Cedar Creek After Action Report


October 5,  2014


The 150th Anniversary of Cedar Creek was a great success thanks to the hard work and patience of all of our troopers and our crack logistics team. The unit fielded over twenty mounted troopers and looked magnificent in the saddle, and it was mostly FARB-free both in camp and on the field, which added a lot to the atmosphere. The weather was cool and windy but otherwise just about right compared with some previous experiences there, and with about 100 Confederates to our 60 Federal the odds were in our favor. 

Damp weather shortened the campaign ride portion of the event to one day, but by all accounts it was a good time over historic and scenic terrain. Saturday morning commenced with a dress parade featuring the entire Federal Army, which meant a lot of practice keeping our mounts still during music, speeches, and masses of infantry marching past. That morning's battle was an all-cavalry affair right in front of the spectators, and it tested all of the fighting modes expected of Civil War cavalry: dismounted action, pistols, and ample saber engagements. Clever use of terrain to move on flanks and our ability to regroup quickly after charges kept "those people" (as R.E. Lee referred to his opponents) off balance for most of the morning. 
The afternoon's combined arms battle, Third Winchester, was a bizarre affair at first. It was supposed to open with a cavalry engagement then progress to an infantry fight, but just as the Confederate cavalry lined up opposite us a brigade of infantry in gray marched between the opposing mounted lines and stood in a column as if in a parade. This standoff continued until the infantry battle opened, at which point the cavalry of both sides conducted a brief skirmish independent of the larger battle. We then rode around the rear of the Federal Army and briefly engaged the Confederates with pistol and saber on the flanks before the battle abruptly ended.

Sunday's reenactment of Cedar Creek started with us facing a tidal wave of Confederate infantry, who pushed us back more quickly than expected and won me new respect for John Buford's stand against infantry at Gettysburg. After getting pushed by infantry the length of the spectator line the Confederate mounted arm hit fast and hard, producing a sharp engagement with pistol and saber around two horse-drawn Federal field pieces. This was a long engagement over broken ground that halted the Confederate drive but did not result in any territory being retaken. The Confederate cavalry disengaged and moved to their left flank, prompting us to move to the Federal right in a counter move. From this point the battle of the bridge began after a long standoff and much taunting. As the Federal infantry recovered from the surprise assault at dawn with a vigorous counter attack we pushed the Confederates off the bridge and up the hill until the battle ceased.

Throughout the weekend our formations remained compact and the payoff from our drill sessions at living histories and other reenactments was clear. Camp was a pleasant place for both spectators and participants and as usual the unit ate well with Trooper Will "Hopsing" Drewry, Jan "Oatmeal" Chayt, and Team Happy keeping everyone full. Although the list of excellence is too long to recount, several deserve mention in dispatches for their alacrity and professionalism. Trooper Brianna Chazin demonstrated coolness and excellent riding skills as my shadow the entire weekend with the guidon, and she rode gallantly into many melees. Trooper Frankie provided veterinary care or advice on at least one occasion; something we must never take for granted and that can only occur in events in WV or VA due to licensure restrictions. Trooper Doutt made the trek to Cedar Creek and rode throughout even though he was in the hospital the day prior to the event. Corporal Happy not only served in the ranks and cooked, but also provided the kitchen setup and a picket line. Trooper Harry Moloney also provided a picket line and served ably as USV Adjutant on the field, while Trooper Amos Moloney carried the colors for Colonel Norm's last ride as USV Cavalry Commander. Sergeant Barry, Corporal Ace, and Corporal Happy handled the unit superbly on the field and the kitchen appeared to have all of the firewood and water it needed. Mostly, however, it was the team spirit and general helpfulness of each and every trooper, whether veteran or novice, that made the weekend a success. I left off too many names above because the level of excellence was general! Thank you.

Two "significant asides" occurred at the event that are worth noting. Colonel Norm announced that he was not going to run for USV Cavalry Commander and the unit gave him a framed print of the Cavalry units that participated in the 150th Gettysburg Anniversary Reenactments. Although the activities of the USV remain mostly invisible at the unit level, they have a significant impact on our schedule, the scenarios we participate in, and the logistical support we receive at reenactments. Colonel Norm has worked tirelessly as an advocate for the cavalry in an organization that does not always understand the mounted arm, and for that we must be grateful.

Several unit members also attended a meeting to discuss the creation of a Federal Cavalry Association, which would consist of as many units as possible and would represent cavalry-unique capabilities and requirements to event organizers. This would not preclude our membership in the USV but may provide an additional means to insurance coverage and nonprofit status outside the USV framework. This is likely to be a topic of discussion at the Winter Meeting, and you should have already received the draft bylaws.

