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Huck Finn
10-01-2006, 09:46 PM
Has anyone heard anything about whether the Fredericksburg Battle is happening this year? I have looked in the usual places.

Thanks,

VaTrooper
10-01-2006, 10:10 PM
I did the battle of the streets last year since it was local. It was pretty cool. But I got an invite from some ground pounders and have no clue about its planning this year.

Busterbuttonboy
10-04-2006, 07:08 AM
It is still in the planning stages as far as i know and should be coming out in the next few weeks. Do not be looking for a general reenactment however.
Drew Gruber

Huck Finn
10-04-2006, 08:13 PM
Drew:

We have five or six guys coming from Missouri. The event is about two months off, if it is to be held the anniversary weekend. How are folks supposed to plan?

First the Camp of Instruction was cancelled and now this. Do you have any idea what is going on? Who is the contact person doing the "planning". We cannot find a thing and the old site has not been updated.

We have had fun there in the past but what the heck? No nothing.

GrumpyDave
10-05-2006, 05:52 AM
Do the event hosts have a website, an e-mail or a phone? Maybe it's just a private, by invite only event? You're coming from a pretty good distance to not know anything at this time. Personally, I'd make other plans.

tompritchett
10-05-2006, 09:17 AM
Grumpy Rain Jonah

Are you sure you didn't mean to say "Grumpy Rain Noah". After all I don't remember you ever claiming to be swallowed by a whale? :)

Button Whizzer
10-05-2006, 09:32 AM
Are you sure you didn't mean to say "Grumpy Rain Noah". After all I don't remember you ever claiming to be swallowed by a whale? :)

He no doubt means Jonah also known as Jonah Begone the famous camp character from the book Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings. That book is essential reading for any Civil War reenactor.

Brandon

tompritchett
10-05-2006, 09:54 AM
He no doubt means Jonah also known as Jonah Begone the famous camp character from the book Hardtack and Coffee by John Billings. That book is essential reading for any Civil War reenactor.

You are probably right, but given his proven ability to bring rain to an event, Noah just seemed so appropriate.

Rob Weaver
10-05-2006, 01:14 PM
Drew:

We have five or six guys coming from Missouri. The event is about two months off, if it is to be held the anniversary weekend. How are folks supposed to plan?

First the Camp of Instruction was cancelled and now this. Do you have any idea what is going on? Who is the contact person doing the "planning". We cannot find a thing and the old site has not been updated.

We have had fun there in the past but what the heck? No nothing.
You guys really are coming a long distance for this event! In the past, info on it has surfaced about 6 weeks or so before the event. It really is pretty modest in terms of scope, size and organization. I don't think we got any word before the beginning of November last year. I guess basically what I'm saying is that it's still too early to make plans for Fredericksburg.

Kevin O'Beirne
10-05-2006, 04:53 PM
I've heard for some years that the battle reenactment that is part of this event is held right in the streets of Fredericksburg, amidst regular citizens and shoppers (modern attire) walking around and with cars on some of the streets where the battle reenactment is held. Is this true?

Rob Weaver
10-05-2006, 06:49 PM
Sometimes the venue for the streetfighting is better than others. Once we fought up one of the streets in the old down town, surrounded by largely period buildings. Another, the setting was less period. I'm not sure the organizers have the political clout to demand the best setting every time. This is still a fun and easy event at a great price, and makes a great end of the year event. Also a good beginner event due to the relatively small scope and size; there are lots of helpful leaders.

Kevin O'Beirne
10-06-2006, 11:39 AM
Thanks Rob. Are the streets cleared of modern folks (for safety) and modern automobiles (moving and parked) before the shooting starts?

Robert A Mosher
10-06-2006, 01:28 PM
Kevin -

Over the years that I have participated in the event, and in discussion with other members of Co B, 28th Mass, the event has had its ups and downs over the years. And I should note that it is scheduled this year for Saturday, December 9. The 47th Virginia are the hosts and Co B, 28th Mass works with them on planning etc.

In past years, the event has included crossing the river in the reconstructed pontons - paddling and bailing with a tin cup in equal parts; a staged waterfront skirmish; a fight along the waterfront; a scaled reenactment of Meade's breakthrough; a scaled reenactment of the Irish Brigade's assault up Marye's Heights; and fighting in the streets of the town.

Support and cooperation from the local authorities has waxed and waned over the years. Sometimes the cars stay in the street and no effort is made to keep the civilians back a safe distance from the weapons fire - sometimes the effort is made. I remember one year they even used horse mounted officers to provide some of the security rather than police cars. The event has also seen the same things seen at other reenactments including broken scenarios.

Go ahead and hose the event if you want, but do please first understand that others are fully aware of any problems you might complain about and are trying to improve the event. But the Fredericksburg of today cannot be confused with the town that existed in December, 1862 even if it shares many of the same buildings, street names, etc. If you are overly sensitive to losing your civil war moment, you probably won't be able to make this event work for you. And speaking STRICTLY for myself, if all you want do is come down and burn powder in the streets - I personally don't think we need you.

