After Action Report, Wilderness/ Spotsylvania

To Major General Jake Jennette, cmdg
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 Spotsylvania, this past May 1-4, 1864. The regiment consisted of elements of the 7th Tennessee, 12th Georgia, 35th Virginia, 17th South Carolina, Headquarters Company, and 1st Maryland.

My wife and I arrived on Wednesday evening to reconnoiter the area.  Being met by Colonel Sunderland, Division Chief of Staff, we discovered the ground to be too wet to lay out our campground. Fortunately, we were able to secure a room at a local inn, where we passed a comfortable night.

We returned promptly the next morning, Thursday, May 1,  where we were met by Ordnance Sgt. Flye, who directed us to  Lieutenant Colonel Plante, Sgt. Major Patton, and Trooper Tom Bass. Finding a suitable camp area, somewhat less wet then much of the site.  While tight, it proved adequate for the elements of our regiment that were able to be present for duty. Setting up our own  camps, we awaited their arrival.

As a modern aside, there is something to be said for arriving right when registration opens at big events. We walked in and it was Liz, myself, and 20 volunteers. It was the easiest registration I've ever experienced.

For the balance of the day our people began to arrive, first the command element of the 7th  Tennessee, followed by several soldiers of that command, followed by the 12th  Georgia. All were set up comfortably, albeit tightly.  At least we were dry! The evening passed most pleasantly, in the company of good friends. The nights were cold, but not impossibly so, and we had been well conditioned by the previous weekend.

Friday, morning broke, happily brightly. Most of our day was filled with school children, brought to our camps to learn about the war. While all 2500 did not make it to our little camp. I would not be surprised to learn that 1000 did. We found them bright, inquisitive, and very ready to learn. The future of the South is in able hands. One might think they were over banjoed, with me at one end of the camp, and Captain Todd of the 12 GA at the other, but I fully believe that there is no such thing as too many banjos!

Once the children had left us, our next duty was the commanders meeting for Saturday's battle scenarios.  I was accompanied by Lt. Col. Plante, Sgt. Major Patton remaining behind to supervise late arrivals.  We received all necessary information about the early morning tactical, and made arrangements for those of our soldiers who wished to go, to fall in under the able command of Col. Rathbun of the 9th Battalion.

We were able to take a trip to the Sutlers, always an important point in a large event, since we find so many that we rarely see in the environs of New England. On our way, we were stopped a very tall and very respectful young soldier, who asked me if i was, or had been in the 1st Maryland, my home unit, My answering in the affirmative, he asked if I happened to know a Zachary Huddleston. I was in the process of answering in the affirmative, when I realized this was the "Little Philistine" himself, son of our founding Colonel, Steve Huddleston! It was a great pleasure to renew our friendship, despite his being about four feet taller then I remembered him.  It was even more exciting to hear  that his father, the Colonel, would be on site on Sunday!

As evening approached, we were most heartened by the arrival of the 35th  Virginia. We had wondered if they would be able to attend, due the illness of Captain Fischer's mother. Happily the situation was such that they were able to make the long journey to be with us. We were also joined by private soldier Rooster (Ruth) Streeter, who has been too long away  from our ranks. WE hope that this will mark the soldier's return to more regular appearances.We settled in for a fine meal, and a lovely evening of fellowship.  As we enjoyed this fellowship under Col. Plante's fly, a young man approached looking for his camp site. It was somewhat of a surprise to learn he was looking for the 6th Regiment. It turned out to be Lt. Kish of the 17th  South Carolina, with his lady friend and another soldier, as it happened, his father. While we were not expecting  them, they were indeed most welcome, and we found a convenient way to add them to the end of our camp. With them set up comfortably, it was time to retire for the evening. Sadly, our rest was rather disturbed by the 7th  Battalion Field Music, whom, it seems, do not understand the concept of sleep.

Morning broke, again bright and lovely. Of our contingent, we sent about a company, under the able command of Lt. Kish, and well superintended by Sgt. Major Patton. Reports indicate that the action was most successful. Breakfast was delicious, and our morning proceeded. The very busy Sgt. Major, and Captain Porteus, who also fought as a rifleman in the tactical, attended AED training for us at Division. While they were gone,  we had a very effective battalion drill, before leaving for the commanders meeting for the afternoon action. I was accompanied by Col. Plante, and the omnipresent Sgt. Major Patton, leaving the camp in the able hands of Major Fearaby.

We learned there that we had been accorded the honor of being the right flank of the ANV, with the Provisional Army of the Confederate State on our right. I had the pleasure at the meeting, and at the ensuing battle, of making the acquaintance of General Brian Gesuaro, of PACS, whom I was delighted to find to be both a fine soldier, and a true gentlemen. I look forward to the opportunity to work with him again in the future.

