Friday, July 11, 2008

Gettysburg - 145th Anniversary Reenactment

Well, where to begin with Gettysburg? It was a great honor to reenact what those great Americans from both sides of the conflict did. They made America what it is today, or at least made it possible. To be there on the battlefield...it is crazy that someone fought on Little Round Top and Devil's Den. Both areas were very poor ground. And Pickett's Charge...seemingly madness! But the Lord had his hand in the outcome of the battle. It was the first real win of the Army of the Potomac at that point in the War. And the first real loss of the Army of Northern Virginia. Just think on the odds of that being the turning point of the War!

This pic is fitting to start off this post. This is a picture of the first time that a Confederate flag has been allowed on the actual path of Pickett's Charge with men in uniform - well since the day it actually happened! I got on the march late. I had to run across knee deep grass to catch up to the group. And that was about a half mile run. And it was tough in that grass with my slick leather soled boots! And when I got there, it was clear that it was only 'brass' doing the walk. That is 'Longstreet' to the immediate left. But I bet I was the only one in that group of men marching that actually had an ancestor that participated in Pickett's Charge. Captain William Munford Tuck, Co. K, 3rd Virginia Infantry, was a part of General Kemper's Brigade. Captain Tuck is one of my 3rd Great Grandfathers who fought in the War Between the States. He survived the Charge, and was actually captured at the Angle...he made it to the stone wall! He sat in a Union prison the rest of the War, and barely had enough strength to make it home upon his parole. You know, he was so well fed and cared for in that Yankee prison because they made sure they Confederate prisoners of war were treated so humanely...anyone ever hear of Camp Douglas Prison Camp in Chicago? Yea, I didn't think you did...the Yanks did a great job of covering up their attrocities in their own prisons by highlighting what went on in the ill-equipted prisons of the Confederacy. Good luck trying to visiting the Camp Douglas Memorial in Chicago. It is on the South Side and you will find no signs pointing the where the monument is located.

Anyway, it was a real honor to walk Pickett's Charge. It was absolutely unbelievable and difficult to imagine what it must have been like, facing all that deadly direct fire from musket and cannon alike at such close range...WOW!!

Here is one of the views of the Virginia monument at the beginning of Pickett's Charge... beautiful! Probably the best monument among hundreds at Gettysburg.

And of course, no talk of Gettysburg would be complete without discussing Virginia's favored son, Robert E. Lee. His equestrian statue on this monument is probably second only to the great Lee Monument on Monument Avenue in Richmond.

Here is a front view of the statue. The inscription says:
VIRGINIA TO HER SONS AT GETTYSBURG

Here I am with the Virginia Monument -
It was a proud moment for me!
Here I am with Niles Clark, who is portraying General George Pickett. We are standing on the stone wall at 'The Angle'. Can you see over my right shoulder that opening in the trees? That is where the Virginia Monument is. And that is the start and subsequent length of Pickett's Charge. Wow! As you can see - plain, nearly flat open field - all the way - a long way to march under horrendous fire.
Here is a view of the farm where General Pickett was and his staff were stationed observing the progress of the Charge. It is just inside the Emmitsburg Road and very near the action at the Angle.

Merle and I also visited Little Round Top that day. It had a commanding view as you can see. The is a statue of General Warren, the man who's quick decision saved the day on Little Round Top and made it possible for Colonel Chamberlain and his 20th Maine to be heroes that day.

Here is a nice pic of me with General Warren - Hero of Little Round Top. Sheridan tried to ruin his good military name (and did a good job of it too). But history now reads different and you can go back and read up on this great tactician and general. By the way, you are not supposed to hop up on the rock like this. Didn't see the sign on the rock until too late...oh well!
You can see Devil's Den in the distance. You will also note how rocky this ground is. What is not readily noticeable is how steep this hill is. I would not want to charge either up or down this hill! Incredible!
Here is a look at just a few of the rocks at Devil's Den. A great place to hole up. A terrible place to charge up! But General Hood's men took this position at great cost. Gen. Hood lost use of an arm on this action.Here is a monument to General Hood's 5th Texas Infantry. Our reenactment group, the 5th Texas Partisan Rangers, grew from the 5th Texas Infantry group - from personal relationships of reenactors in both groups. That is where the relationship ends, as the Rangers were at Trans-Mississippi outfit - Col. Martin's Regiment.

And here is General James Longstreet's Monument. He deserves a much more impressive monument, but for years he had nothing at Gettysburg. Longstreet was pretty awesome! I'm a great admirer, and I'm glad his name has received some vindication after all these years.

And here is the guy who portrayed Longstreet. This fella's name is Jay Vogel. He lives in what he calls Western Virginia (yea, it was a sure ripoff that West Virginia was allowed to become a state...it was illegal in the manner in which it was accomplished...a political move to be sure!). But this guy knows his Longstreet and does a good job portraying the great general - Lee's Old Warhorse!

At this point, we'll now finish our brief ride of actual Gettysburg sites and move into the portion of the reenactment. The event was staged at least 5 miles away from the battlefield sites. Here is a pic of Merle and myself (actually at the end of Gettysburg tour that day) in a wagon that these 2 great Missourian's built themselves. They are pretty cool guys. They were from SW Missouri over by Oklahoma. They were the real deal, and it was awful nice to get a ride from them in this mule drawn wagon up the hill to save our feet! This was my first experience in a mule drawn wagon, and it was pretty cool. I know the guy on the right's last name is Miller - so a salute to you both!

Due to time, I won't arrange these pics in any order that I normally would painstakingly take. I'm about ready to head off to the Army, and am running short of time. So I'll just note them as they are!
Here is a great pic of infantry moving out. This took a great deal of time - getting all these fellas lined up properly. And since Infantry made it all happen in the War, they were often the spotlight of show at this reenactment. As cavalry, we often had to sit and wait. In this case, it took well over an hour to get everyone down the hill. Those web foots are looking pretty sharp!

It was always great to see the fife and drum lead the way. And they were all sharp and practiced, too. Unfortunately, they felt the need to practice their craft very late at night and very early in the morning. No sleep for us back in the cavalry section was needed - at least that must have been what the fife, drums, bugles and even bagpipers thought!!! It took a couple of nights sleep at home to get the sound of fifes out of my dreams!

I wish I had a better pic (it was snapped at an awkward angle off my horse) but these guys rocked. I would hear these beautiful hymns in the morning and thought someone had a recording of period music. It finally dawned on me that these guys were putting on a great live show every day. Outstanding! They weren't noisy and shrill like the fife, drum, bugle and bagpipes! These guys were smooth, harmonic and downright respectful of the Cause. They could have played all day long for my taste.

Don't those North Carolina colors look great?! They are coming onto the field for Pickett's Charge on Sunday afternoon. Being as I started with the 26th NC, Co. G Infantry when I entered the hobby, I have a special place in my heart for North Carolina.

Ah, and here is Colonel Fremantle who was a neutral spectator from Britain. He found his way to Gettysburg and rubbed shoulders with Lee and Longstreet and several other prominent military leaders in the South in his travels. He later wrote a book based on his journal while traveling as a neutral observer in the South and other parts of the United States. In his book, which was published before the War ended, he stated that he thought the Confederacy would eventually certainly gain it sovereignty. Apparently, this reenactor is an Englishman, Roger Hughes. His accent certainly sounded quite authentic. Now I see it was the real deal and no acting!


Here is a picture of General Pickett's staff (minus me of course who took the picture!) You'll note Niles Clark as Pickett, then Merle and Gary. I rode between Merle and Gary during the battle.

Here is a close of Niles Clark as General Pickett. He did a great job that day!

Here is Niles taking the fall from his horse when a shell came too close to General Pickett
during the charge."My Boys...I can't see my Boys!!"

Ah, here is the fearless leader of the 8th Texas Cavalry, Co. I, Captain Dave Wilson! He had a great beard and was surely Texan through and through. These comrades portray probably the best cavalry unit in the entire War Between the States, Terry's Texas Rangers -
the 8th Texas Cavalry.


A view of one of the sections of Confederate camp. This was a mix of artillery and infantry folks. Way in the distance is the grandstands and sutlers shops.

Saddles stowed...it was an easy way to keep camp looking nice and neat, and of course, the investment of a saddle more secure. However, since it was often raining, the saddles were kept in Merle and Gary's tents much of the time overnight.

There are our fearless and obedient (well, most of the time!) mounts. Gypsie, Ritchie and Travis. I got to ride Travis this season, and he is a great ride. Still needs training to get him to do the famous, easy riding 'rack' of a Tennessee Walker. But nonetheless, he rarely shys from the din of battle. Although he did on one day when we filled a gap of infantry. I can't say I blame him...there was more gunsmoke and noise that day in that small space than I ever saw!

Here is Gary, Al and Merle greeting retreating soldiers after the repulse along the Union center that 3rd day known as Pickett's Charge. Note how I am not riding Travis at this point. I start to see the issue with riding a horse that looks like Traveller...whenever there is a Lee reenactor around, my feet are going to hit the ground! But it sure was neat see "Lee" up there. And I must admit, I got a rush from going up and shaking 'Lee's hand' and felt for a moment as I got caught up in the scene that I was indeed shaking the famous American's hand! Al Stone did a great Lee impression!

Oh, I like this pic of Al and Merle and these generals with cannons and historic farm in the background. Whoever took that has a good eye for pictures!
Gary, Al and Merle pose for another shot.

Ah, the evidence is produced...a wool blanket with a shotgun blast clean through the blanket! This 'trial' went on for about a half hour. Poor Reyn really got raked over the coals. I guess that is what happens when one comes back to one's own tent and accidentally discharges his shotgun in the middle of the night!