But, if you want to do the best we can in the circumstances as they exist and join us to honor the men from both sides who fought in this battle and those who died at Fredericksburg, then come on and join us.

Faugh a ballagh!!

Robert A. Mosher

Kevin O'Beirne
10-07-2006, 12:17 PM
I'm not attempting to crack on the event or comment on it in any way, and apologize if my questions led to that belief. I was merely asking questions to clarify things I'd heard about the event over a period of time--much from some of the sponsoring groups going back to the mid-1990s, and some of it from more recent renditions of the event.

Best of luck with it in 2006. I've heard from NPS Ranger Frank O'Reilly that the Sunday morning program at the National Cemetery is always good, and that seems like a good way to wrap up the weekend and the season.

Robert A Mosher
10-07-2006, 02:26 PM
Kevin -
Thanks for that and I was anticipating more than reacting to anything you said since you correctly pointed out it is not a problem-free event and frankly there are limits to what we can do given geographical reality and the fact that 21st Century Fredericksburg is becoming a Washington DC suburb. We actually had an excellent setting picked out a couple of years ago to do a Meade's breakthrough scenario, only to have the property owners pull it out from under us less than one week before the event! I think we're running out of room in northern Virginia for events.

Sunday is the highpoint for the 28th as Frank Reilly presents a great version of the march of the Irish Brigade from the city docks through the town. We welcome those who want to fall in with us (under arms and generally in leathers with knapsacks, the knapsacks dropped before we set out to mark the spot where the Irish Brigade dropped their packs;the last time it was cold enough to wear greatcoats the walk was cancelled because of the snow!) as well as those civilians who just want to walk along and hear Frank tell the story. I got to carry the green flag one year and it was a great moment for me as we took our last steps towards the sunken lane by ourselves.

Robert A. Mosher

cookiemom
10-07-2006, 02:52 PM
We welcome those who want to fall in with us... as well as those civilians who just want to walk along and hear Frank tell the story.
Reenacting civilians only, or 'taters, too?

Robert A Mosher
10-07-2006, 03:32 PM
Carole -

All are welcome, uniformed troops can fall in with us, everybody else falls in with Mr Frank Reilly. We walk from the city dock along the waterfront and then up hill towards the sunken lane.

Robert A. Mosher

cookiemom
10-08-2006, 03:52 PM
Carole -

All are welcome, uniformed troops can fall in with us, everybody else falls in with Mr Frank Reilly. We walk from the city dock along the waterfront and then up hill towards the sunken lane.

Robert A. Mosher
A more facile mind could probably come up with a joke about 'progressive' reenacting and 'couch potatoes' becoming spectators...

Thanks for the info. We'll keep watching this space for details on specific times for each activity, and look forward to joining Mr. Reilly's group.

Robert A Mosher
10-08-2006, 04:31 PM
I like the progressive idea, I guess it would be a promotion to move up from couch potato to spectator - and then, who knows!

As to a more facile mind, hmm - I portray either an Irish soldier or a Boston journalist, I guess that leaves me out either way.

If you don't want to wait until I have something to post here, our hosts the 47th Virginia post the event information on their website http://www.47thva.org/ as it becomes available.

In past years, the event has included portrayals of the civilian residents of Fredericksburg, usually recruiting from among their own local circles. Whether or not they have need or room for other interested civilians who might want to do more than provide local color, I don't know (not that more period garb wouldn't be welcome - as previously noted, we are often fighting an uphill battle here (no pub consciously intended) trying to give reenactors and spectators a good learning experience).

Robert A. Mosher

cookiemom
10-08-2006, 04:45 PM
I like the progressive idea, I guess it would be a promotion to move up from couch potato to spectator ... We all have to start somewhere...

If you don't want to wait until I have something to post here, our hosts the 47th Virginia post the event information on their website http://www.47thva.org/ as it becomes available.Thank you.

[We're still in the '"spectator/wannabe-reenactor" category. And we ALWAYS learn something...]

EPow47
10-15-2006, 10:29 AM
My name is Eric Powell and I'm the organizer of the Fredericksburg Event. I want to begin with an apology for the lack of information this year. In addition to working with new people in the city every year, we're changing things around a bit. I'll try to answer as many questions as I can here. I hope to have the web site up this week, so keep an eye on www.47thva.org before heading to Cedar Creek.

To begin with, we are hoping to change this to more of a living history event than a reenactment. There just isn't room in the city for the 400 reenactors we had last year. Real safety concerns arose and made us decide to scale things back dramatically. We can pull off our plans this year with about 100 reenactors or so. The scenario is "What happened in the city between the street fight and the main assault". We will begin with a small street skirmish of selected units to portray the street fight and then the Union will "occupy the town". This fight and the Union Camp will be on Charles Street. We plan to establish HQ, field hospitals, a period telegraph, and pickets along this street as well. We are looking for units to help portray activities that would have occured in town during the occupation. I even have some home owners willing to help with a looting scene. Civilian impressions interacting with the Federals would be great here.

