 1st Company, Richmond Howitzers, five
dismounted troopers from Co. B, 35th Virginia, and an amazing 7 mounted troopers from Co. A, 35th Virginia!
We were most pleased at your arrival in camp in time for the opening ceremony. Unfortunately, the main participants, Capt. Bill Proal and his wife Lorrie, were not yet in camp. Thus the ceremony was curtailed and scheduled for a later hour.
At your direction, I exercised the regiment in drill at 8:30. I noticed quickly that basic evolutions were erratic, and concentrated on basics of facings and doublings. It was interesting to notice that as soon as this seemingly basic essential was improved, the entire battalion improved its performance greatly.
One of the important points is in the preservation of the alignment in facing. Period facings are awkward, but the essential point in making a facing is that the point of alignment should always be the left heel. However the facing is done, keep the left heel in position.
We also devoted some time to marching in line of battle, another weak point. One of the big problems in
marching is the length of the step, which should be 28 inches in quick or common time. Most reenactors fall shy of that, and in line of battle, far shy of that, almost to the half step. With a fuller step, we can cover more ground more quickly, and actually preserve the alignment more easily.
I should also note that, for the first time, we had a functional battalion bugler, prepared with all bugle calls, and working with the battalion at drill and battles on Saturday. This was a wonderful addition, and I hope can happen many times in our future.
Battalion drill was intended to fold into the new opening ceremony, however, due to a miscommunication, the Federal troops proceeded to go through Dress Parade. However, we had shade in which to rest. As we rested, I found an unusual metal object, rather like a fork, but with too many tines. I asked the regiment if anyone had lost this unusual “bayonet”. Sgt. Anderson from the 12th GA informed me that this must be the proverbial “fork in the road”.
Once the Federal Dress Parade concluded, we marched to position for the ceremony. The Liberty Greys presented Bill and Lorrie with a Dale Gallon print, and the New England Brigade presented a most beautiful
This was a most deserved tribute. It is difficult to imagine New England reenacting without these two stalwarts of our ranks. I know we shall see them again, but I will surely raise a glass in their honor at each event. God Speed, Bill and Lorrie!
At 11:00, we attended a meeting to plan the afternoon's “tactical demonstrations”. Col Matt Burbank decided, rather then trying to mount a full battle in the very small field available, to set three demonstrations, back to back to back. This was an interesting slant on the use of the field, and proved effective.
The three demonstrations began at 1:00, and seemed very well received by the public. Being outnumbered 3-1, the infantry demonstration did result in out being driven from the field, but not before delivering a good account of ourselves. Capt. Doucette of the 3rd company did appear to lose his mind towards the end, and sacrificed his company in a fruitless suicide charge, however, since he bought us the time to retire the other two companies from the field, their sacrifice was not entirely in vain!
Returning to camp at about 2:30, I began planning for the 5:00 tactical in which we were to defend the Virginia Central Railroad from a Federal assault. Thanks to an excellent scouting report from Lt. Bassford of the 15th Alabama, I learned that we had an excellent defensive position in the front of the road, with well developed
trenches. However, our flanks could be easily turned. I developed a plan of pacing the 2nd Company, our strongest, in the trenches, and using the 1st and 3rd as flankers, with the cavalry as skirmishers to our front. With these dispositions, we could surely hold the Federals off indefinitely, and preserve this vital route of supply.
Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, this was not to be. Our infantry strength fell to about half our total of the morning. While the cavalry was at force, one of the mounted troopers had a saddle malfunction, causing the horse to run loose. The rest of the troopers had to pursue, and, by the time they returned were of less effect then
usual. In truth, with the wooded terrain, their use would have been curtailed anyway.
Once in place, I could only defend the trenches with a minimal force, and protect one flank or the other. Since our right flank was partially protected by a hay field that was out of bounds. I protected our left flank. This proved effective, our left flank was not turned. However, out unprotected right was turned, causing us to have to abandon the trenches and fall back slowly to the railroad. It was a hard fight, but the result was inevitable. We did manage to hold them off for about 45 minutes, but, without reinforcements, our fate was predestined.
Commendations are in order for Capt. Pratt of the 15th Alabama, and for Lt. Chan of the 5th Virginia for their quick thinking actions in the fight.
To step out of period mode for a moment, while this tactical had its fun aspects, it is too bad that we were so understrength. Had we been at our full strength for this event, I think we could have easily held them off for the two hour time limit of the tactical. I know tacticals have gotten a bad reputation, particularly at this event, due to safety concerns. However, this one was well planned, with a good scenario, and in a location that could be closed off to the townspeople who use the park. At future events at this site, we might want to consider a similar
tactical to be more of a priority. It did provide a much more interesting fight then the spectator demonstrations.
