Submarine Force Museum Groton, Connecticut
April 2, 2004
Rear Admiral Thomas Lee, USN
North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
I beg your leave to lay before you my report of the subject activity on April
2, 2004 at the Submarine Museum, SubBase, Groton, CT.
As agreed upon, the activity started with my arrival at the museum at 9:00
A.M. Mr. James Duarte accompanied me as my Orderly Sgt.
The doors to the Museum were not in operation so we entered via a side door,
and two of the Museum staff members assisted us in binging in the presentation
materials. At this point I must comment on the excellent service
provided by the Museum Staff to myself and to Sgt. Duarte. We could not
have asked for a more attentive and pleasing group to work with. The
tables and chairs were set up as requested, Commander Sides visited us early
in the day to insure that we had all that was needed, the Command Duty Officer
insured that we were included in the staff's lunch ordering service, and all
were most helpful at the end of the day, as well.
We set up the display tables in front of the Main Entrance with a full set of
maps, plans and diagrams of the various submarines in use from the period 1851
to 1865. Also included were such instruments and instrumentation as were
available, some period weapons, and personal items. Both presenters were
in period uniforms. The museum very kindly loaned us the recent model of
the "Alligator" (The U.S. Navy's first submarine) built by James
Christley. Mr. Christley joined us as a presenter for two hours in the
afternoon, and added greatly to the presentation by so-doing.
The spectators were light over the whole day, but a visit in the morning by a
class of school children and later in the day a naval ceremony at the museum
provided an interesting array of visitors. My estimate was about 50
people visited with us and took away information about "Alligator"
and "Hunley" as well as the other information that we provided.
One Naval Lt. shared some new information with us regarding some medical
findings from the "Hunley" crew remains, which gave rise to a long
and interesting discussion about "Hunley's" final moments which lead
to it's loss.
Most of the emphasis from the spectators focused on the details of the
"Hunley" Recovery and the fact that "Alligator" was a
naval ship in use during the Civil War. The model of the Jules Verne's
"Nautilus" hanging over our heads and Mr. DeVilleroi's association
with Jules Verne when the author was writing his book was of significant
interest as well.
We were visited by a Sub Base Journalist who writes for the
"Dolphin" Newspaper. He spent a great deal of time with us and
took copious notes. I would hope that if the story of our presentation is
published in the "Dolphin" that a copy of that story would find it's
way into the NMLHA website via either myself or President Viet, and a copy
forwarded to Admiral Cohen for his possible use as well.
We departed the museum at just after 4:00 P.M. at the Museum's closing time ,
and again were assisted in getting our materials packed up for transport.
I would evaluate the presentation activity as a success, and even though the
visitor volume was light, there were some who spent a great deal of time with
us, and seemed very interested in the details of what we had provided.
My thanks also to the Museum for their loan of the "Alligator" model
which added greatly to our display, and the presence of both Sgt Duarte, and
James Christley, which made the whole day quite enjoyable.
Very Respectfully Submitted;
Brian McKay, Bvt.- Cdr, USN
North Atlantic Blockading Squadron
(aka; Jim Mathews)
Drayton Hall Charleston, South Carolina
April 2-4, 2004
Participating unit: HMS Richmond
Ship's signal follows...Report from ship's company delegated to Capt.
Elphingstone to affect the capture and surrender of the Rebel army under the
command of General Benjamin Lincoln.
The coordinated actions of the joint naval and land forces of the crown were
an unqualified success. Present from the Richmond were Marine Russell Borghere,
Midshipman Horton and Edith Horton. Bosun Ross (Frank Rodriques and his wife
Gail graciously transported the Captain's new officer's marquee to the event
We experienced light winds on our arrival with a spring shower lasting only
briefly Friday evening. The remaining weekend was for the most part, cool and
sunny. Rebel resistance was non existent. The hosts of Drayton Hall were
accommodating and appreciative of our presence.
The naval forces were under the command of Capt. Elphingston (Craig Hadley,
Hist. Programs Director) at the Georgian Mansion known as Drayton hall down
river from Charleston, South Carolina. The main portion of our activities
represented by a group of British navy seamen, British marines and officers who
demonstrated how longboats carried the British army across the Ashley River at
Drayton Hall. Officers of the Frigate Richmond, and Falcon under the direction
of Capt.Tucker, talked about the British Army at Drayton Hall in 1780 and the
crossing made there as well as the significance of the event.
Numerous displays of ordinance were shown by the Falcon crew who were dressed
as a gig crew for the affair. Captain Fisher demonstrated some of the
navigational instruments and charts commonly employed by the Royal Navy during
this period. The long boat(s) shot their swivel cannons while on the river. Due to the size
and frequency of the crowds attending, it was decided to forgo a tactical which
was put on after hours by the Crown forces Saturday night.
Highlights of the expedition included a number of soirees on the Ashley upon
the launch provided by John, (Ship's carpenter and coxsun' and Bonnie Matheson
who brought their boat. Midshipman Horton lead a number of successful (if
somewhat destructive) missions up the Ashley to patrol for deserters and rebels.
Light cutlass drill was practiced by our own Royal Marine Russell Borghere
along with a number of demonstrations of naval assault techniques by the crew of
the Falcon lead by Gunner Kedge (Gary Haas). Bosun Ross brought his sailmaking
bench along with am assortment of weaponry to display as well.
Friday evening's repast was spent at the "Charleston Crabshack"
which provided a nautical fair framed by implements of the sea. Bosun Ross
(Frank Rodriques) was seen to be leaving with a restaurant display in the form
of a hemp rope ships ladder under his arm.) The Tuckers and Mathesons were generous with their coffee and noon time meals
Their families and friends helped fill out the naval camp and create an overall
sense of conviviality and friendship. In attendance with the Tuckers were, their
Daughter and son in law, Elizabeth and Jeremy Amann, pressed waterman, and lady Joey
Aman, pressed waterman, and his lady, Heather. Also present was their son,
Ashley Tucker, ordinary seaman. Part of the naval camp
were Bill Marquis, Marine CPO.(ships' carpenter mate) and Sergeant of marines
Brian Smith with Lady Diane Smith in attendance as well.
After an active day in demonstration and in patrol, we again visited another
legendary establishment known as the "Queen Ann's Revenge and Grog
Shop". Here displayed was a panorama of nautical museum pieces reflective
of the early pirate past of 18th century Carolina seaboard. Cutlasses, cannons,
dug artifacts and collectables adorn the walls along with original works of art.
Certainly worth the price of admission in and of itself.
Reports filtering back to the quarterdeck speak of an unqualified success and
there is strong anticipation of a later 225th event with a number of larger
vessels in attendance for 2005. Keep your slops and going-a-shore kits in
readiness, another cutting out party is in the works.
Respectfully submitted and by approval of the admiralty, I remain as always a
loyal servant of the crown, etc.
Civil War Day
April 3, 2004
Participating unit: TMLHA (LT Kurt Eberly, Mrs. Jackie
Eberly, PO Michael Johnson, Purser’s Mate, PO Allen Mordica, Master’s Mate)
The advance party arrived at the site by one bell, morning watch and setup
displays of Navigation equipment, Purser’s stores and Small arms/Ordinance.
Weather was sunny, breeze force two and the glass high. Attendance was light
(approximately 150 persons engaged), as this was a first-time occurrence of this
event. LT and Mrs. Eberly arrived late morning and were only able to stay for a
few hours. Repast and necessaries were sufficient and conveniently located.
The event was intended to run until four bells in the first dog watch, but with
attendance light, wind freshening and the glass falling, it was decided to
single-up at two bells instead.
After a brief review and critique at a local ale house, the remainder of the
party returned to billets by two bells, second dog.
Shiloh (142nd) Shiloh National Military Park
April 3-4, 2004
Participating unit: US Naval Landing Party (Lt. C. Veit,
Lt. B. Dispenza, Landsman J. Dispenza, Seaman R. Gilliam)
As in the past two years, an excellent experience for the
USNLP fielding questions from a very interested crowd of visitors to the park.
While the overall count of people was about the same as in 2003 (5-6,000), the
bulk of these (4,000) all came on Saturday; the cold and windy weather on Sunday
kept that day's count to no more than 2,000. The Rangers set us up in front of
the Visitors' Center again and stationed one regiment of Union infantry (the
Salt River Rifles) nearby (the bulk of the Union Army and all of the Confederate
Army being a half mile away in Cloud Field). USNLP unit members present were Lt.
Bob Dispenza, Lt. Chuck Veit, and Landsman Justin Dispenza; we were joined by
Russ Gilliam as a Landsman.
The crowd was keen to hear not only about the Navy's role
at both Battles of Shiloh but in the war in general--and grew especially
attentive when the topic turned to submarines (since most were aware of the
upcoming burial of the Hunley crew in Charleston, SC). On Saturday evening we,
along with our neighboring infantry unit, were treated to a period meal cooked
up by Victoria Rumble. Actually, we were "guinea pigs" asked to pass judgment
on the meal, which was made up of many recipes from her forthcoming book.
Parking several hundred yards away, walking in the twilight into the woods to
the Manse Cabin was like going back a century. I commented to the group that,
based upon what I had read and seen in "Cold Mountain" it might not be
the best idea to eat this meal! We all apologized for rendering the
less-than-constructive opinion that everything tasted great!
School Talks & Living
History Livingston, Texas (Feb
Laporte, Texas (Feb 20-21)
Deer Park, Texas (April 17)
Mexia, Texas (April 23-25)
Participating unit: Texas Marine Department
On February 13-15 we attended a re-enactment in Livingston, Texas. We spoke to
lots of school kids on Friday and passed out quite a few Alligator
flyers. This was the draft version of the flyer which I downloaded from
the web site.
February 20,21 was the "Remember the Maine" weekend out at
the USS Texas. We talked to quite a few weekend visitors to BB35 and
passed out more Alligator flyers.
We've been busy here in April. We attended a festival in Deer Park, Texas
on April 17th, setting up next to a 20mm gun exhibited by the USS Texas
crew. We talked to the general public and passed out "Alligator"
flyers. We've just come back from a re-enactment at the Confederate Reunion
Grounds near Mexia, Texas April 23-25. The school day at Mexia
only drew about 60-80 school kids thanks to inclement weather and last minute
changes in school schedules but the kids who were there seemed to get
something out of our ACW Navy presentation. More Alligator flyers
were passed out.
This weekend we are off to Fort Jackson on the Mississippi. Their school
day is on Friday the 30th of April. I can confidently predict that more Alligator
flyers will be passed out there.
Hunley Crew Funeral Ceremony
Charleston, South Carolina
April 17, 2004
Participating unit: TMLHA (CAPT A.T.Mordica,
USRCSPO H. E. Brigdon, Carpenter’s Mate, PO E. Jeanneret,
Ship’s Cook, PO J. Adamson, Gunner’s Mate, OS K.
Eberly, OS E. Henderson,Mrs. J. Brigdon, Mrs. J. Eberly)
Party members arrived to temporary lodging in various locations in the area
on Friday afternoon. On Saturday the crew assembled at the pre-arranged staging
area by two bells in the morning watch. Upon arrival two facts became
immediately obvious; one, specific placement of individual units was not planned
for, and two, there was almost no Federal presence at this event.
I placed a greeter/usher at the debarkation point with orders to direct any
and all sea service personnel without previous assigned unit affiliation towards
the impromptu mustering point. During the following glass approximately eighty
Confederate and five Federal participants arrived and were distributed by
affiliation. With the step-off time fast approaching no new units or senior
officers on the scene, I made the decision to take positive charge for the
entire Federal presence, small though it was.
While awaiting the march to begin I was approached by the sergeant of a mixed
group of Federal infantrymen. He asked that, in the absence of any other
infantry units, they be allowed to fall in with us. These men were incorporated
into the amalgamated Federal unit. Other individuals of various branches
continued to swell the ranks, and by time to march, the combined Federal unit
reached a strength of nearly forty of all ranks; 7 Revenue Cuttermen, 1 Navy, 2
Marines, 24 infantry, 1 cavalry, 1 artillery and 5 staff officers.