After the skirmish, Confederates will withdraw to the mall along Washington Avenue to portary camps "outside of the city". There will also be field hospitals, HQ, pickets, and period music by the Camptown Shakers. I would like a couple of units to do a rounders game with spectator particpation further down the mall. Blue v. Gray maybe? This is where registration will be Saturday morning and reenactor parking will be down the street at the First Christian Church.

In between the two camps will not only be the field hospitals, but also some pockets of remaining Confederates that will need to be rooted out by Federal patrols. These groups will be selected and prepared in advance. A lot of this may happen along Prince Edward Street. Units interested in possibly helping with this need to have previous Fredericksburg experience and contact me immediately. While we don't need as many numbers as we had in the past, we do want enough reenactors to come to make our impression meaningful and allow those on picket, ambulance, or other duty to be relieved to get some lunch in town.

On Sunday, the National Park Service and 28th Mass. Co. B take the lead. Frank O'Reilly hosts a wonderful walking tour of the Irish Brigade's march through town from 12-2pm. Units participating, and those wishing to walk along, form up at the city dock on Sophia Street. The tour concludes at the Kirkland Memorial and leads into the Commemoration Service with units from both sides, as well as other organizations. There will be an opportunity to lay wreaths at the end of the ceremony. Contact the NPS if you would like to be placed on the schedule. We would love to have more units participate in this ceremony and honor those that fought in our city 144 years ago. Confederates will form up along Sunken Road at 1pm.

Regarding the cars, spectators, and other logistical concerns. I apologize for any past issues people might have had. While the city does support our efforts, I would not say it is with open arms. They are supportive, but tentatively. We work mostly with the Historic Fredericksburg Foundation, Inc. (HFFI) and their Candlelight Tour. Our event moves every year to which ever neighborhood they are holding the tour. That is the only way we are able to get some of the streets closed. Without their help, Im not sure we could get any streets closed. For the past few years the director of the HFFI tour has changed, including again this year. This is part of the delay in getting things put together. However, the woman in charge understands our concerns and is working with us to resolve them. The new head of HFFI is a Revolutionary War reenactor. He understands the issues we are facing and is really excited about what we have planned. They have assured me that there will be no cars and that the spectators will be kept at a safe distance from any firing. HFFI is providing portajohns near each camp, there will be fires in designated raised fire pits, water available, BUT there will NOT be any overnight camping this year. However, we do have discounts at the Best Western and Hylton Hotels for reenactors. I'll get maps and information up on the web site as quick as I can.

Fredericksburg is a unique event. It is NOT a powder burner! We hope to provide a one of a kind experience to reenactors free of charge, teach the community about what happened here 144 years ago, and honor those on both sides who struggled through the times. I think that as we develop this into a living history event, it will receive more support and cooperation from the various groups in the community. We hope you'll find it a nice way to end your reenacting season.

If you have questions, are interested in participating, or have a special living history idea that you'd like to bring, please contact me. My email is EPow47@aol.com and my home phone is 540-850-3025.

Lt. Eric Powell
47th Virginia Infantry Co. I
"The Stafford Guard"

Hondo
10-15-2006, 04:04 PM
Best of Luck Eric. See yall at Cedar Creek.




Hondo

Huck Finn
10-16-2006, 10:31 PM
Mr. Powell:

It appears if you had over 400 last year that 100 participants will be an easy target. A number of years ago, we made the trip and toured some battlefields. With the purchase of Slaughter Pen Farm and the new Civil War center in Richmond, we were thinking about the same kind of trip. It sounds as if we are not needed and combining this with reenacting would be fun.

Please send me a PM on the board if you think it would be worthwhile.

EPow47
10-18-2006, 07:28 PM
Huck,

The decision to attend our event is completely up to you guys. There is plenty to do in the area that you could combine with a few hours of living history at our event to make a full weekend. Another idea may to come and lay a wreath during the ceremony on Sunday.

We don't want to discourage people from coming, but we do want to make it a different event than in the past. Even with our large numbers last year, my fear is that the changes (and lack of information on my part) will run a number of people off.

If you guys are coming to the area, I encourage you to consider our event as part of your weekend.

Thanks for your patience,

Eric

Memphis
10-19-2006, 12:21 PM
Huck,

If you drive all the way to Fredericksburg be sure to visit the Oak Museum in Stafford County. Rob Hodge discovered that place and I hear it is truly fantastic.

hussard7
10-19-2006, 12:51 PM
That's WHITE OAK Stafford. It was found long before Rob found it. It is a good place to visit, privately owned and operated.
Wayne Gregory
Stafford, VA

EPow47
10-31-2006, 08:53 PM
For those interested in Fredericksburg, I apologize about the web site. I've sent the info to my web master, but he is having some difficulty. Hopefully it will be up soon. I'll attach a registration form here and if you have any questions, please feel free to email me at EPow47@aol.com

Lt. Eric Powell
47th VA Inf. Co. I
"The Stafford Guards"

Robert A Mosher
11-09-2006, 08:02 AM
We have been able to post the information on the Co B, 28th Massachusetts website:


The 144th Anniversary Battle of Fredericksburg Schedule:

Saturday, December 9

· 8:30 am: Registration

· 9:00 am: Formation in the Camps

· 11:00 am: Street Battle on Charles Street

· 1 to 4 pm: Street patrols and living history scenarios throughout the city

· Saturday evening: No overnight camps this year. Participants are encouraged to find overnight accommodations.

