Volume 1, Issue 8                                                                                                                                         LateSpring,  2002



     Having been forced to abandon Fort Hayes to the ravages of the weather, the troops of the 6th Ohio Voluntary Cavalry, Co. B, the 1st Kentucky, and the 9th New York Company A converged on the tiny town of Zoar, Ohio, where they set up an encampment.  Surroundings were scouted for resources, and fresh water was located.  The group was just settling down around the campfire to share tales and libations when the first snowflakes drifted into the flames.  As wet snow continued to fall, most of the group decided their dry tents looked pretty comfortable.  Troopers continued to trickle in through the first watch, but the night was peaceful.

     Morning dawned on the beauty of the new snowfall, and on frozen water buckets.  Fortified by coffee and breakfast foraged from a local establishment, fourteen fresh-faced troopers greeted their commanders, and training commenced on foot.  Once the basics of Poinsette’s Cavalry Tactics were established, the horses were invited to join the fun, as the troop scouted the wilderness around Zoar for a suitable field for drilling.  After a long day of turns, wheels, and obliques made even more challenging by the many groundhog holes marked earlier on hole patrol, a powerful demonstration on the importance of Poinsette’s spacing requirements (hope that bruise isn’t too bad), a brief swim in the swollen Tuscawaras River, and some gradual saber training, our Sergeant even felt confident enough to order a saber charge at the canter with a 180’ wheel, which was accomplished neatly without loss of blood.

     After the grueling day thirteen not-so-fresh-faced troopers (the fourteenth having been dispatched to assist in a civilian marriage ceremony) returned to camp and the bountiful and delicious meal provided by our sergeant and his staff.  Not a drop of gravy was wasted!!

     Sunday morning brought brisk temperatures and fresh horses, so the drilling increased in pace and intensity, peppered by calls of “watch the hole!!” and debates of the finer points of Poinsette’s.  Once the vinegar was worked out of the beasts, linking, fighting dismounted with carbines, and fighting mounted with revolvers all progressed uneventfully.  Another quick swim and hole patrol, and a brief tour of last September’s battlefield, courtesy of our lieutenant, and the weekend’s activities were completed.  Again, a wonderful meal, provided by our treasurer, was eagerly devoured and much appreciated, and the troops were dispatched home to nurse stiff muscles and saddle-sore rumps (on their horses, of course)!





     The Federal Cavalry under Brigadier General William Averell (with a bag of coffee in his saddlebag intended for his old classmate) had forded the Rappahannock River to encounter  Brigadier General Fitzhugh Lee’s Confederate horsemen.  Riding among the boys in blue were our volunteers of the Sixth Ohio Cavalry.


     Assembly on Saturday morning showed that the ranks of the Sixth Ohio had been thinned, and the loss was mourned.  When Boots and Saddles was called by the commanding officer of the Federal mounted cavalry at 9:45, the 6th Ohio and 17th Pennsylvania Volunteer Cavalries fell in together to form Co. B, riding with the steadfast 2nd U.S. Regulars Co. A.  The morning began with drill, first as separate companies, then as a full squadron. The large front was a challenge initially, but with some work the troops looked like they had been riding together for months. The weather was warm and after an hour and a half of drilling, troops were dismissed to water and tend the mounts.

     Less than an hour later the boys heard Boots and Saddles once again   Dismounted cavalry had engaged the rebel horde, and quickly pushed them back. The Confederates returned with support, but before they could exploit their advantage, the boys of Co B entered the fray.  Union troops pressed the grey line back, but soon found themselves facing artillery and grey reinforcements.  As the tide was turning, Federal reinforcements came in the form of Co. A, and once again our boys were pushing them back.

     The tide of battle moved back and forth. One moment both sides were in a fight with carbines and the next our boys were being flanked by a Confederate saber charge.  Counter saber charges progressed to pistol fights and then back to carbines. Companies A and B would fight side by side one moment and the next moment one would break off to support the dismounted boys from the charges of the their mounted foe.  It was a hectic fight.  Having the entire battlefield to use, and scout, made for an exhilarating battle. When asked how many saber charges actually took place, one veteran Confederate said “I lost track when I had to take off my boots to keep count.”


     Satisfied that their work was done, troops returned to camp to care for their tired mounts.  They were quite surprised when, a short time later, the bugler once again played Boots and Saddles.  A truce had been called to allow a demonstration of cavalry tactics.  This was followed by a bountiful dinner and dance, at which a number of the Sixth Ohio troopers proved that cavalrymen can be as light on their feet as any infantrymen!  On the return trip from the festivities, the General requested help from one of her aides.  This author, ever the kind soul, offered the General a lift only to find that he too had been wounded during the battle and had no legs left.

