A Year in Review – The End of Year Report 2013

Thompson’s Independent Battery C, PA Vol. Lt. Artillery

2013 After Action Report of Captain Gary V. Hoover

 

Headquarters, Indpt. Battery C, Penna. Vol. Lt. Artillery                Bellefonte, Penna.

 

 

2013 proved to be another very busy campaigning season for Battery C.   The Battery officially attended 19 events: six reenactments, three living histories, five school or community events, two parades, and three other events.  We also had one or two  representatives at several more activities.  As was the case for the two preceding Sesquicentennial years, the scale of the 2013 commemorations of the stupendous events of 1863 was generally disappointing.  The uncertainties caused by the slow recovery from recession doubtlessly prevented the early commitment of large resources and scaled back the planning efforts that would have had to start at least several years ago to be ready for commemorations on an appropriately large scale.

 

Battery C celebrated the third year and climactic mid-point of the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War by attending six 1863 battle commemorations:  Chancellorsville—May 4th and 5th, TheShelling of Carlisle—July 1st,Hanover—July 3rd, Gettysburg—July 4th – 7th, the Retreat Through Williamsport—July 13th and 14th, and Bristoe Station—October 12-13.

 

Chancellorsville and Gettysburg were battles in which Thompson’s Independent Battery C participated with great distinction.  The Retreat Through Williamsport commemorated the Battery C role in the pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia after Gettysburg—though the Battery advanced to Culpeper and was not specifically at Williamsport.  Likewise, the Bristoe Station event commemorated the Thompson’s Battery’s fighting in the Bristoe Campaign, even though it was at nearby Blackburn’s Ford, and not specifically at Bristoe Station itself.

 

I could discover no Mine Run Campaign battle commemorations for late November into early December.   Battles during that campaign mark the last major combat action in which Battery C participated during 1863.

 

As in previous years, 2013 began with a great deal of research and a lot of behind the scenes work to get us registered for selected events and the Battery equipment ready for the field.  A very special thank you and a well done to all gave of their time and talents on behalf of our Unit.

 

The Battery saw a changing of the guard in the office of Treasurer.  After long and excellent service, Ordnance Sergeant Tom Shultz turned the office over to 1st Lt. Eric Stahley.  Also, Corporal Dave Pepperman—the originator, designer and longtime administrator of the Battery’s web page—handed the web site torch to Anton and Eric Schulden.   Thank you very much to those retiring from office for your faithful and well done services.  Congratulations and thanks to those who are assuming those duties.

 

 

The 2013 campaigning season started earlier than usual—kicking off with the ArmyHeritageEducationCenter’s  (AHEC) Reenactor Recruitment Day in Carlisle, PA on February16th.  Battery C fielded a full mountain howitzer crew and deployed the General Tom Thumb mountain howitzer to demonstrate the drill.  We were able to bring the gun right inside the exhibition room and got the prime position immediately on the left of the main entrance. The Battery also had a fine display of artifacts through the courtesy of Artificer Keith Kuhn, who provided good educational information to those visiting our station.

 

The Powerpoint slide presentation originally produced by Dean and Kim Auchenbach was expanded by the addition of numerous pictures provided by the Battery members that depicted Battery C activities and it also included our recruiting posters.  Private John Contic brought a large TV screen to display the presentation to maximum effect and the Powerpoint ran continuously during the day.  Many thanks are due to Corporal Steve Turkel, Artificer Keith Kuhn and Privates John Contic, Anton Schulden and Eric Schulden for giving of their time to accompany me on this extra duty.

 

At the recruitment day, we also had the opportunity to speak with and learn from many accomplished living historians from all US time periods that were also there recruiting and to enjoy their exhibits.  While the public turnout was generally disappointing, we did speak to a fair number of people and distributed cards, handbills and a few applications.

 

Although it was announced that the AHEC Army Heritage Weekend would not be held this year due to anticipated budget sequestering, we spoke with the AHEC event representative and to representatives from the Cumberland County Historical Society and urged them to develop a commemorative event for the 150th Anniversary of the Shelling Of Carlisle as a smaller alternative.  The participation of the Fluvanna Light Artillery—our CSA alter ego—was cheerfully offered.

 

Thompson’s Battery participated in the Columbia County Bicentennial Celebration on March 23rd in Bloomsburg, PA.   The Battery ran several well-attended load and fire demonstrations with the 10 Pdr. Parrott and limber.  1st Lt. Eric Stahley and Ordnance Sgt. Tom Shultz set up tents to show people how Civil War soldiers lived and the Battery had a fine display of artifacts and equipment inside the exhibition hall.  The display included a mountain howitzer and limber and a mortar with full equipment, as well as numerous Civil War artifacts and equipment items.   The display was also well attended and we got to speak to many people—answering questions about the Civil War in general and Battery C, specifically.   We handed out several applications and again showed the Powerpoint.   Jen Stahley staffed the display all day and covered for the Battery C soldiers that marched in the Columbia County Bicentennial Parade through Bloomsburg.  Our Unit marched very well and showed the spectators what a well-appointed gun detachment looks like.  It was also very gratifying to note the large number of ColumbiaCounty citizens that know how to pay proper respect to the Flag of the United States when it passes.

 

Many thanks are due to the participating Battery members for their work on this event.  It resulted in excellent exposure and press for the Battery and in the good work in public education we were able to do there.  In particular, the work of 1st Lt. Eric Stahley in coordinating the Battery’s participation and in setting up much or our display, Tom Shultz for set up and the provision of display artifacts and equipment, and Jen Stahley for feeding the troops and manning our display, should be recognized.  I would also like to thank Jim Guyetskie, Bill Forsythe, Frank Palodora and Bob Thomas, local militia, who turned out in uniform to help us and to march in the parade with us.  They learned quickly and bore themselves like veterans.  It was a pleasure to work with them.

 

I also append here the after action report of 1st Lt. Eric Stahley:

 

Thompson’s Battery “C” participated in the bicentennial celebration for ColumbiaCounty held at the Bloomsburg Fairgrounds this past Saturday, March 23, 2013.  We had a display inside of the Arts and Crafts building  as well as the Parrott rifle set up outside the building for firing demonstrations.

Our table inside included displays provided by Gary Hoover, recruiting information, a slide show, the battery mountain howitzer, and my mortar.  Many thanks to Gary for bringing his collection of artifacts, as well as his knowledge, to the event.  We were set up and ready to go by the 11 AM kickoff time, and had a large amount of foot traffic through the buildings and past our displays up until about 12:30.  At 12:45, we all jumped in the back of my pickup and rode to the other side of town to form up for the parade, which kicked off at 2 PM.  We fell in with our friends Cooper’s Battery “B” and the bucktails infantry unit out of Catawissa.  We provided our regimental colors for the honor guard who formed up as the third unit in the parade, right behind the state police mounted unit and the Columbia County Sheriff’s department.  We marched back to the fairgrounds, and returned to our camp by about 3 PM.  Foot traffic again picked up until around 5 PM.  We continued to drill and conduct firing demonstrations until the crowds dropped off around 6 PM.  After that, we decided that due to the lack of available crew and the cold weather, we would not conduct our work party on Sunday as planned.  The equipment was packed and everyone headed home around dusk.  Tom and I shuttled the guns and trailers back to Mark’s shop in Hazleton Sunday afternoon.

I would be remiss if I did not mention that we had four guests with us at this event:  Robert Thomas, Jim Gayeuski, Bill Forsythe, and Frank Palodora (Frank, I apologize if I spelled your last name incorrectly).  All four of these men trained on various positions of the gun and performed admirably both at drill and on the march.  Please feel free to join us in the future, we would love to have you.