We returned to camp, and to our evenings rest. While the dessert social in the town of Unity was lightly attended by our military, it did provide a nice opportunity to interact with our Federal brethren in a social atmosphere. The desserts were also excellent, and I commend this sort of activity to the attention of our troops for future events as well.
Returning to camp, I spent some time preparing for divine services in the morning, having learned at the social that there was no plan for them. We then settled in for the best part of any event, Saturday evening with our friends.
As the evening wound down, I took a last walk through the camp, to see that all was secure. Arriving at the 35th Virginia camp, I found Paul Dionne, always a welcome companion, and, to my surprise, Trooper Pete Northrup, who had arrived that evening. While I had intended to be in bed soon, the opportunity was too good to pass up, and joined by Lt. Paul Brundage, we passed a most enjoyable quiet time.
Sunday morning dawned bright and beautiful. The 5th Virginia had spent the night in the field, skirmishing with the Federal campaigners. A company of Federals marched out at seven to meet them. We did send out about three soldiers, but it was not enough.
At a future event, Grand Rounds would be in order, I think.
Company drills took place at 8:00, as scheduled. It became clear from morning reports that our strength was greatly diminished. (It was Father's Day, after all). total strength for infantry fell to 22. I decided to dress this as one company, and consequently canceled battalion drill, due to lack of a battalion.
Divine services were held in the sunken garden. Due to lack of notice, turnout was a little light, but it proved to be a lovely service, as we gathered together to worship our Lord.
News of our strength became worse, as the Richmond Howitzers reported that they were down to three cannoneers, and had no primers. Things were not boding well.
Breaking away from the period report again, we next had a meeting with Federal command staff to plan the afternoon spectator battle. Having no artillery, one company of infantry, this did not bode well.
Major Paul Kenworthy, by the way, one of the most knowledgeable drill instructors I know, began to brainstorm a plan. He asked if we could could place our mountain howitzer in a specific location, I was able to suggest our seven mounted troupers as a replacement.
As the scenario started to develop, I began to think that if this actually developed as planned, it would be the best battle we had ever fought on this field, which, admittedly, is not saying much. Still, positive feelings were in evidence.
Returning back to camp, our small force husbanded our strength against the increasing heat. At the appointed time, we formed up for battle, few though we were. Still, as we marched out, I could sense the that the spirit of the troops was still strong, and that we would fight as best we could.
As we reached the field, we found a secluded area, which afforded a defensive position. Capt. Fearabay wisely positioned his troops in the shade against the increasing heat of the sun. Our scouts found the approach of the Federal army, and gave warning. As soon as the federal column turned the corner of the tree line, Capt. Fearabay caused his company to deliver whithering fire. The stunned Federals managed to recover and form battle line, and with a 4-1 advantage, matters seemed bleak.
At that bleakest moment, we heard the thundering hooves of the 35th Virginia, commanded by Lt. Brundage, appearing in the Federal rear. At the same time a cadre of dismounted troopers, under the command of Sgt. Paul Gliniewicz, popped up on the Federal flank. Assailed from three sides, the large Federal battalion had no choice but to retreat in disarray to their left, back the way they came.
The 35th attempted to press the attack, but were met by the 1st New Hampshire Cavalry, who fought a most brave rear guard action. After a very lively engagement, the 35th fought off the 1st, but where too spent to press the attack.
At this point Capt. Fearabay sprang into action with his infantry company. Wheeling them smartly into position, he pressed the attack. The Federal battalion, still outnumbering us greatly, stood their ground, despite Fearabay's strongest exertions.
At that point, Sgt. Gliniewicz took desperate action, charging the Federal battalion with four troopers. Amazingly, the shaky Federals broke, and retreated to their artillery line. Capt. Fearabay tried valiantly to press the attack, but the weight of numbers, and the support of artillery made the effort in vain.
We had a brief ceremony on the field after the battle, and then headed home. Despite the outcome, spirits were nigh, and we were singing!
This did end up being the best battle we have fought on the limited field available here. Notably, there was almost no variation from the planned scenario, on either side. It went as planned and the plan worked extremely well. Special thanks to Major Kenworthy, who had the overall picture so well in mind, and to all who contributed to the plan.
I hope that we can build on this excellent event for the rest of our season. Our next event is Groton, MA, a second time event which was excellent in its first year. Lets have a great turnout there!
Lt. Colonel Bradley Johnson
1st Division, ANV