|Posted by Robert VanderPlate on October 26, 2017 at 11:10 AM|
153rd Cedar Creek, After Action Report
Oct. 13-15, 2017
Only 4 people went to Cedar Creek this year. Lt. Cornwell, 1stSgt. Farmer, Pvt. Yoder, & Pvt. Fasnacht. Upon arrival, found the camps in an organized state of chaos. The engineers did not come and pre set the camps, so field officers were trying to define the streets. We managed to get set up and passed a pleasant evening visiting and playing cards. Saturday morning we joined with the 142nd PA and 3rd MD to form a company of about 14 men. Together we attended dress parade and company/battalion drill. After drill, Company D went to the sutlers where Lt. Cornwell picked up a frock coat which had been a surprise gift from the members of Co. D. 1:15 brought 1st call for the 3:00 pm battle of Winchester. As normal, the brigade marched the longest possible route to get to our starting point, then stacked arms and did the hurry up and wait routine until the battle finally commenced. It was a typical battle where we attacked the rebs, blew a lot of powder, got pushed back, burned more powder, fell back, fought some more, until we had been pushed back to our cannons where the battle ended. As we fell back, the first time Jacob & Brian ran away. Brian came back to the lines, but Jacob was seen hiding behind a big tree. We lost track of him in all the smoke and confusion, but I believe he was either killed or captured by the rebs. On our last stand, the 1st Sgt. was badly wounded and Brian, saying he didn't want to die, tried to run again. The poor lad had eyes filled with fear and confusion as the Lt. grabbed him and forced him back in line telling him if he had to die, to do it like a man.
After the battle, we had mail call where the company received a box from home containing news papers, candles, cookies, applesauce, and some mighty fine pumpkin bread.
We were about to go to the sutlers when we were told that event staff requested that no one go to the sutlers until further notice. As we sat in camp wondering what was going on, several fire trucks came down the camp road. Other trucks and alot of flashing lights could be seen on the main road. Officers were called to a meeting at Federal HQ which started a series of meetings every 15 minutes or so throughout the evening. We were informed that a pipe bomb had been found in the sutler area. Camps were locked down -no one could come in or go out - the highway had been shut down and state police, FBI and ATF were all on the way. Police wanted to evacuate us and search our camps. General Markijohn said not to unless the order came from our command staff, but to have food, water, needed medication, etc. ready to take, just in case. As the General was telling us not to evacuate, someone came through camps and began evacuating our troops. That was soon stopped and all returned to camp. Each company searched their camps and tents to be sure we were clear of devices. A FOR REAL guard mount was posted to be sure no one went in or out. FVB commanders then searched every camp and every tent. We knew a lot of camps had already evacuated, in fact, a group from the living history camp was brought to ours for a place to stay. In short, it was an evening filled with confusion, unanswered questions, and much uncertainty. FVB command staff was very busy, but calm and proffesional. Due to the actions they took and the negotiations with law enforcement, it became unnecessary for us to evacuate.
We couldn't leave camp, so of course the Saturday night dance was cancelled as well as the early morning Sunday tactical. The annual soiree sponsored by the FVB command staff was held as normal and we tried to have as normal a night as we could. It was certainly quieter than the night before. Company D finally got some food and played some cards. We could tell from the flashing lights and glow in the sky from the sutler area, that there was still a lot of activity going on. At one point the guys heard what sounded like a muffled explosion and felt the ground shake, but we didn't know what it was. We found out the next morning that the bomb squad determined that the bomb was too unstable to move, so they detonated it where it was.
Sunday morning we didn't know if we would have activities or just head home. We did roll call, weapons inspection, and turned in our reports as normal. Looking down the row of camps, all was normal. No one was packing up, just getting breakfast and sitting around just like any other morning. We got the word that we would have dress parade and shortly thereafter do the battle reenactment. Apparently, CCBF had cancelled all activities but the reenactors did not. We would not be driven from the field! We held dress parade, then marched off to meet the "enemy". As the FVB marched toward the rebs, we saw other brigades at full strength out in front of us. Also, saw some people along the spectator line and others lined up outside the fence by the highway. Apparently the FVB were not the only ones to take a stand.
We hit the enemy hard with volley after volley, but couldn't break their lines. We got pushed back and pushed back as is always the case in the battle of Cedar Creek. We finally held our ground and while very close to the rebel army, we exchanged many volleys. Normally this is the time Sheridan would ride up and we would push the rebs back and save the day. But orders were given to charge, and charge we did, right into the rebel lines and went hand to hand with them. This was not part of the plan, and our general tried to get us to fall back, which we finally did, but it was too late. The bugles sounded and the battle ended. Normally after the battle ends, we clear weapons and go back to camp. This day was different. The battle had seemed more intense than previous battles, and emotions ran high. Instead of walking away, both lines moved toward eachother - blue mixed with grey. People were shaking hands; rebs and yanks were hugging eachother - thanking eachother for coming out. We were no longer yanks and rebs - we were simply all reeanctors and we were brothers! Our band began playing Dixie, flags were being waved, shouts of "USA, USA,USA" rang out. Tears were in many eyes and the emotion felt by all was so deep, it was overwhelming. There is just no way that what we felt could be put into words. Our general later said that in his 27 years of reenacting, he has never seen such an outpouring of raw emotion. When we finally reformed our liines and reb and yank again faced eachother, both sides presented arms to the other. After many "hip-hip-hazahs", we parted ways and headed back to camp. While breaking camp we heard the sutlers were still open for business. I guess they wont be driven from the field either.
If I might paraphrase Abraham Lincoln: the reenacting community may little note, nor long remember what was said here, but they will never forget what they felt here. . . .
BEST CEDAR CREEK - EVER!!
Respectfully submitted by
Your most obedient servant,
1Lt. Richard Cornwell