In closing, I would like to thank everyone who participated in the event on Saturday.  I know sometimes it is difficult to make a commitment to travel some distance for a one day event, and your effort was surely recognized and appreciated.

Respectfully Submitted,

1st Lt. Eric Stahley

 

Battery C was represented by Artificer Keith Kuhn and Private Katelyn Goodling at the 10th Annual Civil War Preservation Ball in the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building on March 23rd. All the proceeds from this ball went for monument preservation in Gettysburg.  Private Goodling did valuable undercover work, in civilian attire, by helping to keep an eye on the numerous Confederates that were at the ball under a flag of truce and making sure they learned no military secrets.

I represented Battery C at the 2013 Fort Niagara  artillery school the weekend of April 27th-28th:

Arrived at Old Fort Niagara about 4:15 on Friday, April 26th.   Bought three very good books in the shop while waiting to enter the fort.  When the fort closed to the public for the day and the reenactors were admitted, I occupied my customary spot in the south east corner of the South Redoubt, built by the British in the 1770’s.  The weather was near perfect–bright blue skies with just a small breeze and clear enough that the city of Toronto could be seen twenty miles away in a straight line across Lake Ontario.   I was joined by my friends from Taylor’s Battery and the South Redoubt was once again fully occupied by artillerymen. I checked in at registration and then did a walking tour of the 1727 French Castle–the oldest building in the fort and, actually, one of the oldest still standing east of the Mississippi.  Restoration is nearly complete and most of the rooms look as if the French garrison of the 1750’s had just stepped out for a moment.  It was certainly a great treat to be once again in a military post that dates back more than three centuries and to feel conscious of walking amidst so much history.  Dinner, a great fire in the fireplace of the South Redoubt, a catch up on the latest news and story swapping with the Taylor’s Battery artillerymen finished out the day.

 

Up early for breakfast from my haversack and a then a walk around the fort.  More clouds and cooler today. Morning formation was held and the classes then started.  There was a large contingent of Chinese “foreign observers” present and we were soon besieged with requests for pictures and found ourselves shooing them out of the roped off gun line.

 

Artillery class consisted of a meeting at which the instructors were introduced, people were sorted into classes and announcements were made.   One of the announcements was that Larry Fisher–former commander of Battery C–had resigned his position as National Civil War Artillery Association (NCWAA) inspector/instructor for Pennsylvania.  We then repaired to the gun line and had a narrated review of loading and firing the piece according to the  NCWAA drill and a presentation on the latest thinking on several key points of the drill.   Points made included:

 

A reminder to not lock thumbs over any of the implements so that “monkey paw” becomes an automatic habit.

 

It was recommended to work the worm, sponge and ram one-handed and from behind the muzzle as much as possible.  Note: the operative here is “as much as possible.”

 

Either wet sponge, then dry sponge or having #1 double sponge the tube with one sponge should be the procedure used.  Either way, the sponge should be examined for the presence of too much aluminum foil when withdrawn–a cue to send the worm in again.

 

When #2 takes up the worm, it should be examined to note which direction the tines of the worm are pointed, either clock-wise or counter-clock-wise, to be sure the worm is turned in the right direction for the points of the tines to cut into the foil cartridge for sure removal.  Checking for direction is especially important when using a worm on a different gun than usual.

 

If the worm does not seem to be able to get the fired cartridge out after a couple of tries, send in the sponge.  It will either go inside the cartridge and pull it out or it will smash it down against the breech and make it easier for the worm to cut into it on a re-try.

It is now officially recognized as acceptable for #4 to directly insert the primer hooked to the lanyard into the vent and for #3 to trap it while #4 steps out and positions him or herself. It was recommended that the trapping be done with the side edge of the hand and as close to the vent as safety permits–the thinking is that it would allow #4 to set his/her position with less slack in the lanyard.

It was recommended that #4 side-step out, the thinking being that sidestepping would be less likely to cause #4 to trip.

 

An evident consequence of the thinking of some that plastic bags should not be used inside aluminum cartridges–a position I am not in agreement with–is the need for a leaky round drill.  Each unit should have a procedure for safely containing and storing a cartridge that is found to be leaking powder for later salvage.  It was recommended that each unit have a container for leaky rounds in the limber box and which everyone knows is to be used to store leaky rounds.  Battery C has a red-painted cardboard oatmeal can in the Parrott limber that can be used for that purpose.   A similar can or even a plastic bag will need to be placed in the other limbers and each crew instructed to place any leaky rounds in it.  If we serve as individuals on a gun crew of a different unit, we should ask what the procedure is for leaky rounds.

 

On the misfire drill, the three minute timing should begin after the last smoke–if any–is seen coming from the vent or muzzle.  It should not automatically start when the failed primer is declared, if smoke can be seen still coming out.  Extracted failed primers should be examined for cause and then dropped on the ground behind the axle of the piece–never placed in the sponge bucket.

 

It was recommended that those who work the front of the gun buy their own pair of personal heavy gloves by going to a welding shop and trying on welding gloves to find the pair that best fits.  Units tend to just buy big pairs for everyone to use on the “one-size-fits-none” plan. The result is poorly fitting gloves and more fumbling and slipping when using the implements.

 

After the class we were inspected/instructed on each gun position in rotation until the instructor was satisfied with the work done and signed off on it.   The inspection for those qualifying or re-qualifying for gunner was especially detailed and thorough.   Classes continued after a lunch of hamburger soup and bread offered by the ladies of Reynolds Battery.

 

I re-qualified on all positions, plus gunner, and received my two-year inspection card.  As I had much to do at home, I left the post in mid-afternoon, having had a most satisfactory Fort Niagara fix–something I always look forward to.  I returned home safely in early evening.

 

May 3-5, 2013 found Battery C posted near Spotsylvania, VA to participate in the 150th Anniversary Commemoration of the Battle of Chancellorsville.   The event site was on private ground adjacent to the Spotsylvania National Battlefield and was a location upon which US artillery had actually been placed for the Spotsylvania fight.  The drive down through Virginia was fine with everything showing the flowering and green of spring.  Unfortunately, the GPS navigation system was not current with the latest road changes and Artificer Keith Kuhn and I went on an extended tour of the Virginia country side before finding the site the old fashioned way—by asking directions.  During the process we saw quite a bit of the Wilderness, and Spotsylvania Battlefields.  I was particularly impressed with how dense the undergrowth still is between the larger trees—limiting line of sight to a few dozen yards or less.

 

This encampment of the Artillery Reserve was different because there were no morning formations!  Camping for the Artillery was tightly compressed.   The weather was variably cloudy and cold at night.  Upon inventorying the ammunition chest, we found that we were much shorter on rounds than we thought.  The deficit was made up by rounds brought along and the purchase of some from another battery.

 

Battery C was engaged in three battles forming a section under my command with one Battery C gun crew and another from Battery D, 1st PA.   The three battles were: Jackson’s Flank Attack, The Battle of Hazel Grove and the Battle of Salem Church.  Saturday evening we participated in a night fire in support of the “Jackson is Shot” scenario in which General Jackson’s accidental shooting and the opening of US artillery in response to the shots fired was reenacted.