Sunday, December 10

· 11:30 am: Federal troops form at the City Dock for the "March of the Irish Brigade" to Marye's Heights with the National Park Service. Any Federals wishing to participate should contact the commanding officer at captain@28thmasscob.org.

· 12:00 pm: Federals step off on march

· 1:30 pm: Confederate forces form at Kirkland Memorial

· 2:00 p.m.: NPS Commemoration of 144th Anniversary of the Battle of Fredericksburg. Ceremony is held next to Stone Wall in front of Kirkland Memorial.

Come join us to learn more about the Battle of Fredericksburg, the experiences of the soldiers, and the impact it had on the town.


Registration: Please click here for a registration form. (Adobe PDF)

www.28thmasscob.org\06-Fredericksburg-Registration-Form..pdf


Reenactor registration for this event is FREE until December 1, 2006. Registrations will be accepted after December 1, but will be charged a $5 walk-on fee.

Registration will open at 8:30 am on Saturday, December 9. It will be located at the Confederate Camp on Washington Avenue across from Kenmore. There will be no overnight camping. Reenactor Parking is at the First Christian Church just down the street on Washington Avenue.

Robert A Mosher

EPow47
11-12-2006, 11:50 AM
There is also information now up on the 47th web site. Sorry for the delay.

www.47thVA.org

Eric Powell

Huck Finn
11-12-2006, 09:48 PM
Gentlemen:

While I have the registration form, the 28th Mass pdf does not function and the 47th VA has no reference on the main page or the events subfolder. Just an FYI.

Robert A Mosher
11-12-2006, 10:33 PM
Huck -
Thanks, I've passed the word to the Co B, 28th Mass webmaster.

Robert A. Mosher

Robert A Mosher
11-14-2006, 01:15 PM
I believe that the link to the PDF file copy of the registration form has now been fixed - at least it worked when I checked it.

Robert A. Mosher

Huck Finn
11-14-2006, 08:51 PM
Robert:

I figured it was just a squiggle out of place.

The 47's site appears to be working, too.

Huck Finn
12-08-2006, 04:45 PM
Now, get out there and have some fun!

Memphis
12-10-2006, 02:13 PM
How did this go? Fredericksburg has fascinated me for as long as I can remember reading about the charge to the stone wall.

Huck Finn
12-10-2006, 09:13 PM
Reports from the local Blue Boys were that about 20 Confederates and 60 Union soldiers showed. Apparently, the organizers had to cut way back this year. Not sure why.

We attended a few years ago and there were about 300 military participants. Fun day but, the town does not apparently play well with others. There was no crowd control and a couple of by-standers were nearly shot. This may be the reason for the scaleback.

If you have studied the battle, the really facinating part is not the Sunken Road portion but the action at Prospect Hill (Union left). The breakthrough there nearly turned the whole war on its ear. Old General Meade almost pulled it off.

We are coming out to the Slaughter Pen Farm event in October. The SWB and CR put on a great "history heavy" event. Now don't throw stones. History heavy is a good thing.

Robert A Mosher
12-11-2006, 10:15 AM
Just so the only comment on the event won't be a second hand account, I was there this weekend in my role as Army Correspondent Charles Carleton of the Boston Journal. Obviously, this will somewhat limit my ability to comment on what the Rebels were doing including our hosts for this event - the 47th Virginia, the guys who really do the lion's share of the work.)

I was told before Saturday morning that we had some 100 Union troops signed up for the event. 60 is probably pretty close to the count of who actually showed up. I'm not aware of any limits or cutbacks on participation, but there are some practical limits on how many people can be used in the streetfighting scenario. More people would allow for more realistic hit rates and still have enough troops alive to finish the scenario. Still, Lewes street was satisfactorily littered with bodies of the slain at the end of the scenario. There was a twist this year in that the organizers included details identifying and removing the wounded from the street and then taking them to a makeshift aid station a block or two away where the wounded of both sides were treated.

The street fight appeared to go pretty much as planned with the Union troops pushing the rebels back for two or three blocks and then being engaged on three sides at an intersection. There may have been some confusion caused by mixed signals as the Rebels were reportedly expecting an actual Union charge that would drive them away and end the scenario - but when the first rank of the Rebel unit 'took a knee' and kept firing, the Union officers reportedly interpreted that as a Rebel decision to stand their ground no matter what. Keeping safe ranges in the street fighting is always a problem but this year it really only got too close at one point towards the end - possibly because the rebel unit that came so close was supposed to end up surrounded and there needed to be room for the second Union unit to come up behind them. At least one point on Saturday, captured rebels were offered written paroles, courtesy of 'Schnapps' the friendly clerk and First Sergeant, which would allow the recipient/signator/bearer to go on home and wait until he was 'exchanged.' A number of Rebels saw the advantage of a furlough from the war and accepted - a handful reportedly did not see at that way and in their truculent refusal to offer their real names and a proper oath risked being sent to Lookout Point of Camp Douglas - but the Union troops apparently decided that it wasn't worth the trouble and gave them their paroles anyway.

