Monday, April 23, 2012

After action report - Wichita, Kansas.

Went to Wichita this past weekend for Civil War Days at Old Cowtown. The setting for the event was unique with the camps being scattered throughout the cattle drive town. Last year we went down for just one day but this year we did the entire weekend.The chance to camp and fight in a mostly period town was too much to pass up.

Arrived on Friday evening with daylight still left. Got situated and everyone set up without trouble. Mrs. Spiff and the young ones were camped only a short distance from the Ninth but with a tall privacy fence between the camps there was a good separation between civilians and military. Our camp was between two houses along a back street in the town. The two other Confederate units were similarly located, one being quite a distance away on a farm on the outskirts of town. The Federal infantry was camped a block or so away from us with another unit near the civilian camp. Nothing in Old Cowtown is very far from anything else.

All through the evening on Friday the men of the Ninth trickled in. While I did not get official numbers I would estimate the unit topping out at between 13 and 15 men counting attached men. Captain Cox and the entire NCO staff were present. After catching up with the boys I decided to hit the sack as it had been a long week.

Saturday morning saw more men arriving. Drill commenced at 0900. After individual company drill we joined the 2nd Kansas (the Vertigree Militia for the weekend) and drilled together for a time. Just over an hour later we were dismissed. Drill went well and the winter rust knocked off quickly for all.

An early lunch was in order as the battle was slated to start at 1300. A short time before, we marched out to the farmstead. Several trenches had been dug in front of the farmhouse. We were initially stationed behind the house as a wagon load of civilians came down the road from town. The wagon was stopped by the militia and, for reasons unknown, the women and children aboard were taken prisoner. This sent a frightened lad scurrying back to town to alert the Yankee troops in the area. Thus the battle was perhaps caused as were many during the war - by chance.

As the Federal troops emerged from town they began to skirmish with some irregulars to our front. We occupied the trenches and waited. Several unsuccessful assaults later we emerged and confronted the Yankees in the open. There were still enough left that we could not drive them though.

Following the battle we cleaned up and visited with the members of the public who passed by and through our camp. Several old Ninth members stopped by and caught up with the current members of the unit. Later I visited Mrs. Spiff in her camp for dinner but did not eat much due to feeling less than stellar.

A company meeting after dinner resulted in a decision to reinstate yearly $20 dues. This money will pay for the Ninth's website as well as any other company expenses. Extra monies will be applied to help supply the men with powder and caps.

Following the meeting I escorted Mrs. Spiff to a dance being held in town. After just three dances I became ill and we had to leave. Spent the rest of the evening in my bedroll feeling the effects of an upset stomach. I was later informed that the rest of the company retired to the saloon to play cards and socialize. At least one enlisted man may have had a bit more refreshment than was wise as he was on sick call the next day.

Awakened Sunday morning feeling much better than the night before but still not completely up to par. Ate a very light breakfast as I did not yet trust my innards. Several of the other men inquired as to my health. As the company was cleaning up after breakfast several shots were fired just outside of camp. 1st Sgt. Downey bellowed a call to arms, the Federals had launched a surprise attack. The battle raged throughout the town and drew in all the Confederate units as well as all but one Federal unit. The end result was a draw I believe but the forces were so intermixed that a final determination of victory may be all but impossible.

At 1300 on Sunday we again tangled with the Federal troops. This time the encounter took place along a street. The result was carnage. Most of the Ninth ended up as casualties before the final gun sounded. The crowd seemed appreciative of the effort but it was noted that several females in the crowd cheered particularly loudly whenever a southerner dropped with a wound.

Following the battle the loading and leaving began. We got loaded smoothly and hit the road for the trip home. Looking back on the event I can say that it was a good one. With the presence of public restrooms no porta-johns were needed. Firewood was provided but did run low at one point. This was remedied however. All in all we were well taken care of by the staff of Old Cowtown. In fact, a member of the staff made a stop by Mrs. Spiff's tent solely to see if she needed anything and thank her for coming. If you missed this event as either a reenactor or as a spectator then you must make a note to correct that error next year.

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