 

There was some difficulty in communication with the local sheriff’s department and that caused some delay in moving the guns form camp to the battlefield a short distance away—but across a well-traveled road. This was resolved and the guns were placed for the Jackson’s Flank Attack battle on Saturday.   Speaking generally, CSA forces so greatly outnumbered the federals at this event that the CSA artillery line over lapped the US artillery position on both ends.  The US artillery was posted in a field with high green grass and fired at opposing batteries on higher ground.   The section that included Battery C  was placed on the end of the left flank.   The highlight of the battle for us was turning the section and halting a CSA cavalry charge that was forming to sweep the left end and rear of the gun line.  Both gun crews performed the turning maneuver flawlessly.  Seeing that we were prepared to receive them with tight lanyards, the CSA cavalry did not make the attack and moved off to another section of the field.  After the battle the guns were returned to park in the bottom land below camp.  We joined the gun line and fired a few rounds in support of the Jackson is Shot Scenario that evening.

 

On Sunday, May 5th, we participated in the Battle of Hazel Grove in the morning and in the Battle of Salem Church in the afternoon.  Each of these battles was characterized by an overwhelming superiority in numbers by the CSA forces.   In the morning battle, we were actually fired upon by a pair of mountain howitzers from up slope on our left rear.  When I decided to reply to this galling fire by turning the section entirely to the rear upon them, I was ordered not to do so by higher command.  Being on the end, I was permitted to turn no more than one gun—for safety reasons.  In my view the action could have been accomplished with perfect safety, as the enemy were up slope above us and far enough away that no harm would have resulted—as was demonstrated by the firing of the one piece I was allowed to turn.  In any event, the CSA crew cheered us when I replied to their fire.

 

The afternoon battle of Salem Church saw us in a similar gun deployment to the previous battles and pounding away at vast Rebel hoards in support of our greatly outnumbered infantry.

 

We broke camp after the battle and proceeded home without incident.   Each participant in the 150th of Chancellorsville received a handsome challenge coin with a miniature color portrait under crystal of Generals Lee and Jackson on horseback.

 

On May 20th, Battery C conducted the Wyalusing school program at Wyalusing, PA.  many thanks to 1st Lt Eric Stahley, Sergeant Rick Sprout, Corporal Jamie Zacharda and Privates Sue Sprout and Bob Cain for participating in this educational program and fundraiser for the battery.  The weather was hot and sunny and we manned five education stations each of which presented a particular facet of Civil War light artillery.   We spoke to classes through several rotations in the morning and one in the afternoon—each station, therefore, presented its program to 15 different classes—and concluded the day with a firing demonstration that was cheered by the students and faculty assembled en masse to observe.

 

The annual Shippensburg School program was coordinated by Corporal Steve Turkel and presented on May 23rd.   He submitted the following report:

 

Shippensburg Area Middle School Civil War Day – Thursday 23 May 2013

Thompson’s Battery “C” participated in the annual Shippensburg Middle School’s Civil War Day earning $750.  The day is dedicated to offering 8th graders an opportunity to learn about that conflict from a variety of living historians who portray characters ranging from civilian men and women demonstrating aspects of daily life at the time to the military and government leaders explaining the strategic, tactical, and political considerations that went into the waging of the war.

Thompson’s members Dean and Nick Auchenbach, Anton and Eric Schulden, Eric Stahley, and Steve Turkel demonstrated the field artillery gun drill to eight classes at a new location near the northern end of the school building with the gun pointed generally toward US Route 11 and downtown Shippensburg.  Deputy Battery Commander Lieutenant Stahley towed the gun to and from the event without incident, Dean Auchenbach provided his usual accurate and interesting narration and in his good humored way encouraged those students who appeared to be less than interested to liven up.

The event began at 0730 hours with a parade through the school’s corridors and an assembly of the 8th graders.  A half-hour break immediately before a half-hour lunch split the morning and afternoon sessions.   The event concluded shortly after 1430 hours with Thompson’s permitting the school’s CW Day Coordinator to pull the lanyard and present the primer wire to his young son who had lost last year’s and was eager for a replacement.  The 10-pound Parrott Rifle was cleaned and returned to the trailer along with its limber.  Thompson’s was invited back for next year’s event as it has been for the last ten years.

Corporal Steven Turkel

The General Tom Thumb mountain howitzer made its annual appearance at the Foot of Ten School program on May 31st and Battery C manned the light artillery station. The weather was hot and sunny.  Many thanks are due to 1st Lt. Stahley and Cpl. Steve Turkel for driving very long distances to help with this educational program and fundraiser.   We spoke to five rotations of classes, presenting historical information on light artillery batteries, their operation and equipment.  The gun drill and a demonstration firing were performed for each class.  While presenting historical information, we tried to make it more relevant to the youth addressed by explaining why the study of history was important and using Civil War historical experiences to demonstrate basic firearms safety, the importance of studying hard in school, the use of safety equipment and the important role of women in history.

As usual, we were fed an excellent lunch and the program concluded with a cavalry demonstration that was very informative.

Battery C was scheduled to be at the Battle of Chamber’s Ridge at Hartleton, PA, June  8-9th.  However, the weather was projected to be so bad that we cancelled and did not go by my decision.  As it turned out, the weather, while still poor, proved to be not as bad as expected, and an opportunity was missed.  Private Katelyn Goodling represented the unit at the event and submitted this report:

I decided to brave the cloudy weather and try out the event at Hartleton. Things actually turned out great. I missed most of the battle on Saturday, but I attended many other events and all were great. The ball in the evening was a lot of fun and the night fire is always spectacular.

I decided to return on Sunday and the men of the South Mountain Horse Artillery allowed me to linger in their camp. They took to the field for the afternoon battle with a mountain howitzer and I decided to serve as the CSA field nurse. Turns out, the flag bearer was shot and I had to take over his position. The scenario was that the confederates were defeated, but union infantry was very confused that a woman was holding the confederate flag when they came to capture it. Needless to say, the flag never fell for this battle!

Even though my favorite hobby is participating with Thompson’s, it was still really interesting to see how another battery goes into battle. I cannot wait until the next event with Thompson’s. Hartleton made me miss our campfires and stories in the evening!

Katlyn Goodling, Private

 

Battery C was also at the annual Community Day of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg on June 8th.  Thank you to the Auchenbach family for the program that was presented at this important public education event.  Private Dean Auchenbach submitted this report:

My Presentation went well on Saturday at the Civil War Museum and attendance seemed average with past summer events there.

I spoke to a gentleman who may be interested in joining us as a potential member.  His name is Mark Harmon from Hughesville, PA (near the Sprouts).  He has done artillery for several years and is currently looking for a new home.  He has his artillery certification card (signed by Larry Fischer).  I will follow up with a phone call in a few days.  He said he does not have home e-mail but he did give me a work e-mail address.

I suggested he check out our website, however when I got home I looked and found our 2013 schedule is not listed.

I will let Mark know what events we will be doing if he would like to join us as a guest.

Dean Auchenbach, Private

 

Battery C sent a mountain howitzer crew to Carlisle on June 28th, by invitation, to open the Cumberland County Historical Society Golf Tournament under the command of 1st Lt. Eric Stahley, who organized our participation in the event.  The unit picked up an easy $200 for firing one shot.  Many thanks to those that went for a nice addition to the Battery’s operating funds.

We now come the 150th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Campaign.   The period from July 1st through July 7, 2013 represents the longest period in its entire history as a reenactment unit that Thompson’s Battery was engaged daily in the field.  Four events were attended in less than two weeks: The 150th Anniversary of the Shelling of Carlisle, The150th Anniversary of the  Battle of Hannover, The 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and—to conclude the 150th of the Gettysburg Campaign—the 150th Anniversary of the retreat Through Williamsport.

