Monday, September 26, 2011

After action report - Lexington, Missouri.

Took off for Lexington, Missouri on the 16th to take part in the 150th anniversary reenactment of the battle of Lexington. I had initially thought I would skip this one due to work. My brother requested that I make it though to get one last event in before he and his family made their move to California.

Made the four hour drive without difficulty. The reenactment site was well marked and found without difficulty. Check-in went smoothly. There was some confusion as to the location of civilian camp. The reason for the confusion quickly became apparent - there was no civilian camp. Instead, each battalion's civilians were attached to them and camped a short distance away.

Quickly located the battalion and got Mrs. Spiff and myself set up. Camp was in a cornfield. My brother showed up and got unloaded. After that we took a quick trip into Lexington for a meal at McDonald's and a supplies run for Bro. By the time we returned to camp other members of the Ninth were starting to filter in. All told I believe there were 15 men and the captain reporting for duty before the weekend was out. All through the evening men arrived. Went to bed fairly early and slept well.

Saturday dawned cool and overcast. Rain on and off throughout the day. Most managed to stay warm and dry though. Following morning parade the battalion engaged in some much needed drill. Worked on several different maneuvers that we needed to brush up on. After drill I was detailed to take a couple of new recruits out for some firing practice. One had been at Wilson's Creek and the other was a quick study. I felt comfortable with their proficiency within two or three rounds. Spent some time answering questions from members of the public who had arrived and were watching.

Arrived back in camp to find Mrs. Spiff and the kiddos up and around. We all took a trip up to sutler's row. Several good sutlers for the size of the event. Bro picked up a few clothing items for his son. We also ran into a couple from the town we live in. Had a good conversation with them. In spite if the rain they seemed to be enjoying themselves. Got back to camp just in time to beat the call to formation for the battle.

After some of the required standing around we marched into battle. As the main infantry body we quickly came under fire from the Federal earthworks at the far end of an amphitheatre type depression. Three pushes were made to try and dislodge the Federals. None were successful. Heavy casualties were taken. I went down during the second assault.

Following the battle we cleaned muskets. After that I took another run up to the sutler's with Mrs. Spiff. Dinner was a delicious stew prepared by Cpl. Albert with fixings provided by the men of the Ninth. The usual campfire merriment followed. At least one card game was observed in progress. Later in the evening word began to filter in that a major storm was on the way. The stars disappeared and lightening could be seen in the distance. Preparations were made for a big blow. Those campaigning headed for a nearby barn to seek shelter. I went to the civilian camp and assisted Mrs. Spiff in readying her tent. Then it was back to camp where Bro and I added straw to the outside of our tent and lined the doorway with small logs to assist in turning aside any water. All things ready, several members of the company gathered in the street. A gust of wind and a smattering of rain broke up the group. As everyone settled in the rain began to fall. Bro and I managed to stay dry and warm again and I fell asleep as the thunder moved in.

Sunday broke clear but with more clouds moving in. Attended church call with the family. Began to gather up gear. More rain. Spent time laying in bed and listening to the rain on the canvas. Ordered to form up about an hour prior to the battle. By this time the rain had dropped off to a light sprinkle. Moved out to the staging area only to be told that the event organizers had postponed the battle for half an hour. The battalion was then put at rest and allowed to mingle while we waited for the guns to open.

When they finally opened, the artillery was impressive. We quickly formed up and moved into position. Taking cover behind small round hay bales (used in place of the hemp bales in the original battle) we opened a brisk fire on the enemy's works. At intervals we rolled the bales forward and again fired from a new position. After we had closed in several times the Federals felt the pressure and waved a white flag for a parley. Much shouting from our side. Private Sutton was so overcome with emotion that he mounted a bale and taunted the Federal troops. This was rightfully greeted with much support from his comrades. Eventually word came down that the Federals had surrendered. Many loud cheers greeted this news. Lexington had been freed from Federal oppression!

Following the battle we were marched past the spectators and then dismissed. The great skedaddle began. Took some time to get everything packed and loaded but we eventually got out without too much trouble.

All in all Lexington was a great event. Both battles were pretty well done for the number of troops involved. As has been noted, finding the site and registration was very easy. Plenty of reenactor parking was provided at a convenient distance from the camps. Water, wood, and porta-johns were in abundance and continuously refreshed. While I was unsure about the camping area it turned out to be just fine and never did become the quagmire I feared. I have also had a spectator tell me since the event that the battles were very good and that they felt the event was spectacular. The only possible gripe to the event was provided by some modern buildings in the area of camp and that could not be helped. The biggest downside to the event was the cars in the camp. While this is partially the organizer's responsibility, it is more the reenactors who must bear the blame. All things considered I give Lexington an A. It is definitely an event that I would be interested in attending again in the future.

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