Upcoming events that may require a roll call before Winter Meeting are an all-cavalry event in South Carolina in late February, Bentonville in March, and Appomattox in May. Stay tuned to your email for details on these.

It has been an honor to serve as your Captain this year.

Toujours Pret,
Scott E. Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D


Thunder in the Valley After Action Report

14 September 2014 in Lexington, VA


The 2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A acquitted itself well in the recent Thunder in the Valley reenactment of Hunter's Raid in and around Lexington, VA. Mentioned in dispatches are Trooper Colaw and Trooper Marci Drewry, who took on the daunting task of coordinating and planning for the event. Also on the merit list are Trooper Frenchie, Corporal Happy, and Jan, who ensured we were fed and handled the myriad logistical details to support a troop of cavalry covering 27 miles in hostile territory then fighting two pitched battles in Lexington.

Photo: Elizabeth Rettig

I must also mention Lieutenant Mark, Sergeant Barry, and Corporals Happy and Moreau, who ably led the unit in the major battles while I tried to herd the rest of the galvanized Federal cats in the same direction. Our stalwart additions from the 1st Tennessee and Maryland rounded out the unit and provided some unique and useful skills. Lastly, I salute all of the troopers - from our most seasoned veterans to some new recruits - who endured the frustrations and discomforts I promised in my pre-ride message with the stoicism and professionalism expected of Regulars. Huzzah!

A brief (I hope) recap of the action follows: 

The unit made camp at about midnight on Wednesday just west of Middlebrook, VA after a trying day of trailer marshaling and shuttling and settled in for a brief rest. Thursday morning we began a pursuit of the Confederate Cavalry towards the hamlet of Brownsburg, catching up with them for a skirmish at Arbor Hill. Anticipating a flank attack, we advanced in two ranks then at the minute split the second rank off screened by a hill to surprise the Confederate flankers as they began their move around our rear. What followed was a sharp engagement and Confederate withdrawal. The rest of this day's thirteen mile ride consisted of a series of rear guard actions and small scale ambushes, to which we responded with a vedette/advance guard combination that allowed the main body to keep its momentum and spared our mounts constant deploying and skirmishing. The day's action ended with a running battle through the streets of Brownsburg, VA and its subsequent capture by the Union forces. The denizens of the town treated both sides to a generous and tasty dinner and an enjoyable concert at our camp in the middle of town.

Friday morning started with another pursuit and morning skirmish just outside Brownsburg. Again, judicious use of two ranks independently bottled the Confederates in a corner of the field and allowed us to hammer at them mercilessly. The fourteen mile ride that followed had little action but ample views of spectacular countryside. We ended the day in camp just outside Lexington, VA and received some replacements for the impending battles.

Saturday and Sunday each pitted thirteen troopers from the 2nd U.S. Cavalry and a composite unit of eleven troopers from the 1st Tennessee, Maryland, and 1st North Carolina Cavalry, eight galvanized infantry, and two galvanized cannon against thirty Confederate Cavalry, eighty Confederate Infantry, and two cannon. Needless to say it was a target rich environment and the defenders of the Union made the enemy pay dearly for every inch of ground by using our mobility and firepower to good effect. Numbers matter, however, and pitting a total of thirty-two Federals against 110 Confederates (eighty of them infantry) on open but artificially restricted ground had predictable results.

The entire event was blessed by mostly fair weather and no serious injuries to man or beast. Again, I appreciate the hard work, attention to detail, and timeliness of everyone in the unit and I look forward to finishing out the season at Gettysburg National Park and Cedar Creek. Expect a letter of instruction on Gettysburg soon, as it is already less than two weeks away.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,
Scott E. Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D



150th Trevilian Station After Action Report

June 20, 2014


A loud huzzah and heartfelt thanks to all for your performance at Trevilian Station. I do not possess Lt Mark's steel trap mind, so I will offer some highlights and apologize in advance if I omit someone.

I'd like to start with a sincere thank you to our logistics team: Frenchie, Jan, Cpl Hank "3 Hat" Happy and his family, Trooper Doutt, and anyone else who had something to do with food, water, hay, picket lines, and all the other minutiae that can make or break an event. The camp was laid out according to SOP and kept clear of plastic and other anachronisms: well done. A couple of thousand years ago Sun Tzu remarked, "the line between disorder and order lies in logistics." Our ability to move, shoot, and communicate on the field in an orderly way depended, then as now, on these details.

