After Action Report, Look Park

To Major General Jake Jennette
1st  Division, Army of Northern Virginia, commanding

I herewith submit my report on the actions of the 6th Regiment (Liberty Greys) in the vicinity of Florence, this past October, 3-5, 1864.
The regiment consisted of good turnouts from the 12th Georgia, 7th Tennessee, assisted by the 3rd Arkansa of the 3rd Regiment, Co. B, 35th Virginia, and Headquarters Company. Our total field strength was approximately 35 soldiers. The Regiment engaged a Federal detachment of about equal strength, although supported by artillery.

I arrived after the journey at about 4:00 Thursday afternoon. My lovely wife was unable to travel with me, so I was to set up camp alone.  I found myself the first Confederate soldier to arrive, and so assessed the camping situation.  The ground was excellent, and I began setup.  After about an hour and a half, I was joined by Regimental Surgeon, Captain Randy Porteus, who assisted me in setting up my fly, as I assisted him with his canvas.  We were joined presently by Ordnance Sergeant Mike Flye. After a time, my lovely wife, who had caught a later train, arrived, and our scouting party was complete. We enjoyed the lovely fall evening in the best of company, and retired to our rest.

Morning dawned, bright at first, but with an increasing haze. We made our breakfast, and were presently joined by Adjutant, Captain Tim Perkins. After a time, carriages began to appear, filled with children form the local schools, most eager to learn more about the conflict. My wife and took out our instruments, and the haze having burned off, giving way to bright sunshine, we began to play and sing some of our favorite airs for the children.  Other soldiers took groups and instructed them on a number of military matters. Across the way, some of the early arriving Federals performed the same tasks for them.The children seemed bright and most eager to learn.  We remained at our tasks throughout the morning and into the afternoon, when the children once again boarded their carriages and returned to their schools.

We sat to rest from our exertions, and then laid out the encampment for the soon to be arriving battalion. One by one, they began to join us.  After a short time, I once again rook out my banjo and played a number os airs to entertain the men as they set up their camps. The 12th Georgia arrived first, followed in due course by the 7th Tennessee, 35th Virginia and then the 3rd Arkansas. The work went well, as I continued to play.  While my wife lay down in our tent, I was joined by a local guitarist, who played along with me.

(As a modern aside, the guitarist was Chris Stetson, whom I had met online at the Minstrel Banjo wen site.  He brought along an original Ashborn guitar from 1860. It was fascinating to see how much Liz's modern parlor guitar  resembled it.)

 As afternoon began to turn into evening, my wife prepared a delicious meal and we enjoyed our repast, after which Sgt. Major Patton and his wife arrived after their journey. Again, as the night darkened, we enjoyed the excellent company of our friends.

Saturday morning dawned, gray and drab, with a distinct chill.  I shook myself from my slumber and ventured forth. Our men were stirring about, as we reconnoitered our position. I decided to deploy the 12th Georgia in wait for the train which ran by our camp, and to send the 7th Tennessee/3rd Arkansas and the 35th Virginia to hold the bridge on Potato Island. I went with the Potato Island detachment, as they were likely to see the first action.

(For those who may not have been at this event, the schedule is unlike our normal event schedule. There were to be small skirmishes on the hour throughout the day, alternating between the covered bridge to "Potato Island" and a raid on the little scenic train that runs through the Park. as it turned out, the train simply didn't run that day, sue to the poor weather. All drills were also canceled, for the same reason.)

At about 9:15 on the threatening morning, we espied a detachment of Federals nearing the approach to the bridge. The 35th Virginia deployed  in advance, covering the right hand foot bridge, while the infantry deployed to the left.  As the Federals neared, we opened fire. While at first the Federals were held at bay, their advance was relentless. Soon we were forced to make a tactical withdrawal, the infantry over the bridge, and the 35th fording the stream on its right.

(For those wondering, the "stream" is actually a dry bed, hardly mud, let alone water.)