I want to take this opportunity to thank and commend the Officers, NCOs, soldiers and civilians of our Battery for their dedication to history and for doing their duty in spite of the hot and often rainy weather and for enduring a very taxing pace.  All performed to perfect satisfaction and have earned their laurels well.  Special commendation goes to Corporal Steve Turkel, Private John Contic, Private Tony Schulden and Private Eric Schulden for being with me at all four events.

July 1st we participated in an historic reenactment of the shelling of Carlisle by General Stuart’s Horse Artillery.  The weather threatened all day but cleared for the event, which started at 7:00 PM—the exact hour on the same day that 150 years ago the drama of the shelling began.  In the guise of our CSA counterpart, the Fluvanna Light Artillery of Virginia, we represented Ewell’s Confederates and symbolically occupied the town.  After Ewell’s forces left Carlisle, Stuart’s Horse Artillery arrived and were much surprised to see the town in the possession of US troops again.  We now became Stuart’s Horse artillery and shelled the town after surrender demands were refused.

The “shelling”—blanks, of  course—was done with the Battery C/Fluvanna Light Artillery Parrott rifle and the four shots scripted for the event were fired from a position on East High Street about 150 yards from the square.  Our third shot broke two windows.   The Carlisle Sentinel, commenting on that fact, said “the Confederate Cavalry had left another calling card in Carlisle.”   That was a comment we all enjoyed and of which we are very proud.

All Battery C members that participated thoroughly enjoyed the event and the press took many pictures of us—but did not identify our unit.   We were fed a good dinner and each of us received a coin minted for the Cumberland County 100th Anniversary of the Gettysburg Campaign celebration in 1963.  It was good to have Dave Pepperman back with us for this event and also to have my son, Luke Keller, in uniform with us.

Battery C received a nice donation from Historic Carlisle, and their President, Mark Scheneman, had this to say about our efforts:

“Your participation was absolutely central to this event and I couldn’t have asked for a more cooperative unit.   Your faithfulness to historical accuracy was evident to all.  So, thanks so very much for being part of our event, in a week full of obligations and other choices!”

For the 150 commemoration of the battle of Gettysburg, I was asked to command a six gun battery designated “Hoover’s Battery” (not by me) assigned to the 2nd Volunteer Artillery Brigade under the command of Major Richard Henderson.  Hoover’s Battery consisted of Thompson’s Independent Battery C—two guns, the 9th Massachusetts Battery—two guns, Hampton’s Independent Battery F—one gun, and Carlin’s Battery D, West Virginia—one gun.  It was great that Thompson’s and Hampton’s were back serving together in the same battery for the 150th anniversary of Gettysburg—a fine echo of the C&F Consolidated Battery that performed such gallant service at Gettysburg on July 2-5, 1863.   Due to my command assignment, First Lieutenant Eric Stahley assumed operational command of Thompson’s Battery C and served with distinction.

Artificer Keith Kuhn and I arrived on the field at Gettysburg on the hot, off-and-on-again-rainy afternoon of July 2nd.  We only had time to set up my command tent and throw our things inside when we were summoned to depart for the Battle of Hanover.  Some of Hampton’s Battery F were already on site and setting up camp.  Artificer Kuhn and I arrived on site in Hanover with the Parrott in plenty of time and were joined by the other participating Battery C cannoneers and two guests, Martin Feigelis and Rob Benson.   In our guise as he Fluvanna Light Artillery, CSA, we were asked to again become a gun crew of Stuart’s Horse Artillery and worked with two CSA mounted batteries from a great position overlooking the US lines.  We discovered we could not unlock the limber, but solved the problem, and prepared for battle.  The fight was a fine one and featured hot action with a lot of maneuver by the infantry and cavalry of both sides.  As usual, our people performed to the very highest standards and were worthy of great commendation.  My thanks to all that turned out.

Each person participating in the Hanover event received a commemorative medal. After the battle, we were fed an excellent barbeque dinner—though it was served very late, and we arrived back in camp at Gettysburg well after dark.

Wednesday, July 3rd was spent getting camp squared away and assisting the units that were able to make it in on that day.  Thompson’s Battery came in with two guns and enough cannoneers to crew one of them.  We also watched the parking lot grow and begin to stretch to the immense size it would assume as the troops arrived in camp—some of them from across the United States and from locations around the globe.  The artillery camp was large enough to hold two separate brigades and, due to some misunderstanding in camp layout, required the movement of the 1st Brigade to an adjacent location, kind of Catty-cornered to the 2nd Brigade and behind it.

The weather remained warm, but there was no rain.

 

Thursday, July 4th, was much the same as the previous day.  The 9th Massachusetts Battery arrived on site and the other batteries continued to fill out as their people were able to arrive.  In the late afternoon, elements of Hoover’s Battery participated a tactical battle.  Movement to the field was done by convoy and there was a lot of confusion in the direction of it.   We were deployed at the end of an arc of guns that started at the spectator grand stand hard up against the spectator barrier and stretched away to the left a considerable distance.  There were also guns deployed directly across the valley from us at about 500 yards distance.  Much of the infantry action took place far off to the right of the artillery position, rendering the logic behind the placement of the guns unfathomable.  After it was over, a spectator actually came to the barrier and asked me what we were shooting at!  Nonetheless, fire was opened and the 1st battle of our Gettysburg service was fought.  We returned to camp and had an enjoyable evening.

 

Friday, July 4th saw Carlin’s Battery report for duty and the remaining connoneers of the other batteries arrive, thus bringing us up to full strength.   It was announced that, due to space restrictions, the 2nd Brigade would not take the field that day—much to the great disappointment of everyone involved.  Private Bob Cain, of Thompson’s Battery C was only able to be on the field for that day and we made arrangements for him to be assigned to a battery in the 1st Volunteer Brigade for the battle that afternoon.  With the permission of higher command, I was able to quietly slip a few guns from Hoover’s Battery over to the CSA side to get them into the battle, in which they performed well.  I hardly took any notice of the National Holiday, being so caught up in the event.   The rain continued to hold off and camping was pleasant, though hot during the day.

 

Saturday Morning dawned to another hot day and the wind picked up.    We enjoyed camp and got to walk around some.  I went to look at one of the mounted batteries stationed near the tree line and had the opportunity to examine their artillery horse tack and one of the caissons.   It is very rare to see a working caisson on the field.   Even when you see a caisson as a battlefield or museum display it nearly always lacks the tools and other detail.  I was able to learn more about those tools and spares carried on a real caisson and where and how they were secured.   Returning to camp, I mentioned my experience and recommended others take the opportunity to see the mounted battery’s equipment.  Artificer Keith Kuhn took that advice and got some black grease on his hands.  Fortunately, a porta John was nearby and he was able to clean his hands with toilet paper—though he reported people eyeing him oddly as he stood in the open doorway and wiped black stuff off his hands.

 

All of Hoover’s Battery participated in the Wheatfield Battle that afternoon and was deployed to the extreme left in a long line of artillery six or seven hundred yards across from the spectator area and grandstand and facing toward them.  While deploying we picked up a couple of guns that had become separated from their parent battery during the move to the field and I placed them to our left as an independent section.  We had a fine line of sight and field of fire against enemy artillery and fired counter-battery as a result.  But much of the infantry action took place down slope and out of our direct sight— such that we had to detach a scout to watch the movement of the battle and let us know if the infantry or cavalry were moving against us.  Private John Contic volunteered and performed his duty well.  The battle started to our left, moving from there across our front to where the ground flattened out more and we could open on the now visible infantry.  Overall, it was a well-fought action and officers and men performed like the skilled veterans that they are and gave perfect satisfaction.