This year, the local authorities were more succesful and the area of the street fight was at last fully cleard of cars on the street. There was also more crowd control in recent years as police tape clearly marked the limits of spectator movement. As always, however, there were still people who do not understand such things or persist in believing that such things don't apply to them. My personal favorite was the older gentlemen making his way along the sidewalk near me (in my preferrred correspondent's post - not too close to the front rank, out of the officers' way, but still able to see the action). He was carrying two Starbucks coffees while talking on his cellphone. I decided to suspend disbelief and ignore him but one of the local 'authorities' actually chased after him while calling 'sir, sir' to get his attention and make him stop before he reached the front ranks. He managed to get the gentlemen to stop moving forward and step into a front yard along the way until the fighting was over. While never stopping his cellphone conversation, I heard the old fellow object to the 'authorities' that "I was a reenactor for 30 years." I didn't hear his explanation as to how that justified his ignoring the rules. He was apparently equally brusk with the woman whose front yard he was occupying, because after hearing her invite him to join her and some children on her front porch (he refused) their conversation continued unheard until she finally told him to get out of her front yard (that part I heard clearly!)

After the street fight, there were a number of living history scenarios played out by the two sides - looting, a house seizure by occupying Union troops in need of a hospital(?), the establishment of picket lines, and a prisoner exchange in the town. There were separate Union and Confederate encampments also hosting living history opportunities (in particular the Union surgeon's tent) and some good music in the Confederate camp. (I still haven't heard why we have never gotten Dave Kinkaid to come down for this event!)

While I expect everyone is going to want to rest up and enjoy the Christmas season with their families - I also know that the organizers are very aware that next year will be the 145th event and will look to do something special.

On Sunday, COmpany B of the 28th Massachusetts Volunteers, welcomed a good crowd of friends (including two visitors from Ireland) into its ranks for the annual march following the route of the Irish Brigade through Fredericksburg up to Marye's Heights. With National Park's Historian Frank O'Reilly leading the way and narrating the progress of the original cast, this is always a special event for us. With the bonus of excellent weather (matching the original conditions according to Mr. O'Reilly - minus the mud), we had what may have been the best turnout of visitors and of marchers ever. Thanks to everyone who joined us - hope you can do so again.

Robert A. Mosher

Busterbuttonboy
12-11-2006, 10:24 AM
A good time was had by some boys of 3rd Batt USV. Our hats go off to the event organizers who did an excellent job. Fredericksburg is a hard town to work with however the crowd control, and street control was excellent. Their work with the local Historical Societ paid off as many many people offered up great questions, and due respect to the situations. (minus that dance group that set up near the hospital... cant win them all) The first person senarios went very well, an i beleive a good time was had by all.
Most Respectfully
Drew Gruber

kayjay
12-13-2006, 09:34 AM
Our unit [Bradys Sharpshooters] has supported the Frederisckburg event for the last 7 years. The event has had its highs and lows, the worst one being several years back when we were relegated to a playground. The town itself seems to be somewhat ambivalent about its Civel War heritage, and, in December, weather is always a potential factor.

In the past there has been a morning event based on the river crossing at the Ferry Farm. That has never drawn many spectators and after the pontoon boats were pronounced unseaworthy several years ago the Union army has had to drive over and 'simulate' the crossing. This year the event was focused in the town itself. leaving out the river crossing scenario. A second welcome change was moving the 'street fight' to a wider street. The 'historical street' is narrow and the houses are modern, well 20th century anyway, thus its unsuited for use. The event organizers worked with the 'house tour' to get the cars removed and the streets blocked off, and a little more participation from the town on crowd control.

As Robert mentioned, besides the street fight there were a number of living history vignettes that that went on from 1330 - 1530. This is also new and a step in the right direction by the organizers. Given that almost the entire battlefield is developed except for the Nat'l cemetary, there is not much more that can be done on the site.

Kevin Kelley

Huck Finn
12-13-2006, 11:22 PM
Robert:

Thanks for the detailed post. The 47th has been grappling with the best presentation of this event for years. It is a shame about the pontoon boats. Those things were first rate and, for those of us who dared, it was a magic moment. Maybe the event will hit its stride and settle into something less ambitious and more controllable

Our problem is, it is a long haul for staying in a hotel. Maybe they can work this out as well.

