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AAR: Back from Burton · 3:45am Aug 17th, 2021

14 August 1863

An accident prevented the 19th Ohio Battery from making it to Burton, so when I arrived by the cars this morning I was unsure where I would go. I arrived about 9:30 am. I found the camp in a state of general confusion; the ground very muddy. Eventually HQ directed me to the 66th Ohio Volunteer Infantry who I joined in with; as the 1st New York Battery I, while cordial, was at full strength and had no need of another cannoneer. As you know I am an artillerist, but before I became one I did receive some infantry training at Fort Mackinaw: very briefly, and mostly marching. I do not yet have arms, but the Captain of the 66th says he ought to be able to scrounge some up by tomorrow.

I found a good spot to camp: it's in the shade of a tree next to the Church, at a junction between the street that runs through camp and the town's main road. There's a beautiful view of the valley bellow us. My neighbors in camp, and a newspaper man who happened to be wandering around me to set up my new tent. I'm very happy with it so far, it is very airy, letting in the nice breezes that have been blowing today.

Whilst my commanders were trying to find out what to do with me, the reporter gave me an interview. He says it will be out in the Chagrin Times. It'll be interesting to see what he makes of my ramblings!

The rest of my time I passed playing my fiddle. This served two purposes, firstly to bouy the spirits of my comrades in camp, and secondly to harass the enemy who are camped nearby.*

We had a brief skirmish with the enemy today, in which I am told they got the better of us although to me it looked like we had more men on the field at it's conclusion. Rumor amongst the 1st New York is that the Sesech intend to attack us in the predawn tomorrow. I spent the evening with the New Yorkers, sharing some homemade wine around a camp fire, trading stories, and talking about the making of Applejack*. At 10 pm, I bid them goodnight and headed back to my tent.

15 August 1863

The morning dawned for me at about 7:30 am. Last night was cold, but I was surprisingly quite warm during the night. The blankets mother sent from home, and my new sleeping cap helped keep me from freezing like I did the night before the big battle at Zoar a few years ago. I joined the 66th for breakfast: bacon, eggs, and sausages! Now there was some good grub.

The first sergeant and the captain managed to find me a musket and the accompanying equipment today! The former was a Enfeild, Model 1857 which seemed fresh from the battlefields of Crimea! No one present was quite sure of it's exact origin, except that it had been bought cheaply many years ago by a neighboring unit, and yet was a good gun. It was, I'll attest, good looking and a fairly handy gun (I think it is slightly shorter than our Springfield Rifle Musket). The bayonet the Captain gave me did not fit it, however. This made stacking our rifles, fixing bayonets, and bayonet drill something of a exercise in improvisation and mime! The only faults I could find with it were that it's sling swivels had broken off, leaving some sharp nubbins where they ought to have been, which made holding the rifle in those spot uncomfortable. The stock was very stoutly made, and I also found it tricky to get my hand around the wrist of the stock when shouldering arms.

The rumored Confederate attack did not materialize until the afternoon. Our morning was instead occupied marching, drilling, and parading. First it was dress parade, long and dull as usual but certainly slightly more ordered marching than in the artillery. I say "slightly" because the man next to me, about the size of two men, took quite the tumble on the way to the parade grounds. Fortunately, he was unarmed. After dress parade came bayonet practice. I enjoyed it, but the manual for it confuses me. I fence a bit, and am familiar with prime, seconde, tierce, and quarte and their general locations. But in the bayonet practice manual, those designate the hand that is foremost on the rifle stock, the left hand, where as in sabre they designate the right hand, the hand which you'd hold a sword with and which holds the wrist of the rifle stock in bayonet drill. The whole thing thus appears a bit backwards to me. After bayonet drill, it was yet more drill, this time marching with the battalion and some firing drill.

It was thus how I came to fire my first ever gun. My weapons experience has been an odd one, ranging from the sword on the low end to the cannon at the pinnacle of firepower. Yet, somehow, I've managed to never fire a gun till today! It was an interesting experience... very loud, but not as loud as I'd feared. It was enjoyable, but it was hard to savor the experience when you are having orders barked at you, being corrected on every little thing by the sergeant, and suffering misfires mostly of your own doing.

In todays battle, though many fell we claimed victory. I went down for a brief period towards the end of the fray, "wounded" as I was so tired I could barely lift the musket! The battlefield nurses were kind to me though, and I was able to witness our victory a short time later. I don't think I managed to fire more than six shots the entire time! Admittedly, my loading was simply atrocious. I discovered the taste of black powder, by biting overly enthusiastically whilst under fire (my sergeant claims I ate 3/4 of it, I claim 1/2. Only the musket truly knows, as either way it was underfed). This cause initial concern, which quickly turned to good natured ribbing, amongst my pards. Evidently, eating the power if something of a right of passage for infantrymen. I can now appreciate the tails I've heard of infantrymen's mistakes made under fire! I discovered today something else new, this time about myself. I have very narrow shoulders. This was made painfully clear to me as I repeatedly clouted myself with my borrowed musket as it shifted on my arms during the march. This, admittedly, was probably due to my poor attempts at shoulder arms. Still, on advice of my captain, I think I'll wear my new hat next time. It's broad brim ought to cushion the blows! I had worn it yesterday, but on the thinking that my hat being in the way was the last thing I needed on my first day as a infantryman, I wore my cap today instead.

After the battle, I packed my camp up, threw it into the wagon, and headed home on leave. Though I leave Burton, Ohio I know that I will remember the last few days for a long time to come.*

*There's nothing more fun than playing "Marching Through Georgia" at column of Confederates marching past...
*The alcoholic drink, not the pony! Though you know who I was thinking about the whole time...
* It was a great reenactment for me, and I had a fun time there. I got to meet lots of new people and try reenacting some new things, which is something I was happy to get a chance to do. I am very grateful for the hospitality of the 66th, who let me "fall in" with them this last weekend. I hope to see them again at Zoar, and as I put it when saying goodby to them "let them see my artillery sergeant yell at me". I'm dead tired, though, even a day later. I'm also grateful to the 1st New York, who let me hang out with them. That campfire discussion prompted yet another story idea I wrote down today. Celestia help me, I go from having none to far too many entirely too quickly, whilst still only managing to write occasionally! Anyhow, I hope you've enjoyed yet another look at my other (other, other, other) hobby of Civil War Reenacting. Take care, Pards!

Comments ( 1 )

Thanks for the report. :)

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