 

I am also glad to report that Lt. Colonel Larry Fischer, former commander of Thompson’s Battery C, stopped to talk with me while I was in the shade of my tent.  The meeting was as friendly and enjoyable as of old and I was truly glad of it.

 

After the formation on Sunday morning Captain Robert Brown of Hampton’s Battery F presented me with a finely crafted commemorative challenge coin that Battery F had struck for the 150th anniversary of the original Hampton’s Battery.  It is a great gift that I will always treasure.

 

Sunday saw the epic battle of Pickett’s Charge, which was scheduled for 2:30 PM.  We were deployed in front of the grandstand and fired counter-battery from a position about 150 yards to the rear of the stone wall, and up slope from it.   It took some time for the infantry to move into position in front and we cheered the 148th PA Vol. Infantry as they passed.  Then all was set and the battle began.

 

We fired counter-battery and then turned the guns onto the CSA infantry when they made their appearance, firing over our own troops that were down slope.  The weather started sunny, but with building clouds that darkened the sky, as if in growing anger, and they soon cast a dim shadow over everything.  On order, the artillery shut down for the final part of the battle and we became spectators to an awesome infantry fight.  The air grew heavy, the sky darkened even more and it began to rain.  Through the dimming light and the haze of all that black powder smoke, we watched the Confederate soldiers—standing shoulder to shoulder—break through the wooden fence along the “Emitsburg Road” in seemingly slow motion and approach the stone wall, where they were finally halted.  Bodies lay stretched in the field.  We saw General Armistead fall and be carried back through the lines. The rain opened in torrents in the last five minutes of the battle and just kept coming. Very eerie.

 

1st Lieutenant Stahley was not feeling well and had elected to stay in camp.  He and Jen Stahley, sizing up the coming rain, were able to break down much of our battery equipment and get it under cover.  They already had the trailer in camp when we finally returned from the field.   The rain, falling on ground that had already seen a lot of rain earlier in the week, turned the roads to mud which was churned up by hundreds and hundreds of vehicles trying to exit as quickly as the various camps could be packed up.  Once loaded, I tried to get the battery truck—the General Hunt—and our trailer up the hill to join the traffic exiting that way, but it was too slick and muddy. That proved fortunate, because others of our band reported some hair raising experiences and near accidents sliding in the mud while trying to get out by the upper road.

 

Thanks to the assistance of Private Tony Schulden and Corporal Steve Turkel–who had to be ordered to leave and get out of the rain– I was able to turn the Hunt and trailer around from the abortive attempt to climb to the top of the hill to join the exiting traffic.  I then moved downhill toward the lower gravel road, as suggested by Private Schulden (now you’re think’ in like Lincoln!).  I got there to find the road completely jammed with cars and trucks and held up by an accident further up the road.  There was a patch of mud and water before getting to gravel, so I waited at the top of a rise and spoke to the drivers in a position to let me in when traffic did begin to move.   Sat for quite a while but was finally able to get on gravel with a running start downhill and without any problems–what a relief!  Slow going, but I finally exited the lot at 8:00 PM.   Roads outside the lot also filled up and made the going slow for miles–but I made it to Dillsburg at 9:30 PM.

 

During a stop for gas, Jim Lynch pulled in and he commented that the Hunt was still running and tapped the hood.  Yes, quite well, I agreed.  However, a turn of the ignition key after fueling produced nothing–just a few idiot lights lit up.  Jumping did no good.  I called AAA and was told there would be an hour wait.  Two hours later, they showed up–but the guy already had an impounded vehicle on the back.  An examination revealed that the positive wire from the battery appeared to be damaged at the starter solenoid (No, I didn’t hit or run over anything!).  That meant a tow would be needed.  We are now at about 11:30 PM.  He had to drop the existing truck off and come back, which he did forty minutes later.

 

Triple A covered the truck, but here was a $150 hookup fee for the trailer and a charge of $5 per mile. They knew they had me –so no amount of negotiation or pleading would get them to move an inch.  Once the cost was worked out, the driver found he did not have the right sized ball to tow the trailer after the Hunt was loaded on the flat bed.  That was a wait of another 20 minutes until one could be brought out.   He was also almost out of diesel–so a stop for gas to fill the big tank.  Arrived at storage and dropped the trailer.  The driver waited while I transferred the stuff I was taking home to my car (He didn’t help any, though), then I followed him to Wrenchrite Auto Center and dropped the Hunt off for repair–I had worked with Wrenchrite before and they are good guys.  Left a note and the spare keys.  After completing the paperwork the driver needed for the tow and putting $260 on my Visa card. I was FINALLY ready to leave for home at 3:00 AM.

 

I am not done yet!  The long road construction detour to get on Route 322 caused me to go up Route 15 through the string of small burgs.  I was pulled over for going 53 in a 35 mile per hour zone.  After checking my documents and hearing my story, the officer let me off with a warning. I was able to make it to the Yeagertown exit before I absolutely needed to stop for a twenty minute nap–couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.  Arrived safely home at 5:30 AM Monday morning.

 

From July 12th to the 14th Battery C was on Station at Williamsport, MD with one Parrott rifle and encamped at the historic Springfield Farm as the Fluvanna Light Artillery.  We had Martin Feigelis and Rob Benson with us.  There were some sutlers available and I got an excellent buy on two shirts. Battles were fought both days and there was a dance Saturday evening.  Both days we worked with a Maryland Artillery Battery and the two gun crews performed very well together.  The Saturday battle was a reenactment of the Wagoner’s Fight of July 6, 1863 in which General John Buford’s Cavalry attempted to capture the 17 mile long CSA wagon train of Gettysburg wounded that had become trapped at Williamsport by high waters.  He was opposed by CSA General John Imboden in command of his brigade, two small regiments, a scratch unit of walking wounded and a few pieces of artillery.  They saved the wagons after a three hour battle.

 

Our re-enactment took place about three quarters of a mile from camp in a large open field at Milestone Terrace.  We had to tow the gun there—part of the distance was on the highway—with great care.   The event staff arranged a convoy with escorting vehicles in front and behind.

 

The battlefield was a large one in the midst of housing developments—but with plenty of room.  A heard of cows was on site in the distance when we arrived and was moved off for the battle.   The two guns of the CSA artillery were posted on high ground and we found we were firing against our friends in Cooper’s Battery B, 1st PA.  The ground was still slick with the rain of the previous few days and for a moment it was touch and go getting the battery truck and gun to the top of our assigned knoll, but we made it in and out OK.

 

We enjoyed the unique experience of having two CSA cavalry assigned to us to carry messages and I was able to report enemy troop movements to the infantry commander by courier.  The two cavalrymen expressed an interest in working together at some future event—one in which they would make our gun a mounted artillery piece.   We fired counter battery at Cooper’s Battery.  It was posted in low ground to our left front maybe 400-500 yards away.  Much of the infantry action in this small event took place to our right front.  No enemy troops approached us and we had a fine view of the action.   We were told our location was within sight of the actual CSA 1863 defenses.  At the conclusion of battle we returned to camp.

 

After getting squared away, we loaded into the General Hunt and drove a short distance into Williamsport to see the historic Cushwa Basin and the C&O Canal.  We walked a portion of the tow path near the basin and read the historical tablets.  We returned to camp and had a restful evening after dinner.  Katelyn, Martin and Rob attended the evening ball.