Robert A Mosher
12-14-2006, 11:06 AM
[QUOTE Thanks for the detailed post. The 47th has been grappling with the best presentation of this event for years. It is a shame about the pontoon boats. Those things were first rate and, for those of us who dared, it was a magic moment. Maybe the event will hit its stride and settle into something less ambitious and more controllable

Our problem is, it is a long haul for staying in a hotel. Maybe they can work this out as well.[/QUOTE]

You're welcome and I think you can look around for Schnapps' AAR as well which will offer a fighting soldier's viewpoint. I talked with him afterwords about the issuing of paroles to Confederate POWs - it offered an interesting moment not usually found at reenactments.

The pontoon boat crossing of the river also added something unique to the event. I was surprised the one time I did it to find no one else admitting to any experience in small boats (having been an early reader of the Toad books I personally appreciated the value of 'messing around in small boats'). Of course, given the situation, we couldn't really reenact the hits taken by the original cast - as it was we had a Fire Department rescue boat downstream in case anyone got into trouble or even into the water. Even then, when the boats were reportedly in better shape than they are now, we had as many people bailing with their tin cups as we did on the oars. The actual rowing wasnt' that hard as the boats do come with oarlocks. I'm not sure how the crossing would be now that the dam has been removed and the river moved one step closer to its natural state.

The arrangements for camping has also varied over the years and there have usually been few takers on the Union side even when it was offered - especially when the Union camp was at Ferry Farm across the river. There was just too little traffic to sustain it as an effective living history event and the staff there seem to keep changing their minds about their relationship with reenactors. I visited Chatham house earlier this year, where there was a Union Army headquarters at the time and noticed that they appear to have room for a small encampment behind the house (away from the river) - I wonder if anyone has spoken to them about hosting a camp and participating in the annual event?

Robert A Mosher

Memphis
12-14-2006, 11:35 AM
I visited Chatham house earlier this year, where there was a Union Army headquarters at the time and noticed that they appear to have room for a small encampment behind the house (away from the river) - I wonder if anyone has spoken to them about hosting a camp and participating in the annual event?

A recent issue of Civil War Historian magazine had a very nice article about reenactors camping at Chatham. I don't recall which issue it was, but a photograph of the house was on the cover. It may be NPS property.

Pvt Schnapps
12-14-2006, 11:41 AM
To follow up on the implied threat in Mr. Mosher's latest, here's part one of the Schnappshot of Fredericksburg, 2006:

When Sharpshooter is One Word
AAR of Fredericksburg, 2006
by M. A. Schaffner, or
Oscar Clement, Orderly Sergeant
First Company Massachusetts Sharpshooters

The annual reenactment of the mauling of Federal troops at Fredericksburg is usually a happy time for the Brady Sharp Shooters (aka Company ‘BSS’, 16th Michigan). The holidays near, the weather feels good in wool, and it’s an easy commute for most of us. This year we had another good turnout for us, with 14 of 19 registrants showing. In addition to our Captain, Kevin Kelley, and administrative chair/QM sergeant Brian Whitaker, we had Schnapps for 1st sergeant, Mark Maranto for 2nd sergeant, Bugler John Teller, Orderly Dylan Schuler, and privates Wayne Abernathy, Stephan Courtien, Geoff Golliver, John Maranto, Josh Mordin, Steve Robinson, Audrey Scanlan, and Bill Wilson.

The Fredericksburg reenactment typically includes a morning fight at Ferry Farm, on the east bank of the Rappahannock, followed by an afternoon street fight in downtown Fredericksburg, with enough time between for lunch and a beer or two at O’Brien’s. This year the organizers tried to shift the focus from powder-burning to living history. The Ferry Farm battle was out, and the street fight would be reshaped, with fewer participants, complemented by a series of tableaux, including a picket post, patrols, prisoner exchanges, and a friendly house looting.

Brady’s had good intentions going in. Because the participation of the original Brady’s consisted of driving away some Confederate sharp shooters from the flank of the brigade while the 16th waited to make an attack that was blessedly called off, we decided to portray another sharpshooter unit, the 1st Massachusetts Company of Sharpshooters, or Andrew Sharpshooters. Interestingly enough, while Brady’s, the eleventh company of the 16th Michigan, bore the designation of company “BSS”, with Andrews “Sharpshooters” was one word. Perhaps it’s just as well.

In 1862, the Andrew Sharpshooters, nominally attached to the 15th Massachusetts, covered the initial river crossing and provided counter battery fire during the battle. We had a copy of the roster and history, and several of us picked the names of actual members, being guided to some degree by their age and civilian occupation though, in my case, I had no choice but to play the original first sergeant, who was 22. I was ready to explain my gray hair as a result of Antietam, where the company was shot to rags and overrun. In fact, by the time of Fredericksburg two thirds of their members, including the captain, had been with the company less than a month. So if we looked rusty in our drill and cohesion, well, that was part of the plan.

But as it was, we made little use of our research. The entire time from 9 to 10 in the morning was spent collecting the company at the Federal camp behind a CPA office on Princess Street, between Lewis and Fauquier. For the record, the site was fine, parking at the First Christian church convenient and adequate, and registration at the Confederate camp on Washington Street quick and friendly. All the organization was probably simplified by having fewer participants than in previous years. The Confederates limited themselves to about 50 and let the Union numbers run as high as we wished. In practice this gave us about 80 to 100, with the 28th Massachusetts providing the plurality and other old friends, including the 2nd Wisconsin and 14th New Jersey bringing smaller numbers. In Brady’s, besides those named, we had the honor of entertaining three guests from the 3rd US, including Paul Stier.

