Millis AAR

Colonel Joseph Leo commanding,
6th Battalion, 1st Division, ANV

Here is my report on the operations of elements of the Southern Legion at Millis, the 15th-17th inst.

While this was not an event on the 1st Maryland schedule, it appeared as though staff attendance would be light, so I decided to make the trip and see in what capacity I might lend a hand.

I arrived at about 7:00, and registered smoothly. Being on my own, I had my dog tent camp, so setup was most relaxing. Sgt. Major Sullivan (Maloney), the only other member of the 1st in attendance had camp setup well in hand, as usual. Major Pereira and Miss Lisa were also in attendance, and I had the pleasure of camping next to them. Headquarters row was filled out by the surgeon, and the engineers as represented by Capt. Adams.

The turnout from the Legion was lighter than hoped, and the camp took quite some time to fill up, but as it did, it was good to renew the acquaintance of old friends, as well as to make new ones. This was particularly the case with the Richmond Howitzers, who had a fine turnout of both soldiers and civilians. We also had elements of the 21st Mississippi, 12th Georgia , a couple of soldiers from the 15th Alabama, and the 35th VA Cav in camp with us, with the 17th Virginia expected the next day. We were also quite pleased to see the 5th Alabama Field Music, for what I believed to be only their second outing since Hammonassett. While the temperatures were cool, it remained most comfortable, and made for comfortable sleeping.

The morning broke cool and bright, a lovely day. I confess that felt something at a loss with no company to drill at eight o'clock, but the hole was soon filled in accompanying the Major, Sgt. Major, and Sgt. Devine to the officers meeting with the Federals. As we passed the Federal camp, it became obvious that their numbers had also diminished considerably since last year

On entering the farm house, we were presented with an elaborate plan for the afternoon battle, complete with some excellent maps. Unfortunately, it was very apparent that we would not have the strength to follow that plan. It was decided that we would kick off the engagement as planned, and let the action develop.

We returned in plenty of time for battalion drill at 10:00. We were fortunate in having a pretty good group of daytrippers who had arrived, We half a dozen each from both the 36th Alabama and the 4th Alabama, enabling us to present two healthy sized companies, the first under the command of Capt. Tim Cipriani of the 4th Alabama, with the able assistance of 1st Sergeant John Wrona of the 21st, and the soldiers of the 21st Mississippi, 4th Alabama. and Sumter Rifles, and the second under Lt. Bill Proal of the 12th Georgia, with the 36th Alabama and the members of the 15th Alabama. The 17th Virginia, having just arrived, were excused form drill and the 35th Virginia, who would be used as skirmishers, dressed as a separate company. We were also joined by Color Sergeant Jeff Fioravanti, with one other soldier from the Sumter Rifles, and by our adjutant, Capt. Tim Perkins for day trips. Our formation was disrupted by a company of Federals who decided to menace our camp, despite Major Pereira's request that such attacks not be made.

This sort of "grab your rifle, lets go" sort of skirmishing is a hold over from several years ago, when it was most common. While it has its attractions, it does not permit of our formal safety inspections, and are accidents waiting to happen. While we might all yearn for simpler times, ( witness this, our hobby) we must remember that, not too long ago, we were perhaps one serious incident away from being shut down! We cannot afford to relax our vigilance in the area of safety.

Despite the annoyance, battalion drill was held to good effect, particularly with combinations of soldiers that had not worked regularly together.

Drill ended before 11:00 giving us an opportunity to visit Sutler Row before lunch. The main attraction was Big Bear's, and also the presence of Square Deal, but the event does feel the lack of a basic soldiers' sutlery. Still I did manage to pick up a couple of sorely needed items.

Lunch with the Richmond Howitzers id a pleasant experience. As we helped ourselves to excellent sandwiches, Sgt. Major Sullivan (Maloney) and I had an opportunity to actually sit down and catch up with each other. We were joined by Major Pereira, and our Engineer, Bill MacMullen, who had arrived for a day, night and morning, before having to leave us again. We rested under the shade of a tree, and relaxed.

