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,
BATTLE OF KELLY’S FORD
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
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
Reported by Mr.
Woo C. Boie
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
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
To cry out at their loudest, ‘Mister, here’s
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
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.
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.
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
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
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,
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.
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!!