Our infantry laid down a hot fire, which held the Federals on the other side of the bridge, but they gallantly forced their way across. While the 35th tried to turn their flank, they stood fast. Seeing a federal detachment, attempting to get in our rear, the quick thinking Captain Fisher raced his command to meet the threat. A hot firefight ensued, but the two sides were equal in bravery. After a time, Colonel Kenworthy sought a parley, and we decided to terminate the bloodshed and retire to our camps. l

On our return, scouts from the 12th Georgia reported that the trains seemed to have ceased operation for the day with the impending rains, so I recalled our detachment to the comfort of our camp. Time went on, and while the skies grayed more and more, the rain was no more then a light mist. At around 11:00. the sounds of activity arose from the Federal camp. Suspecting another attempt on the bridge, I readied the 12th Georgia to meet the threat, along with elements of the 7th Tennessee, and the sturdy troopers of the 35th Virginia. We marched forth, arriving at the Potato island side of the bridge. We crossed the bridge, and deployed the infantry at the approach the the bridge.  The 35th moved quickly to the right, hoping to take the Federal detachment, far stronger then at the earlier action. Sadly, they were seen, and a strong section of Federal infantry was sent to drive them back.  While the troopers fought with valor, they were gradually forced back to the stream.

Meanwhile, the firefight between the remaining federals and our infantry was hit, After a time Captain Todd deployed his men as skirmishers, holding back the strong Federal onslaught. the pressure increased, and thinking quickly, Captain Todd rallied his company and retired to the bridge.  Using street fighting tactics, he fought a grudging withdrawal over the bridge. Reaching the end of the bridge, he crossed and deployed his line to slow the Federal advance across the bridge.

The 35th, having forded the stream, held off the stronger Federals who pursued them. Both units fought gallantly, giving ground but making the Federals pay the price. After a furious fire, I sought a parley with Colonel Kenworthy.  That gallant officer allowed us to withdraw in order.  While the field was left to our foes, we lived to continue the struggle another day.

As we returned to our camp, the mist began to grow into a steadier rain. This rain continued for the length of the afternoon, and into the evening. The men occupied themselves as best they could, since military operations became impossible due to the inoperability of our weapons. During one period of lighter rain, the men of the 12th Georgia improvised wickets, and had at a match of the English sport of cricket! Soon, sadly, the heavier rain ended that pleasant pastime.

After luncheon, I pulled out my wooden face banjo, which is impervious to the damp, and whiled away the time with melodious airs under our fly, as the rains continued. My wife produced her guitar and we played together at a number of new dances. It made the time pass on this most dreary day.

As the afternoon faded, the waters began to accumulate on the saturated ground. Pools of standing water made the way to the sinks most difficult. Other then that decided inconvenience, our band of soldiers and civilians made the best of the situation, and spirits remained remarkably high. My lovely wife again prepared and excellent hot meal, which was particularly welcome.

At about 8:00, miraculously, the skies began to clear, and we began to see stars, and a moon, well past three quarters. A strange sight, a woman who appeared to be Mrs. Porteus, the surgeon's wife, was seen dancing in the street, in happiness at the sight of the night sky! After the demands of the day, we could all sympathize.

The evening continued, and our friends, Captain Porteus, Ordnance Sergeant Flye, Sgt. Major Patton and his wife Charlene, gathered under our fly, to be joined by a friend we had not seen in a year, noted newspaper sketch artist Paul Dion, accompanied by Sgt. Pete Northrup of the 35th, another longtime friend! Buoyed by the improving weather and the company of friends too long absent, we passed a marvelous evening. Finally, as with all good things, the time for sleep arrived, and we passed a most comfortable, though cool night.

Sunday, morning broke, a bright and beautiful, if rather chilly morning. All of us on staff were heartened by the arrival of Lt. Col. Paul Plante, whose train had been delayed. His steadying presence is always welcome!