     The evening’s peace was broken only once by gunfire, as a small band of Rebels decided to take on the full force of the Union picket line.  They were quickly routed by some choice words from the Federal Commanding Officer.  This was possibly the shortest engagement in reenactment history, and a feat matched only by Trooper Noble single-handedly halting the entire Confederate army earlier in the day

     Reveille on Sunday morning roused the troops to dreary weather, but while poor footing slowed the pace, the rain did not dim the effect of either the dress parade or the battle.  Once all events were concluded, the commanding officer paid his respects to his own troops and, “the best confederate cavalry on the field today”. All forces were dismissed to fight another day.

Reported by Mr. Woo C. Boie

Rappahannock Times




May 17-19      Sacramento, KY                                Battle of Sacramento--Reenactment held on the actual site where Nathan Bedford Forrest’s cavalry engaged Crittenden’s Army of the Ohio on December 28, 1861


June 7-9         Meigs County Ohio               Morgan’s Pre-ride—Trial ride and promotion of the route intended for the Morgan’s Raid event planned in 2003.


July 5-7           Gettysburg, PA                      Reenactment of six aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg including on Friday evening the first day action along Chambersburg Pike, and on Sunday Custer’s third-day cavalry battle east of town.




     I was sitting quietly at the February meeting when I overheard a comment implying frustration at the catcalls, “Hee haw!”s, and other references to the song “Here’s Your Mule” heard from the infantry as the cavalry rides by.  In light of our pending endeavors in southern Ohio, it seemed appropriate to explore this delightful custom.

      Apparently, this particular form of harassment is authentic, a fact reflected in another charming ditty of the period:


     “When a horseman passes, the soldiers have a rule,

     To cry out at their loudest, ‘Mister, here’s your mule!’

     But another pleasure enchantinger than these,

     Is wearing out your grinders, eating goober peas!”


     According to Irwin Silber, who has compiled scores of Civil War period songs and their histories, “Here’s Your Mule” is a Confederate camp song particularly popular in Tennessee and Kentucky.  However, Mister Silber reports that the phrase was probably initially used to refer to the mysterious disappearance of livestock and goods whenever John Hunt Morgan and his raiders came to town.

     The connection with Morgan’s Raiders is strengthened by the fact that at least one parody was published to the same tune.  “How Are You, John Morgan?” recounts the capture, imprisonment, and escape of a heroic John Morgan, mounted “upon his mule”. 


Silber, Irwin.  Songs of the Civil War.  New York, NY:  Dover Publications, Inc. 1995




          Providing and maintaining horses for the armies was a major problem for the governments of the Civil War.  The Federal Government spent close to $124,000,000 and significant resources and energy on acquiring and recuperating horses for mounts, artillery, and wagons.  The Confederate cavalry was increasingly weakened as horses became difficult to replace and troopers were lost to the infantry.  Horses were casualties not just of battle wounds, but also frequently to common illnesses such as colic and founder.  Minor ailments such as thrush, scratches, and sore backs caused many horses to be temporarily unusable, and problems caused by poor or inconsistent forage caused almost as much disability as lack of feed.

     As reenactors, our mounts are not subject to such harsh conditions.  Ailments like thrush and scratches can be treated at home before they sideline our fine chargers.  But illness and injury can still strike on a weekend trip, and a knowledge of basic equine first aid may save a situation until the vet arrives.  This column is intended to cover points of emergency treatment in the field, and as always, input and corrections from the reader are always welcome.

     The first issue in treating a sick horse is knowing when he is sick.  Vague symptoms like poor appetite, listlessness, diarrhea or constipation may clue you in that something is wrong, but an accurate measurement of his vital signs will give the vet a more complete picture of the problem, and allow you to monitor changes in his condition.


PULSE:  A horse’s pulse can be taken at several points.  Dr. Kellon, VMD recommends a point under the jaw, along the curve of the cheek muscle.  On attempting this on a relaxed horse with an unclipped jaw, I had no luck, but on a stressed horse it might be easier to find.  Dr. Liddell, DVM recommends feeling the pulse from the heart itself, behind the left elbow, at the girth.  This was much clearer, and she also recommends that on a very muscle-bound animal, bringing the left foreleg forward will draw the muscles apart, exposing the heartbeat.  The third choice would be to pack a stethoscope among your anachronisms.  Normal  resting pulse ranges are from about 24  to 50 pulses per minute (you’ll also need a timepiece with a second hand—another anachronism) depending on the weather, the animal’s fitness, and level of excitement.


