After Action Report on the 150th Reenactment of Wilson’s Creek

Dan and I left about 1000 from Grand Forks, ND, on Wednesday, 10 August and headed south to Wilson’s Creek near Republic, Missouri.  The route down I-29 was blocked by flooding in Iowa, which meant we were re-routed on state roads.  We got back on I-29 after a scenic tour of farms in Iowa.  Saw many Cabela’s along the way so don’t screw with the Iowans, since they are heavily armed. Stopped driving at 2200 and stayed the night in St. Joseph, MO. Left about 0900 the next morning.

Arrived in Republic, MO, about 1400. We registered and drove into the Confederate Camp area.  What I saw looked like a Boy Scout Camp Jamboree instead of neatly lined tents of the Confederate Army.  It got really interesting when we were asking around where the 3rd Missouri Infantry was located.  No one seemed to know where any units were positioned. No company streets had been laid out.  (Company streets are simply the running of a string from the first tent straight down to the last tent so the unit can have tents to the left and right of a path or “street” leading to the commander of the unit; like an inverted “U”).  Also noticed there were no SLOW DOWN or ONE WAY signs for vehicles using the dirt road running between the rows of tents.  No common sense was jumping out to greet me…

We found the major of the 3rd Missouri and he placed us on the top of a new street.  We just had unloaded our gear when three other groups showed up and recognized my truck. We set up four tents in about 30 minutes and had a fire pit dug to cook the evening meal. By 1700, we had eight tents set up and were ready to eat by 1800.  The ladies had chicken and dumplings for dinner, which went really well with a couple of Coors Lites!

On Friday morning, the damn bugler blew Reveille at 0530 and we got up to light the fire for breakfast. (There was a shortage of cut wood for the camps. Any other event I’ve been to always had wood cut and piled up for use. We ended up dragging dead wood from the tree line, which cleaned up the park.  Maybe that was planned, huh?)  The ladies fixed cinnamon buns for breakfast with sliced oranges and plums.  I cheated on the coffee by using instant with boiling water!

The first battalion formation (about 300 Confederates) was at 0730.  The commander looked like Teddy Roosevelt and had a soft voice which did not carry down to the left side of the formation where we were standing.  Our sergeant major looked like ZZ Top and was concentrating on proper foot alignment of the front row.  When you stand at PARADE REST in 1861, you keep your left foot in place and move the right foot to the back of the left one, at a 45 degree angle.  He was so anal about the feet, we thought he had a foot fetish!

After the formation, we went back to camp.  Suddenly, the bugles were blowing and the officers were yelling that the Yankees had taken the field and were moving toward our camp.  Of course, the field was only on the other side of Wilson’s Creek, and we could see the enemy not too far away.  We formed up quickly and marched off to meet the Yankee invader.

The lines of Confederates were impressive since we outnumbered the Yankees about 4 to 1.  The real battle was about 3 Confederates to 2 Yankees.  The Yankees held the center of the field and within an hour, the ranks of the multi-uniformed Southerners had pushed them off the field. We actually pushed them to the bridge over Wilson’s Creek, where since they didn’t turn their muskets down as a sign of surrender, the Confederates continued to march across the bridge.  This upset the blue clad invaders and they looked like whipped school boys.  The crowds, which were mostly pro-Confederate, enjoyed the action.  We marched back to camp and had the rest of the day off for doing such a good job in routing the Yankee square-heads from the field. (Several of the Union militia units were German immigrants from St. Louis, so “Square Heads” was a descriptive means of identifying them).

We spent the rest of the day visiting the sutler tents and buying items we wanted but didn’t need.  There was a root beer stand and several food vendors.  The prices were not bad but they didn’t take Confederate money.

We had a large pot of stew for dinner and spent the evening listening to several songs.  We even had a history class for two on the young soldiers in the unit on the US presidents, the states, and the Bill of Rights and Ten Commandments.

We also had a Union Cavalry “raid” through the area about 2100 in the dark.  Now, if the event planners had this on the schedule, it wouldn’t have been a problem.  But when several of the Yankees rode through the poorly lighted area, the possibility of someone walking to the porta-johns getting run over was very possible.  We didn’t know whether this was planned or not and some of the boys close to the horses began firing at them.  We sat in our tents since we didn’t know what the hell was going on.  This showed very poor judgment on the part of both the planners and re-enactors. If someone was hit by a horse, the lawyers would be circling like the sharks for a settlement, not to mention the possibility of a rider being pulled off their mount and having the crap kicked out of them by some angry Rebel having to hit the head!