Immediately to our front was the CSN/CSMC company. At the step-off, after
several units of the several thousand Confederate infantry passed our front, CDR
Grimes saw his chance and stepped off into a gap that opened in the column; his
company was quickly lost to sight. As the Federal Sea Service unit approached
the merge point, a lone CS officer strode quickly before us, raised his hands
before him and shouted, "Federals, HALT!" The confederate column
quickly closed up and passed along, and our unit stopped to rest on their arms.
After the complete Confederate column passed, trailed by nearly 300 Ladies in
mourning attire, we saw our own opportunity to blend in and took it. From that
point the procession continued without incident. In fact, not a man fell out of
the formation along the entire route due to exhaustion, despite the large
numbers of CS infantrymen afflicted; indeed, there turned out to be far more
Confederates fallen out along the route than the total number of Federals in our
unit. All hands are commended for their fortitude, endurance and grace in the
face of the situation.
Our unit arrived at the cemetery gates without incident, cased colors and
entered. By the time our part of the procession arrived, the press of crowds was
overwhelming and no unit formation was possible to maintain. I reluctantly gave
the order to fall out and look to individual dispositions. At the end of the
service I gathered our people and departed to our vehicles. All hands spent
Saturday evening recuperating from the event, and returned to their billets by
Overall, the event was conducted in a proper fashion, with one glaring
exception. I anticipated that the Federal presence would be only marginally
tolerated, and in that I was not disappointed. However, I was personally
offended by the cavalier treatment that the CSN/CSMC unit received at the hands
of their fellow Southerners. When the organizers realized that the CSN/MC unit
was not at the extreme rear of the column, it was "pulled over" to
wait for the US unit to arrive from the rear, and only then was allowed back
into the procession. I considered this quite a "slap in the face" to
the sea service men in grey, many who came from many states distant only to be
"sent to the back of the bus".
A. T. Mordica, Officer Commanding
Civil War Day
April 24, 2004
Participating unit: TMLHA (PO Eric Jeanneret, Ship’s
Cook, PO Allen Mordica, Master’s Mate)
The party arrived at the grounds of the Tredegar Iron Works by two bells,
morning watch and setup displays of Navigation equipment, Seaman’s personal
kit and Small arms/Ordinance. Weather was sunny, breeze force three and the
glass high. Attendance was light (approximately 100 persons engaged). Repast and
necessaries were sufficient and conveniently located.
The event was intended to run until eight bells in the afternoon watch, but
due to prior commitments for the early evening in Norfolk, it was decided to
single-up at six bells instead.
After securing equipment and canvas, the party returned to billets by one
bell, first dog watch.
A. T. Mordica
The Battle of Plymouth
May 01-02, 2004
Participating unit: Tidewater Maritime Living History
The TMLHA had the honor of representing the crew of
the USS MIAMI at the Battle for Plymouth reenactment. Although the event is
small by some standards there were approximately 200 reenactors and living
historians representing nearly a dozen groups participating this year. The
weather was intermittently wet throughout the weekend, with a strong squall
coming through the area on Sunday just prior to the spectator land battle.
Crewmembers present included Mike Johnson, Phillip
and Allen Mordica, Eric Jeanneret, Jim and Judy Brigdon, Brewer Eddy and Kenny
The advance party arrived late Friday afternoon to
set up camp and launch our 20' rowing skiff. We had brought the skiff in
order to conduct initial sea trials, test the rowing configuration and get her
underway for the battles if sufficient numbers were available to man her.
The museum's 30' electric-powered "Cushing's Launch" was placed at
our disposal both for the naval engagements and for general use during the
With camp set and displays ready to deploy, the crew
took the opportunity to become familiar with operation of the launch. This is
a truly lovely vessel, very well-found, nimble and capable of extended
operations at up to five knots over the entire duration of the event without
recharging. We also installed the TMLHA's scale 12lb. naval gun (the
"Lizard") on the launch's foredeck. The arrangement allowed for
operation of the gun from inside the forward end of the cockpit.
For the Saturday morning naval engagement at four
bells in the forenoon, the launch was armed with the "Lizard" on the
foredeck in order to do battle with the CSS ALBEMARLE. Unfortunately,
there were insufficient numbers of sailors to man the skiff as well. The
boat crew was augmented with LT Doren's Marines to harass the southern gunners
with small arms fire. This became crucial when, after firing four
rounds, the "Lizard" became jammed up with an over-wrapped foil
With the main armament out of action, the Marines did
good execution at keeping the ALBEMARLE's gunports closed between firings of
her main armament. In so doing, they became vital to the continued
survival of our vessel and crew. Between their accurate fire and some adroit
maneuvering to keep the launch on ALBEMARLE's port or starboard quarter (and
out of the field of fire of her guns), we managed to extricate ourselves with
only moderate damage and casualties.
During the Saturday land engagement at two
bells in the afternoon, the combined navy/marine company was detailed to the
far right flank of the Federal position to delay deployment of the numerous
Confederate forces. At first, confronted with a company of enemy infantry and
a naval howitzer, we resolved to hold our position until ordered back to the
Federal line. With additional support from an infantry company and the
timely arrival of a dismounted cavalry detail in the flank and rear of the
advancing Confederates, we managed to capture the entire force before us.
This created great surprise and much amusement to the Federal force commander.
By the time of the Saturday afternoon naval
engagement at six bells in the afternoon, the "Lizard" was again
fully operational and reinstalled on the foredeck. With lessons learned
concerning preparation of charges, launch and gun performed flawlessly and we
were able to pass close aboard ALBEMARLE for several "broadsides".
Most of the Confederate shot passed harmlessly above
our gunwales. We received feedback later that the ironclad's crew was
"acutely aware" of our presence alongside, having their timbers
We were well-fed by the event organizers for the
Saturday evening meal, and were proud to be of service to the event by
providing participants to the Torchlight Tour, which is done in the evening by
candlelight thru the historic sections of town, including the old cemetery.
On Sunday morning just before a memorial service for
the sailors and soldiers lost during the engagement the launch (flying Revenue
Service colors) did sortie over a mile upriver for an extended patrol.
With the weather showing imminent signs of deteriorating, the launch returned
to the pier and the crew fell to with a will, stowing as much canvas and gear
as possible before a squall hit. We then "hunkered down" and waited
it out. Immediately after the squall, the organizers called for all
hands remaining in camp to stand-to for the scripted battle. Unfortunately,
there was a far smaller number of participants than in the previous day's
The landing party was detailed to assist in the
defense of Fort Comfort against a number of Confederate guns and troops.
After withstanding the initial barrage, we were ordered out to delay the enemy
advance. The landing party advanced to support an infantry unit already
heavily engaged, and found itself in close grips with a superior force.
After helping to push the enemy back nearly to it's starting position, the
landing party effected a fighting withdrawal to the earthworks The naval party
augmented the garrison to await it's fate at the hands of the overwhelming
Confederate force, while the marines continued to slowly withdraw, firing all
the while. After being overwhelmed at the fort, the Federal commander
surrendered the remainder of his force rather than allow them to be totally
At the conclusion of the spectator battle, the crew
returned to the campsite to the customary pack-and-go routine. The
return trip to Tidewater was completed without incident and all hands were in
billets by nightfall.
If you have not been to Plymouth NC, you've missed a
superlative naval event. The location is without equal in terms of
convenience; the launching ramp was within two hundred yards of the piers, the
large camp area and finger piers were literally within a hundred feet of each
other, and sortie of all boats was possible with only five minute's notice.
The river is amply wide and deep for all boats present, and very convenient to
spectators as well. We had several sutlers (although the Blue/Grey Sutler was
unable to attend) present to fill the last minute needs of the participants.
The staff and coordinators went the extra mile to insure the event
participants had all they needed for the weekend, are very pleasant to work
with and wish to present the public with as accurate a scenario as they can.
All the participants we met were outgoing and a pleasure to be around. You'll
find us at Plymouth next year for this event.
Fort Wayne Civil War Days
April 30, May 1 & 2
Fort Wayne IN
Participating unit:US Naval Landing Party (Lt. Cmdr. Bob Dispenza,
Boy first class Justin Dispenza, Coal Heaver Russ Gilliom)
After considerable setup Thursday, Education Day was Friday, with nearly
1000 local students in attendance. Mr. Gilliom was leading groups in
his new Hesson finery, and stayed a while to demonstrate his Sharps rifle
and go through cutlass drill with boy Justin. We had to start at
square one with the students, as they were unaware of a Union Navy (though
they did know about Union Bay and Old Navy). We had about 15 minutes
with each group, and they ranged in size from less than 10 to nearly 100.
The main duties of the Navy (blockade, cooperation with the Army, etc.) were
stressed, and differences between the Army and Navy. The rain held
off, but arrived Saturday and kept crowds down some. Mr. Gilliom
turned infantry for Saturday and Sunday.
Temperatures were quite cool, but us blue wool people didn't mind. The Navy
was assigned to the fight flank with dismounted cavalry, and kept the rebels
busy. A mounted cavalry lost control of her skittish horse and ended
up with a broken arm, which stopped the battle for a while. Boy Justin
took a hit and was picked up in a mule wagon by the medical department, who
hauled him to their tent for more treatment. They transported him
right behind President Lincoln as he was addressing the crowd after the
battle (a Union Victory, even though the Confederates outnumbered us).
The evening was cold, but a great dinner and dress ball were featured.
Both my daughters danced with President Lincoln (portrayed by Fritz Kline of
Illinois, the best Lincoln I've ever seen), and the Navy was complimented on
our uniforms. I was so cold that soldiers were invited to spend the
night in the pavilion, where fires were kept burning all night. And
the rain continued.
Sunday was still damp and cold. After church, we prepared for the
battle, though many rebel groups were already leaving in the morning (too
much rain, too much cold). By the time of the battle, the Union had
the advantage, though they were scheduled to lose. Confederate
artillery picked apart the Union lines while rebel reserves swept the field.
The Navy, with the cavalry again, were singled out for special attention.
Both were eventually hit and transported to the medical tent, where I had a
"near death experience" at the request of the medical department.
My wife said it was very strange to see me lying there with pennies on my
eyes and soldiers praying over me with their hats off. But reports of
my death were greatly exaggerated.
This event will be held again in 2006, but may be moved to a nearby site,
though there is a river and plenty of room at the park we use now. As
we expected, just about anything we said about the Navy was a revelation to
visitors and reenactors alike.
Thomas Lee House
East Lyme, CT
May 17, 2004
Governor, Colony of Connecticut;
North American Colonies
His Majesty's Dominions
I beg your most kind indulgence to lay before you my report of the events at
the above residence and on the above date:
I arrived at the Thomas Lee House at approximately 8:30 A.M. there to be met
with the Event Organizer Mr. Richard Waterman.
I unloaded the carriage in which I had arrived, and bade the driver to care
for the horses and await the completion of the Event sometime in the
I then proceeded to arrange the Judgment Hall to my taste, and delivered the
garments requested to the side kitchen where my staff would be gathered.
At the appointed time my staff arrived and we were made aware of the
schedule for the day. We were to put on eight skits for some approx.
100 children, their teachers and adult accompaniment.
The subject of our skit was the British Colonial Legal ad Punishment System
during the early colonial period of about the 1720's-30's. This was a
fun exercise, and gave all who participated a broad "canvas" upon
which to portray the specialties of the period as offered, their
characters and the importance and history of the period.
The groups of children were moved according to a schedule around the
stations and were received at each station by a docent who carried out the
presentation / demonstration to be presented.
All stations were manned during the day, and at the end of the day, the
teachers, adults, and children seemed satisfied with their experience, and
the school staff was very pleased with the chance for the children to see
and hear some of the history of their colony.
At the end of the day, the carriage ride was uneventful and I arrived in
good order in time o prepare supper for my wife who was away for the day.