After this incident, and then a follow up story by Reyn of an old timer who blew off 3 of his fingers with his sawed off blackpowder shotgun, I deemed it wise to take Merle up on his trade offer of my period shotgun (which needed a fair bit of work to come to working condition) for the remaining tack that I needed to have a full set of riding gear. Done deal!

Judgement is handed out at the end of the trial...Reyn's 'natural sentiments' are ordered to be brought back into proper natural order...no more Yankee spys (well, male Yankee spys!) are to be in his tent...no matter what his story is! Money is being produced for his use back in town... (good Confederate bills no less!). The boys of the group said they would make sure all was set right for their young comrade and he had no more confusion in his life from the stress of battle...

Oh man, this picture does not come close to how awesome this was that day! There were guns going off everywhere! And the smoke was hot and heavy from the action. This battle, which I think was a representation of Little Round Top, was the best of the whole event. I wish I had remembered to capture some video of it. Oh well...

Infantry Up...Let's move it, boys!

This was a common view for us...let's hustle up and fall in line behind miles of infantry. You can see the line stretch for quite some ways to go in front of us. And again, in the distance, you can see the grandstands.
Ah, isn't that a pretty scene? Camp all set up and the first camp fire is set and burning. I really enjoy setting up a solid campfire pit. This is the site of all my eating that week. Just this fire and a small cast iron skillet. At one point, I left my cast iron skillet on the top of the wood logs of the 'log cabin' style firelay so the water to clean it would come to a boil. Just for a few moments you understand. Just to get a decent boil so I could clean it and my spoon. Well, I got distracted, and about an hour later John said - 'hey Brent...you forgot your skillet!'. He pulls it out of the fire and it is red hot! But Reyn, a cast iron conusieur says that all one needs to do is boil green apples in a skillet and it will re-season the iron surface effectively to continue cooking. And by gosh, it worked!

Here I am going 'fakey Yankee' for Buford's Stand. It rained hard and steady for quite sometime on this expedition. And we sat around a whole bunch. Those are brand new cavalry riding pants, bought special for all the riding at Gettysburg!

Gary, Merle and Reyn donning the blue...

Here we are, waiting to ride out. I believe this is day that many of ran couriers...it was pretty cool. There is Irish, Reyn and Buttons of the 8th Texas. I was right beside Buttons.

And looking the other way, Merle, Gary and some other guys who I don't recognize. I think Merle and Gary were the end of the boys from Texas.

There I am...a rare pic of me that I talked Merle into snapping.

John, Gary and Merle in the shade prior to battle. Sure beats 'Right Wheel' over and over again!

Pat, Bill and Brian resting in the shade.

Here we are, the Texas boys, bringing a gun to a knife fight. Normally, that is what one would want to do. But when the battle is supposed to be a saber fight, well, it doesn't look real good. But we would have whipped 'em! In reality, there should have been a gun fight first THEN the saber fight if we were trying to be historically accurate.

JEB Stuart after the cavalry repulse.

John Navarro smokin' his stogie. I thought it was a real cool pic...unfortunately, it didn't focus correctly...

Riding Back after a fight by the historic Erstwhile Farm, which was present
during the original Gettysburg Battle in 1863.

5 comments:

Will Howard said...

Brent, I'm compiling a list of "Texas Historical and Literary Blogs," and yours is one of those. It'll be published as the August issue of my "Will's TExana Monthly." Can we mail on the matter? Thanks. Will Howard

CSA Brent said...

Will

Yes, that is certainly an honor to be listed as such. By all means, list away.

I will advise you that I'm entering the US Army on the 28th of July. I'll be attending Basic at Ft. Knox and then onto Officer Candidate School at Ft. Benning. I"ll be tied up with those 2 trainings till after the first of the year. I don't think I'll be able to post much till well after that. And depending on what I'm sent to specialize on, I could have another year or so of initial training till I'm sent anywhere! So I'm certainly gearing up for this huge career change.

BUT, I will complete this Gettysburg post of our little 5th Texas PR Cavalry and the 8th Texas Cavalry that we fell in with while there a few weeks ago. I have several more pics to add as well as more comments under each pic.

By all means, email me at csaharty@yahoo.com or even give me a call at 740-412-5403. Thanks Will! bh

Bethany said...

What a great post! After reading all about it, I feel like I was there too! Wonderful job!!!

CSA Brent said...

Thanks Sweetie Pie! It surely took a while to take all the pics and then compile them here. I hope others enjoy it. I sure had fun putting it together and it was my honor and pleasure! It is very important as Americans of course, that we remember the sacrifices made at Gettysburg and during the entire War Between the States.

grandpapsboy said...

Brent, I would have to second Bethany's comments about feeling like I was actually there. Your pictures caused me to almost smell the powder, hear the music and the excited cheers as men went into battle. Very well done, especially since you put it all together late at night! You have an eye for photography and create the scene quite beautifully. Congratulations again. Dad