Saturday morning the damn bugler woke us up again. We ate pancakes for breakfast and then drilled as a company, and then as a battalion with Teddy and ZZ Top.  His voice got a little louder since he must have been informed of his lack of a “command voice”. (Military term for using your voice, and other parts of your anatomy to reach all the formation, to put it nicely).

(One item I must report on here.  I noticed one of the officers was riding his horse right through our row of tents.  I walked over to him and asked that he not ride through our living area.  He stated that he was the battalion commander and that I should talk to my captain.  I wanted to jerk the SOB off the horse but didn’t know what the horse would do in a confined area of tents.  So I walked off and told my captain what a pompous ass this clown was.  He turned out to be a corrections guard from Okiehoma who counsels prisoners being paroled.  That’s the problem with these want-to-be Kentucky Colonels, using his re-enactment position to be important, due to his lack of esteem in the real world!  I saw him three times after this incident and hoped he would open his mouth but he always turned away.  I also told the brigade staff about it and they agreed horses in camps were not welcomed).

The morning battle was okay, but confused.  Too many of the officers didn’t know how to move troops around, which was the actual problem in 1861 and also in 2011.  So nothing has changed in 150 years.  The evening battle was a complete cluster when the entire Confederate army was marched into the tree line.  The Union marched out a unit of about 200 to fire into the trees.  Mind you, the crowd was about five hundred yards away and couldn’t imagine what was going on.  Hell, we were there, and still didn’t know what was going on!  We were bunched together in the little shade available, while an idiot portraying a Confederate officer was riding his horse through the tightly packed formations.  Common sense was left back at camp since the horse wasn’t too happy to be crowded by the lines of soldiers.

We ended up firing at the top of the trees and scaring half the birds in southern Missouri.  It was such a waste of powder (about $20 a pound), I just used the caps and saved the powder.  We had no clue what was going on with these knucklehead officers.  (Felt the same way in several staff meetings in Afghanistan, too!)

On Saturday evening, I got a ride with Craig Lenz to the hotel room that his family had booked to take a shower so I could go to the evening dance.  We got to the dance, and again, this event must have been planned the weekend before. The sound system and the lighting was poor, and the ground to dance on had holes and small clumps of brush sticking up.  Not very conducive to slide your partner across the dance floor.  There was no water or sodas since the vendors had run out.  Really poor planning on the event staff.  The band was good, but the dance was a flop.

On Sunday morning, the bugler let loose about 0600, and we had breakfast of eggs and bacon.  We fought the last battle which was actually done correctly, with lots of casualties on both sides and the crowds were happy to see the field littered with dead and wounded.  Sick people, huh?

We broke camp about 1400 and finally left the field about 1500.  We ate lunch at Culver’s (kind of a Friendly’s ice cream restaurant) and hit the road about 1630.  Dan and I drove to his parent’s house in Jerseyville, Illinois, and arrived about 2200.  We left the next morning about 0930 and arrived back in Grand Forks at 0100 Tuesday morning.

The 150th Wilson’s Creek had many problems.  It seemed the planners had a motive to make money, and not spend any on basic items like water, porta-johns and firewood.  That they accomplished.  The crowds were large, and the money they made was probably impressive.  Yet, the atmosphere of commercialization off-set the main reason most of us drove hundreds of miles and dozens of hours to get there – to honor those who fought there.  Future event planners, after pulling their heads out of their collective rear ends, will see that the event must be planned to honor those men that fought and died at the site, and not to squeeze dollars out of the re-enactors and the public as if the event was like an annual county fair.

Up Wilson’s Creek without a paddle: the good, bad, and ugly of the 150th annivesary event

Well, I am back from my trip to Missouri (Mizz-ur-ah, or Misery, if you prefer) to participate in the 150th anniversary battle reenactment, which was my first ever national event (check out Stuart Lawrence’s take on Bull Run/Manassas for another national event) and wanted to share my thoughts.