We formed for the afternoon Saunders Field action at 1:45. We conducted our inspection under the able supervision of an NCO of ANV Provost department. As Colonel Fallin of the 3rd  Regiment passed, we fell into our place in the order of march for the battle. Arriving at the field, Col. Fallin positioned his regiment, and we fell in on his right. General Gesuaro then took position on our right.

We stood as spectators at the beginning, as the Arizona Battalion took the field as skirmishers, facing General Markejohn's forces.

After a hard fight, the skirmishers withdrew in good order. General Markejohn wisely chose not to fall into the trap which had been laid for him.  Had he pursued the retreating skirmishers, he would have exposed both his flanks to the withering fire of three battalions He wisely stood his ground.
General Jennette, thinking quickly, ordered the Division to advance, engaging the enemy.  Marching in lockstep with Colonel Fallin, we did so, and laid down a very hot fire. The enemy fell back and we advanced again, in excellent order, as our soldiers usually do. Sadly, Captain Todd of the 12th  Georgia was mortally wounded, and was replaced ably by Lt. Kish. The Captain's excellent banjo playing will be missed

During the action, we did manage to take prisoners. One was Private Tom Asselin, of the 2nd  CT. I am pretty sure it was him, even though he was wearing shoes!

Another bore a striking resemblance to Pvt. Auggie Martin, from the 4th  Alabama. Strangely, the private attempted to fall in with us!  He must be a brother of our friend.

After a while of this very hot activity, the battle closed, with the field in our possession! As we cleared the field of our wounded, I chanced on a Federal Captain, who bore a striking resemblance to Captain Paul Mello, also of the 4th  Alabama.  The field seemed full of brothers! Once our opposition left the field, we reformed our battalion, which required some searching, as we had “dead” strew about quite an area. Our ranks reformed, we cleared weapons  and retired to our camps.

As another modern aside, it never fails to amaze me that we travel 8-9 hours, only to find ourselves facing the same good folks we see week after week in New England. Amidst the thousands of reenactors present, one might think Generals Jennette and Markejohn had planned it that way. Somehow, I think they have other matters on their minds.

I would like to commend our staff, Col. Plante and Sgt. Major Patton for their outstanding work. As well, out company officers, Captains Feid and Todd, for their calm steady leadership.  I would also like to note staff members Major Fearaby and Captain Porteus, as well as company officers Captain Pincins and Lt. Vieira, all of whom served as riflemen, a great assistance due to our relatively low numbers. I would also like to commend private soldiers Nathaniel Porteus  and Duncan Lanier on their first actions as riflemen in the line. A major national event is a heck of a way to start out.

On our return to camp, we were most happily surprised by the miraculous resuscitation of Captain Todd! Our Regimental Surgeon, Captain Porteus, must somehow have been able to take time from his duties as assistant adjutant and as private soldier in order to work this most welcome miracle! As noted earlier, there is no such thing as too many banjos!

I had not mentioned the persistent wind that blew, letting up only occasionally, a function of out camping on the higher, drier ground. While it cause some inconvenience, it also served to further dry the area, resulting in a comfortable camp experience.

We did take the opportunity to make an additional trip to the Sutlers, were some essential items were procured. On our way, we passed the tent of the 2nd  South Carolina String Band, where we were pleased to find fellow New Englander Tom Digiuseppe, an excellent banjoist. As the saying goes, there can't be too many banjos!

We were treated to an excellent dinner, courtesy of our friends at the 7th Tennessee. As night fell, the winds, mercifully died down, and we were able to spend the most pleasant of evenings in the company of good friends. Liz and I were joined under our fly by Colonel Plante and Sgt. Major Patton, aas well as others of our band. I mention these gentlemen particularly because we all live within 30 miles of each other. Interesting to note that we all traveled 8 hours plus to have a party. But a great party it was!

We settled in for the night, sadly "entertained" by the none sleeping party of the 7th  Battalion Field Music.  Well, their music is excellent on the march, and I am glad that they had such a good time, though at the expense of our staff getting any sleep.

Morning broke, yet another bright and lovely morning, the heavy rains of our trip down but a distant memory.

I had planned to conduct divine services, as I usually do, followed by another short battalion drill.   However, there was also a memorial ceremony scheduled to remember Col. Dwight Nesbitt of the ANV Artillery Battalion who, sadly, passed from this life recently. We  were originally scheduled to form for the pass in review at 9:30, requiring the cancelation of services. The time for formation was put off twice, but the resulting ceremony, ably coordinated by Col. Perry of the 7th  Battalion. It proved to be most moving, and it was an honor for us to participate. The reviewing party consisted of General Jennette and the wife of the late Col. Nesbitt.  Let us hope that all of us are as well remembered when our time comes to sit at the eternal campfire.

