Friday, August 19, 2011

After action report - Wilson's Creek, Missouri.

Spent this last weekend at Wilson's Creek near Springfield, Missouri. This year the event was marking the 150th anniversary of the actual battle and was billed as a national event. I heard one estimate of about 3,000 reenactors present. Never did hear spectator numbers.

Going into this event I was excited. It promised to be a good one and would be Gator's first time out. At three months old she hasn't had much of a chance to get out. It didn't take long though for me to start to get concerned. First was the registration. Pre-registration was the only available option, absolutely no walk-ons. Firm deadline. I paid up $20 each for me and Mrs. Spiff, the young ones were free. No confirmation email. We did not appear on the list of registered participants within the promised two to three days. Emailed to find out why. Over two weeks passed. Finally an email back saying we were good and should be on the list. We were. In the meantime the "firm" deadline for registration had been extended. Then it was announced that walk-ons would be accepted at $25 a head. Such waffling and poor coordination on the registration did not bode well.

Arrived on site at about 1330 on Friday the 12th. Registration had been moved and seemed to be in disarray. More foreboding. A helpful staff member pointed out where I needed to go to get set up in the Missouri State Guard (MSG) camp. I asked where the civilian camp was so I could drop off the family. A blank stare. Not good. Another staff member finally said she guessed that the civilian camp would be near the MSG camp and to go in the same way. Nobody seemed sure of the exact location or existence of a civilian camp.

Finally found the civilian camp. Greeted by the "mayor" who proceeded to ask way over 20 questions about our impression. Seemed to be checking our accuracy. Gave us three options of where to set Mrs. Spiff and the kiddos up at. Tried one and found it too small. Moved the tent. Told that we couldn't set up there. Yelled for someone in charge on the double. Mayor gone. Objections died down. Tent set up. Mayor returns, tells me I can't visit family during the weekend (no military in camp). Seriously consider decking the man. He finally backs down. Not a good start.

Arrived at the Ninth's camp very hot and sweaty. Civilians camped throughout the military camp. Some at least were refugees from the mayor. Set up. Tried to take family back to civilian camp to change. Mayor blocks road. No admittance because the battle is about to start. Point out to mayor that battle was not scheduled to start for almost two hours. No dice. Drive to the parking lot and change.

Got into camp in plenty of time. Spent some time visiting before the call came to form up. Formed up and stood in the sun. Very hot. Finally marched out to stage for the battle. Ended up inside a treeline behind the artillery. Battle sounded great. Ordered to fire volleys in the air to "add to the battle." Declined to participate. About eight volleys all told - straight up and out of sight of the crowd and battle both. Finally marched out to engage the enemy. Fired a volley. Looked as reloading and noticed that there were no enemy troops on the field anywhere. Marched back to camp shortly thereafter. Went to the civilian camp to eat with the family. After dinner there was some probing back and forth between the armies but nothing of significance developed. Rained most of the night with some heavy lightening. Fortunately the ground was so dry that it all soaked in and so there was minimal mud.

Saturday morning dawned clear. Warm day. Got some breakfast before morning parade. Drilled afterwards. Worked with some of the new recruits following drill. Had a short break after that and then it was time to form up for the morning battle.

After standing in the sun for quite awhile we were gratified when the battle finally started. Unfortunately there were too many men for the field we were fighting on. An unusual problem. The result was very limited engagement for each battalion. Probably fired eight rounds total. Just not much action.

Following the battle I cleaned my musket and grabbed some lunch. Mrs. Spiff put on an appearance with the wee ones and a pitcher of lemonade. Much appreciated by all. After lunch I accompanied the rest of the non-commissioned officers and the captain to sutlers' row for a period photograph. Also grabbed some powder and caps for future events.

Formed up in plenty of time for the afternoon battle. Once again there was ample sun and heat to stand in. This time we were actually staged behind some of the spectators. Previous to the battle we had been told that we would make two advances on the enemy lines. Both would fail and we would be pulled out of action after the second. I decided not to wait for the second advance and abandoned the field with great haste as the first withdrawal commenced. Several other soldiers also joined in the route.

Decided against cleaning my musket after the battle since I had fired just two or three rounds. I had just put dinner on the fire when Spiff Jr. made an appearance. He had a message from his mother that she had extra dinner in her camp. I sent a reply that I appreciated the offer but had already started my meal preparations. After dinner I obtained leave and visited the family. Gator seemed to be a bit fussy but Spiff Jr. was having a ball with some other boys he had met. Sis and Bug were also doing well. Stayed for awhile before heading back to camp. Got back there just in time to join in a probe against the Federal camp. Nothing doing as the Yankees weren't up to playing. Hit the sack and slept well. Heavy dew but no rain.

Sunday was also clear. Company smaller with early departures. Attended church call and moved my gear to Mrs. Spiff's camp.

Prior to the battle my company was detached to the civilian camp. Acting on intelligence provided by Mrs. Spiff, the Colonel had sent us to see if we could capture some Federal brass. After laying in wait while the Federal column passed we were gratified when a small group of their officers entered the camp. The surprise was complete but the Yanks were light on their feet. The net haul came to three - two captains and a major. Good enough to get the thanks of our colonel and general. After questioning by the general the prisoners were paroled and we returned to our battalion.

The battle was a very good one. Lots of heavy action. Pushed the Federals hard up the hill but they gave ground grudgingly. Fired over thirty rounds and the company was decimated. I took a hit just as we crossed through a field of corn. Very good fight.

Dismissed right from the battlefield. Said my goodbyes and got the van. Loaded up without incident and left. Had an uneventful trip home.

Overall I would give Wilson's Creek an event grade of D. The successful raid in defense of the civilian camp and the Sunday battle saved the event from an F.

While I heard that the event was originally supposed to have twice as much land as it did there was plenty that could be directly attributed to the administration of the event. Friday and Saturday's battles were poorly coordinated disappointments. Registration was confusing. No straw. Barely adequate water and few porta-johns. Cars allowed in the military camp all weekend. Civilians camping in the military camp. Not a good showing for the high registration fee.