First, let me say that there is some buzz going around in one reenacting forum regarding the event with opinions coming down both ways on the weekend, with most being negative. Second, I am only in my second season of reenacting and will admit to not being as partial to primitive camping and using portable toilets as others, but am learning to like the camping. Third, this will be the first in a possible series of postings regarding the event from others in the unit I fell in with, as well as others interested, so you will get several different impressions of the same event. Finally, constructive comments on these postings are welcome and appreciated, as we could get a good discussion on this topic going, but please remember to be civil.

The trip began with Stuart Lawrence and I leaving Grand Forks Wednesday morning to drive as far as we could and stop for the night. With continued high water on the Missouri River, parts of I-29 have been closed for weeks and remain closed, which warranted a detour, but we arrived late that night in St. Joseph, Missouri, staying in a Motel 6, which was nice. We awoke the next morning, had a good breakfast and headed on, arriving in the Springfield area around 1:00 PM and set up our tent and gear. We introduced ourselves to Christian Shuster, who invited our unit to fall in with his 3rd Missouri for the weekend and waited for others to arrive. Once the rest of the unit arrived and our camp was erected, we prepared ourselves for the coming days of battle. That evening we were treated to the first of several fine meals prepared by our camp cooks (hats off to you ladies for your hard work).

Friday morning came early (before 6:00 AM), as we enjoyed breakfast and prepared for battalion drill at 7:30. We formed up for the morning battle around 10:00AM and had the first fight, which was a good one, as we charged the Federals and drove them back across a wooden bridge crossing Wilson’s Creek. The crowd enjoyed it, but it was a smaller gathering (most people being at work on a Friday). We went about our day, anticipating the afternoon battle and looking forward to an exciting national event. Boy, were we surprised.

Let me preface this by saying that I have only a slightly negative view of the event, mainly from a logistical point of view and issues with some of our higher level command that I believe contributed to a more negative atmosphere among some of the participants and the feedback on the forum (more on this later).

Friday afternoon’s battle found us on the hill in the trees waiting for the Union to move into position and give us battle. Well, we wound up shooting into the trees, which made us a bit upset. Saturday and Sunday’s battles went much better, as we expended more powder and put on a good show for the crowd. Several of us went down from a cannon shot (including myself) and were then covered by crickets, which made for a few chuckles. This was one of the better parts of the event.

Now then, no event is perfect, and there were a couple things that were bad and one that was ugly that upset several reenactors around our camp. The bad was how our senior command staff (brigade and battalion commanders) had us formed up over a half hour before the scheduled start of the battle. This “hurry up and wait” was only problematic from the standpoint of being in the sun and heat, and while it was much more pleasant temperature wise from earlier in the week, it was still a potential hazard if not accustomed to it. Another bad issue was running out of water for a period on Saturday, which was not good. There were a couple safety issues, including a cavalry ride through our camp during the night, and, one person riding their horse through the tent areas.

The ugly part of the event were the portable toilets. Simply put, there were not enough of them, they were not cleaned often enough, and ran out of paper. They were also not set up well and leaned at times. Now, if it were possible for a human to not use the bathroom for three days, I may have attempted, but as it was, there were times that the conditions were just bad. Having only nine portables for almost the entire Confederate camp was insufficient. Future organizers take note, please have reliable facilities for us and make sure they are cleaned more often.

On the whole, while there were several things that diminished the quality of the event for several reenactors and myself, I did manage to enjoy myself. I met new people and experienced battles with hundreds, instead of dozens, of participants. Sutler row was fun, as there were several there, including a soda dealer from near my hometown of Jerseyville, Illinois.

Special thanks to Capt. Christian Shuster of the 3rd Missouri for inviting us down and being and all around good guy. Thanks to the rest of the 3rd for being welcoming and having a good time. Thank you to all in the 1st South Carolina for coming down and making the best of it, and to our civilians in camp for the cooking (especially the Lenz family and Amundsons) and socializing. It’s the end of another reenacting season for me, but it was a fun one. I hope to post some pictures and video from the event in the near future. Until next time, keep researching and reading.

The Bull Run of the West 150 years ago

Just a quick posting to let you all know about the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Wilson’s Creek, near Springfield, Missouri that occurred August 10, 1861. The battle is considered the Bull Run of the West, as it was the first major engagement of the war in the West and, like its Eastern counterpart, was a Confederate victory. In addition, Brig. Gen. Nathaniel Lyon was killed in the battle and it paved the way for German immigrants to participate in large numbers for the Union cause, as they made up a portion of Lyon’s army. This is a short posting, as I am heading down to take part in the weekend events to commemorate the battle, including the reenactment. I will post on this early next week, but will be away from the blog for a few days. Until then, happy reading and researching.