 

The next day, Sunday, was hot and steamy.  There had been some rain overnight.   The battle took place on the same ground, but we were posted on low ground only about two hundred and fifty yards from Cooper’s, which occupied the ground we had the previous day.  I posted the two guns under the shade of some trees and with an earthen embankment in front of us.  This battle represented the rearguard skirmishing and we were pressed heavily by enemy infantry—receiving little support from our own.   The infantry numbers had diminished noticeably from the day before.  The enemy approached so close to our front that I shut down the Battery C Parrott and used both crews to move the Maryland six pounder right up over the embankment to look down upon them.  It got hand to hand for a short time with a few of the Maryland crew clashing directly with the infantry before the battle ended.  The Marylanders said they never got to move a gun like that before.

 

In addition to the battles, we also did a couple of gun demonstrations back at camp.

 

August 24th and 25th found Battery C encamped at Liberia Plantation—a fine and historic house that headquartered generals from both sides before and during the two Battles of Manassas and was visited by other famous people. Liberia House sits within a densely populated and build up suburban area of Manassas that filled up what was open farmland sixty years ago—but, once there, one would never know the area was no longer rural because the grounds are bordered all the way around by a thick band of woods and undergrowth that completely walls the site off and deadens the street noise—making it a peaceful and beautiful lightly wooded park site. For this living history, we brought the Battery’s mountain howitzer.

 

Upon arrival, we found we did not have the upright poles for the Battery fly.  In true Army of the Potomac fashion we procured some lumber and made field expedients.  Had an excellent lunch as Guests of the Battery C 1st Lieutenant at a local rib and barbeque restaurant and then returned to finish setting up camp.  Relaxed and awaited the arrival of the remaining Battery personnel.

 

Saturday was spent doing living history, gun drills and firings.  Artificer Keith Kuhn and I also displayed artillery shells, fuses and equipment and Private Susan Sprout had a fine display of herbs and useful wild plants.   We all did some very good public education.   The event staff were, as was the case last year, superb in their cooperation and the care they took of us.   Premium lunches were delivered each day and we had plenty of water, ice and firewood.  In addition to a gun bounty, each of us got $10 worth of scrip per day that was good at the Old Town Manassas Museum shop and other locations.

 

After things slowed down that afternoon, we had the chance to go through Liberia House and learn more about its history.    We also took the opportunity to have a classic group picture taken on the porch of the house.  In doing that, we tried, successfully, I think, to duplicate the many similar pictures taken at various plantations of occupying troops during the Civil War.

 

We were able to get the regularly running shuttle from Liberia to the Old Town Museum, which was the center of activities.  We caught the shuttle to the Museum late afternoon on Saturday.  It was a couple of miles away.  Even though we were in the middle of a suburban area, the shuttle was still a hay wagon with benches pulled by a farm tractor.   There were no shock absorbers and that made for a sometimes jarring ride when potholes and railroad crossings were encountered.   Upon Arrival at the Museum, we found it to be a bustling hive of activity.  The lawn was packed full of reenactors, tents and visitors.

 

Corporal Steve Turkel had left before us to catch the lecture by James Robertson, a noted biographer of General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson, and we arrived in time to catch the author’s concluding remarks and the question/answer period.  Mr. Robertson was asked about what difference the presence of Stonewall Jackson may have made at Gettysburg, if he had not died as a result of the Battle of Chancellorsville.   He replied that it was important to understand that you cannot just plop Stonewall down at Gettysburg out of the air.   If he were alive at that time, he would have been with the Army all the way there.   While most troops marched 10-15 miles a day, Jackson moved his men twice that routinely.  Therefore, James Robertson speculated that General Jackson would have been well beyond Gettysburg when the battle was actually joined in earnest by the slower forces.

 

I had long thought that if Jackson were alive at the time of Gettysburg, he would not have actually been there—but would most likely have gone well beyond it with a substantial number of troops and may have been burning Camp Curtin at Harrisburg on the other side of the Susquehanna when the armies seriously locked horns at Gettysburg.  It would have taken some time for him to disengage upon recall.   Therefore, Confederate forces may have actually been weaker, not stronger, at the Battle of Gettysburg if Stonewall Jackson were alive then—with who knows what changes to history.

 

The event staff gave each of us a ticket good for a barbeque dinner and a couple of  vendors were available—one offering North Carolina -style  and one Virginia –style barbeque.  Some of us went to one and some to the other.  Comparing notes later, we found that there was a big difference between the two.  One had a set meal plate with no substitutions.  Corporal Turkel and I happened to go to the other one.  He asked what was on the plate and was told he could order anything he wanted.   When I observed what he got, I ordered the same thing.   We were stuffed with an excellent meal—one far beyond what the other vendor provided.   We listened to the music and entertainment, went through the Museum and talked to fellow reenactors.  I spent my scrip buying an excellent book on Confederate currency in the Museum shop.  We returned to camp individually on the shuttles and spent the remainder of the evening relaxing.    Awakening late in the night, I was treated to the sight of the Liberia house and grounds in the moonlight.

 

Sunday was a repeat of the day before—doing living history and gun demonstrations until midafternoon, when we packed up and left for home. Saturday included a visit by Nancy Nyitrai to our camp. It is always an honor and a pleasure to have a member of the Thompson Family with us.

 

In doing the gun demonstrations, we worked with the Baltimore Light Artillery, a Confederate battery that also had a mountain howitzer.   Baltimore Light had an interesting collection of tents, including a large hospital tent in which, I was told, was a pretty impressive collection of firearms.    They were a little lax on safety zones and safely pointing their gun (right at us during their first demonstration), but cooperated in addressing those concerns, when I asked them to do so.

 

On September 26th I taught a one-day, Penn State continuing education course on Civil War Light Artillery in Bellefonte for 14 students.

 

Battery C had received an invitation to the October 3rd: Centre County Genealogical Society CW music concert.  Some members of Battery B, 3rd PA were also on hand.  Battery C was represented by Artificer Keith Kuhn, Private Katelyn Goodling and me.  A very enjoyable evening.  The musician played a variety of period instruments well and sang acceptably.  We learned a lot about CW period musical instruments.   I enjoyed his observation that banjo players spent half their time tuning their banjoes and the other half playing out of tune.  We were given an opportunity to talk about our units and Civil War reenacting.

 

The 150th Anniversary of the battle of Bristoe Station was attended by Battery C on October 12th and 13th at the Bristoe Station Battlefield Park, in Bristoe, VA.  This was done in commemoration of the part Battery C had in the Bristoe Campaign.  A gun crew with the Parrott was fielded.  The weather was poor to bad on Friday and Sunday and cold and cloudy on Saturday.  The rain on Friday night let off long enough for those of us arriving near sunset to get mostly set up.  It returned off and on through the night but then stopped until late in the day Saturday, after the day’s activities were over.

 

We were encamped on the actual battlefield and only about 100 yards away from the present Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks.  At the time of the battle in October of 1863, those were the tracks of the Orange and Alexandria Railroad and figured prominently as a fortification in Union victory.  The site of the Bristoe Station itself was only 4 or 5 hundred yards away from our camp.  The event was a small one and reduced further by the bad weather.  Our camp site was a good one, but with a very poor access road that became very muddy and restricted as it crossed a culvert in low ground before rising up to the camp.

 

We had access to plenty of firewood—thoughtfully placed under a tarp by the event staff–and to cardboard-boxed bottled water stacked and left out in the rain.  Porta johns were set up, but about 50 yards away and you had to cross the culvert to get to them—lots of mud on the road to squish through.

 

More infantry from the 28th Massachusetts came in early Saturday morning and camped near us but separated by a partial tree line.  There was a fox den in the tree line and in the morning we saw a fox trot across the field in our front.  We found we were the only US gun and in the afternoon we supported a skirmish battle by the infantry in the open field before us.  I did not note any southern artillery at all.  Up on our knoll we had a fine field of fire and the CSA infantry obligingly kept their attention on the US Infantry and presented us with some fine opportunities to fire into their flank, which would have cut them down in an instant.

