After Action Report, Norlands

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

I herewith submit my report on the actions of the 6th  Regiment ANV (Liberty Greys) in the area of Livermore, this past June 12-13, 1864.

The regiment consisted of good turnouts from Co. G, 15th Alabama, and elements of Co. B, 35th Virginia and Headquarters Company. Our total field strength with these elements was approximately 20 soldiers.

Traveling without my lovely wife, Jane Claudia, I made my way first by train, then by a long coach ride to this rather remote location, a rather lengthy but difficult trip. I arrived at approximately 4:30 in the afternoon. I was greeted by Cpl. Tom Bassford of the 15th Alabama, who was very familiar with the area, and the selected campsite. He directed me to the proper place to set up my camp. Camp was set up expeditiously.

We were very close to the nearby town of Norlands, and indeed had an excellent view of their Meeting House. Situated there, I produced my banjo and was distressed to find that the thumb string had become untied from the tailpiece on the rather bouncy wagon ride in. I busied myself with reattaching it, retuning it, and was able to play a number of airs.

As time neared for dinner, I was very kindly invited to the camp of the 35th Virginia for dinner, and socializing after dinner, of which I happily availed myself.  As we were waiting by the fire, we were overjoyed to see the arrival of the rather heavily laden wagon belonging to Captain Tim Perkins! I was cheered by no longer having the only tent set up on headquarters row!

Dinner was delicious, and most enjoyed by all. We then settled in to enjoy each others' company by the side of the fire. After a time there, we began to sense a very light rain, which became increasingly heavy as time went by. We regrouped and settled in under the tent fly of the estimable Captain Fisher, of the 35th.

After a time we were joined by many members of the 15th Alabama, and a most social evening was passed, despite the rather heavy rain that fell. We finally retired, perhaps a little later then we should. My trusty shelter tent served to keep me perfectly dry from the continuing rain.

Morning broke, rather gray and chilly, with a decided breeze. mercifully, however, the rains of the previous night had now passed us by.

Scouts having informed us of Federal activity near the town, a reconnaissance in force was decided upon. Capt. Fisher with his troopers probed ahead, while Capt. Pratt followed behind with his infantry.

The cavalry soon discovered that the schoolhouse was unoccupied, and seemed free of Federal activity.  Capt. Pratt determined to occupy the position, which was at the outskirts of the town, near a dense woods.

Capt. Pratt deployed his company as skirmishers around the open sides of the building, and awaited developments. They were swift to arrive.

Ahead of us, from behind the nearby Library, the Federal infantry made their appearance. Capt. Pratt began to lay down fire, in an attempt to hold the position.  However, despite the troopers of the 35th harassing the Federal flank, the force of numbers were too overwhelming, forcing Capt. Pratt to withdraw his forces into the woods. 

Selecting a strong defensive position, Capt. Pratt dispatched his second platoon to watch the flank with the 35th covering the other flank. However, the Federal advance was inexorable, and despite the telling fire of both Alabamans and Virginians, the Confederate force was forced to begin a withdrawal.

The fighting retreat continued, one defensive position after another was taken, and then had to be abandoned as Capt. Gowan's Maine boys, reinforced by New Yorkers under Capt.  Gilbert, both old acquaintances of mine from pre war days, pushed on in unrelenting fashion.

The push continued, with Confederate forces contesting it fiercely with each step. Finally, with exhaustion setting in, the brave lads gave a final charge, but to no avail!

In a modern look, the Norlands property does have great possibilities for use in tacticals, such as this one.

We returned to our camp and recovered our strength, slowly but surely.  I took out my banjo and played a selection of airs. As I continued to play, townspeople came by, most simply listening as they strolled through the camp, but some stopping and asking questions. A few even took the time to make sketches of me as I played!

After a time, we received warning from our scouts of Federal activity. Captains Prat and Fisher called their to arms quickly and went out on patrol. From the far treeline appeared a detachment on Federal cavalry.

Advancing on foot, Capt. Fisher's troops engaged the enemy, and stopped their advance.  However, not long after appeared a body of Federal Infantry from the same direction. Capt. Pratt quickly sent his men into the fray, laying down a scorching fire, which halted their advance for a moment.

Recovering their bearings, the Federals, soon returned to their advance. On they pushed.  The gallant Capt. Pratt attempted to resist, deploying his men as skirmishers.  They were joined by the remnants of Capt. Fishers troopers, who fought with bravery against the overwhelming odds.

Pushed back, the Confederates attempted to make a stand, but the withering Federal fire continued, until, at last none remained standing.

From my observation point, I was able to escape capture, or worse, by virtue of the large field on which we fought the contest, and returned to our camp, planning to break camp quickly and go in search of reinforcements. Imagine my delight to discover, that due to the expert ministrations of Major Chris Nulle, the 15th's regimental surgeon, the lives of all the men had been spared! Not only that, but all would soon be able to return to arms in the defense of our homeland!

My heart filled with joy, I took out my banjo, and played a rapid succession of joyous tunes and dances, much to the delight of the many townspeople who continued to be attracted to our camp.  I was quite impressed with the large number of artists among them, all of whom stopped to make their sketches! I suspect this town must be some sort of artists' colony!

After a time, my fingers began to tire, so putting my instrument aside, I took off in the direction of the town, which seemed to have been declared an unofficial open zone by both sides of our conflict.