Some videos from the First Bull Run reenactment

Here are a couple videos from this past weekend’s reenactment of the First Battle of Bull Run:

-This is a personal video of the event.

-Video of the parade.

AFTER ACTION REPORT FOR THE 150TH REENACTMENT OF 1ST MANASSAS, 20-26 JUL 2011

The adventure began when I got up at 2:00 AM on July 20, packed the cooler and hit I-29 South out of Grand Forks at 3:00 AM.  I was the only vehicle on the road for miles and miles until I hit Fargo about 4:30 AM. I was fortunate to spend only an hour sitting in morning traffic in Minneapolis, Minnesota, about 7:30 AM. I was headed to Northfield, Iowa, to meet two other members of the group out here in the Midwest, the 1st South Carolina Volunteer Infantry, Company H.  I arrived at 10:30 AM and we packed up a four door Ford Taurus minus Granny sitting on top of the car.  I slept through most of Iowa and Illinois. We found the coolest road construction outside of Indianapolis and spent about two hours counting the orange cones all up and down the interstate.

We crossed into Ohio and then West By-God Virginia.  The mountains impressed the boys from the flat lands and so did the locals at the gas station.  “You all ain’t from around here, ur you??”  No, we ain’t.  We stayed in Wheeling, West By-God Virginia for the night. We left about 9:00 AM and crossed into Maryland and drove I-68 East.  We finally crossed into the promised land of Virginia about 2:00 PM!

We registered for the event and drove about ten minutes to reach the actual campsite.  Most of the group we fell in with came from the Richmond-Hanover area, although there were a few from California and Colorado.  There were about forty in all that took the field on Saturday and Sunday. The temperature was about 98 on Thursday, so putting up the tent was a good way to get soaked.  The area around us continuously filled up with new comers until we had about three hundred tents in the section we were assigned.  There were probably 300+ Confederate tents in the wooded section and about 50 cavalry horses.

The unit we portrayed for the event was Company B, 1st Louisiana Special Battalion, known as Wheat’s Tigers. Major Chatham Roberdeau Wheat [6’4”, 250 pounds] created the Tigers who were basically Irish wharf rats from New Orleans [pronounced Nawlins’]and were known for fighting each other, their fellow Confederates, and the Yankees. Rumor has it that the Mayor of Nawlins’ had a city party when he cleaned out his wharf and city jail for men that joined the Tigers.  They also carried D-handled Bowie knives and used them on each other several times, as well as the Yankees, too. They rode in boxcars to get to Manassas and a few were killed riding on top of the cars due to low bridges. Ain’t no bridges in Louisiana?  

On Friday, we walked the area and avoided attending the parade in Manassas, since our officers thought the weather was too damn hot. It reached 102 by the late afternoon. We visited the over-priced sutlers and saw hundreds of items we would like to have but didn’t need.  I bought a new straw hat made in China to replace the one I had left on the kitchen table in Grand Forks.

I ran into Mike Evans, an Air Force NCO that had replaced my intelligence sergeant in Bagram, Afghanistan, in July of 2009.  Now we both we serving in the Confederate Army, trying to keep the Yankee terrorists from invading the sacred soil of Virginia!  He was in a Florida unit and arrived Thursday morning with about 45 other Floridians.

As in any military organization, the Confederate Army, having called reveille at 5:30 AM on Saturday morning, had all units form up no later than 7:30 for a 9:30 battle.  We practiced the “hurry up and wait” method rather well.  We finally marched out with drums beating and headed toward the Yankee invader. The Tigers were supposed to attack the 2nd Rhode Island Battery and capture it.  Well, history and the script didn’t get read properly and we attacked into about 500 Yankees surrounding the cannon.  We got shot to pieces!  Then we fell back three times and moved off the field.  About thirty minutes of fame!

After we regrouped, we marched back to camp, while dozens of other Confederate units were marching onto the field.  The Yankees pushed us off the field and then ran into Jackson’s boys.  Then they ran back to Washington City!  The battle lasted about three hours and there were many heat related casualties on both sides.  That’s about true for the original battle, too.