Captain Kelley had just time to supervise the forming of the company and some basic drill before he was called to an officers’ meeting to go over the plan for the battle. I took up where he left off, went through the “Street Firing” maneuver a couple of times, plus basic facings and footings, then a weapons inspection. On Captain Kelley’s return we discovered that we wouldn’t be using the “Street Firing” maneuver after all, as we’d be part of a flanking column that would move a block down and come up on the Confederate right after they’d engaged the central column (the 28th and other attached units) for awhile.

The fight went pretty much as planned, though it showed that the event hasn’t yet found a way to deal with the problem of units blazing away at point-blank range with very few casualties. Some of the spectators seemed to anticipate this. I recall one lady shouting – before, in fact, we had even come under direct fire – “why are any of you dying?” Seemed a bit bloodthirsty to me, but then I saw little of the main fight. Brady’s marched to its jump off point, on the corner of Amelia and Charles, I believe (I love the street names in Fredericksburg), and waited. We waited some more and then, for a change, stood around for awhile. We were to attack when we heard Bugler Teller (attached to General Air) sound our prelude call, but we never did.

When Captain Kelley finally decided to go in, he detached one platoon with Second Sergeant Maranto to go up the sides of the street in skirmish order while the second waited in reserve. There were only about eight Confederates standing in the middle of the street, but they held their own. After Kelley committed the second platoon and gave them a few volleys, they took a couple of hits and sought cover in the yard of one of the houses on Charles, but they didn’t give up till a group of soldiers detached themselves from the main US column and charged in from the rear. Doubtless the spectators’ worst expectations of reenacting were met by our plugging away in the open at about twenty yards from each other, but without more scripting or discussion in advance, it went about as well as one could expect. We ended up with three prisoners but, since we weren’t sure how the POW scenario was supposed to work, and we would much rather go to O’Brien’s for lunch than guard anyone, we let one run away, and then gave the other two the choice of following him. They did.

Back at camp the troops generally dispersed for lunch. I stayed behind to attend to three prisoners another unit had brought back and had under guard. I had heard before the event that we would have a “prisoner exchange,” but knew that, under the exchange cartel of October, 1862, this wouldn’t really have happened in the field. There was a formal process for exchange involving commissioners and detailed records, with a formula for determining equivalency between ranks and other complexities. You didn’t just swap people at the company level. What you could do was parole them, so I had made up some forms in advance. Sullivans offers a precise copy of the paroles issued at Appomattox, but I found another example from Vicksburg that seemed more suitable for the field, as it included the parolee’s oath or promise not to bear arms again until properly exchanged. Anyway, in a little carpe eventum, I broke out my clerk’s kit, explained the process to the three Rebels, and filled out the forms. After a bit of hesitation all three signed their paroles and took them along when they were released a few minutes after I’d finished. If nothing else, it gave them a little souvenir.

By this time it was about half past twelve so I hastened off to O’Brien’s with Wilson and Scanlan and found a seat at the big table where Brady’s/Andrew’s were just enjoying their first round of drinks. I ordered a glass of merlot and an order of fries and, when the first appeared, proposed a toast to the Brady Sharp Shooters: “Fine dining, long range killing, good penmanship.” Someday we’ll have that in Latin.

Pvt Schnapps
12-14-2006, 11:42 AM
....
We got back to camp a little over an hour later and found that, since we were late for some scenario we were supposed to play in at 1:30, another unit had gone in our stead. No matter, for soon firing broke out nearby on Fauquier Street. A Confederate patrol was pushing a few skirmishers from the 28th back toward our camp. A force sent out by 1st Sergt. Tuohy to flank the enemy had itself run into some trouble so we were called to help out. Captain Kelley quickly formed us up and we marched out in line of battle – not terribly difficult as several of our number had left after lunch. We soon found our friends in gray and gave them a few volleys from the front yard of one of the citizens who’d agree to play along that day. Then we charged, and they counter-charged, and I swung my scoped rifle around a bit in I hope a not entirely comic manner, and we ended up with about a half dozen more POWs.

With nothing better to do, we marched them back to our camp. Corporal Lyne of the 28th generously allowed me to borrow a little camp chair and table, and I proceeded to repeat the parole process, after first explaining the cartel and reading over the oath that they were about to sign in lieu, I reminded them, of going off to a northern POW camp. It occurred to me that they might view it as equally heinous to subject them to government paperwork under field conditions, but in the end I think most of them signed and several even seemed happy to have a piece of paper to take back with them. As Private Steir, on guard beside the table, told them, “Just show that to your sergeant when you get back and they try to give you a fatigue detail. You don’t have to do nothing anymore until you’re exchanged.” It may have taken some of the edge off the pain of capture. In any case, as soon as the paperwork was done we let them go.