I saw many of the lovely buildings, and took time to try to exercise my own meager skills as an artist to make sketches of them.  As I made my way back from the far side of the town, I came across a small group of fellow Confederate soldiers, and joined their number.  Soon after we ran across a small body of Federal soldiers, who were trying to get up a match of baseball. Rather then taking up arms against them, we armed ourselves with bat and ball, and spent an invigorating afternoon at sport!

Tired at our exertions, I walked back to camp in the company of my friend, Cpl. Tom Bassford, who is known as the premier scout in the Confederate military. We made our way back to camp,

After we arrived their, Cpl, Bassford presented an idea.  It seemed he had made the acquaintance of a congregant of the local meeting House, who had informed him that there would be no services there tomorrow, and so he suggested that perhaps I could lead a service of Morning Prayer there. I was most glad to agree to do so.

After a few more airs on the banjo, my friends of the 25th Alabama invited me to dine with them.  Since my nearly identical cousin, Capt. Thomas Armstrong Jones of the 16th Alabama is often on my mind, I have always felt a kinship with this group of Alabamans.  We had a most delightful meal.

After dinner, I moved over a street, to camp of the Virginians. There I spent time with my old friend, First Sergeant Pete Northrup, from whom I had been too long parted. With him and his friends of the 35th, we had a wonderful time around the campfire. They made the most delightful concoction of graham cracker, chocolate, and marshmallow, with the strange addition of a strip of bacon! As bizarre as it may sound it actually was delightful?

The mornings gray skies had given way to the brightest of sunshine, and as the sun set, we were treated to an absolutely amazing night sky! Not only was there an abundance of stars, but we were treated to most unusual sight of two planets in reasonably close proximity, a wonder to behold indeed!

We spent a very fine evening indeed, renewing our acquaintance, but all tired from our exertions and our near escape from a a dark fate, we retired on the early side. We spent a fine and comfortable night.

Morning broke, bright and beautiful, with a distinct chill that was quickly vanquished by the bright sunshine. I set my banjos into the sun to dry the heads, and sat preparing for Morning Prayer. After assuring myself in the Lord's word, I began to prepare for the breaking of camp.

As I did so, a Federal chaplain, who had been told about me sitting in front of my small shelter, reading my Prayer Book. He crossed the lines and greeted me. We spent several moments sharing together, and then praying together.  I hoped he would make it back across line safely.

I took breakfast that morning with the men of the 35th.  It was delicious, a pie made from egg, sausage and cheese, prepared by Captain Fisher himself!

Our morning duties continued, and time wore on until it was time for our service.  I took myself to the Meeting House early, and took a few minutes to make some admittedly poor sketches of it as a remembrance of the occasion.

As the time came for services, a goodly number of Confederate soldiers appeared, as well as a small selection of townspeople. As I began the service, we were joined by my new friend, the Federal chaplain! It was good to have him worship with us.

Morning Prayer being concluded, we made our way back to camp. There, I once again took up the banjo, and played for the ever present townspeople, and conversed with many of them.

After a time, we were, once again, alerted to Federal activity. Once again the gallant Captains Fisher and Pratt marshaled their forces to meet the threat. We took to the field quickly, ever vigilant to the danger we know to be approaching.

Again we saw a detachment of Federal cavalry at the far tree line.  They advanced on us, only to be repulsed by the quick action of Capt. Fisher and his Virginians. As they fought, a body of Federal infantry appeared.

Capt. Pratt advanced to the foe, and fired several volleys. The fight seemed to be reaching a stalemate, when Capt. Gilbert's New Yorkers appeared as skirmishers in relief of the Federal cavalry. Gilbert and
his brave men pushed the equally brave, but very outnumbered Capt. Fisher and the Virginians.

Seeing his right flank about to collapse, the quick thinking Capt, Pratt dispatched his first platoon to reinforce Captain Fisher. The strategy worked brilliantly.

Capt. Gilbert and his men, now under heavy fire, were forced to withdraw. Seeing the situation, the first sergeant of the Alabamans took it upon himself to harry the Federal flank.

Despite fierce opposition, this worked. Capt. Fisher, assessing the situation, moved quickly to cover the gap between the to platoons of Alabamans. Capt. Pratt presses his new found advantage, moving his second platoon forward and driving his second platoon forward.  Urging his men os, sword drawn, Federal fire took the gallant Pratt.

I jumped into the command, and gave the final assault, but the brilliant actions of the officers before had assured the victory.  It came to me to accept the victory in the name of the brave Pratt!

We made our weary way back to camp, where we discovered to our amazement, that Major Nulle had worked his magic again.  There we found the brave Pratt, already on his way to recovery. It was a joyous time indeed!

The day one, it was with a light heart that camp was broken. Having traveled light and quickly, I was ready for he early carriage to the train station many miles distant.  It was with some sadness that I took my leave of these fine soldiers, and of the lovely little town which had come to feel like home.

Stepping back to 21st century reenacting mode, this is an event with tremendous potential. The field is capable of holding full battalions, maybe even two on each side. There are other fields available that were not even used, and the tactical area is immense.  I hope that in future years, we can give this event much fuller support.

Respectfully submitted this 15th day of July, 1864,
Colonel Bradley Tyler Johnson (aka Leonidas Jones) commanding
6th Regiment, 1st Division, Army of Northern Virginia
The Liberty Greys