We did the same action on Sunday, with fewer troops on both sides.  The temp on Saturday was 102 and about a 118 heat index.  Many reenactors packed up and left.  We stayed and drank water, Gatorade and whatever else was available.  I went through about five gallons of water and 24 bottles of Gatorade.  We also killed off four watermelons, two dozen oranges and other assorted fruits.  Very few alcoholic drinks were consumed due to the heat. No one left the field on Sunday the same weight we arrived with on Thursday. It was difficult to sleep and sweat at the same time.  We even had the Israeli Ambassador as a spectator on Sunday, with a bunch of Secret Servicemen.  The rumor started that we couldn’t have weapons on the field.  That rumor lasted about a minute.  Apparently he is a big American Civil War buff.

This was the first national event I went to that had an ATM set up in the field!  The vendors were selling 10 pounds of ice for $4.00.  (In past events, they usually gave one bag per man per day free.  Guess that’s history now.)  The stands were full both days, 15,000 at $45 a person, with ten tents of standing room at $25 for about 500 people.  I just wanted 1% of the gas that people bought to get there and back.  The scenario was not to historical fact, but it was okay. We heard on Sunday that the organizers were experienced in golf tournaments.  Not the same thing with 9,000 reenactors with cannon and horses.  At least the porta-johns were cleaned three times a day!  Although few were cooking, fires were only allowed above ground.

So, why did so many reenactors go to Manassas, camp out and suffer though 102, 102, 102 and 98 degree days?  Because the 150th anniversary only comes around once!  And, as a Southerner, we won the first one big!  Shooting across the field at a long blue line that was invading Virginia must have been an incredible feeling for the Confederate soldier in 1861.  Of course, in 2011, no one was worried about having their head shot off either!

We had a cluster trying to pack and leave on Sunday,  We finally drove the long gauntlet to get out to go to a hotel and shower, sit in the pool and drink a cold beer!  We left on Monday morning about 8:30 AM and drove until 2:00 AM Tuesday morning to get back to Iowa.  I then drove on to Grand Forks arriving about 10:30 AM.  And that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!

Your Obedient Servant,

Private Stuart Lawrence
Company B, 1st Louisiana Special Battalion

Sun coming up at 6:30 AM 23 July 2011 at Manassas, Virginia.

L to R: Bill Feuchtenberger, Stuart Lawrence and Gary Mitchell ready for battle!

Flag Day at Fort Abercrombie

Last Saturday, several members of the Fort Abercrombie Garrison and I assisted the site in celebrating Flag Day. It was a fun day of educating visitors on the fort, the frontier army, and the Civil War (yes, Fort Abercrombie is a Civil War site in North Dakota). We set up a small display of tents and equipment used by soldiers and engaged the visitors when possible. In addition, we assisted in retiring several flags through burning, including one of the site’s old flags. We raised that flag one last time and saluted it, folded it, and retired it. It was truly an honor to take part in this.

One of the cool parts of the day occurred earlier, when WDAY came out and filmed us practicing folding the flag. Also, yours truly was interviewed and the segments appeared on the six o’clock and ten o’clock newscasts that Saturday night, so potentially 200,000 people got to see what we did and our passion for history.

Click here to catch the videos (there are two segments)

Here are some pictures from the day as well.

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Photos from Fort Sisseton

Here are some pictures from this past weekend. Thanks to Scott Allan and Robin O’Neill for taking the pictures.

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An awesome weekend at Fort Sisseton

This weekend, I participated in the Fort Sisseton Historical Festival, which is held annually at Fort Sisseton in South Dakota. It was the most unique and wonderful experience I have had reenacting. My friend Stuart and I arrived at the post late Saturday morning and quickly set our camp up and got acquainted with those camping next to us. We attended as part of the Fifth Minnesota Infantry, Company D, but by the end of the weekend, we were members of another unit as well (more on that later).

After we set up and donned our uniforms, we joined fellow reenactors Den Bolda and Mike Larson in interpreting pay call in the north barracks, with the non-commissioned officers’ quarters being a temporary adjutants’ office. Den portrayed the Regimental Adjutant, Mike portrayed the clerk (dressed as a Sergeant with the United States Sharpshooters), and Stuart and I were two privates serving as the armed guard, given that it was pay-day. It was a fun time, as we discussed the payment process in the army, the creation of greenbacks, and uniforms of the army in the Civil War. After this, Mike and I were part of a Gatling Gun crew, with Mike firing the weapon, while I served as the ammunition bearer. It was a lot of fun and the crowd appreciated the display.