I was pleased to be involved in the Event and would be pleased to return
again if invited,
One of the more exhausting events in the schedule, this is also one of the
more rewarding . As in years past, we divided our camp into three stations:
U.S. Navy (Civil War; C. Veit), Union infantry (Civil War; M. Vigorito), and
Royal Navy (RevWar; J. Mathews). In every 45-minute period, the students
would visit each station for about 15 minutes, and then change at the
ringing of the ship's bell. While this keeps their attention, it makes for a
very long day when you've discussed things fifteen times in a row! Lori Veit
had seven of her students at a fourth station as a backup (in case any of
the three others could not make it), and they served as an excellent
"backdrop" to our talks. It was especially interesting watching
them cook over an open fire! Weather was perfect and lunch was on the house,
courtesy of the school's PTO. Photo shows the Navy tent and then the RevWar
display in the background.
Lieutenant, US Naval Landing Party
Assault on Fort Gaines
Mobile Bay, LA
May 15-16, 2004
Participating unit: Texas Marine Division
I have the honor to submit to you a report concerning the Naval action at Fort Gaines, Alabama on the 15th day of May. The tide and heavy surf
made a Naval Landing impracticable, so the decision was made to assault the Fort by land. A combined force of sailors and marines were assigned to act
as support for an assault made by one regiment of infantry and one of dismounted cavalry. We reached our starting position in the dunes while our ships pounded the fort with artillery fire. After a thirty minute bombardment, our force quickly moved along the beach to draw the defender's attention to the south side of the fort. We immediately came under heavy rifle and artillery fire. A company of Confederate Marines were hidden amongst the rocks along the beach. After a sharp fight, they were forced to withdraw to safety and we secured the beach. Due to the amount of fire directed towards us, it became necessary for us to take cover along a low dune which ran the length of the beach. From this position, we kept the enemy under constant small arms fire. The Rebels made several efforts to turn our flanks, which were exposed, but we beat back every attempt. Their attention thus diverted, the infantry and cavalry fell upon their right flank and quickly rolled up their line. We then advanced, pushing them back into the safe confines of their fort. Only the approaching high tide and nightfall prevented us from taking the fort on this day. However, I have every confidence that an assault made tomorrow will prevail.
I Have the Honor to be, sir,
Your ob't servant, etc,
Brady Lee Hutchison
Master at Arms
West Gulf Blockading Squadron
I beg leave to inform you of events which occurred on the 16th of May during the second day of combined arms operations against Fort Gaines, defending the western approaches to Mobile Bay.
As previously reported by Petty Officer Hutchison the first day of operations was hindered by adverse weather. On the 16th the wind had much abated and an attempt to land Marines and Infantry directly on the beach near Fort Gaines was deemed feasible. Two long boats were assigned the task. The first was commanded by your humble servant and the second was under the able direction of Petty Officer Bruce Smith, of the Port Columbus group. Initially the landing was to be supported by gunfire from the USS Monitor (Jr.) but the vessel was found to suffer from engine problems which kept it away from the fray. Our own boat was powered by the efforts of six oarsmen from Port Columbus. In the actual event all of their effort was required. Surface winds were approximately 15-20 mph from the Southeast and an inshore current was running at an estimated 3-4 knots parallel to the proposed site of the landing.
Operations commenced at approximately 1:30 PM after a long delay in finding and loading the missing Infantry contingent for the second boat. Our boats were then towed into position by supporting gunboats and released to make our way to the beach. Considerable effort was required from our oarsmen to fight the inshore current and make our way to the designated landing areas. All troops were landed safely and proceeded to attack Confederate forces defending the approaches to Fort Gaines. The second boat under the command of Petty Officer Smith then left the beach and rowed offshore in an attempt to pick up a tow from a supporting gunboat. In my own boat the crew suffered some anxious moments when our stern anchor dragged and allowed the boat to broach in the surf line. Thanks to the stout efforts of the crew we were able to overcome this situation and return to deeper water. I would like to draw particular attention to the efforts of our bow man, Seaman Walter Harris of the USS Hartford, who was of great assistance in getting the boat away from the beach.
Once away from the landing site we faced a long pull into the teeth of the wind before we could pick up a tow. Our oarsmen all pulled heartily and with great persistence to attain a position where we could receive a line from a gunboat. Unfortunately the towing vessel then ran aground on a sand bar before we could make much distance from the site of the battle. Our
crew of exhausted oarsmen were then privileged to sit at ease for approx. 40 minutes while the towing vessel worked itself off the sand bar. The rest was much appreciated. Boat number two could be seen in the distance, similarly unoccupied, hanging off their bow anchor and awaiting the return of their towing vessel from bombarding the fort.
At approx. 4:00 PM our tow vessel resumed its progress towards the docks. We dropped the tow within 500 yards of the docks and made relatively easy
progress under oars downwind to our place of disembarkation. Our portion of the operation was finally complete at approximately 4:30 PM, just as the fighting elsewhere ground to a halt with the capture of Fort Gaines.
In conclusion, I beg leave to report a successful landing operation in the assault on Fort Gaines. The landing was faced with stiff opposition from wind and wave as well as defending Confederates but was completed as planned. Our boat's crews put in a very hard day at the oars but all professed themselves to be completely satisfied with their share in this great work to subdue Fort Gaines and bring Mobile Bay back into the Union.
Seaman Gunner R. E. York
Coxswain, Landing Boat 1
West Gulf Blockading Squadron.
The Battle for Fort Pocahontas
Charles City, VA
May 22-23, 2004
Participating unit: Tidewater Maritime Living History
The TMLHA had the honor of representing the crew of
the USS DAWN at the Battle for Fort Pocahontas reenactment/living history
event. Although the event is small by some standards there were approximately
250 reenactors and living historians representing nearly a dozen groups
participating this year. The weather was uncomfortably hot throughout the
weekend, with a strong squall coming through the area on Friday night just
after 1 bell in the midwatch.
Crewmembers present included Kurt and Jackie Eberly,
Phillip and Allen Mordica, Jim and Judy Brigdon and Kenny Arkin. During the
weekend four prospective recruits were piped aboard for this event; Juan
Hernandez, Marty Burnham, John May and Bill Jones' brother Jonathan.
The advance party arrived Friday at approximately 4
bells in the afternoon to set up camp. The stifling heat reduced the
speed with which we were able to set up, and all canvas was in place by 1 bell
in the first dog. We were joined in our encampment by LT Doren's Marine
detachment and a field aid station operated by Surgeon's Steward May.
The camp site was ideally sited at the end of a bluff
overlooking the James River within the works and immediately adjacent to the
Wilson's Wharf site. With camp set, the scale 12lb. naval gun (the
"Lizard") was placed at the end of the bluff. The arrangement
allowed for potential demonstration of the gun. Navigation, Carpenter's,
Ladies and Weapons displays were prepared and were manned throughout the
weekend except when the crew was called out to assist in the defense of the
For the Saturday engagement at two bells in the
afternoon, the navy/marine detachment was called out to reinforce the center
of the battle line outside the works in defense against a strong force of
mostly mounted cavalry, with some infantry support. Although the defending
force seemed to outnumber the attackers, the federal force was forced steadily
back toward the fort, eventually taking position at the earthworks.
During the withdrawal to the works, the USS DAWN's "main gun"
(the Lizard) provided covering fire from the vicinity of the river, but her
reports went unheard in the din of battle. After manning the fort, the
Confederate force made no further progress and eventually withdrew with
We were well-fed
by the event organizers for the Saturday evening meal, and were proud to be of
service to the event by providing various instruction topics to a group of
active-duty U.S. Marines with an interest in the history of their service.
On Sunday morning a memorial service was held for Mr. Eddie Jordan, a
long-time civilian participant in living history. His widow, Grace, with Eddie
beside her, has been an institution in her own right, acting as "mother
hen" to all of us "chicks", with her generosity in cooking and
other support to her friends. Eddie shall be missed greatly, and we hope
Grace will continue to participate with the spirit she has shown for many
During the Sunday land engagement at two bells in the
afternoon, the landing party was detailed to assist in the defense of Fort
Pocahontas against a Confederate combined-arms assault. The company was
deployed forward of the fort in open order to delay deployment of the numerous
Confederate forces. With the sudden appearance of a large body of mounted
cavalry on our left flank, the skirmishers were hastily recalled to the works.
This was done with great alacrity. Upon our return, we were placed to the
right-center of the defensive position. Once there, we were assaulted
several times by first mounted men, later by dismounted forces to attempt to
carry the works.
Apparently the cavalry was commanded by no less a
figure than Fitzhugh Lee, who seemed determined to overrun the position and
slaughter the US Colored Troops there. Despite their best efforts, the
Confederate force did no more that offer themselves up for the slaughter; with
an entrenchment and abatis before them, the USCT's had an excellent
opportunity for uninterrupted target practice, an opportunity they took with
great efficiency. The fire from their place in the works was crisp,
accurate and devastating. After repeated attempts, and sustaining
crippling losses, the Rebel force withdrew in much confusion.
At the conclusion of the spectator battle, the crew
returned to the campsite to the customary pack-and-go routine. The
return trip to Tidewater was completed without incident and all hands were in
billets by nightfall.
The location of this event is within the actual fortification
site of Fort Pocahontas. Harrison R. Tyler, grandson of 10th President
John Tyler and the resident owner of the Sherwood Forest plantation, purchased
the well-preserved earthen fort site known as Wilson's Wharf in 1996.
Virtually untouched for over 130 years, the Virginia Department of Historic
Resources views Fort Pocahontas as "one of the best preserved fort
sites." It has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mr. Tyler is committed to the continued preservation of the site and
organizing annual reenactments of the battle there.
We had several sutlers (although the Blue/Grey Sutler was unable
to attend) present to fill the last minute needs of the participants. The
staff and coordinators went the extra mile to insure the event participants
had all they needed for the weekend, are very pleasant to work with and wish
to present the public with as accurate a scenario as they can. All the
participants we met were outgoing and a pleasure to be around.
Secretary/Senior Watch Officer
Maple Ridge Farm
May 22-23, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party
Drawn by reports of a good-sized crowd and a rousing after-hours tactical
from last year's event, members of the USNLP (C. Veit, A. Danish, B. van
Ness, and J. Cheney) gathered at Lowville on Friday evening. The forecast
for the weekend was not good, but the night showed promise as the clouds
broke and the stars shone through; unfortunately, this would be the last
peek we would get of the sky. The event was attended by about sixty
reenactors, and not too many more spectators. While the weather would have
dampened the event in any case, the placement of the living history camps
was another reason for the turnout. Last year the sponsors placed the camps
near the main road so that visitors had to pass through them in order to
reach a very popular craft fair at the rear of the farm; this year that
arrangement was reversed and only a dedicated subset of visitors made the
effort to cross the soggy fields.
The much-touted tactical was incredibly mismanaged, although admittedly
with the best of intentions. Seeing the low spectator turnout and perhaps
believing there were hundreds more people at the fair who were unaware of
the reenactment, the tactical was moved from the planned after-hours time to
instead immediately precede the battle; this change was shared with us only
after we were on the field, sans lunch and carrying only the usual load of
rounds. Both Union and Confederate forces moved into the woods (as promised
for the tactical but rather defeating the purpose of attracting
spectators) and proceeded to maneuver. More accurately, we proceeded to
climb over, under, through, and around the deadfall and dense undergrowth
that hid the actual ground, trying to clamber up the ridge in some order.
After about twenty minutes of often intense skirmishing, calls began to go
up that men were running low on ammunition. This predicament was not helped
by the commander telling us that we had to "hold" for another
forty minutes! Aside from the ammo problem, the Confederates outnumbered the
Union about 2:1 and could have walked over us anytime they wanted. The
tactical rapidly devolved into a literal standoff when were also informed
that we would move directly from the woods and into the open to stage the
main battle for the crowd imagined to be gathering. Firing slowed almost to
a stop, with one or another person loosing a round from either side more
from sheer boredom than any desire to make some noise. After the entire
forty minutes, we pursued the Confederates onto the field,
"forcing" them into a position right where they wanted us. The
situation of the USNLP at this time was representative of the entire Union
force: one pistol (three rounds), one rifle (broken), one rifle (six
rounds), one rifle (twelve rounds). This was so farcical that it was a
relief to end it as quickly as possible. Some several score people were in
fact attracted by our intermittent banging away in the woods and most of
them visited the camps following the "battle." Among the most
interested were a retiring Navy chief who was delighted to find someone
telling the navy's story and a serving Marine who asked to sign up.
Although making the mistake of swapping the sites of the craft fair and
reenactment, the sponsors were quite generous with wood, water, and hay as
well as providing rations for Saturday's dinner. Rain, wind, and thunder
& lightning were also in ample supply as the sun set, which put a bit of
a damper on sitting around the campfire. During the night the lightning was
so bright that at times the inside of the tent would go blazingly white for
a split second--even though the strike was a dozen miles away. What we did
not learn until the next day was that there were tornado warnings issued for
Upstate New York overnight. Ignorance is bliss!
Sunday dawned gray and drizzly, with three inches of water in the firepit.
Between the low-hanging smoke from the morning cook fires, clouds, and fog,
the ridge looked like a scene from Jurassic Park. Spectator turnout was
understandably low and we spent the morning in camp waiting for the 1p.m.
battle. This was watched by perhaps sixty visitors. We struck camp
immediately. All in all this was not the most productive weekend of
reenacting, due to a combination of weather, site, and running of the
Memorial Day Living History
May 31, 2004
Participating unit: Tidewater Maritime Living History
1. The TMLHA, representing crewmen of the USRC Harriet Lane,
participated in a living history display at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard
Museum's Lightship annex on 31st of May. In attendance were: CAPT
PO E. Jeanneret, OS P. Mordica
, PVT M. Butler, USM, and PO M. Johnson.
2. The party set up navigation, armaments, and storekeeper's displays at
four bells in the afternoon watch. Weather was sunny and
uncomfortably warm. Canvas was supplied by the event coordinator;
tables and equipment were supplied by the TMLHA. The unit trailer
and personal owned vehicles (POV's) were used to convey gear to/from the
3. During the event, approximately 75-80 visitors were engaged. At the
conclusion of the event, gear was secured and the party departed by 1700.
4. Summary: This event is another in our continuing series of successes,
as regards to unit presentation and credibility. We will be invited
to return next year.
A.T. Mordica, CAPT USRM
Schooner Virginia Project
June 4, 2004
Participating unit: Tidewater Maritime Living History
On the 4th Instant, a detail from the TMLHA traveled to
Norfolk,VA to participate in the above event. Present were: PO A.T.
Mordica, PO E. Jeanneret, PO M. Johnson
The party assembled at 2 bells in the 1st dog watch at the
Schooner Virginia Project Construction Yard to unload and setup under
canvas supplied by the host. Weather was raining and gusting winds at
force 2-3. At quarter past two bells the Navigator's, Seaman's and
Purser's Mate displays were set.
From 2 bells until 8 bells in the 2nd dog watch,
approximately 60-80 visitors were engaged. Feedback was
consistently favorable to enthusiastic concerning the content and method
of the presentation.
The Project staff continues to be enthusiastic about TMLHA's
involvement in a continuing series of hands-on interpretive programs
when the schooner gets underway early next year.
A.T. Mordica, Master's Mate
Hampton Roads Naval Museum (HRNM)
June 5, 2004
Participating unit: Tidewater Maritime Living History
On the 5th Instant, a detail from the USS Monitor traveled to Norfolk,VA to
participate in the above event. Present were: CDR A.T. Mordica, PO J.
Brigdon, PO E. Jeanneret, PO P. Mordica, PO M. Johnson
The party assembled at three bells, morning watch at the Nauticus facility,
which encloses the HRNM, to unload and setup. By four bells the
Navigator's, Armorer's Mate and Purser's Mate displays were set.
During the day, until 1 bell in the 1st dog watch, approximately 100-120
visitors were engaged. Feedback was consistently favorable to
enthusiastic concerning the content and method of the presentation.
A potential recruit, Seaman Eric Heyob of the USCGC Harriet Lane observed
the unit and asked numerous questions about our unit. At the
conclusion of the event, SN Heyob indicated a strong desire to
Logistics were understandably uncertain as this was our first foray to this
venue as a unit. The movement of equipment from the outside to the
exhibit area required establishing a working liaison with both the Museum
staff and Nauticus personnel. With the relationship set, future
appearances at this venue will go smoother, and setup time will decrease
A.T. Mordica, CDR USN
Billie Creek Civil War Days
Billie Creek Village, Rockville, IN
June 12 & 13, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party
USNLP members Bob Dispenza (Lt. Cmdr.) and Justin Dispenza (Boy first class)
arrived Friday evening 11 June to set up camp. The Colonel of the
Cumberland Guard (we are associated with the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry,
a member unit of the Guard) assigned us to a site east of the barn, near the
pigs and goats. We had many interesting interactions with animals during
the weekend - a rooster waking everyone up at 4 AM, the smell of pigs and
goats, 17 year cicadas flying around and "singing", some semi-tame
rabbits being chased around by infantry (possibly for lunch), some noisy geese
and a battlefield full of road apples. The weather was also very hot and
humid the whole weekend, without much wind. There were about 700
reenactors present, but only 2 Union Navy.
Saturday morning came early because of the rooster. Justin wanted to
skewer the rooster with a fork or bayonet or something (rumor says that
happened a few years before and the offending animal was served for dinner by
the infantry). The musicians rousted everyone out. I attended
officers meeting around 8, and drill occupied most of the morning. The
Navy was not invited to drill with the infantry, but we fell in with several
dismounted cavalry, where we learned the cavalry way of doing things.
Our assignment was to guard two bridges (one covered and one constructed by
the Engineers with Justin's help) and a ford in the woods to keep Confederates
from coming up behind our lines. We were well prepared, with 2 Henrys, 2
Sharps, a musketoon, a revolving rifle and about 10 pistols between us.
As it turns out, the Rebs never planned to come that way, and we missed the
whole battle without firing a shot or seeing what happened. We hear it
was a glorious Union victory. We could console ourselves with the
expectation of the ball that night. The Navy was resplendent in dress
uniforms, and we got to converse with the Confederate Marine contingent (and
captain, sergeant and 2 privates) about how the army never knows what to do
with us. The dancing was pleasant, and the artillery night fire was
impressive. We retired early, as we knew the rooster would be up early.
We slept through some of the rooster serenade, but were up for officers
meeting, where we got a better assignment - skirmishers directly in front of
the main Confederate attack. We had lost a few cavalry (unfortunately
the ones with the Henrys), and were reinforced by a squad of Irish.
Church call was next, then drill with the cavalry. We practiced fighting
withdrawals, as we would probably need them. After lunch but before the
battle Justin and I tied our model USS Tyler to the engineers bridge, so the
crossing infantry could see the Navy guarding the waterway. The battle
opened as we expected, with rebel lines pushing back our skirmishers.
After using up his ammunition, Justin had a "chain-fire" from his
revolving rifle and lost some fingers (fake blood and fingers provided by the
medical department, and they worked on him when he retired from the field).
When I returned to the field, most our our group was gone. The cavalry
captain in command was hit, and I took command. By then there were only
two of us, so we continued our fighting withdrawal. I ended up guarding the
flank of the artillery, where we were overrun by Confederate reserves who
swept the field. The battle had to stop in the middle as 2 southern
soldiers came down with heat exhaustion and had to be treated.
As many as 1000 visitors were present for the battles. Many favorable comments
were heard about the Navy's presence, and much incredulity about how the Navy
could be so far inland. Many visitors stopped to talk and get
information about the Navy's role and the Alligator. Several infantry
stopped by as Navy veterans, and one of our dismonunted cavalry was ex-Navy.
One new infantry soldier turned out to be a retired Navy Commander who taught
Navy history for part of his time. Other than the oppressive heat and
some schedule events that never took place, the weekend was worthwhile.
Seeing hundreds of infantry take to the field and the smoke of battle were
sights not soon forgotten.
Mid-America Windmill Festival
June 26 & 27
Participating unit:US Naval Landing Party (Lt. Cmdr. Bob Dispenza,
Boy first class Justin Dispenza, Coal Heaver Russ Gilliom)
Not a big event, but good local exposure and sponsored by 50th Virginia, who
helps us out at our events. We arrived Saturday in time for Lunch, and
began preparing for the battle. A member of the 30th Indiana (the
local group we associate with) won the speed loading contest. The Navy
was placed with the artillery (one mountain howitzer and one 3"
ordnance rifle). Justin was powder monkey for the mountain howitzer,
and command of the battery was turned over to me as the only officer
present. After much patient coaching by the gun crews, I gave the fire
orders (what an ego trip). As done last year, there were charges
placed in the ground and set off electrically, timed with cannon firings.
Confederates outnumbered Union again, but Saturday was the Union's day.
Rebel artillery included several Coehorns, a Parrot rifle, a mountain
howitzer and a Williams gun. Mr. Gilliom operated with the infantry,
and stormed the rebel camp at the end of the battle. Earlier in the
day a Sampson windmill was dedicated to Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day
O'Connor and her brother, who both were present and gave speeches. At
the evening meal, we met the Company Singers, who sing Civil War-era songs
in period uniforms. They represent various branches, but have just
purchased Navy uniforms for everyone. They seem interested in learning
more about the Navy and participating in some future events. I'll keep
working on them! We went home for the night, since we live close by.
Sunday had a tactical, but the infantry neglected to tell us, so we arrived
too late to participate. Justin tried out a Smith carbine - looks like
we may be getting one soon. Sunday's battle saw the rebels capturing
our battery. We executed a fighting retreat, and the Confederates
turned our artillery on the Union troops.
Not many questions about the Navy, but we still had our recruiting station
set up and handed out Alligator and "How the Navy Won"
Living History Troy, NY
June 25-27, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party
a run of rainy events in
, this was a very welcome change with beautiful weather (after a bout of
torrential rain at dawn). The camps were very tightly packed, as the event has
grown to the limits of the site (and will be moved to a nearby park in 2005).
PO Andy Danish arrived on Friday morning and staked out a claim for our tents,
while PO Roger Kuchera and I arrived about
after a hell ride from
. We were all settled in by
with a fire going and grog flowing.
the rain that would later visit us in the night skittered past to the south of
Troy, it clobbered White Plains, NY so badly that it delayed the arrival of
another sailor we were all eager to meet: Carl Kriegeskotte, who was bringing
his 21’ launch—a replica of the vessel used by William Cushing in his
attack on the Albemarle—complete with spar torpedo and bow gun. Carl decided
it would be better to wait out the storm at home and made the drive to
on Saturday morning. We got him set up just as the clouds were parting and the
crowds arriving. His boat was a big attraction and his knowledge about Cushing
fascinating to an audience that was largely ignorant of the man or the
expedition. The unit also gained some notoriety by passing out our new and
heretical pamphlets entitled, “How the
Navy Won the American Civil War.” By the end of the day on Sunday it was
both ironic and humorous to hear one of the Army reenactors plaintively call
from the back of the crowd, “We were there, too!” Quite a switch—our
goal is to eventually have people ask “Was there an Army
in the Civil War?”
Mike Dunn and a fleeing loyalist, Ginny Pyne, arrived mid-morning on Saturday
to help man the "museum" tent and take part in the afternoon
skirmish. Battles on both days were attended by good-sized crowds and went off
well. On the second day the USNLP captured a Confederate cavalryman who had
crept too far forward and missed the call to retreat; he was so embarrassed
that he asked if he could galvanize rather than face his pards back in camp.