Even so pleasant a reverie had to be broken, when it came time to form for the afternoon battle. We marched out to the far end of the long but narrow field, and went to rest. I took advantage of the opportunity to catch up with old friend, 1st Sgt. Wrona, who promised to send my regards to his brother, Capt. Wrona. Major Pereira called us to attention, and we were treated to a most stirring period exhortation to arms.

Our advance party, the 35th VA and the 17th VA had been dispatched earlier to seek out the enemy, and the seven of them managed to bottle up the entire Federal force in a narrow pass for quite some time. This allowed Capt. Cipriani's company to charge forward, supported by Richmond's mountain howitzer, and occupy the first fence line. They engaged the Federal infantry and artillery.

Meanwhile, Lt. Proal's company advanced quickly up the tree line on our left, and secured the works on left of the first defensive line.

A strong body of Federal infantry finally drove our advance guard back on our left. Our skirmishers gave ground grudgingly, but it became necessary to detach Lt. Proal to their relief. The 35th and 17th withdrew to the works, as Lt. Proal began a strong push ahead. The Federal defense was a stiff one, but hey were gradually pushed back.

On the right, Capt. Cipriani abandoning his defensive position, began a strong push of his own. Aided by the rapid deployment of the Richmond howitzer, the Federals were surprised by this bold stroke, and Capt. Cipriani was able to advance to the second line of works.

Meanwhile, Lt. Proal's advance on the left picked up steam. The Federals fell back, and Lt. Proal pushed around on their flank, and drove them back to the middle of the field.

Capt. Cipriani's company had taken severe casualties in their bold frontal assault, and could not move from their defensive position, but their outstanding marksmanship rapidly took its toll on the Federal gun crews, the main force opposing them. With little to fear from the Federal guns, Lt. Proal's comparatively strong force raced ahead. Sgt. Rick Devine of the Richmond Howitzer's saw an opening and raced his little piece to the end of the field and trained it on the flank of the Federal guns. With both our infantry and artillery poised for their destruction, Taps was sounded, and the battle ended.

I would like to compliment the Federal forces. The was certainly no "Blue Kevlar" in evidence in this fight.

We marched back to camp, flushed with victory, and stirred by the 5th's martial music. Our return brought a brief relaxation, before the afternoon officers' social. During that time, I had a good opportunity to talk with Bill Proal. The topic turned to the relative deadness of most of this season. Bill had the perfect explanation! If we look at the five year cycle of anniversaries of the war, we would be in 1865. The war ended in April!

The social is a good idea, and serves to bring us together, blue and gray, but I do feel that if it becomes an every event tradition, it may lose something. Still, at this event, I am very glad it happened. I was most particularly impressed with the Federal taste in port!

We returned to our camp in time for a bit of a rest, and then dinner.

Major and Mrs. Pereira had arranged for me to take meals with the Richmond Howitzers, as I was unitless for the event. Dinner with the Howitzer's was quite an event!

Had the only attraction been the incredibly delicious stew, that would have been enough in and of itself, but the conviviality offered, not to mention the Harp Lager, made it an event to remember.

Dinner having been consumed, it soon became time to stroll over to the Federal camp, for a evening of music and socialization. On the way we were waylaid by the candlelight tour, but finally made our way out!

We were treated to some excellent music from the 25th Mass. string band. I had intended to bring my banjo, and regretted having left it home, when, magically, a banjo appeared form the 25th! While a bit out of practice, I had a great time. Sgt. Major Sullivan joined in on the guitar. We only missed Miss Liz and my good friend Capt. Jim-Bob Duckett of the 12th GA to make the Confederate contribution complete. (Okay, I must admit that I missed Miss Liz just a little bit more than Jim-Bob!)

We played on for quite a while, when I looked up to find that the rest of the Southern contingent had disappeared! We played a few more tunes, and then I took my leave..

On returning to camp, I wandered a bit. I spent a nice bit of time with 1st Sergeant Jim Hollister of the 12th. Upon his retiring, I betook myself to the artillery park, where The Richmond Howitzers were holding forth in fine fashion. It was good to get know some of these fine folks. Finally, the need for sleep overtook me, and I was safe in my dog tent before midnight, for once, not the last person awake in camp.

