Tuesday, December 07, 2010

After action report - Prairie Grove, Arkansas.

This last weekend I once again made the trek to what is probably one of my favorite reenactments, Prairie Grove, Arkansas. Like Pilot Knob, Prairie Grove is a state-run park. As a result we get the real treat of camping where the armies camped and fighting where they fought. This also happens to be the site of my first ever reenactment after I enlisted in the Ninth and so holds many fond memories. The event is held every two years.

I arrived on site late Friday afternoon. Out of habit I drove to the Latta barn - the normal registration site. A sign on the door directed me to the museum. Once at the museum I found that registration was $10 and that I had to register twice, once as a participant and once to be able to fire a weapon. Only one fee though. With maps and official event badge in hand I headed off into the gathering darkness to find the Ninth.

Due to the excellent map I was able to quickly locate camp. A short time later the tent was up, the gear unloaded, and I was back in the army again. As other members of the company showed up we learned that the captain and first sergeant were not coming. Corporal Downey thus moved up to captain for the weekend and Corporal Albert to first sergeant. Both did an outstanding job. Other than the command, numbers were fairly decent for the Ninth. Counting Captain Downey there were eleven men present for duty. An addition of 2nd Kansas recruits (learning to fight on the right side) added another 13 or so men and an officer. Most of the 2nd were fresh fish and so required some drilling and shepherding but all did well. An added treat was the appearance of a former captain and my brother. Both have been absent from the Ninth for some time due to moves.

Saturday dawned cool but did warm up to about 45 degrees or so before the day was out. Roll call followed by breakfast preceded morning parade and drill. A weapons inspection was performed for the benefit of the park service. At the inspection the full strength of Confederate arms for the weekend was revealed. Three infantry battalions, a battery of guns, and a small handful of cavalry. Just over 250 total I estimated. The Federals would later appear in similar numbers.

Following drill and weapons inspection we were released. My brother and I headed for the sutlers but didn't make it there before stopping by an old comrade's tent in the civilian camp. The former Ninth man was there to sell his remaining gear. We helped him out a bit before moving on. At sutler row we hit several tents but made no purchases. A chance encounter with men from the Red River Battalion Ninth proved enjoyable. Carbonated caffeine was also procured.

Shortly after lunch the battalion was formed for battle and moved to the battle area. Spectator presence was heavy but not as heavy as at Pilot Knob. The battle was fairly well done. My only complaint was that the artillery were a bit flippant about leaving their guns as we were driven back past them. Just as the tide turned I went down. From the sounds of things though the yankees were driven back down the hill and we retook our guns.

After the battle Mrs. Spiff and the little ones stopped by camp. Spiff Jr. managed to get in on pay call. The visit was short though as temperatures were dropping and the family started to get cold. The spirits of the Ninth were not cooled though and we enjoyed our evening around the campfire. Among other note-worthy occurrences was a reading from a book on the Ninth Texas Cavalry by Private J. Ralph. This was interesting as well as enjoyable.

Saturday night got down to about 18 degrees. I stayed warm for the most part but did awaken a couple times and had to readjust my blankets. My brother pulled out before dawn due to work commitments but advised prior to leaving that he had enjoyed getting out once again.

In spite of the cold, breakfast was enjoyable and the men soon warmed up. After roll call and morning parade there was a cold drill session. Following that there was battalion church call. This was cold but welcome even though a member of the Ninth violated the Articles of War by his behaviour in the vicinity.

Sunday's battle kicked off about 1300. This was a better fight in my view than the day before. I am not sure why this was the case. The scenario was the same as we were pushed up the hill and lost our guns before turning the tide around the Borden House and thrashing the Federals back down the hill. The battalion was dismissed from the battlefield. After a quick packing session the event was over the army dissolved once again.

All in all Prairie Grove once again lived up to its reputation. The event was enjoyable and the battles well done. Water and porta-johns were plentiful and wood was adequate. I was disappointed that no straw was provided for the infantry except what was to be had by raiding. For the steep $10 registration fee and considering the weather, there should have been some. Still, an A+ event in my book and one that I look forward to returning to in two years.

No comments: