April, 2009

St Joe, MO Reenactment


Saint Joseph, Mo


St. Joe April 17-19, 2009 - After Action Report

On the back of Shoal Creek, the 9th again had the chance to test the fortunes of war at the St. Joe Missouri event. Haven’t ever been to a reenactment this close to a casino. However, the draw of the all-you-can-eat buffet and Blackjack proved an impossible lure for me. A little off-putting when you could see the casino and its neon smokestack from where we were some 200 yards distant, but we knew going in. Also, is was not an entirely perfect location as you could toss a rock and hit the softball diamond and related flotsam and jetsam incident to its maintenance. But, by a provident cut of the cards, the weekend proved quite enjoyable, as we battled and bested Mother Nature, ate well, and were treated to the rare occurrence of being outnumbered by our brothers in Blue.

Our robotic mascot Rebel Chicken of Defiance seemed the hit of the weekend, as he danced and squawked and allowed onlookers to choke his neck all weekend long. I might note that your humble correspondent/chicken caretaker, dropped the ball and left him outside on my table through the early Saturday morning drenching, but he recovered without a missed step.

I might note that Captain Burnos displayed some of his handiwork with woodworking -- a nifty table which folds up into a square carrying case, chairs, boxes, and the like.

Friday night --

Getting in to St. Joe, near and apparently on “the Terribles” casino grounds, was easy out of Topeka, I-70 to I-435 north to I-29, to I-229, then a particular exit into St. Joe, then look for the signs. About 1:40 out of Topeka. I got in about 6:30.  Soon to arrive was Mr. Staab, and later Mr. Visser. Set up was quick and easy -- you could run your vehicle right into your camp. The 9th set up between the 1st MO on the left and the 3rd MO on the right. Our Chicken of Defiance oversaw operations. I broke in my new folding table for the event.

Present for the 9th Texas were Chris Visser who was the major and therefore commanding officer for the reb army this weekend, new man Aaron Staab, from Meriden, and your faithful correspondent fell in as a private.

No one from Battalion staff was present. Major Looney had planned to attend, but a last second personal commitment kept him away.

Present in the Battalion were part of the 3rd MO under Captain Girdner and parts of the 1st MO under Captain Burnos. Captain Broski’s men of the 10th MO were also present but did artillery. In addition, Elliott’s Scouts were present in strength, some dismounted, some mounted. Terry’s Texas Rangers were present but they galvanized as federal cav. The 1st N.C. cav was also present. Did I miss anyone?

I also note the presence of two men from the newly-formed 4th Ark. who fell in with the 3rd MO. Good men and fun to reenact with.

While our camp remained fairly dry, I was told that the federal camp was quite muddy.

Present for the Yanks were the Muddy River Battalion under Col. James Crofutt (see the AAR for Shoal Creek 2009); the 165th NY (who also do a Wheats’ Tigers Zouave impression); the Fremont Pathfinders who did cav.; the 1st NY Light artillery. Who did I miss?

We had  perhaps 200 to 250 reenactors overall. Not high by reeanacting standards, but high on the list for satisfaction and fun, I think.

Sutlers were Del Warren and other lesser sutlers, none who I can name. There were some food venders. Sutler’s row was about 1/4 mile from our camp, so no long hikes this weekend. No beer garden (I hope this situation is remedied as the season progresses).

Wood, albeit in large chunks and some quite green, was plentiful, especially after we were replenished once. We had a couple of water buffalos close by as well as porta-johns. If you wanted clean, warm porcelain, however, it was a short walk to the casino’s restrooms. No food was provided but the town was close by as well as a quite good casino buffet which I went to twice. I was told that there is an excellent cajun restaurant in town, but we failed to make it.

There was fair foot traffic through the camps, and I managed to corner a few for my usual prattle. Both battles played to appreciative crowds.

Friday night on setting up, I chanced to meet a pretty, young graduate student from Mizzou taking pictures. Upon our conversation, I learned that she and i had a common connection, my brother, who had participated in a photo workshop at which her photos were presented for critique. She and several photo  mates were present the entire weekend, snapping shots the whole while. I have been promised a link to their photos when they are posted.

Saturday am --

No complaints on Friday night, it appearing to be good weather for sleeping, but we did have reports of rain coming. Must have been Mother Nature finally catching up with us from Shoal Creek as she let loose early Saturday morning. She rained a bit, then let up, and those early risers in the 1st MO were up and about (and noisy); then she really let loose and rained for several hours forcing everyone back under canvas. All survived dry, and that was the worst of it. It actually got quite warm on Saturday -- temperatures warmed to low 70’s by 4 p.m. or so.

Mr. Staab kept our and the 1st MO’s campfire going through the night and wet early morning. He took a long nap the next day to pay for that.

Saturday morning came and we drilled for a couple of hours, including  “by company into line,” “on the right by files into line,” “skirmish” drill, and “by the left of companies, forward into line, etc.” We did well in drill at St. Joe but it is always good to drill every weekend and to spend at least a couple of hours at it until this becomes second nature. Col. Amend has promised more battalion drill at Jeff City.

With respect, however, we carried on a little too long in drill in an attempt to please some Irish filmmakers who were on-site to do a history of the St. Joe area, not just the Civil War aspect, but the whole deal. We did a “scene” over and over again, to no gain for us, as we had no interest in this film.

Saturday was a bit of a contrast, starting out with pouring rain, but ending in a quite a good campfire with the 3rd MO boys of which more later.

Saturday battle --

The weather was still overcast but dry.

We formed up in three companies, including Elliott’s Scouts. The 9th fell in with the 1st and all were under the capable command of Mr. Visser as major who did an excellent job, made us proud, and is a good advertisement for the 9th.

The field on which we fought was a little bit of a challenge, it being quite rough plowed farm ground partly overgrown to begin with, then being cut up by all the horse’s hooves, then add to that the various puddles of water which Mother Nature left us from her early Saturday morning rains. Quite a soupy mess. But the infantry is tough, yes?

The calvary went in first and there was lots of that. Then the infantry went in as the artillery began to boom. We went in as a column of companies, then went into by company into line to form our battle line. Then we went into a skirmish line, but we were badly out-numbered (tables finally turned, eh?). I went down early with a stomach wound. I was told thereafter that the battle for us became a little less than authentic, as due to casualties, we had only some ten of us left and we were still pursuing the yanks.

I thought upon taking a hit that I would rise quite wet and muddy, but ‘tho as time progressed as I lay there I could feel the moisture seeping in at my head, shoulders, and butt, I remained remarkably dry and mud-free.

The wagon train -- previously advertised as being one of the main draws to this event as a change of pace-- was a little bit of a let down as it was simply a horse drawn wagon which went out a little ways onto the field, but never really played a major role in the battle after that. I was told after the battle by one of the Mizzou journalism students that she was imbedded in the wagon during the battle. Neat!

After the battle, Mr. Staab and I went shopping and we were generally moving in the direction of sutler’s row along with a mass of other reenactors and spectators when we noticed a commotion behind us. It was a couple of yank artillerymen carrying a large metal chest, perhaps off the caisson. In any event, they were right on us and telling us to move, move. Aaron and I didn’t realize that they were behind us and were, inexplicably coming right our way, and we got out of the way as fast as we could. Apparently not fast enough as some words were exchanged. I apologize for that, but not for not moving fast enough,

Saturday p.m. --

Many of us spent quite a nice time at the 3rd’s neighboring campfire. Some refreshments were passed, and tales told. Some yanks happened by and stayed a spell. One of the 3rd’s veterans of old brought out an apparent 3rd MO tradition -- i.e. to “kiss the claw.” This was a leather-bound bottle of spirits (some apple, and spices in there?) to which a mummified old claw, of uncertain origin (one said it was his old mammy’s hand) was affixed by a leather thong. The tradition was to kiss the claw, then take a drink.

Later, Captain Girdner reprised his nautically-themed discourse on whales, and the deep, and harpoons, and etc., brought off for  no discernable purpose, but with great spirit and aplomb. You have to see this to realize how incredibly funny it was. As it was last year at Brownville NE. I did my usual part, I am told, by nodding off and almost falling out of my chair.

By all accounts, a good time was had by all, and campfire broke up bit by bit as the hour progressed. Some of our brothers in the 1st had already got to bed.

There was a dance on Saturday night. I had heard the live entertainment did not come through for one reason or another, but some CD’s were obtained from Del and played on a boombox, to the apparent satisfaction of an enthusiastic group of dancers, some military, some civilian.

Word has it that a body was found over near the federal camp. A real body. No idea what came of that except that the local constabulary roped off the area.

Sunday --

Messrs. Visser and Staab did the all you can eat breakfast buffet at the casino. I was apparently dead to the world. In fact, by one account, I slept like a log in my A, Mr. Visser sharing the same. No Sgt. Major Sutton was around to rouse me.

Sunday morning and some drill on stacking arms. Got into a bit of a discussion with Lt. Bearden of the 1st concerning what the rule was for placement of the right gun butt in relation to that soldier’s foot. No formal drill otherwise. A church service was held in the federal camp and Mr. Staab attended. I also heard a comment from Lt. Bearden of the 1st of coyotes getting close on Saturday night, but I heard nothing.

Temperatures on Sunday were much colder, likely mid- to lower 40’s, and windy, greatcoat weather, but things warmed up later  when the sun came out to make the battle quite comfortable.

Sunday battle --

In what some said was a first in the history of Civil War reenacting, the federals gave us one company to increase our numbers, the 165th New York (who also do a Wheat’s Tigers impression), a game lot, and we were happy to have them and they fought well.

We formed up (without the usual hurry up and wait, I might note) and moved out and were anticipating our signal to go in. In front of us, however, was our own cavalry, apparently doing nothing. Major Visser seized the opportunity to move them into action, and ordered our “flying artillery” to proceed out onto the field behind the cav. and commence to fire over them. That must have done the trick as they dismounted and then we went in to do our part.

Although we were routed on Saturday, we won on Sunday when we charged pell mell and took the federal guns after driving the federal infantry from the field. Col. Croufitt was good enough to agree to surrender with several of his artillerymen and we marched them, hands high, back along the line of the spectators, to great applause! At the tail end of that, one yank went down, having twisted his ankle, but he seemed ok.

Getting out --

The battle commenced at 1:30, was over at 2, and I was back on the road by 2:50 with all my gear. Getting out was absolutely no trouble. Now that is real efficiency.

Conclusion --

It was a good, little event, not less than promised, and close to home. We were outnumbered by the federals, so that counts as a special thing. Mr. Visser proved again a good leader of men and armies. No one got hurt, we were all well fed, and there was good camaraderie amongst the men of the Battalion companies. I have no real complaints.

Come on you 9th soldiers who have not tasted gunpowder yet this season -- you are missing all the fun!

Homie did not attend, so, Mr. Downey, it is still on you!

BTW, check yourself, boys, if you haven’t already as Captain Burnos reported a tick, fully imbedded.

Respectfully submitted:

Brian Cox
Captain, commanding
9th Texas Reg’t of Infantry
1st Missouri Battalion

P.S. Yes, although I forgot to mention it in the Shoal Creek AAR, it did snow there, albeit, just flurries, and nothing stuck. Just want to document the fact -- Missouri, mid-April, reenactment.