Later that evening, we participated in an event that really set this event apart from others, as a grand march on the parade ground took place, followed by a ball. We were decked out in our best uniforms available and escorted lovely ladies dressed in fine evening gowns. The ball lasted until almost midnight, with many chances to dance period dances (Stuart enjoyed the Virginia reel). After the ball, we retired to the camp and socialized for a bit more before turning in.

The next morning, I drilled with the 13th US Infantry Regiment and participated in the flag raising on the post. The 13th Regiment has a place in my life, as my dad was assigned to it when I was young and we were stationed in Baumholder, Germany. The motto of the 13th was “First at Vicksburg”, so it was a pleasure to drill with them. In the afternoon, I first interpreted in the post hospital, portraying an injured soldier. Stuart also played an injured soldier, suffering a head wound, and laid down on the hospital bed. It worked quite well, as he actually fell sound asleep for a few minutes and was still, which caused one couple to ask if he was real (I am not kidding, either). We played off the story that he was kicked in the head by a horse, and I injured my arm trying to catch said horse.

After that impression, I had the distinct pleasure and honor of serving on the Gatling Gun crew again, this time firing the weapon. It was an awesome experience and those who showed up were pleased. After this, I returned to camp for some socializing as the event wound down. The event ended and we returned to scenic Grand Forks that night.

Overall, I met a lot of great people at this event and will join yet another unit, the First US Volunteers, Company F, Galvanized, which is part of the Frontier Army of the Dakota. They are a great group that have a very family atmosphere and do events at state parks around the area. This weekend was great (I even met a guy portraying Custer, which was interesting) and I’ll be at Fort Abercrombie this coming Saturday for programming dedicated to Flag Day. I will post some pictures from this weekend in the next day or two, but will give you the link to the event program. On a side note, I hope you all like the new look of the blog.

Joining the Fort Abercrombie Garrison

Last weekend, I had a blast interacting with another unit closer to Grand Forks. It had the added bonus of being Union, which allows me to portray both sides in a given season, as I also fall in with Co. H. 1st South Carolina Infantry. Called the Fort Abercrombie Garrison, after the fort in southeastern North Dakota, but also known as Co. D, 5th Minnesota Infantry, it consists of several men from the Fargo-Moorhead area, as well as two (yours truly included) from Grand Forks.

Last Sunday, I drove to Detroit Lakes, MN to the Becker County Museum to join elements of the Garrison providing an interpretive display on the war to visitors for International Museum Day. It was great and, according to an article on DL-Online, over two hundred showed up. We set up a tent, two cannon, and displayed our equipment. We were dressed in a variety of Union uniforms and discussed the equipment and life of soldiers in the war. We also took the opportunity to tour the wonderful museum, which has many great displays and had several artisans on hand to demonstrate various skills. It was great fun and I even had the chance to recruit for the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War, which is always a plus. I will also share a couple great pictures of us from the event. If the weather holds, I may be heading to Abercrombie on Sunday for their opening weekend. I look forward to being involved with this unit in the future.

in he museum

Den and Megan Bolda and I talk inside the museum. I am on the right.

I am in the middle hidden by the arms.

Presenting back home and in class

As the semester nears its end, I decided to take a few moments to share what I have been up to in the last two weeks. On April 13, I departed Grand Forks for my hometown of Jerseyville, Illinois. It was a well-timed trip in light of the tornado that hit Lambert St. Louis International Airport on Good Friday, which is where I fly into. I had been selected to present a paper at the 2011 Illinois History Symposium in Carbondale. My advisor, Dr. Kim Porter, who also presented, informed me of the conference last fall, so I happily submitted, as it coincided with my mom’s birthday. I presented on the physical transition from civilian to soldier in Illinois Civil War camps of instruction, which was one chapter of my thesis. The panel was awesome, though I forgot my camera and have no pictures of it. I was also approached by a couple of folks from SIU Press who asked me to keep them in mind when I get around to writing the book on the subject. After the presentation, my dad and I traveled to Murphysboro, seven miles from Carbondale, and took in a reception at the John A. Logan Museum. It was quite fun, as Logan was the creator of Memorial Day, a past Commander-in-Chief of the GAR, which is special for me being in the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