This brings the unit’s “score” up to one soldier, two mountain
howitzers, and a Confederate army band; we are thinking of painting these on
the side of our cars.
event resulted in a lot of interesting contacts with people in the Troy
Historical Society—who were all sure to remind us that this is where the
plates for the USS Monitor were made, as well as a very large number of
ship’s bells. Spectators were especially fascinated by discussion of the Alligator
and the NMLHA’s involvement in it. The tie-in between 19th
century living history and a modern project of such importance was a surprise
sponsors provided meals on Friday and Saturday nights as well as breakfasts on
the weekends, and were ever available and ready to help with any concern or
USNLP members (l to r):
Roger Kuchera, Andy Danish,
Chuck Veit, Mike Dunn, and
presentation, SubForce Museum Groton, MA
July 2-4, 2004
Participating unit: Navy & Marine LHA (J. Mathews,
This event was asked of the NMLHA, to be considered, by
the Officer-In-Charge of the U.S. Naval Submarine Museum in
The request was based on the possibility that the museum would be able to
acquire a working model of the Rev War submersible "Turtle" over the
holiday weekend. The museum was not able to get the model as planned,
but it was agreed to put on a presentation as requested without the model.
As opposed to the previous placement of the presentation
and display tables in front to the main entrance, in the main hall, it was
decided to place the display tables as close to the full scale model of the
"Turtle" within the museum as possible. The scale model is not
an "operating model" and is found in one of the side galleries of
the museum off the main hall. The display tables numbered six tables
featuring weapons, shipboard items, coastal survey materials, instrumentation,
navigation maps, instruments and charts, and a large number of enlarged plans
and drawings depicting period ships and guns as well as related items.
Friday was the day for Jim Mathews to be at the museum by
himself, Chuck Veit being unable to attend until Saturday. The
tables were set up and displays laid out and organized by the opening of the
The day went well, with about 10 fifteen minute presentations at the
full-sized model of "Turtle" assisted with some drawings and
diagrams furnished both by the museum and Mr. Mathews. About 100-150
people were in attendance at the presentations and viewed the table displays.
The table displays on Friday were limited to four tables of maps, charts and
diagrams with some navigational instrumentation and weapons. The last
presentation of the day was at about
. The museum closed at
The displays and materials were left as set up for the next day.
Saturday saw the arrival of Chuck Veit and his two tables
of display material. Chuck was dressed in the blue and red Naval Uniform
of the official Continental Congress design, and Jim Mathews was dressed in
the blue and white uniform of the John Paul Jones design, in order to show
that both uniforms were in use at the time. Jim Mathews played the part
of Brian Harrison McKay the 3rd Lt. of the "Alfred" detached for
Coastal Survey duty during "Alfred's" major refit period.
Both Jim and Chuck left the museum at closing time on
Saturday having presented another 10 to 12 "Turtle" presentations
and spoken to about 200 visitors.
Sunday was somewhat slower than Saturday and probably
"Turtle" presentations were made and a total of some 150 to 175
people were spoken to. It was estimated that we spoke to about one half
to one-third of all those visitors who attended the museum over the weekend.
The reason for this was that the display and the presentations were made in an
area off the Main Hall of the museum. Further most of the visitors came
to see the submarine history of the last 30 to 50 years. Few even knew about
the "Turtle" or it's activities during the Revolutionary War.
Chuck left for home just a little bit early and as usual, there were a few
people whose children wanted a couple of last minute presentations on Sunday
afternoon which Jim was pleased to make. Jim was assisted in carrying the
display materials into and out of the museum by museum personnel. Of
special mention for their assistance to the overall presentation success were
the Command Duty Officer on Friday and a black second-class petty-officer who
assisted Jim throughout the three day presentation period. His help was
The "Special" museum activity was not
particularly well advertised, and it was left to Chuck and Jim to request
announcement placards for the special presentations at the main entrance and
in the main hallway. Aside from the Command Duty Officer on Friday, and LT
Cdr. Sides on Saturday, there seemed to be little concern or attention given
to the "Special Presentation of the Turtle" activities within the
museum. However, both Chuck and Jim received some very nice compliments
regarding the "Turtle" Presentations from the visitors during the
three day presentation period.
Some of the rules for bringing vehicles up to the main
entrance to load and off-load seemed to be dependent upon those who were on
duty rather than the rules in force in the museum. It also seemed that
the earlier event courtesies and assistance related to the
"Alligator" presentations were not seen at this event for whatever
Recommendations for any future
Sub Museum Presentations:
--Arrange a stronger public service announcement in local
newspapers, radio and TV stations;
--Designate those personnel who will be appointed to
assist in moving material from vehicles to the presentation site within the
--Ask the Museum Command Duty Officers to visit the
presentation site at least twice each day to determine how the presentation is
going and any needs of the presenters;
--Insure that all presenters are aware of the stated
rules for the approach of vehicles to the Main Entrance for loading and
off-loading of display materials;
--Insure that someone is available to meet the presenters
outside the museum, and be able to provide access to the Museum at the Main
Entrance or other access entrances as may be necessary;
--Insure that an adequate announcement of the
"Special Presentation" is made at the Museum Entrance, and elsewhere
Amphibious Landing at Ft.
Sewall Marblehead, MA
July 10, 2004
Participating unit: Speedwell, HMS Somerset, 2nd Bn
My crew arrived in Marblehead at approximately 9am and were greeted by the
Somerset crew and the 2nd Bat. British Marines, a fine bunch of lads and a
credit to this organization. At approximately 10am we launched a 23ft
longboat with 10 sailors in hopes of getting accustomed to the boat before
the afternoon activities. This was a great experience for all, as we
had never rowed as a group before. It wasn't long before we got the
hang of it and were ready to race.... yeah, right. We did have great
control of the boat and were able to maneuver it with some grace and
professionalism. Once we felt comfortable with the her, we headed for
the docks where the Brig Pioncare was supposed to pick us up. When we
arrived at the docks we found the Brig was late, and we had no place to dock
the boat. So Lt Condrick stepped up and commandeered the Harbormasters
slip for the boat, as rowing back wasn't an option, unless we wanted a
mutiny. Lt Condrick borrowed a modern radio from a gentleman at the
dock and called upon the harbormaster to let him in on our predicament, the
Harbormaster told us we could use his slip for as long as we needed, very
gracious of him. At this point we went in search of some refreshment
and waited on the Brig to arrive. At around 12:30 the Pioncare arrived
and we tied the longboat along side. At 12:45 we were on our way to
make our beach landing. At 1pm we arrived about 200-250 yards off the
beach, we disembarked from the brig and began rowing the longboat to the
beach. We got the boat within 15 yards of the beach and hit ground, so
it was wet feet for all. We unloaded the mortar and grenade launcher
and positioned them in the middle of a causeway on the beach, at this point
the colonials had been privy to our arrival and formed a resistance for us
on the beach. The remaining sailors and marines formed up behind the
mortar and prepared to take the beach. The colonials fired 1st, then
we let loose with the mortar, followed by volley fire, followed by the
grenade launcher... we leapfrogged like this until the mortar ran out of
ammo, then the remaining sailors and marines stormed the beach. The
colonials pushed us back to the boats and the order was given to board the
boat and seek the safety of the Brig, a sad day indeed. Once we were in the
longboat we rowed it back to its original berth and battened her down for
the evening. We then went back to our camp at Fort Sewall, and
"spliced the main brace", as it were ;-).
This event is what I had dreamed of when I became interested in Naval living
history. Sitting around a static display is Ok once in a while, but
this is what we, as an organization, should be striving for. This is
as close as we can reasonably get to Naval reenactment, and I was very
pleased with the days events. In closing I would like thank the crew
of the Somerset, on behalf of the crew of the Speedwell, for inviting us to
this event and allowing us to be a part of it. The Somersets and the
2nd Bat. are a credit to this hobby, it was a pleasure rowing and serving
with you all. I look forward to serving with you all again.
Until then, I remain...
I beg your most kind indulgence to lay before you the Brigade Chief
Engineer's Report for the above event.
I arrived at Fort Adams with Bvt. Sgt. Keeney (of my staff) at about 2 P.M.
on Thursday on the 8th ultimo of July. We were to be quartered in the
NW Casemates of the Fort for the Engineering Display Layout, as requested of
the Topog Engineers by the event coordinators. The NE casemates as
originally requested were filled with a museum display. We were joined
at the fort by Orderly Sgt. James Duarte (my staff Sr. Clerk) , and we
quickly emptied the wagons of the equipment. In the mid-afternoon we
were asked where the first early arrivals were to camp. At that point no
provisions had been made for the camp layout, and just at that moment the
9th Mass. Arty. arrived on the scene. Captain Rieke and Orderly Sgt.
Duarte undertook to lay out the Federal Camp in some military order.
Following that, Capt. Rieke and his battery proceeded to lay out the reduced
size Arty. Park to house the three Federal guns available. I wish,
most respectfully, to bring both of these gentlemen to your attention for their
willingness and industry to accomplish the lengthy and exhausting task of
camp and arty. park layout.
Meanwhile Sgt. Keeney, who was just out of the military hospital for
battle-related injuries, and I carried on with the setting up of the
Engineering Display Materials. Several folding tables were supplied
from Fort Hale and the Newport Artillery Coy. for the display to rest upon.
My sincere thanks to both organizations.
Late Thursday afternoon we returned to my headquarters for some further
materials, and we and returned to the fort early the next morning. We
then concentrated on completing the Engineering Display, and laying out the
Commander's Quarters for his arrival and the troop arrivals beginning Friday
at noon. An Infantry cap plan was drawn up for troop location and
identification. Sgt. Duarte set up one set of the portable cheveaux-de-
frise in front of the North Casemates as a display.
I was appointed Chief of Staff by Col. Gardner (event coordinator) and this
position was confirmed by Col. MacMullen upon his arrival. Friday also
saw the start of the spectator's arrival who had come to see the Engineering
display. During Friday, Saturday and Sunday almost 1,000 people went
through the display, keeping the Engineering personnel very busy answering questions
and explaining the models, and instrumentation. Again General, I bring these
two soldiers (Sgts' Duarte and Keeney) to your attention for their remarkable
attention to duty and to the breadth of their knowledge regarding military
engineering aspects of this area of expertise.
The weapon display was extremely popular with the adults and older children.
The model display was more popular with the younger children. The
presentation boards for each of the major forts along the Eastern and Gulf
Seaboards gained a great deal of general attention as did the Naval Vessel presentation
boards also displayed.
Upon our arrival at the fort, I immediately inspected the fort and found
that there were some numerous items of serious concern needing attention.
The lower tunnels were flooded with rainwater, two of the ovens in the
bakery were not operational, and 26 of the older wooden gun carriages were
badly twisted and splintered. With this information, I immediately
made my formal written Engineering Status Report to the Col. Commanding. He
bade me to take any and all necessary action to correct the problems. I
immediately wrote up requisitions for the necessary materials
(574 board feet of 4" lumber at least 12'' wide, one cast iron oven
replacement door, two large heavy-duty marine hand-driven chain pumps) which
were approved by the Colonel, and immediately sent, by telegraph, to the
Brigade Quartermaster's Dept. who had not yet caught up with us. I then
generated a telegraph message requesting the needed engineering specialists,
(1 coy. of engineer carpenters, i squad of engineer masons, with required
field tool kits, and 1 marine pumping specialist) to undertake the tasks
previously reported. This telegraph message was also immediately
approved by the Col. Commanding.
The event was essentially a 'Garrison Event", but the peace of the
garrison was interrupted on both Saturday and Sunday by an attack on the
fort by Confederate troops and sympathizers, who had managed by dint of
extreme stealth and cleverness to provide the attackers with a small
mountain howitzer. It's obvious ability to be taken "anywhere a
mule can walk" being driven home to the Federal authorities by it's
very surprising appearance. On Saturday the Confederate Attack was
blunted by the quick action of the Federal Brigade which was camped on the
parade ground. The rebel forces were driven from the fort, but their
point of entrance could not be determined. Sunday the second attack
was even heavier in spite of increased Federal patrols. The Col.
Commanding called for a nearby naval gunboat to assist, who landed a party
of marines to attack from the rear and block the Confederate escape route.
On this occasion, a tunnel was found beginning in the deep brush of the
hillside behind the fort and intersecting with one of the "sound
tunnels" under the hill behind the fort. The Confederate forces
were captured and turned over to the Federal Prison authorities at Fort
Warren, and the tunnel filled in. Confederate and Federal casualties
alike were attended to at the hospital.
I was asked to narrate both skirmishes and both Federal Parades.
Additionally, we had a duel between myself and Captain Rieke which came to
nothing as I finally accepted his terms of apology, being extremely
unwilling to gun down such a gallant officer. On Sunday, the
Confederate Engineer, the Col. Commanding and myself were asked to speak to
the spectators in the area of Civil War Period Military Engineering. I was additionally
asked by the Col. Commanding to put together the Event Closing Ceremony.
Capt Rieke's excellent suggestion of a massed grouping of regimental and
corps flags was acted upon and the closing ceremony went off very well with
the Federal / Confederate troops, flags and spectators attending to hear the
Col. Commanding provide his thanks and departure best wishes.
Sgts. Keeney and Duarte were indefatigable in their efforts to pack the
engineering display equipment and materials into the wagons for transport
back to my headquarters. We left Fort Adams at about 5:00 P.M. on
I thought the event to be most enlightened, with the willingness of all to
work in new activities for the spectators to witness with due consideration
to the previously decided upon schedule. The hospital was a very
effective attraction. No request was made of me to provide a place for
a civilian camp, and even though such a designation was made, before hand, I
was not appraised of any request for it's usage. Certainly, the invitation
to bring the Engineering Display to Fort Adams was most exciting to the
Topog Engineers, and we thank the Artillery Company of Newport for their
very kind and considerate invitation.
The Artillery Coy and the Federal Col. Commanding have both invited the
Topog Engineers to return next year, and we shall be pleased to place that
invitation in one of the foremost positions in our consideration for next
My personal thanks to the 9th Mass Arty for their very kind invitation to
Saturday's evening meal. The meal was delicious, well prepared and
well-served, and Captain Elliott and his troops provided a most enjoyable
hour of camaraderie around the dinner table. My thanks to Capt. Riecke
and Capt. Elliott for their most thoughtful invitation. In addition,
the 9th Mass. bugler added a great deal to the event with his Officer's Call
, Taps, and his arty. commands by bugle. Very well done!!
My comments for this area of the report have been provided to both the
Federal Commander, and the Event Coordinators and have received their
assurances that the comments will be addressed. I do not include them
here, as they are specifically incident upon the Fort Adams site only. I
will be pleased to share this information with the General in a private
message if he so desires.
I would strongly recommend that the New England Federal Brigade Commander
designate next year's Fort Adams event as a brigade event. The event this
year was most enjoyable.
Your Most Humble and Dedicated Servant;
Ian McKay, LTC (by brevet);
Lt. General Grant's Military and Personal Staff
U.S. Corps of Topographical Engineers
Filming of History Channel
Cushing's Attack on the CSS Albemarle Vergennes, Vermont
July 21, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party
Jonathan Cheney, Mike Dunn, Hank Cheney, Merrill Dunn, Carl Kriegeskotte,
Carl Dailey, Andy Danish, Roger Kuchera, Chuck Veit
While none of us got the starring role in this TV movie, it was
interesting to take part in the production of a small episode within the
greater story. Lt. Cushing ordered two steam launches from the navy yard in
New York for use in his planned attack and left them in the care of two
volunteer officers who were to sail them south to the Carolinas. After a
number of delays one of the boats developed engine problems on Chesapeake
Bay. Thinking they were still in Maryland waters--and hence relatively
safe--the damaged boat put into shore while the other continued south.
Unfortunately for them, the vessels were actually in the waters off a
contested section of Virginia, which at that moment happened to be under the
control of mixed groups of CSA soldiers, partisans, and guerillas. One such
band spotted the incoming boat and decided to attack and capture it. Because
the repairs entailed allowing pressure in the steam engine to plummet, the
Union launch did not have power to escape--even after the skeleton crew held
the Confederates off until all of their ammunition was gone. The luckless
officer in charge ordered all equipment thrown overboard and the boat
burned--and then surrendered. This was the episode we were to film.
Our day began at 7a.m. with assembly dockside in full uniform and
equipment. The director, Carl Kriegeskotte, split us into two boat's crews
and we headed downstream along beautiful Otter Creek, which leads out of
Vergennes, VT into Lake Champlain. Supposedly this area looks a lot like
Chesapeake Bay and the canal that connected it with the Hudson during the
Civil War. The two launches were a little smaller than those used by
Cushing, measuring 21' and 24', drew about three and a half feet of water,
and were of about 6' beam. At several points along the hour voyage to the
lake, cameramen filmed us passing by, asking for repeated passes that
entailed coming about, going back upstream, and returning. The cool breeze
on the river was very welcome and we envied the people clad only in bathing
suits in the power boats that passed us at intervals. On the lake we made
three passes in front of a low headland at the mouth of Otter Creek so they
could film the Rebel pickets "spotting" us and also illustrate the
moment when our two vessels parted company. Happily, we lost only ten
minutes one time when the director had to motor over to a trio of sailboats
that had stationed themselves directly in the background of the shot; this
could have happened a lot more often, but we were lucky. En route back to
the riverside campground where most of us had been put up the night before,
we were filmed from a third camera boat.
After lunch, those of us in the "damaged" boat boarded her and
set off upstream to the site chosen for the attack episode. The director
had, unfortunately, had to divide our crew in two groups first thing in the
morning, and two of our younger seamen had been incredibly depressed to be
kept out of the coming "fight." Happily, Mike Dunn, with his
experience working at Mystic Seaport, had been allowed by the director to
act as coxswain aboard the launch that would press on and had such a great
morning that he said he didn't mind missing the battle. Carl also asked if
he would like to accompany him in the camera boat for that scene. Another
crewman, Jonathan Cheney, was taken in by the Rebs and, after doffing his
flat hat and swapping frock for checked shirt, allowed to pot away at his
former shipmates for the afternoon! The landing site turned out to be
impossible for anyone wishing to keep dry below the waist, so we ran
upstream a few hundred feet to a fallen tree that allowed us to come
alongside and walk on it to the bank. Assured that there was a cornfield
just through the screen of trees along the riverbank, we took only our
weapons and left the canteens on board. Big mistake. Whoever reported the
existence of a field with neat rows of easily traversed corn stocks has
never seen that vegetable except in a can--instead we were confronted by
undergrowth of razor grass and vines 4-5' high that grabbed not only at feet
and legs, but at scabbards and rifles. The short "walk" back to
the landing site left us panting and thirsty in the 90 degree heat. We
hailed our boat and had them come in close enough to pass over our canteens
using a boat hook.
The entire landing area was covered with the same chest-high mat of
vegetation that we had had to wade through, and inhabited by at least one
large snake spotted by our Chief and hundreds of hungry mosquitoes (the
"Vermont Air Guard") that had obviously never tasted Yankee blood
before--but developed a thirst for it very quickly! These pests were so
voracious that they tried to bite through our blue uniforms--even through
the gold stripes on my sleeves. Filming took a very long time at this stage
because everything was shot 2-3 times (sometimes more if the shot did not
look right) and also both as an overall scene and then "in
vignette" where the cameraman would have us all return to approximately
where we had been and then focus in one a single person. The Confederates
must have been exhausted because this procedure entailed their running
partway down a hill and then up again several times. We had to do the same
thing, but had to work only within the forty or so feet we had moved up from
the riverbank. Our hero for the day was Smitty, the pyro technician and
all-around gopher who lugged water bottles and refilled canteens from the
nearest house--at the top of the hill!
After takes and retakes and more retakes of the action as it slowly
advanced towards our powerless vessel, we all assembled for the actual
capture. In reality we all agreed that this was probably a fairly low-key
undertaking once the Yankees had exhausted their ammo. But, being Hollywood,
the Confederates were assembled for a mass charge. While we three sailors
ashore and the three others in the grounded boat waited for the camera to
get set up, several of Rebs in line on the rise about sixty feet in front of
us started bouncing up and down and uttering a chant reminiscent of the
movie "Zulu." Especially enthusiastic and vocal was the
Confederate cavalryman we had captured at Troy several weeks ago, who had
been utterly embarrassed to be taken by a bunch of sailors. Payback time!
When they charged, they were so enthusiastic that on the first take they
almost bowled us (and themselves) back into the river! We had to do that
scene three times and then film all of us being taken away three more
times--and were finally finished at about 5:30. After making the same
exhausting walk back through the "cornfield," we reboarded and
returned to the dock for our drives home. Quite an experience.
presentation, SubForce Museum Groton, CT
August 13-15, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party
Geoff McLane, Jim Mathews, Chuck Veit
I beg your indulgence to lay before you my latest
report of the subject activity.
Per your orders (Cdr. Brian McKay -- !3-15 Ultimo
of the Month of August,1862) I arrived at the Naval Constructor Base /
to present to the American Public the aspects of the Propeller
"Alligator," late of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
Here, I met with LT. Charles Veit, Commander of the Naval Landing Party, and
LCDR Geoff McLane, Commander of "USS Brewster" who were to work
with me in this presentation weekend.
We found the Constructor's Office / Museum ready for
the presentation, setting up a very attractive and informative presentation
board and providing a model of "Alligator" showing the changes
made to her original design by the U.S. Navy Constructor's Office.
The Officer-In Charge of the Constructor's Office /
Museum, LCDR Sides, greeted us and we were provided with tables, chairs and
access to the Constructor's Office / Museum as required to carry our
The weather threatened the presentation weekend with
the advance of Hurricanes "Bonnie and Charlie" up the Eastern
Seaboard, but aside from some wind and rain the presentation was
uninterrupted. LCDR Sides indicated that there were possibly 3000 or
more visitors to the Constructor's Office and Museum during this three day
weekend, and it is estimated that we (the three presenting officers) spoke
to nearly one-half of them during the weekend.
LT. Veit concentrated for the most part on the
"Alligator" design and construction, as well as the Location and
"hoped for" Recovery Program, LCDR McLane concentrated upon the
Naval War including the "Mississippi Campaign," and Naval weapons
and various naval tools of interest to those with whom we were speaking.
I was pleased to present the Hydrographic information regarding inland
waters as related to "Alligator" as well as the general operations
and mission of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron under your command.
My impression was that this activity was most
beneficial not only in publicizing the role of the U.S. Navy in the Civil
War, but also in raising the public awareness of the Propeller
"Alligator", as well as bringing to the attention of the general
populace the present and future value of undersea warfare. The
extensive drawings, designs, weapons, charts, instrumentation, and other
displays generated a tremendous degree of interest, as well as a veritable
myriad of questions from the visitors relating to all aspects of Propeller
design, usage, and the general aspects of the war at sea.
The other officers and myself departed the Groton
Constructor's Office / Museum at about
on Sunday the 15th Ultimo of August and immediately repaired on board the
dispatch vessel awaiting our departure for the Squadron.
Please allow me to submit my report of our detachment's actions upon
on or about
August 21-22, 1760
. Friday was a clear day as we arrived at the shipyard on the eastern shore
of the great American inland sea of Champlain. I and the powder monkey Sam
set our camp and awaited the arrival of our compatriots from the privateer
sloop Speedwell with whom we would sail that weekend. We met crew on
Friday evening. Bos'un Ross and Master Valentine, along with Seaman Andy and
Seaman Al and enjoyed a much awaited repast at a local tavern that didn't
much seem to cater to seamen. We then adjourned for the evening.
Friday night brought copious amounts of rain that lasted well through the
morning until the
hour. However large crowds appeared at the shipyard in spite of the blighty
weather. Master Sam set about cutlass practice with some young militia men
he found camped about the shipyard. While Bosun Ross and I set up a display
of Mr. Ross' handiwork in knotting and displayed the ship's arms for all
wavering loyal subjects to witness Seaman Andy, Powder Monkey Sam and I all
attempted an outing upon Mr. Valentine's boat but it appears that Andy and I
carry our ballast a bit higher the most and caused the boat to become
"unbalanced". In order to maintain the integrity of the service we
returned to shore at our earliest convenience. Master Valentine continued
throughout our stay to take his boat out and about in search of rebel
A crew from the HMS Somerset was also in port on shore leave and
once again left no doubt that they clearly understand what
"liberty" means in the context of the Royal Navy. However the only
casualty of the weekend was a perch that regrettably met Lt. Condrick on the
banks of Champlain. May God rest his soul.
The shipyard was alive with activity with boat construction, knot tying
demonstrations, sail furling and making, and other aspects of the sailorly
life. Seth Warner's
regiment displayed great suspicion of the Somersets but the weekend
ended without blows.
We enjoyed a wonderful camp repast of Spotted Dog and Lobscouse on
The weather cleared overnight and Sunday brought crystal skies and
unseasonably cool temperatures (40 degrees overnight). Mr. Sam Pierce became
a featured demonstrator of sorts on Sunday, showing all the locals how to
"heave a line" ( he spent about two hours competing with the
locals on distance and accuracy). The camaraderie and learning experience
was wonderful completed by the tremendous backdrop of
. We left the yard to rejoin the fleet in
as the sun began to sink in the west.
Most humbly submitted for your perusal sir,
James Pierce - HMS Richmond
Johnny Appleseed Festival Fort Wayne
September 18- 19, 2004
Participating unit: U.S. Naval Landing Party B. Dispenza
(Lt. Cmdr.), J. Dispenza (Boy first class), R. Gilliom (coal heaver)
The Johnny Appleseed festival has been going since
1975, and visitors number between 250,000 and 300,000 (yes, that’s right)
for the weekend.John Chapman is
within the park where the festival is held.Many time periods are represented, from French and Indian War up past
Civil War.Lots of stuff and
junk food for sale, many music groups (bagpipe, fife and drum, etc.)
marching through, Abraham Lincoln (Fritz Klein of
, IL.), George Washington, R. E. Lee, Johnny Appleseed and other historical
folk.People come from all over
for this, which makes it a good opportunity to get the word out.The weather was perfect, if a little warm.
set up camp on Friday night.My
8-year-old daughter Kim tried to help, but 2-year-old Paul was no help at
all.He tried to hammer in
stakes with a stick, and boys with sticks are dangerous.We managed to get the tent and fly up without serious injury.
had a babysitter on Saturday, as my wife was at a women’s retreat.Justin (14) and Kim helped finish our setup, and we were ready before
10 for visitors.The army had no
officers for the weekend, which made me the ranking officer, but I knew
better than to interfere with Army operations.Our schedule had Navy demonstrations once each day, but we managed to
get one in after each artillery demo on the hour.Sometimes we had quite a crowd (over 50).Sometimes it was breechloading rifle demo with the Navy’s duties in
the war.As time allowed we
added sailor equipment and cutlass drill with singlesticks (Russ broke one
during a demo).Our tent was set
up with artifacts, books, ship models and a brass bell on which we rung
watch bells throughout the day.In
speed loading demonstrations, our breechloader in inexperienced hands beat
the fastest muzzleloader by 2 seconds for 3 shots.Russ represented the Navy in the honor guard that escorted Mr.
Lincoln to our camp for lunch.Jack
(our artillery provider) cooked all our meals, and we ate like kings in the
30th Indiana (our local group of reenactors).His two period-design cookstoves are nicknamed Merrimac and Arkansas, after their
resemblance to Confederate ironclads.Only
two rebs were present (R. E. Lee and a corporal).Laurel (10) showed up partway through the day, as she had a
cross-country meet in the morning.The
Company Singers from Huntington arrived and made
music in our camp.Several are
dressed as Navy, and all have ordered sailor uniforms from Steve Hesson.Some of them are interested in learning more about living history,
though they are primarily a musical group.After the festival closed we had a unit meeting and played euchre.Laurel and Kim stayed the night in the tent with me, and it got down
to about 45.
we toured the festival before it opened, and made part of the morning
service conducted by General Lee.Russ
was suited up as infantry this day, but still helped with cutlass drill.I went with the honor guard to fetch the President as Navy
comments on the uniform, especially from Navy veterans.I had much explaining to do about how often officer uniform
regulations changed.We also
handed out Alligator and "How the Navy Won the Civil War"
brochures occasionally.I told
visitors that the brochures were 50 cents if they didn’t read them, free
if they did.I also prepared
Certificates for a minor joining the Navy (modeled after the original on the
civil war navy and marine group site) and handed them out to interested
boys.Parents seemed more
interested in having the kids join as powder monkeys after they found out
what was involved.More Navy
presentation this day and we even got applause from the crowd after some of
them.As at most events,
anything we said was news to our listeners.We packed up camp about dark, and hoped our visitors gained a little
more appreciation of the webfoots.
Smith-Harris House East
2-3 October 2004
Participating units: Topographical Engineers, Society of Europe, U.S.
Naval Landing Party
(USNLP members: C. Veit, R. Kuchera, M. Dunn, B. Hammond)
in years past, this was again a unique and enjoyable event. The first time
the unit attended several years ago, it was a small Civil War encampment or
perhaps forty Confederate infantry, one cannon, and our 3-4 sailors. Since
that time it has evolved into a respectable timeline event, including
British dragoons, a small group of Woodland Indians, and a smattering of
frontiersmen; the Union Army decided to return and we were forced to share
“our” peach orchard with the 8th
. Jim Mathews’ Topog unit was present as were a large umber of
first-person reenactors from the Society of Europe; General Grant and Lee
were present and busy all weekend long answering questions.
weather was warm and humid on Saturday but dried out and cooled down nicely
for Sunday. Forecast thunderstorms and rain over night barely developed—we
were treated to occasional flashes of lightning and a few drops of rain off
and on all of Saturday evening, but that was all.
dragoons and the Reb artillery put on demonstrations throughout the weekend
while we simply talked and demonstrated constantly. On Saturday evening the
1845 house—the centerpiece of the property—was taken over by Society
members for a series of public candlelight tours. This year, taking
advantage of the presence of the Union infantry, they included an attack
upon the building as part of the scenarios being staged inside. Not being
privy to this, we at first thought it was the dragoons and the Indians
engaging in a probably-not-as-safe-as-it-should-be nighttime skirmish. Only
when the firing and whooping started up for the third time did we figure the
relation with the activities inside Smith-Harris House, and then settled
down to watch the clock and wait for the end of the noise-making.
Sunday the USNLP was assigned to be color guard for the opening flag raising
ceremony that started each day. Chief Kuchera and Seaman Dunn performed this
duty well and admirably, the Chief adding a naval flavor to the occasion
with the sound of his bosun’s pipe.
members Mike Dunn and Bryan Hammond (the latter attending his first event)
did yeoman work demonstrating splicing, knot-tying, and ropework in general
and proved a big help at the row of display tables fronting the tent fly. At
times all four of us were busy talking at the same time. In the course of
the weekend we easily distributed about a hundred NMLHA Alligator flyers and
80+ copies of “How the USN Won the Civil War”—this last almost always
getting an initial chuckle, then a raised eyebrow, and finally a slack-jawed
look of “I never knew that!” in response. Discussion of Alligator and
the many other submarines active during the war also intrigued visitors no
end; I think I gave the talk at least twice to myself on the drive home
because I’d done it so many times over the two days. Several times people
who were knowledgeable about Bushnell’s Turtle
asked questions, and so the discussion sort of slid back in time to the
Revolution as well.
mention must be made of the bravery of Ordinaries Dunn and Hammond on the
occasion of their being subjected to the lieutenant’s culinary skills in
the absence of our mess mate. Despite repeated cautionary tales happily spun
by Chief Kuchera—prominently salted with the phrase “death from
within”—both young men ate dinner (and survived), Mike Dunn remaining
willing to eat breakfast even after his supposed brush with mortality the
night before. Knowing now that I have a reputation to uphold, I promise to
use only a single skillet for all of breakfast next time and to try to get
more ash in the pan so that the resulting pile of food assumes the uniform
gray color that was previously its distinguishing characteristic. I imagine
pleas have gone out privately to the mess mate in anticipation.
USNLP fielded a lieutenant, one chief, and two ordinary seamen, and signed
on three new members. Unit member Merrill Dunn, although unable to attend,
cheerfully provided life support by making runs for assorted "specialty
victuals" and "demon rum." The sponsoring group, the Friends
of Smith-Harris House, was, as always, very helpful and quite pleasant to
deal with. Among others, Ms Betty Purvis and Ms Carol Marelli deserve
special mention. For the fifth year running, the unit universally voted the
bell-ringing town crier sent round to loudly announce the advent of specific
activities as “Most Likely to Mysteriously Disappear by the End of the
Lt. General U.S. Grant
All Union Armies
I beg your indulgence to lay before you my Engineering Report for the
I am pleased to announce that the event on whose organization committee I
was most pleased to have a small place, was said by most visitors and
spectators to be a very satisfying event.
The members of the Topog Engrs under my command who were in attendance
were as follow:
--First Sergeant, James Duarte;
--Sergeant, Sid Keeney;
--Civilian Millwright, Dan Ponder;
--Civilian Sketch Artist, Christine Allen.
Within the Civil War Period of the time-line were the following units and
--8th CT Vol. Inf.;
--Federal Corps of Topographical Engineers;
--Society Of Europe;
--General's Lee and Grant;
--Naval Landing Party;
--Federal Soldier's Aide Society;
I was also asked to join the ranks of the F & I period
reenactors for the two skirmishes one each day, which I was most pleased
We began setting up the camps on Thursday, as indicated by the event map
previously drawn by myself, and on Friday hosted approx. 250 school
children at several different stations. In the later afternoon the
camp set-up continued.
The 8th CT, marched into camp with their gear on their backs and set up their
camp on the hill, the Federal Navy was present with their excellent
displays and discussion on the naval aspect of the Civil War.
Saturday began with the flag raising and the welcome of the participants
and visitors to the Event. The muster was very colorful, with all
the different uniforms and unit flags in attendance. The
Topographical Engineers provided the Color guard on Saturday, the Naval
Landing Party on Sunday.
The "Appomattox" Play which was performed on both Saturday and
Sunday was deemed to be a celebrated success by all who attended.
The discussion of certain Civil War related questions by Generals Lee and
Grant during Saturday afternoon was also very successful, with the visitor
question period extending to nearly an hour after the presentation.
The Topographical Engineers are working together to draw a sketch map of
the possible property extension of the Smith-Harris Farm which may extend
about 1/2 mile North of the present site. Also the Civilian
Millwright submitted some simple machine drawings of some mill movements
that will be sketched out in ink and in the fullness of time will be built
for display. Mistress Christine Allen worked with the Sketching
Screen, and the Plane Table, also drawing a footprint of the farmhouse as
a prelude a sketch of turning the house into a military strongpoint to
resist an enemy infantry advance. Sgt. Keeney was busy in relating the
history of the Topogs and the extensive list of "surrender"
documentation that he provided.
Mr. Dan Ponder also oversaw the very popular, "tomahawk throw"
and has taught some young people, both boys and girls, to be quite good at
that particular skill. The Quoketaug Rangers barbequed a Buffalo
Roast over the coals of a slow fire, and served it for lunch/dinner on
Saturday. It was an excellent meal.
On Saturday Evening a play was held in the House by the Society of Europe
having to do with the feared "attack" on Washington City by
General Jubal Early's Confederate forces. General Grant and myself
were asked to take part in the play as the actors who were charged with
carrying out President's Lincoln's Order for additional troops to defend
the city. The play was conducted for six groups of people, probably
a total of approx. 60 to 70 visitors.
The F & I skirmishes on both Saturday and Sunday drew large crowds.
The Quoketaug Rangers, Woodland Confederacy, and the 9th Regiment of Foot
combined together to make-up two battle scenarios which were very
well received. The Topographical Engineers were pleased to issue to
the Smith-Harris House a "Military Protection" at the Sunday
Color Ceremony, in recognition of the Event Committee's hard work and
There were of, course, many other activities in the program, and different
time periods of the event, as well as a strong sutler's presence, which
gave everyone a unique opportunity to gain some further knowledge and
materials as needed. However, I shall be honored to allow someone
more familiar with those areas do the honors as appropriate.