 

After the battle, the commander of the 28th showed us a fine book with excellent maps of the Bristoe and Mine Run campaigns, depicting the various phases of the battles and including the February 1864 battle at Morton’s Ford, which was Battery C’s last time in actual combat.  Artificer Keith Kuhn and I later walked up the hill to the ranger station to take in some of the programing.  We listened to Ted Alexander talk about military actions at and near Bristoe Station and about some of the challenges faced by preservationists to save the heart of the battlefield.   We also took in a performance of Gilmore’s Light Ensemble—a trio that played the accordion, banjo. Guitar and the largest hammered dulcimer I ever encountered.  Because the public had mostly left, it was almost a private performance for Artificer Keith Kuhn and me, plus a few others.  We literally got to call the tunes. Other members of the Battery took the walking tour or stayed in camp.

 

Sunday dawned—if you could call it that—rainy, cold and misty.  We were expecting the event staff  to call off the afternoon battle because of the weather, but it went off as scheduled—though with a much reduced infantry presence—and was a scaled back version of the previous day. As was the case Saturday, a few hearty souls actually made it out to our camp over the weekend and we were able to do a little public education that was well received.   Among those civilian heroes was our ever faithful Nancy Nyitrai.

 

The event staff presented each of us with commemorative wooden challenge coins for the 150th of the Battle of Briscoe Station and also with commemorative patches and programs.  We were told we were welcome to come back for an encampment anytime and the event staff expressed a particular interest when they learned we were also the CSA’s Fluvanna Light Artillery at need.

 

We cleaned the gun and packed up with the event staff assisting.  I almost got the Hunt and trailer through the muddy road and actually made it across the culvert before miring in.  That proved to be the best one yet!  It took a four wheel drive pickup and a tractor working together to get us out of that one.  Even so, we had to drop the trailer and take it and the General Hunt out separately—hooking them together again on solid ground.  We all went home with wet canvas.

 

If the weather had cooperated the event would have been a fine one, and even under the circumstances it was still a pretty good mix of camping on historical ground, reenacting, living history, Civil War speakers and music.  The book mentioned above was a great find.   Finally, our position near the railroad many have interrupted some sleep, but it provided for some fine train watching in off moments.  Overall, we did our duty and added to the good name of Thompson’s Independent Battery C at yet another historical site.  We all made it home OK.

 

On October 18th Battery C reported to station at Middletown, VA for the 149th commemoration of the Battle of Cedar Creek.  I was on a furlough to assist with an emergency in the operation of an event in Bellefonte and the Battery was ably commanded by 1st Lt. Eric Stahley, who submitted the following after action report:

 

Thompson’s Battery “C” participated in the 149th reenactment of the battles of 2nd Winchester and Cedar Creek in Middletown, Va. on Oct 19th and 20th, 2013.

 

Camp was set on Friday in good order, with our unit falling in under Capt. DiMaria of the 1st Rhode Island, Battery “B”.  The other units making up our 4 gun battery were Knap’s Battery and Battery “M”, 2nd US.

 

Upon setting camp, many members of our Battery decided to travel to Winchester, for an uneventful dinner at the Chinese restaurant.  At no time did the local fire brigade make an appearance to join the unit for the meal.

 

Officer’s call was held at 9 PM, whereby 1st Sgt. Stout was “volunteered” to act as 1st Sgt. for the entire battery, with duties consisting of calling the battery roll call for morning formation, and reporting on behalf of the battery at the battalion formation.  Lt. Bromley and Lt. Milby were instructed to act as section chiefs for the battles, and Battery M and Thompson’s were formed as a section for the weekend.  There was a nasty rumor going around that Lt. Stahley was arrested and needed bail from Capt. Hoover, but the rumor was unsubstantiated and quickly debunked by Cpl. Zacharda.

 

Saturday morning, Thompson’s participated in the Battery roll call and marched in good order up to the Battalion formation.  Upon returning, the unit was released from service until 2PM, when we were to form up with the rest of the Battery and place guns for the afternoon battle of 2nd Winchester.  After Battalion formation, there was a formation of Thompson’s Battery where Pvt. E. Schulden was presented with a copy of his artillery tactics “red book”, and was admonished to study the book and keep up with his instruction with an eye towards advancement in rank.  Cpl. Turkel was presented with a copy of Henry Kyd Douglas’ diary, with instructions to study this over the winter and to be prepared with new quotes from Mr. Douglas for the 2014 season.

 

Fearing the imminent attack of the rebels would occur sooner than anticipated, our orders were countermanded, and we were dispatched to the field much earlier than anticipated in order to construct breastworks to defend our exposed position.  The unit stragglers were recalled from the Sutleries, and the noon meal was quickly packed to be taken to the field.  Once in position, the barn raising skills of the “Amish Artillery” were then employed and a mighty breastworks were quickly constructed, which created quite a defensible position. Once joined by Pvt. Goodling returning from a jaunt into enemy territory, the unit guidon was proudly placed on the ramparts of our fortification, and we proceeded to prepare for our nasty business of defending the fort.

 

The rebels approached our guns, and even though we rained fire and brimstone down on the advancing seccesh, we were unable to defend our position.  We were overrun, and the guns were turned on the fort for the remainder of the battle.  We then retired into the battery park for the evening, prepared for supper, contended with a 45 minute cold rainstorm, and then participated in a night fire demonstration.  We returned to camp to settle in for the evening around 8:00.   Around midnight, a violent windstorm arose, downing several flys and wall tents of Knap’s Battery directly behind us.  As the unit on the end of the camp, they sustained the brunt of the winds and were thereby hardest hit by the wind squall.  1st Sgt. Stout and Lt. Stahley downed the battery fly between gusts in order to prevent the same fate from befalling our canvass.  With the tentage checked and secured, all returned to bed to outlast the windstorm until dawn.

 

Sunday morning arrived, and after roll call and breakfast, we again participated in the battalion formation where Pvt. John Elbo’s ticket number for the Artillery Reserve 50/50 drawing was not called yet again.  At that time, volunteers were requested to attend the USV dress parade in the infantry camp later on that morning.  Upon returning to camp, Lt. Stahley swapped section command with Lt. Milby, and the gun crew for the afternoon battle was set.  Capt. DiMaria approached our unit asking for volunteers to attend the dress parade, as his unit wanted to attend.  In order to give the Artillery a good showing of bodies, Thompson’s decided to march down and participate in the event.   The marching of our battery was smart, and the maneuvers were properly executed, bringing accolades to the artillery Battalion from the General and his staff for our presentation at the event.  All who participated were then complimented and recognized by Capt. DiMaria, whereby the detail was then properly dismissed until the time established for gun placement relating to the afternoon battle.  At the start of the afternoon battle, Pvt. E. Schulden was given a battlefield promotion to Cpl. for the duration of the battle, where he performed his duties to the service of his unit.  The rebels were driven from the field, with our battery advancing down the hill and assisting to chase the rebels from their position in front of the Heater House.  I would take this opportunity to commend Pvt. N. Auchenbach on a fine job on the #2 position, worming the gun.  This is a difficult position to master on a rifled piece, and Pvt. Auchenbach caught the spent round every time while firing during the battle.

 

We returned to camp, whereby Capt. DiMaria had an informal formation, thanked the boys for a job well done, and wished everyone a safe trip home.  Camp was struck in good order by 4PM, and instructions were given to those present on the proper placement of items in the trailer, and the correct way to secure the gun and rounds in the trailer for transportation.