Murphysboro was also fun to visit, as it was impacted by the 1925 Tri-State Tornado, where almost 700 people across Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana were killed in a single tornado. The town still holds the record for most fatalities in a single city from a tornado at 234. This crosses into one of my other quirky historical interests, which is natural disasters. The trip allowed me to visit my folks for a few days and relax a bit from the demands of teaching and class, as well as network for future job and publishing opportunities. Plus, I met James Swan, author of Chicago’s Irish Legion:  The 90th Illinois Volunteers in the Civil War, who came to my panel. I took the opportunity to purchase his book and have him sign it (the dust jacket tore a little in transit back to North Dakota, thanks Delta). I fielded a few good questions that opened up areas of inquiry that I had not considered before, so the rewards go beyond a line on the CV. All in all, it was a great trip and I encourage those in Illinois to consider the next symposium April 26-28, 2012 in East Peoria, with the theme “Contested Lands:  1673-1840.” The deadline for submission is October 15, 2011. For more information, contact William Furry at 217-525-2781.

Upon my return to Grand Forks (it snowed while I was away), I presented my lecture on Creating Armies in my History 103 class. I broke from the usual form of lecture and team-taught with my friend and fellow reenactor Stuart Lawrence. We used some of our reenacting equipment to conduct a object-based presentation on the lives of soldiers and what training was like for them, which allowed me to combine a bit of material culture and dress up in period attire. Whether it was effective in helping them understand remains to be seen, but I figure it is a nice change of pace and helps the visual and tactile learners anyway. I am working on some book reviews and will be again appearing on local talk radio to chat about the war on the same day as the next meeting of the Northern Plains Civil War Round Table, where I will present on the Camp Jackson Affair and Civil War Missouri. If you are in the Grand Forks area, come to the E. Grand Forks VFW at 7:00 PM on Tuesday, May 3 and join our group and listen to my talk.

Finally, I have joined the 21st century a bit more. Those of you with smart phones, which does not include me, can now access my blog via the QR that I placed in the sidebar. Until next time, keep researching and I will leave you with the paper that I presented in Illinois.

War began 150 years ago today

I wanted to take a moment between getting a bit of work done for a class and finishing up some work in my class to remind you all the significance of today in our history. It was 150 years ago, in the early morning of April 12, 1861, that the Civil War commenced with the bombardment of Fort Sumter in Charleston, SC by forces of the Confederacy. While the argument can be made that the first shot in the war was the firing on The Star of the West, the attack on Sumter was the point at which the nation fell off the precipice towards war. Thus begins the four-year period of reflection, remembrance, and research on the war for its 150th anniversary. Later this week, I will write from scenic Illinois, as I will be flying home to present a paper at the Illinois State History Symposium in Carbondale on Thursday. Have a great evening and keep researching.

 

Fort Sumter

Bombardment of Fort Sumter (1861) by Currier & Ives (1837–1885).

 

 

Relaxing, Reenacting, and Back in the Swing of Things

Well, I have had a busy last couple weeks, despite the lack of content, which I apologize for. On August 13-15, I attended another reenactment with the 1st South Carolina Infantry, Company H at Pipestone, MN. It was a lot of fun and the weather was not as warm as Nashua, IA. What really made the event neat was going out around 7:30 AM that Saturday and having a morning tactical, which is where we had a battle against one another with no spectators. We then had our battles for the crowd. The first day was interesting, as Union forces “died” a bit too quickly, but the second day, we gave the crowd a good show. Unlike, Iowa, I did not take as many pictures, but do have a few.

Gathered around the fire.

Our camp

Early morning in camp

In the coming months, I am planning to get equipment to portray the Union side as well. In addition to attending Pipestone, I helped with a display at Heritage Days in E. Grand Forks, MN, where Stuart brought some of his collection.

I also spent some time at the lake relaxing and the semester began, with me teaching a section on US History to 1877. It’s a lot of fun and I am glad to be back in the swing of things. The Northern Plains Civil War Round Table is getting up and running, we are hosting the Northern Great Plains History Conference, which is featuring a few papers on the Civil War, and I am working on reviews of several books. Overall , it’s been a fun last few weeks.

Update on Grierson Days

About three years ago, I posted my visit to Grierson Days, which is held each June in Jacksonville, IL. Jacksonville is where I attended college before journeying to North Dakota to begin graduate school, so I stop there every so often when I come home to visit the folks. Well, after that post, Mr. Ron Gray, who coordinated the event, commented on the post, which resulted in a second post on the subject due to the passage of time. My main issue in the first post was the announcing during the battle reenactment, which amplified the weaponry used and, according to my father, historically inaccurate. I conceded that I wrote the first post in the heat of the moment, but was looking forward to see how they did this year when I went up on June 19.

Well, I was pleased, as there was no announcing during the battle. Rather, one of the reenactors announced before the battle, briefly explaining the three main branches of the army that would be seen that day. Though simpler than three years ago, I will say it was better than having the weapons amplified through a public address system. I also took many photos that I will upload later this week. Having been to my first reenacting event in May, I came to this event with a greater appreciation for what the guys participating go through (especially since a line of strong storms went through the area around midnight and did a bit of damage to some of their tents). Overall, I commend the Grierson Society for their work and improving the event. Had it not been so hot that weekend and had their not been (as I heard) competing events, I believe the event would have had even better attendance and participation.

On a side note to my readers, I want to apologize for the lack of content lately. I am sure this is evidenced by a drop in stats. I thank you for your support and want to let you know that I expect some new content in the coming months, as I will be finishing several book reviews for publication and freelance to this site. In addition, I also put my name into consideration to write a sesquicentennial history of one of the campaigns of the US Army in the war for the US Army Center of Military History, so wish me luck and I will keep you updated on that.

Back from the battle!

Well, I returned late last night from my first adventure in reenacting. We were at the Old Bradford Pioneer Village and Museum, near Nashua, IA, which has the notoriety of being next to the well-known Little Brown Church in the Vale, which is was a popular hymn and later country song. I served in the ranks of the First South Carolina Infantry along with my friend and fellow graduate student Stuart Lawrence. Here is a Google Earth image of where we were:

The two-day event was awesome and we prevailed against the Union on the first day, while valiantly fighting hard against them the next day, only to fall due to several of us being killed (myself included). Sunday morning was quite cool, as we were treated to a pancake and sausage breakfast by members of the Little Brown Church, and later to a special Sunday service. Being in a church built during the war, wearing period clothing was really something.

In closing, I hope everyone interested in getting into reenacting gives it a try, as it is fun. I will leave you with some pictures from this weekend.

breakfast in camp

Cooking breakfast in camp

Stuart

Pvt. Stuart Lawrence on the left.

myself

Yours truly in front of our tent.

in camp

Hanging out in camp before battle.

Little Brown Church

The Little Brown Church in the Vale

Inside the LBC

Inside the Little Brown Church from the back

The Little Brown Church from the front

Stuart on day two

Stuart on the second day

Myself on day two

Wearing my new vest and shirt on day two. I am wearing a neck wrap to protect my neck and ears from the sun at the time.

camp

Our camp

Drilling

Getting some extra drilling in (I am second from right).

More drilling

More drilling

Still drillling

Still drilling

Preparing to fire

Ready to take down some Yankees.

On a side note, I will be presenting tomorrow evening at 7:00 PM at the E. Grand Forks, MN VFW for the second meeting of the Northern Plains Civil War Round Table on the subject of The Camp of Instruction and the Union Soldier. I hope you can make it out to this talk if you are in the Grand Forks area.

Missed the Gettysburg Webcast

Well, I meant to participate in the final American Military University webcast on Gettysburg this morning, but was out and about with Stuart getting ready for our reenactment weekend in Nashua, Iowa. We ended up running out to my grandfather’s farm and firing some blanks from the 1861 Springfield, which was fun. I also received my Confederate uniform yesterday and am pleased with the quality, so I am making a huge, but quick plug for Blockade Runner.

A side note on this weekend. While I would love to blog about the event soon after each day, I will be unable to do so, but will attempt to write about it and post pictures. This will be my first foray into reenacting, so I appreciate any who are involved with reenacting sharing their first experiences with the hobby, so I can have a fun comparison for others.

When I do get the link to the webcast, I will post it up here for all to enjoy, including myself.