It was a bit cooler, but certainly not uncomfortable, snug in my little tent. We were treated to another beautiful morning, crisp and clear. Our first order of business was the officer's call, basically a repeat of the morning before. A loose battle plan was drawn up.

We proceeded from there directly to church, the Order of Episcopal Morning Prayer as led by Chaplain Steve DelSignore, who conducted a fine service.

As Capt. Perkins had another important duty to perform on Sunday, I took over the duties as adjutant. Having never run dress parade from that position, I was happy for the opportunity. All in all, I think the parade and inspection went quite well. It was a pleasure to have the 5th 5th Alabama perform its musical function again.

Losing the day trippers from the 4th Alabama and the 36th Alabama did deplete our ranks seriously, although we did pick up some day trippers from the 12th GA, most notably, Pvt. Jim-Bob Duckett, whom it was a great pleasure to see. Capt. Wrona took over the 1st company, boosted by the 17th VA, while Lt. Proal remained in command of the second. Drill was kept short, but was performed to good effect.

As is usual, the battle was scheduled much earlier on Sunday, allowing for an early pack-up. We formed up and marched to the field, but were greeted by quite a surprise. The Federal artillery was deployed much further up the field than had been agreed to at the morning meeting, to the extent of cutting the usable portion of the battle field to less than one third its extent. Major Pereira and Sgt. Major Sullivan conferred with Federal command, and the guns were moved back, although not nearly as far back as had been planned

Major Pereira detailed the four dismounted troopers of the 35th VA as an advance guard, and they quickly ran up against Federal skirmishers, who had occupied the nearer fence line. Amazingly, although outnumbered at least 2-1, the troopers, due to their excellent marksmanship, or perhaps their imposing soldierly bearing, drove the Federals from their works. Of course, the sudden appearance of the mountain howitzer from the trees may have had something to do with their sudden withdrawal.

Major Pereira seized the opportunity to take the fence line, sending Capt. Wrona's company, followed quickly by Lt. Proal's. The Federal main body came up slowly, allowing us to make a further advance to the next line of works, menacing the Federal guns. However, the artillery fire and the fact that we were severely outnumbered in infantry manpower made out assault unsuccessful, and we were forced back to our original line.

Sgt. Major Sullivan (Maloney) made a valiant attempt at a flanking maneuver, but, with the few troops we could spare, Federal skirmishers held them off easily..

All during the hot fire fight, the Field Music continued to play, in order to buoy our flagging spirits. Unfortunately, one of the Federal artillery crews badly misjudged their elevation, fired high over our heads, and took out the entire 5th Alabama with one blow. Major Pereira and I have been occupied with the sad duty of writing to the parents of these late, brave, young musicians.

Enraged at this horrible turn of events, our weakened force rose as one, and charged the dastardly foe. However strong our hearts were, however, we did not muster enough muskets, and, sadly, we all met our unfortunate demise.

The mournful sound of Taps worked its wonders, and we arose, cleared weapons and met across from each other for the closing ceremony. The honors done, we returned to camp.

It was rather a treat, having a camp that breaks down in 15 minutes. I was able to relax, talk a bit more to my friends, including another 1st Marylander, Dan Rafferty, who dropped in as a spectator. I was even able to offer assistance to others in striking their tents. After a bit, camp was struck, and the trip home begun.

I would like to offer a word about the future of this event. As I have indicated, the turnout on both sides was rather disappointing. To be sure, the back to back with the Chancelorsville event did hurt, but I wouldn't have thought is would have this much effect.

For those who have not been to Millis in recent years, there have been many improvements made. It is a lovely campsite, and the battlefield area is quite large, if a bit narrow. Event organizers tell me there is a lot of property on the other side of the street which could also be used if the event gains in popularity and attendance. This is an event with much potential, and it would be a shame to see it wasted. I plan to attend again next year, and I hope to be joined by many of my Legion comrades.

submitted, this 29th day of September, by
Captain McHenry Howard, (Lee Jones)
Staff, the Maryland Line
Serving with the 6th Battalion