At the close of the ceremony, we handed command to our company officers, allowing Col. Plante, Major Fearaby, Sgt. Major Patton and myself to attend the commanders meeting. As we awaited the arrival of General Jennette, it was a great pleasure to converse with Colonel Grahe of our neighbors in the 10th Battalion, who is also new to command this year. He is another fine soldier and a true gentleman. It is most heartening to note that my fellow commanders are of such stock, making our working together very easy and productive.

The meeting took place outlining the afternoon's action of the Mule Shoe. We discovered our place in the fortification, just the left of the Mule Shoe outcropping. On our left was to be the 2nd  Battalion, under the command of Colonel McElwee, and on our right, in the  Mule Shoe proper was to be the 4th  Regiment, under Colonel Potts. Stacked behind us, due to the small size of the earthworks, compared to size of Confederate forces, was to be the 9th Battalion, under the command of my long time friend, Colonel Rich Rathbun. This ensured the smooth working of our exchange of positions.

Another modern aside here to note that our Mule Shoe recreation was in fact only a few hundred yards from the actual Mule Shoe on the National Battlefield Park. I recall several years ago when Liz and I toured the Spotsylvania battlefield, and gazing with wonderment at the Mule Shoe. I was struck again when looking at our recreated Mule Shoe. The sheer size of the original is enormous. Even at these large national events, we reenact in an extreme miniature. We should all spend time at these preserved battlefields, and let redouble our efforts to continue to preserve them, lest the lessons of history be lost.

As we returned to our camp after the meeting, we were met by Lt. Bailey of the 12th Georgia, who informed us of a visitor in camp, a Captain Duckett. On our arrival, we were in fact met with my good friend, Jim Bob Duckett, former Captain of the 12th Georgia, accompanied by his lovely wife Marguerite! Jim was the founder of our annual Confederate Memorial Day event, where we honor those whose memory we strive to keep alive. Jim is also a fine singer/songwriter and guitarist, now living in Virginia. He also plays the banjo! While he did not bring a banjo to add to our ranks, he did play on my instrument, as well as Captain Todd's. I had the great pleasure and fun of playing a rousing performance of “Get Up in the Morning”, playing my period banjo, and accompanied by Jim Bob on my my wife's lovely new parlour guitar.

Shortly after Jim Bob's arrival, we were treated to a further “blast from the past”, as Zach Huddleston brought his father Steve to the camp. How often have those of us old hands wondered about how Steve was doing, only to find him there in the flesh, very much as we remembered him. We recalled those days, 20 some years ago, when our wonderful little army was formed. Good Times! I dearly wish that Captain Perkins, our adjutant, had been able to attend. The times I spend with Tim, recalling those soldiers that only we remember, are legion. I know that most of those who reenact with the “Liberty Greys” do not recall the days of the “Southern Legion”, under Colonel Huddleston. I dearly hope that Steve will be able to be with us when more of us are present. This man is our history!

Time flew with friendships renewed, and soon it was time for formation for the Mule Shoe action.

We formed on the road at 1:45, and were met promptly by our young representative from the ANV Provost Department. Our inspection being held efficiently, we set in march for the vicinity of the camp of the 2nd and 9th Battalions, to assume our proper order of march. We were met on the way by Col Grahe of the 19th Battalion, who wished me and us luck in the battle to come. The making of new friends is a major reward of this hobby. We were met by Col. McElwee, who suggested that, given our positions in line, it would make more sense if we led the march, which we were honored to do. Col. Rathbun, being delayed by the necessity of inspection, met us out on the field.

The action began with skirmishers masking our line of fire, but those were soon cleared. The main federal force was assaulting the Mule Shoe proper, but there was a substantial force facing us. Not withstanding the hot fire we laid down, they advanced upon us, closing to about 40 yards. We redoubled our efforts, and managed to drive them back. I took advantage of this brief respite to pull our battered men out of the line of fire, to be replaced by the Col. Rathbun's sturdy command.

A few minutes after falling into reserve, the left of the 4th Regiment on our right was overrun. We pulled back to a defensive line, accompanied by the 9th Battalion, who had to abandon their trenches. After a few minutes of heavy fighting, the assault was beaten back, the 9th resuming their place in line. Due to the heavy losses, there was a gap between the 9th and the 4th, which we filled immediately.

There ensued a period of heavy fighting. At one point, we were nearly overrun, only to stand our ground with determination, beating back the attack.  Forces were engaged so closely that I had an exchange of words with a Federal Captain, who proved to be Captain Scalora of the 2nd Connecticut.

Modern aside again, maybe this is prearranged! How can we keep facing off with our New England friends in blue? I offered to Victor to withdraw from our position if they wanted to come over the breastwork, but he seemed to think they were about to pull back anyway. As we all know, there are good people on both sides of this hobby of ours. We all work together!