In closing, it is my humble consideration that this event was a worthy one
to attend, and if invited to attend in following years I shall be most
pleased to accept both for the Topographical Engineers and for myself.
I strongly recommend that you too, should consider any such invitation in
a positive light.
Your Devoted Servant;
Ian McKay, Brigadier-General of Engineers (by brevet);
Chief Engineer and Aide De Camp;
Lt. General U.S. Grant's Military and Personal Staff
Blue Slope Timeline Bozrah,
8-10 October 2004
Participating units: Topographical Engineers
(Sergeant Keeney (Unit Historian); Dan Ponder (Civilian Millwright);
Christine Allen (Civilian Sketch Artist), and Jim Mathews)
Lt Col Kosiuzsko;
West Point Fortifications, North River, New York
I beg your leave to lay before you my Engineering Report for the subject
event. Since this was a time-line event, and since there were a
wide variety of other historical periods and subjects which abounded at
the event the engineers were encouraged to portray different eras within
thier ranks. This we undertook to do for the first time.
Engineers In Attendance;
Mistress C. Allen portraying a Civil War period sketch artist, asked
after the procedures for fortifying a civilian building against a Civil
War infantry attack, and together we went through the procedures and
documentation for such a project. We used the "new" barn
at Blue Slope (post and beam -- raised by the Amish) as an example.
The engineers have been putting together "Projects" on paper
since most of the efforts of Civil War Engineers except for mapping,
usually resulted in some disruption of the surrounding countryside
(cutting down trees, digging trenches, tearing down buildings, etc.)
which can in most cases upset those people who ae responsible for or own
the property on which we reenact!!!! Mistress Allen executed a
very good sketch of the barn, and will take the remaining data to work
on the rest of the "Project" between events.
Sergeant Keeney portrayed himself as Continental Engineering NCO in the
Rev War Period, and has been sharing detailed information gained from
several sources about the Topographical Engineers, and how they operated
and what they accomplished during the Civil War, as well as tracing the
family linage of certain names involved with the Topogs. We were
both very favorably impressed by the extensive ancient tool display and
blacksmith's shop at Blue Slope, and both of us carried away information
about significant old tools and materials found there.
Master Dan Ponder portrayed a frontiersman of the French and Indian War
period, and during the day, taught anyone interested the art of tomahawk
and knife throwing, at a portable throwing butt, which was a very
popular station for the spectators.
I was pleased to portray a brevet-Major of Continental Engineers,
mapping the early battle areas of the Revolutionary War, specifically
the Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill, the British detailed map of New
York / North River and the various Rev War Campaigns in New York.
These maps proved to be most beneficial in regard to engendering
questions from spectators about everything from Campaign Tactics to the
colors of the mapping color guide. I was also engaged in drawing
the detailed sketches of the various "machines" that Master
Ponder has provided. When the detailed sketches are finished the
intention is to build five operational scale models of these machines.
Both Master Ponder and myself took turns in cooking breakfast over a
small fire of mostly hot coals:
Saturday -- Steak, Eggs, and Cottage Fried Potatoes with Onions;
Sunday -- Pancakes and Eggs with butter and syrup.
There was an ever-flowing coffee pot during our whole stay at the camp
under the care of Master Ponder, who also undertook a
special pot of coffee on Sunday with three fistfuls of Coffee boiled
long in a well-seasoned pot. I decided to stay with fruit juice
that morning (Grin!!!!!!).
The supply train had come in during the late evening bringing my
long-awaited request for engineering leather map cases, which I was
pleased to distribute to those in attendance.
The event was a fun event, and although there was a great variety of
people doing different historical things from classic cars to period
canned goods, it was a most interesting event. There was a great
deal there to learn about history, and the event demonstrators were, for
the most part, eager to impart their specialized knowledge. Master
Ponder was in charge of the reenactor camp layout, and placement of
those within that camp. It was a task well carried out. It
was a garrison style event in that there were no skirmishes that took
place, but there was a lot of opportunity to discuss the period types of
weapons found in our camp, as well as various period sutlers who
demonstrated their skills and sold their wares.
To Mrs. Stienhagan goes my particular thanks and congratulations for a
delicious pot of Rhode Island Clam Chowder, and her perfect corn-meal
muffins, both created over her campfire. Well done Mistress!!!!
Your Humble Servant;
Ian McKay, Major (By Brevet)
Hartford City Civil War Days Hartford, IN
9-10 October 2004
Participating Unit: USNLP
(Members: Lt. Cmdr. Bob Dispenza, Boy first class Justin Dispenza,
Landsman Russ Gilliom)
had been preparing for this event for some time, as it is our last of
the season.Our detail
arrived Friday night.On the
way in we saw Admiral Farragut crossing the road, but weren’t able to
converse.After checking in
and receiving our $3.00 bounty, we proceeded to the Union camp, where
Mr. Gilliom set up in the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry
area, and we pitched our tent on the hill next to Father Murphy.Dinner for the 30th and associated Naval personnel was
provided by the US Sanitary Commission (also associated with the 30th).Officers met at with Battalion
Colonel Shakleford to get an idea of what reports were due when and
times for drill.The Union was scheduled
to lose Saturday.Hammocks
were slung and we “drifted” off to sleep.
Reveille (heave out and trice up) was sounded at
, though the
bugler did not sound quite awake.A
quick breakfast was consumed, and the entire brigade formed up to board
busses.The 19thIndiana took great
pleasure in heckling the Navy (and everyone else).A special ceremony would begin a at the
Blackford County Court House to dedicate the first part of the Civil War
Memorial.The base was
completed with all participants’ names.The statue will follow later.All is being paid for with proceeds from the Civil War Days event
(usually around $10,000 per year).Justin
and I represented the Navy.The
Saxton Cornet Band furnished period music, Mr. Lincoln addressed the
crowd, and a volley was fired by the troops.After returning to camp, we began loading rounds for the
soldier with the 1st Wisconsin Light Artillery loaned us a
Smith carbine for the battle, which Justin used.We searched for Admiral Farragut after lunch with no success, but
kept hearing we just missed him.Throughout
the day there were presentation by Samuel Clemens, Mr. Lincoln, Gen.
Lee, Belle Boyd and U. S. Colored Troops representatives, with
sidesaddle demonstrations and concerts interspersed.The Company Singers (soon to be mostly or completely Navy)
provided sweet music.The
battalion colonel assigned the Navy (with one artillery soldier, also
armed with a Smith) to protect the right flank in the afternoon’s
battle.After arriving on
the battlefield, our small detail kept to the right, and pinned down a
small company of Confederate soldiers at the end of a split rail fence.We were in the open, but stayed down and protected the right
flank until the main Union infantry line charged the fence.Nearly all were lost, and the Union center collapsed.We executed a fighting retreat across the field until we reached
the Union artillery.Behind
another split rail fence there we made our last stand.The rebs had carried the day.
The event organizers provided dinner.There we finally caught up with Admiral Farragut, who was in his
full dress uniform (1861 version).I
expected him to be taller. I
reminded him that my living history character (Lt. Cmdr. George Brown)
served under him at
MobileBay.After dinner the 30thIndiana had a unit
meeting, with anniversary cake provided by the U. S. Sanitary Commission
(a soldier’s and sailor’s best friend).An artillery night firing followed.Landsman Gilliom converted from infantry to Navy and all three of
us went to the Military Ball in dress uniforms.Admiral Farragut was there again, but spent most of his time
conversing with Mr. Lincoln and drinking punch.We all got several dances in.The 19thIndiana did their best
to get kicked out of the ball, and eventually succeeded.The Navy returned to camp early to get plenty of sleep.
Frost greeted us in the morning.The
the Navy deployed as skirmishers on the battalion’s right, along a
wooded area.Justin and I
were armed with Smith carbines, Russ with a Sharps rifle, all with
pistols.We managed to flush
out some rebels occupying a hillside.The infantry arrived just in time to drive all the Confederate
skirmishers in, and a general infantry action took place in the forest.The rebs had a mountain howitzer, which was driven off as several
of our infantry columns converged in the area.We eventually found ourselves between two Union columns, and kept
our position (a small trail crossed by the remnants of a fence) until
the infantry passed.We were
right near a yellow flag, which last year had signaled an area to hold.Reb skirmishers started to surround us and close in on the rear
of the Union lines.During
this action a young rebel seized the yellow flag and took off with it.We tried to stop him, but were overrun and captured by a
were very reasonable and friendly.As
it turns out, we were supposed to hold the flag, not the position
(different from last year), but the Navy never received that
retreated as more Union infantry arrived, and we were released.Next we attempted to flank a Confederate infantry column, but our
ammunition was nearly gone.More
rebs appeared to our rear, and as we prepared to engage them, they were
captured by a single soldier with a pistol, and the tactical ended.The rebels had won, as they had two of the three flags.The Navy did their duty to the best of their ability.
Church service by Father Murphy was next, and we sat with Admiral
Farragut (he caught up on his rest during part of the service).Then it was back to packing rounds for the battle.Boy Justin cooked ham and eggs for lunch over the 30th
Indiana’s fire, and Father Murphy made toast and something he called
“potato chips” (they’ll never catch on). Those Irish will eat
anything made of potatoes.Landsman
Gilliom had to return to the infantry ranks, but the Colonel promised us
some artillery soldiers to help out.Our assignment was to occupy the left flank of the Confederate
artillery line and keep them busy.The
battalion entered the field at the Confederate left flank, which
precipitated a general engagement, while boy Justin, an artillery
corporal and private, and I (armed with 3 Smiths, a Henry and 5 pistols
among us) stormed downhill towards the split rail fence.A reb sharpshooter was waiting for us there and thought he got
me.We surrounded and passed
him and the fence, lying down with no cover as the Confederate
artillerymen gave us an intense pistol volley.Even their officers came over periodically to fire at us.We put at least one artillery piece out of action as the gun
crews sought cover, and exchanged pistol and rifle fire sporadically for
the rest of the action.We
also got to see how difficult it is to load a Smith while lying down.I think next time I’ll take off my belt and canteen and pile
them up in front of me for cover, and to make it easier to reach
cartridges and caps.The
artillery corporal and boy Justin were hit, but the Union won!
Admiral Farragut met us at our camp after the action while we were
packing up. Our thanks go to the 1st Wisconsin Light
Artillery for their help with arms and manpower, to the 30th
Indiana for making space for Navy people in the unit, and to Landsman
Gilliom for driving and helping setup/takedown.Well done.
I Am, Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,
L. R. Dispenza
Lt. Cmdr., USNLP
December 12, 2004
Participating Unit: USNLP
(Members: Lt. Cmdr. L. R. Dispenza, Landsman Russ Gilliom)
the presence of the Navy was specifically requested at this event, we
brought ourselves and some tool of our trade to educate the citizens.We discovered there was much misunderstanding about the Navy’s
involvement in the late unpleasantness.Patient, thorough explanations by Mr. Gilliom and myself helped
allay this ignorance.As the
President was in attendance, we were attired in our dress uniforms.Members of the 30th Indiana Volunteer Infantry were
also present.Many questions
about small arms, cutlass use and our deck light were answered.A section of 32-lb. shell also attracted attention.I was chosen to escort the President to a one-act play about his
son Tad, put on by a small local theater group.Mr. Gilliom participated in a dance demonstration.Mail call followed, where Mr. Gilliom and myself were presented
with “sailor’s scarves” of navy blue wool.The landsman also received a carte de visite of a famous actress.Several young men expressed interest in enlisting, and we
provided them with forms to be signed before a Justice of the Peace.All in all, a profitable day for the Navy.
an aside, this year’s
was not as good as previous, though he was a Lieutenant in the Navy
contains the largest private collection of
memorabilia in the world.
also has a pair of Navy 32-lb cannon, made in 1865, in a local park. A
member of the 30th Indiana Homefront, using a period pattern and
materials knit the sailor’s scarves.More than 400 visitors attended this event.)