Our ranks were also swelled by men of the 7th Tennessee and 3rd Arkansas, whose arrival has also been delayed by the previous day's rain. Our spirits soared. We began our day with a service of Morning Prayer, well  attended and found the Spirit with us. 10:30 brought us to Dress Parade, the ancient military ceremony which ties us to soldiers throughout the ages. Captain Perkins ran his usual efficient parade, which included a important event, the promotion of Ordnance Sergeant Michael Flye to Ordnance Officer, with the rank of second lieutenant. After the parade, a photographer who happened by made images of our staff, including our new lieutenant.

As the morning wore on, we received word from our scouts that a strong Federal force was boarding the train at the station near their camp.  Since we knew the tracks would have to pass the main station behind our camp, we formed our ranks and marched to the place of suspected action.

I sent the gallant 35th Virginia to scout ahead and engage the enemy, hopefully causing him to detrain, well before the station.  I sent the 7th Tennessee/3rd Arkansas to support the 35th as they inevitably withdrew due to superior numbers.

My hope was to draw the foe in to a trap. I had left the 12th Georgia in reserve behind the train station waiting to catch the enemy on the flank, should they advance without sufficient caution. The soldiers of our units fought well, and lulled the Federals into thinking they were alone. Exactly as I had hoped, they advanced too quickly, smelling victory. At the perfect moment, Captain Todd marched his brave lads at the double quick, and opened a withering fire on their exposed flank. They tried to refuse the flank, but it was too late. They fought a hard retreat, giving ground slowly but steadily. Finally, we pushed them back to train, few of them still standing. We ceased our fire, and Sgt. Northrup, overcome by the moment, dashed out to seize a drum left by a fleeing drummer boy!

I parleyed with Colonel Kenworthy, and returned his kindness of the previous day, allowing him to gather his troops, and depart on the train, leaving the station still in our possession. God graced our arms with victory on that field!

We returned to our camp, and were refreshed by an excellent luncheon. Again, as so often, as the local townspeople came by, eager for news of the conflict, I pulled out my banjo and filled the air with the power of music! It is always a welcome respite from the sadness of war.

At 2:30, or thereabouts, we again heard sounds of formation from the Federal camp.  We formed our gallant ranks, winnowed out from the weekend's fighting, but still true at heart. We were joined by an artillery piece, which served to answer the federal artillery. Seeing the Federal infantry occupying breastworks before their camp, we advanced as a battalion. With the artillery spewing forth, we opened a hot fire on the enemy fortification, which was answered as hotly.  While I could see that we were outnumbered, I determined to advance, sending the 35th out to harass the enemy right flank, and detaching the 12th to their left, near the artillery line. The 35th was met with a strong skirmish line, and the 12th similarly engaged on our right. Still, we advanced, with the 7th/3rd in our center. The fire began to take its toll, and the foe, sensing our weakening state, advanced from their breastworks. The 12th was driven back, and the 35th had to rally on the battalion as we withdrew. Several time we stood to fight, only to have to withdraw again to avoid encirclement. Finally with only a few left, I tried to rally the men, but a shot rang out, and all went black.

Some time later I came to my senses. I had been hit, but only a glancing blow, and was saved by the few remaining men who withdrew from the field. We fought most bravely, against strong odds, but, sadly, we were unable to prevail.

We returned to our camp, and rested from our exertions. The sting of defeat lifted from us, as we realized that we lived to fight another day. The townspeople thronged to the camp, and we talked to them about our determination to go on.  I again played upon my banjo, renewing my own heart with the beautiful airs.

Finally, time came to strike the tents, break camp, and move on to the next campaign. We left with a sense of accomplishment, and determination to continue. On to Cedar Creek!

As always, my great thanks and appreciation to all who worked on the event. Particular thanks go to Auggie  (Deb) Martin, and all of the 15th Mass/4th Alabama who put on this event. I particularly thank all of you who attended. You have my thanks and appreciation, and you are all in my prayers.

Respectfully submitted this 12th day of October, 1864,
Colonel Bradley Tyler Johnson (aka Leonidas Jones) commanding
6th Regiment, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia
The Liberty Greys