July 16th, 2008

10lb Parrott

Gettysburg Part III

Six AM is just plain too early to be out at the site for drill at 6:30, followed by safety testing at 7 am. Even camping out here, revelie isn't until 7 am. So, having set my alarm, I rolled out of bed at something like 2 am California time (5 am) and headed back to the site.

I was in time for breakfast, which was biscuits and gravy without the biscuits. They got enterprising and did rice instead, which was actually probably closer to authentic. Mighty tasty, early in the morning. We got to drilled and surprise, surprise, our safety test guys weren't up yet. So much for the efficiency of command staff. We got tested later.

In between, Bob and I made a flying visit to the sutler area, where he got us a phenomenal deal on three folding tables and the bench seats. He got the red cedar set for himself. And I got a terrific deal, because he made a bulk buy deal. We got them back to camp on the haywagons, having recruited a couple privates to help.

The first battle was infantry and cavalry, with only a handful of cannon, portraying the first engagements. The infantry started marching past the artillery park, and then the Generals and Officers started to pass by on horseback. I got a strange thrill of being able to Salute Robert E. Lee, even knowing it was just a man portraying him. But in my 1863 mindset, it was incredible even at that. Company after company of infantry passed us, and still kept coming. Cavalry passed us, and still kept coming. One guy said he knew a great place to watch the battle, so a few of us snuck over the creek and through the woods to where a big house and bigger barn looked down a lane filled with troops, and the battlefield beyond. In the shadow of the barn, leaning on the paddock fence, we watched the column keep passing us, and passing us, and passing us. And suddenly, in that 1863 self, I felt the South was invincible. More troops passed, and then a fife and drum corps, and more troops, and more troops, and more... And then a---band? We have a BRASS BAND??! They dropped out near us, rather than going onto the field, but we had a brass band. And more troops, and more troops... And some of the scale of this really hit. We watched the battle as the cavalry engaged, then more troops supported them. I was impressed. It started raining. It had been sprinkling before, but now the rain started in earnest, and would be with us for the rest of the day. Thankfully, it was warmish rain. (Some of our guys just shrugged and said "Rain? In California everything is on fire. Rain is fine.")

Then it was over, and it was time to swap the cannon around. Now there is only one road for cannon going in, cannon going out, and traffic going to the parking lots, and for the haywagons to the sutlers. Can you say "cluster-f--k"? I normally don't use that term, but I and several other people who normally don't use it couldn't think of another description. It took HOURS of gridlock to get cannons move. Oh, and did I mention the mud, that was starting to get very deep?

Finally, we got out cannons to the far end of the field. Acquire targets, when you find them, I was told. Would have looked nice, if we were anywhere the public could see. But we were far enough from the spectators we probably looked like ants, even with field glasses. But hey, I do this for my own sake. As it started toward battle time, the rain became even harder. Some of the guys had gum blankets. The rest of us, we just got wet. Thank heavens the powder was in the limber chests.

To be continued...