The battle raged on, wave after wave coming at us. Sadly, Captain Pincins of the 12th GA was mortally wounded, and was replaced by Lt. Vieira in most able fashion. Another overrun occurred, this time again being beaten back. We accrued more prisoners. Again, amazing enough, we captured the brother of Pvt. Auggie (Deb) Martin, who must have escaped in the night, only to be captured again.

Another modern aside, I remarked to 1st  Sgt. Chen of the 12th GA about how amazing it was that we kept running into New Englanders. He replied that it really is “brother against brother”, though, in the case of Pvt. Martin, maybe its “brother against sister”!

At one point a soldier appeared asking to fall in. It was Zachary Huddleston, whose company had been killed. What a pleasure it was to have him fighting shoulder to shoulder with us again.

The battle raged on, but I guess the powers that be decided it had run its course. We just had another overrun when Cease Fire sounded on the bugles, followed by Taps.

Reforming our ranks was a simpler task this day, as our operations had been confined to a smaller space. I was taken by the fact the General Gesuaro of PACS took the time to seek me out and thank me for my cooperation on the field. I am really looking forward to working with him in the future.

We returned to camp. Finding Colonel Steve still with us was a special treasure.  It made our unwinding after the fight a more special moment then most. Sadly, the wind seemed more persistent after the battle then it hd been all weekend. Still, the event had been so successful, there was little that could dampen our spirits.

HQ Company, the 12th GA and the 35th VA all decided to stay over the extra day, and travel home during the day on Monday. The 7th TN decided to pull up and leave Sunday. The 7th Battalion Field Music departed Sunday which A) allowed HQ to pull our vehicles in right behind our tents, and B) allowed to sleep that night. We were able to do a lot of our breaking down that night, facilitating our exit the next morning.

HQ was left on our own for our evening meal.  Happily. Sgt. Major Patton's lovely wife Charlene sent along a delicious chili. This was combined with rice, and cornbread from Miz Liz and Col. Plante's lovely wife Trish, and made a very fine meal.

Night fell, and we were treated to one more wonderful night of fellowship. What a wonderful group of people we have to assemble with.

We were treated with a visit from Captain Dave Laiche, who had spent the weekend with the 3rd Arkansas of the 3rd Regiment. He was accompanied by his lovely wife Kylah. Kylah, having spent the weekend in an A frame tent, amidst a collection of shebangs, acquired nicknames, the “One Percenter”, “Miz Kaylah in the Big House”, and the “Queen of Shanty Town”! It was an honor to be in her presence as, clearly, Queen outranks Colonel!

We passed an excellent night, and awoke early the next morning to finish packing and get on our way.
The event was not quite finished as far as this report. In packing, I closed the lift gate on our Durango, only to find that it would not open. Lt. Dave Vieira, who was about to leave, was able to open it, and explain clearly how it could be opened, allowing us to complete our packing and journey home.

Good deeds, helping others, has always been a hallmark of our regiment.  I have always felt that these good deeds are fluid, and simply passed on the next person in need of help. Rarely is it so immediate as it was this day. Trooper Tom Bass, who was there to help us lay out the camps at the beginning of our time there, found that his vehicle would not start. I was able to jump his battery to allow him to get on his way. It was a perfect symmetry of helping others. When someone else needs our help, we give it freely, knowing that we will someday need help, and it will be given back to us. Lets all remember that!

Our trip home was long but easy, and filled with immediate memories that will live with us long. As these big events go, this was one of the best.

I would like to give some final thanks. Col Plante, Major Fearaby and Sgt. Major Patton have been mentioned many times in this report, but it is worth noting that without their steadfast work, our success could not have been achieved. Less often mentioned is Captain Porteus. He filled many duties this week, but his duties as substitute Adjutant are, while not the stuff of active reports, they are vital to the functioning of the regiment within the Division.  

The name of Ordnance Sgt. Flye has come up only once in this report. Mike has a position on ANV staff, and was integral in the smooth operation that marked this event. It is great for us to have friends in high places.

That brings us to the ANV staff as a whole. This hard working and dedicated group of people brought us a truly outstanding event. It starts with General Jennette. Our regiment, one of the smallest battalion present, was treated with with equal respect and concern for our well being as those four times our size. It is an honor to be part of such an organization.

I would be remiss if I did not mention Major Jay Haines.  As Chief Adjutant, she keeps the event running.  I honestly believe that had Jenni not been there, the event would have collapsed. Fortunately for all us, she was there, and we owe her a great debt!

This concludes this report.

Respectfully submitted,
Leonidas Jones, Colonel commanding
6th Regiment, 1st Division, ANV
The Liberty Greys
Any Fate But Submission!