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.
Scott E. Womack
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D