I had the "opportunity" to command a composite battalion made up of the 11th PA and Co. H, 2nd U.S. Cavalry in addition to ourselves. While I regretted missing a chance to personally lead you at the company level it gave me an opportunity to view you in action from a bit of a distance, and wow! It was an impressive sight to see and my thanks go to Lt Mark, Sgt Barry, Cpl Ace, Cpl Hank, and all of our troopers for riding like the Regulars we portray.

With A Co. as the anvil and the other units as hammers on the flank the first cavalry battle on Saturday was a rout. Period. The constant forward motion and tight ranks denied the enemy the mobility that is the lifeblood of cavalry. On Saturday afternoon we fought dismounted, as the Federal infantry apparently did not get the memo, and outnumbered about 3:1 by a combined arms force of Confederate infantry, artillery, and mounted cavalry we fought a stubborn delaying action in the tradition of true Dragoons. I appreciate everyone's willingness to fight on foot for this one! The Saturday evening tactical went according to plan until first contact (typical of real military operations) and turned into a pretty confusing melee (typical of real military operations). I was very proud of the way A Co. was able to ride over varied terrain and quickly divide into two wings and charge in opposite directions to meet the enemy and keep him occupied until H Co. and the 11th PA arrived to reinforce. Huzzah.

On Sunday morning's "infantry" battle some of our troopers fought mounted in a composite company and some fought dismounted, since the Confederate choice of using combined arms on Saturday's "infantry" battle was critical to their success. Meeting the enemy on his own terms made all the difference, and this battle ended with the Confederates bottled up as they were on Saturday morning. The final "all cavalry" battle included about 100 Confederate infantry, and these were able to seize and hold the center of the field. Repeated attempts to dislodge them failed, and it was only by constant, hard-hitting action that we were able to keep the Confederate cavalry from breaking through to the rear.

All in all the weekend was a success, and photo coverage by Frenchie (available on Facebook) and Chappie (available on Shutterfly) is illustrative and of high quality. Thank you for the coverage!

Lastly, a word about the filming that was going on in camp: Trooper Al Underwood organized a film shoot by a video crew from his HQ to assist the modern 2nd Cavalry in creating a video and slide show for its museum. It speaks highly of this unit that we were chosen to represent the American Civil War heritage of the United States Army's longest continuously serving mounted unit. Well done, Dragoons.

I look forward to seeing you on the field at our next event, which for me will be Dry Creek.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant,
Scott Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd US Cav Co. A / 9th VA Cav Co. D

Yorktown National Battlefield Civil War Weekend After Action Report

May 25, 2014


The Yorktown living history continued its tradition of being a great event, thanks to a lot of hard work from everyone involved. The drill demonstrations with nine mounted troopers ably led by Corporal Ace were well executed and well received by the spectators. The lovely and charming Miss Megan narrated while troopers Riggleman and Standard demonstrated weapons as dismounts. Will, Mike, and Dave had an impressive weapons display in camp and patiently fielded endless questions from the visitors, as did Dave Chapman, Ginnie Mize, Betsy Smith, and Wendy Standard as they pursued less deadly pastimes. Troopers took time to introduce their horses in camp upon their return from the demonstrations as well. The camp was as FARB-free as I have seen and I thank you all for that. As an opportunity to share our passion for history and horses with a public that understands neither, and on a field of strife during Memorial Day weekend, the weekend was well worth the effort.

None of it would be possible without the excellent meals and company provided by Will, Frenchie, and Jan. Mark did a great job coordinating the details that can make or break an event. Carl Rivas led us on a memorable (for me, anyway) trail ride around the allied lines from the Revolutionary War era. Trying it without the broken arm will be a plus next year! In terms of horsemanship the arm ordeal has been humbling, as it has revealed I depend too much on my hands. Back to the round pen... To everyone who served as my hands (again), I thank you. Joe and Sam bear the brunt but many others carried, tightened, unhooked, etc., to get me "to horse" on time.

So, on to Trevillian's Station! If we move as smoothly on the battlefield as we did at Yorktown (which is the point of drill in the first place) we should be able to come up with some surprises for our foes. I thank you all and look forward to seeing you in a few weeks.

I will close with a brief reminder that Memorial Day is coming to a close as I type this. Whenever I see a military cemetery or grave marker I try to remember that the deceased was somebody's parent, spouse, child, sibling, friend...We ask more than we know of our service members, and a combat death has a ripple effect that touches scores of lives. 

Honor them.

Toujours Pret!

Very Respectfully, Yr Obt Svt
Scott Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S Cavalry Co. A / 9th Virginia Cavalry Co. D