 

There were several items addressed over the weekend that were not the norm for our unit, but are important to mention in this report.   Sunday, the gun team was drilled in the proper way to take and return implements, as well as instruction on how to be more expedient on taking and returning equipment to the chest.  This proved to be instruction well received, as we wound up moving a good distance in the battle later that day.   The drill was also fine-tuned, and members of the battery got a chance to practice skills and positions on the gun that they normally do not, making the afternoon drill a worthwhile training exercise. During both battles, the Battery used the prolong rope to move the gun either uphill or brake going down, thereby increasing the knowledge of our cannoneers on different ways to move the piece on the field during battle.

 

All arrived home safely Sunday evening to end another year in the field for our unit.

 

Respectfully Submitted,

 

1st Lt. Eric C. Stahley, commanding

 

 

In mid-November we received the sad news that Lieutenant Colonel Larry Fischer, former commander of Battery C had passed away in his sleep.   We all owe a lot to Larry for his years of hard work and dedication building our unit.   Even though we had our differences with him and Sandy Fischer in the final year of his command and a parting of the ways was necessary, Larry was friend and an outstanding benefactor to Battery C that will be remembered fondly.

 

Battery C marched in the 2013 Remembrance Day Parade on November 23rd.  Artificer Keith Kuhn and I went down the night before at his request and spent an enjoyable evening in Gettysburg.   After stowing our gear at the motel, we walked around town checking various restaurants.  We finally decided to walk down to the Dobbin House.  After an hour long wait, we got an excellent dinner—spit roasted chicken with trimmings.  There were two bands playing Civil War music on the street and lots of people in town.  It was warm enough outside for people to enjoy using the outside tables and bar in the garden of the Farnsworth House.

 

Overnight, the weather turned very cold and there were snow flurries the next morning.   We got up early and participated in the Cooper’s Battery B., 1st PA monument rededication ceremony on East Cemetery Hill.   The unit had raised an impressive $10,000 to replace the weathered cap stone on the original Battery B Monument.  It was a well done ceremony that took place for the most part in a cold, stiff wind.  The Park Service speaker made much of the fact that this was the first time an organization outside of the Park Service was permitted to replace a monument.  From talking to the Cooper’s Battery members, we learned that the Park Service’s requirements added greatly to the cost of the replacement and diminished its historical correctness.  For example,  Even though Cooper’s had the original newspaper article from the 1870’s that described in detail what was engraved on each facet of the original monument, the Park Service would only allow carvings on the new cap that were documented by period photographs.  Since Cooper’s was only able to find one such  photograph, only the carvings on the side depicted could be replaced—the cap sides not shown had to be left blank—thus zeal for historical correctness produced a monument cap that was guaranteed to NOT be true to the original.  Cooper’s Battery B had a special medal struck commemorating the monument rededication.   Seeing that, I decided to advocate with the Battery C members to have a sesquicentennial medal struck for Thompson’s Battery.

 

After the rededication ceremony, we walked up to the parade staging area and eventually hooked up with the Battery C members that had come down that morning for the parade.   We had enough to make a good formation of two ranks.   My stepson, Josh Sawyer stopped by to say hello.  He was dressed in period Victorian civilian clothes, instead of his uniform and did not march in the parade.  His outfit looked great and was chosen with Josh’s characteristic good taste and meticulous attention to authentic detail.

 

We marched the usual parade route, ending on the grounds near the site of the old visitor’s center.  The artillery then marched on, however, to the field behind The Angle, where the Artillery Reserve held a memorial ceremony for Larry Fischer at which I was privileged to speak and pay tribute to Larry’s many accomplishments over the years.  All the artillerymen wore black bands on the left arm in honor of Larry while marching in the parade.

 

At the conclusion of the memorial ceremony we retrieved our several vehicles and met at the Thompson’s and Hampton’s Battery Monuments.   Private Roy Bohn is a member of both Thompson’s Independent Battery C and Hampton’s Independent Battery F.   I was glad to have a representative of Hampton’s with us as the two units fought the Battle of Gettysburg as a combined unit under Captain Thompson’s command.  In commemoration of that we had a formation between the two unit monuments in the Peach orchard and laid wreaths at both of them, with appropriate remarks and a moment of silence.

 

A similar ceremony was held at the marker for the Fluvanna Light Artillery, which is on the ridge near the Daniel Lady Farm.  The cannons at the site have not been replaced yet and just the marker an a pile of solid shot marked the placement of the battery.  But the important thing was that we were there to honor the Fluvanna Light.

 

Artificer Keith Kuhn and I stayed overnight to attend the Artillery Reserve fall meeting the next day.  Among the topics discussed were the difficulties some units were experiencing getting liability insurance and what little was known at that time in regard to 2014 events.   We left for home mid-morning.

 

We held our Battery Meeting at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg on December 7th.    The meeting business included: review of the year that had just passed, reports, discussion and the election of Board and Military Officers:

 

Battery C Board of Directors:

 

President, Anton Schulden

Vice President, Dean Auchenbach

Treasurer, Eric Stahley

Secretary, Keith Kuhn

At large, Katlyn Goodling

 

These Military Officers were re-elected to two-year terms:

 

Captain, Gary Hoover

1st Sergeant, Bill Stout

 

Private Eric Schulden was advanced by appointment to the rank of Artificer.

 

These initial 2014 events were approved:

 

Spotsylvania/Wilderness. May 1-4

 

The Army Heritage Education Center Heritage Weekend, May 17-18

 

Old Town Manassas Living History, August 23-24

 

Cedar Creek, October 18-19

 

I would here like to thank 1st Lt. Eric Stahley and Ordnance Sgt. Tom Shultz for their diligence in arranging to move the Battery’s ordnance and equipment from storage to winter quarters.

 

Privates Bob Cain and Roy Bohn joined me at 9:00 AM on December 14th and we set up our display for Bellefonte’s 2013 Victorian Christmas on the Centre County Courthouse Lawn in the softly falling snow.  I had ordered other members of the Battery living at a distance not to risk the drive in bad weather.  Bob and Roy, being local, were there and their assistance in showing the flag was much appreciated.

 

Because of the weather, the exhibit was much reduced from previous years.   I bought a pintle hook rig that allowed me to tow the General Tom Thumb mountain howitzer without the limber for short distances–such as out in the field–and so, was able to get the gun down to the courthouse without hooking up the trailer with the risk that I might not be able to get it back up the hill if the snow really got bad.  It was cold and it snowed lightly throughout the day.   Street foot traffic was much reduced due to the bad weather, but we talked to 8-10 people including a young couple from northern VA and a former combat medic.   I gave out my card and a recruitment pitch.  The former combat medic said her family as very interested in history and that her husband was an army recruiter stationed in Wellsboro.  They knew Larry and Sandy Fischer slightly and had been to their home.
I lit a candle lantern inside the tent and demonstrated how much just that could improve the inside temperature.    Several people took our pictures and we may get some press from it.
My son, Luke, came down to assist with packing up a little before 3:00 PM and we got all the stuff back up the hill and stowed in before darkness set in.  A good thing, too, as shortly after getting the equipment put away the snow intensified for a while.
With the closing of Bellefonte’s Victorian Christmas, Independent Battery C’s 1863 Sesquicentennial campaign season’s operations drew to a close.   Many thanks to all for your support and for your dedication to our unit in performing its important duties.  Congratulations on an outstanding year.

 

Gary V. Hoover, Captain, Commanding

Thompson’s Independent Battery C, PA Vol. Lt. Artillery

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *