Wednesday, December 10, 2008

After action report - Prairie Grove, Arkansas

Traveled down to Arkansas this past weekend to participate in the reenactment of the battle of Prairie Grove. Fortunately my folks live about 45 minutes away in eastern Oklahoma so Mrs. Spiff and the youngsters had a warm place to stay over the weekend.

Arrived at my parents' Thursday evening and caught a last rest in a real bed before the event. On Friday morning my brother called and let me know that he would be unable to make the trip to join me. Undaunted, I headed off into the December afternoon with the intent of getting set up in the daylight. Amazingly I did just that, got some wood gathered, and started a fire prior to the arrival of anyone else in my unit. As the evening wore on various men from the 9th trickled in but nowhere near the numbers that we had been told to expect.

Saturday dawned bright and cool. Not as cold as forecast. Surprisingly I had remained warm and comfortable all night. Soon the fire was going and morning salutes taken care of. That done we settled down to burn and devour breakfast. A rations issue followed and then brigade drill for most of the morning. During drill Mrs. Spiff and the young fry arrived. Spiff Jr. enjoyed performing his own drill with his wooden musket. Following drill it was back to camp for a quick lunch. Spiff Jr. was quick to show off his new shirt and vest to the members of the 9th and then it was time to fall in for the battle.

For most of the battle we waited in reserve. After the Yankees had gained the crest of the hill in front of the Borden house we were called up and hit them square in the flank. Down they tumbled and we pursued to the bottom of the hill where our formations were broken up by Federal artillery stationed across the field. We returned to the top of the hill and reformed. That ended the combat for the day.

Following the battle we had word that the paymaster had reached the army. Spiff Jr. managed to rejoin us for this and received his full two months pay of six dollars Confederate. Needless to say, he was thrilled. Then we were called back into formation for mail call. Period letters were passed out and some were quite amusing. Then it was time to clean muskets. As I finished this task the shadows began to lengthen and the temperature started to drop. The family headed off to warmer quarters and I joined the rest of the unit in preparing a stew that turned out quite well. After some fellowship around the fire I headed off to bed.

Sunday morning was actually a bit warmer than Saturday although the night had been cooler. I managed to stay warm all the same. Following morning formation and breakfast we had church call. Decent sermon and welcome as always. Then it was off to a rapid-fire competition. Much to my surprise I managed to pull off a first place finish.

Shortly after noon we again formed for battle. This time we were the lead battalion. We advanced down the slope to meet the Yanks in the open field and carnage followed. We slugged it out with infantry and artillery before falling back to the base of the hill. Our ranks were thinned and the enemy pressed us. All appeared lost. The color sergeant removed the flag from the staff, stuffed it in his jacket, and took to his heels. I followed suit. We remained at the top of the hill until the end of the battle.

Following the battle it was one final formation and then off for home. I drove back to my folks and managed to get in before dark.

Overall it was a good event. Extra welcome since I had been unable to get out to any of the others this year. The weather cooperated and there were many familiar faces. Prairie Grove is also always special because we get to reenact on the actual battlefield. That is a rare treat and much appreciated.