RESPIRATION:  Breathing can be measured by carefully watching the horse’s ribs and measuring the number of times he inhales (ribs move out) in one minute.  Normal resting values are 8 to 16 breaths per minute, up to 30 if the horse is excited, unfit, or the weather is hot.  A normal horse after exercise will breathe deeply, alternating with several rapid, shallow breaths.  A stressed horse will take just rapid shallow breaths and be unable to cool himself.


TEMPERATURE:  A horse’s temperature is taken rectally, using a veterinary thermometer with a string and clip attached.  The thermometer is shaken down, then lubricated and inserted gently into the rectum.  The clip is attached to the tail hairs to prevent the thermometer from becoming lost.  The thermometer should remain in place for at least two minutes for an accurate reading.  Normal values range between 98” and 100.5” for an adult horse at rest.  103’ indicates the horse is overtaxed and needs to be helped.  Up to 106’ is an emergency.


Keeping a record of your horse’s vital signs when he is at home, healthy, and relaxed not only lets you practice finding them when the pressure’s off, but also lets you know what is normal for him.


Coggins, Jack.  Arms and Equipment of the Civil War.  New York, NY:  Barnes & Noble, Inc., 1999

Kellon, Eleanor, VMD.  Dr. Kellon’s Guide to First Aid for Horses.  Ossining, NY:  Breakthrough Publications, Inc.,1990

Liddell, Yvonne, DVM.  Emergency Treatment.  Apollo, PA.  2002




Developing a Persona:   What’s a Woman Doing in a Cavalry Camp, Anyway?


     It’s Saturday afternoon.  The troop has returned from battle, the horses are dozing on the picket line, and the public is drifting through camp, curious about 19th century life.  You’re sitting by the fire in your hoop skirt, drinking Pepsi out of your tin cup and sneaking M&Ms.  But just who are you?

     When their husbands marched away to war, most wives stayed home.  Farms had to be kept in production, children and elderly parents had to be tended, and extended families were often available to help support a woman while her man was away.  But many from the lower classes had nowhere to go.  The families of miners and mill workers often lived in rented company housing. When the men left, their families had to leave with them.  Although the War Departments on both sides tried to find positions and homes for these women, there were just too many of them.  So you might be a destitute wife, scrounging work as a laundress or cook, and just trying to keep up with the army.

     The wives and mothers and daughters who were left behind also did their part for the war effort, knitting sox and gloves, making shirts and canning food, even rolling bandages—anything they could to make life more bearable for their men in the field.  You might be visiting camp, hoping to spend a little time with a friend or relative and deliver a care package from home.

     During the Civil War, nurses were male, not female.  While men assisted patients with the baser and more gory aspects of convalescence, women assisted by writing letters, keeping linens clean, preparing bandages, chatting with the patients, and trying to provide comfort.  Perhaps you are in camp to assist with the treatment of small wounds, or to bring medical supplies. 

     An army camped outside of town was not only a great spectacle, but also a marvelous opportunity.  You might be sightseeing, or hoping to catch the eye of some dashing officer. You might be hoping to pedal your jams, eggs, or fresh bread.  You might have a political agenda--temperance, for example—or a spiritual one.  You might even be in camp to complain to the officers of theft.  Then, of course, there were the “bad women”--women sneaking whiskey to sell, “conjure ladies” or fortune-tellers, gamblers, prostitutes, and spies.

     Research and imagination can certainly provide plenty of other roles authentic to the period, although explaining what Scarlett O’Hara is doing lounging around a cavalry campfire might prove a little tricky!


     One more thought—a woman visiting camp alone was considered a “loose woman”, and open to insults and advances.  A lady was escorted by a male relative or military escort, or remained with a group of women.


Miss Margaret

Civilian Alter Ego


Hadden, R. Lee.  Reliving the Civil War: A Reenactor’s Handbook. Mechanicsburg, PA:  Stackpole Books, 1996




     Sitting around the lunch fire at spring training, I witnessed a marvelous idea.  Troopers Scott and Alec of the 1st Kentucky had foraged two cans of Campbell’s ready-to-serve soup.  They had opened the pop-top lids just a little, and set the cans on the fire grate to cook.  In minutes, they had a much more satisfying lunch than I did, with no extra dishes to wash!  I have also discovered coffee bags to be a marvelous invention, but granola bars are over-rated.

     As a relative newcomer to the hobby, I’m still struggling in the room and board department.  Packing satisfying, energy-rich foods that may or may not be cooked but will not spoil, and then stashing them in my tent in a way that looks period-appropriate enough to leave the flaps open, is proving to be quite a challenge.  And as our group has a large number of recent recruits, I suspect there are others who face the same issues.

     If you have any great ideas to share—either simple food ideas or good sources for boxes, bags, and barrels, pass ‘em on, and I will too.  My e-mail’s always on duty!! 



                                    Trooper Mick