By this time It was about two-thirty and most of our company decided to leave. Before we broke up, we gave Kevin three cheers for his two years of command. He, Scanlan, Teller, Wilson, and I hung around a bit longer – I think Bill had already found a sunny spot for his impeccable impression of a napping soldier. I had some fun chatting with a number of folks, including Sergeant Weaver of the 2nd Wisconsin, who’d come with his unit all the way from Erie, PA for this event. Rob has a long association with Brady’s, too, and I’ve known him since Sayler’s Creek in 2002, though most of our acquaintance consists of covering each other’s backs in on-line fire fights.

When I’d done socializing I picked up my rifle and went out to see what else was going on in town. I passed a few units on patrol and any number of spectators in line for tours of historic homes. A block up Lewis Street I came upon a picket post of the 14th New Jersey facing a post of Confederates about 50 yards away. I’ve long been an admirer of the Buttonhats, so I crept up to their barricade to see the fun. I ought to mention that it was a pretty good barricade – the organizers had taken care to round up an impressive array of baled straw, boxes, odd bits of lumber, and at least one nicely crafted chevaux-de-fris. The half-dozen Buttonhats crouched behind the cover as if actually concerned about getting shot – a rare thing at reenactments. They were all young – upper teens and twenties – and all had good uniforms and gear (right down to Buster’s original Lorenz), so for a moment I really had the impression of having wandered through the looking glass to 1862. What I could see of the Rebels through my scope did nothing to lessen the impression.

They’d been at the game for an hour or more, had traded tobacco, coffee, insults, and pledges not to fire, but had also had problems with crowds of spectators wander by and through the posts. I played crowd control very briefly, waving away one group of ladies, when Buster decided to end things. We would attack, he said, lose one fellow, then call up another company (there was one apparently waiting a block away) and storm the Reb’s barricade.

He gave the word (“Games up, Johnny! Here we come!”), we charged up the street exchanging shots, one of our fellows took a dramatic hit, and we fell back. Two of the Buttonhats remained under cover on the left with myself behind them. Our wounded man writhed with dismal realism in the street. Buster called out again – “Let us get him!”

“No, Yank! You asked for it!”

There was some back and forth – I couldn’t stand it anymore and took out the white pocket handkerchief that I keep at least as much for this sort of thing as anything else. “He’s gutshot,” I said. “He’s done for anyway. Let us just get him back.”

The Confederates didn’t say anything. I stepped out hesitantly with the white kerchief. Nobody shot at me so I went out to the “casualty” and helped him back – pretty clumsily, since he insisted on being a good actor and I was just trying not to get shot. I dropped him at least once and whispered, “Come on – I’m an old man, give me a break.”

We got him back, I ran back, largely under cover, for my rifle, then returned to the barricade. The other Federal company came up and gave Johnny a volley over our heads. I felt a sting on my neck and saw a bit of smoldering over the cartridge box of the fellow next to me. As I swatted it out he asked, “Am I on fire again?” I don’t know whether the folks behind us had one of the US dismounted cavalry with his Sharps (were they really at Fredericksburg?) or someone had rammed paper, but it was disconcerting for a second or two. But then we got up and charged with a yell.

It was all over in about ten seconds. The Confederates pulled back and that was it. I chatted with Buster and the Buttonhats a little (wait – there’s a nice name for group there) and then returned to camp where I found Bill still safely asleep, guarded by Bugler Teller and Private Scanlan. I was hesitant to wake him up, but I also wanted to get home.

“What time is it?” he asked. “Did I miss anything?”

The best part of it is that, as first sergeant, I never even loaded my rifle. The only thing I had to clean when I got home was the extra inkwell I’d brought with my writing kit – but that, in the end, had taken care of more Confederates than my rifle ever has.

Spare_Man
12-14-2006, 12:50 PM
Originally Posted by Robert A Mosher
I visited Chatham house earlier this year, where there was a Union Army headquarters at the time and noticed that they appear to have room for a small encampment behind the house (away from the river) - I wonder if anyone has spoken to them about hosting a camp and participating in the annual event? I don't know about this year, but last year they had NPS living history firing demos at the Sunken Road going on at or about the same time as the battle reenactment downtown. I got the impression that the park's volunteers and the event's reenactors had nothing to do with each other and that the park likes it that way. So I doubt if the park would allow event participants to camp on NPS land and then march off to fight on city or private land. Safety and legal issues abound and the park probably does not want to create the impression they are in any way sanctioning a battle reenactment even if it is being held outside the park.

Spare_Man
12-14-2006, 01:09 PM
A recent issue of Civil War Historian magazine had a very nice article about reenactors camping at Chatham. I don't recall which issue it was, but a photograph of the house was on the cover. It may be NPS property.Chatham is indeed on NPS land. The event in question was Federal troops portraying an one of the Iron Brigade regiments who were camped at Chatham on July 4th 1862. Two artillery pieces were also present. I had the honor of being a mere 21st century spectator at that event. It was a class act from beginning to end. Kudos to all who had anything to do with it!