Ft. Branch, NC After Action Report

Submitted by Scott E. Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company

10 November 2015


Six intrepid members of the unit and one guest traveled to Fort Branch, NC last weekend and continued our tradition of excellence on and off the field.  Saturday morning started with an early morning tactical through the pine barrens and swamps that surround the fort itself, which is an impressive example of Civil War earthen construction.  We rode as the 9th Virginia Cavalry for the tactical and served as the vanguard for the Confederate infantry, screening and scouting ahead of its movements and countering attempts by the Union cavalry to turn a flank once the infantry become engaged.  With only six mounted troopers everyone was kept busy conducting route and area reconnaissance operations then doing our part to delay the advance of the Federal forces.  Once the two main forces collided the superior numbers of Federal forces and their ability to concentrate turned the rest of the tactical into a delaying action, with the 9th Virginia serving as the rearguard until the precipitous retreat of the infantry left us cut off between a swamp and the main body of the Federal Army.  Now that your commander knows the ground better that won't happen again if we return next year.

Saturday afternoon we switched to our Federal impression and fought a fairly desultory battle in front of the fort against a line of infantry skirmishers and four artillery pieces while the infantry successfully assaulted the fort.  Sunday's battle was the same scenario but a move to the Confederate flank and some dismounted action made for a more lively battle.

Mentioned in dispatches are the entire crew for enduring without a complaint the lousy weather on Saturday afternoon, the usual confusion about times and uniforms inherent in an event of this type, a come-as-you-are mess, and the looping soundtrack.  Next year I bring bagpipes in retaliation.  Riding skills were at a premium in the thick brush and swampy terrain and everyone on a horse did an exceptional job with their mounts.  I thank you.  Special thanks to Trooper Happy and Sam Womack for making breakfast on Sunday morning and to Troopers Drewry, Crispin, and Goodling for getting the picket line up and camp established before dark on Friday afternoon.

We were joined by Trooper "Tony" Blanco, who literally walked behind us for the entire tactical in Civil War gear and then joined the dismounted 17th PA Cavalry for the battle on Sunday.  It was the first outing for this trooper and we hope it was a good experience.  Huzzah, Tony!
Overall the event was a success and the organizers hope to increase cavalry participation in the future to allow for more cavalry-on-cavalry action, to include a potential cavalry-only tactical to start the action on Saturday.  While the terrain was challenging due to the swamps and thickets it was a chance to do a different kind of mounted action than usual and camping on the site of an actual Civil War fort was a great experience.

This was the last reenactment-type event of this year and I was proud to have the chance to command this detachment on the field once again.  It is now time to turn our attention to the Winter Meeting, which will select next year's leadership, set our schedule, and consider some important issues related to membership.  Look for correspondence regarding the meeting in the near future and seriously consider running for a corporate or field office.

Speaking of upcoming events, please send me any that you know of for 2016 so I can start building a tentative schedule for the 2016 chain of command to present at the meeting.

Very Resp'y, Yr Obt Svt,
Scott E. Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D

Lessons Learned:
-Infantry advances slowly but retreats with great haste.
-A well trained artillery crew will load and then just sit there with a "hot" gun if they think you are about to charge them.
-There is a vast cultural difference in how Confederate and Union commands operate, so adapt or die.
-Identifying and employing a dedicated PoC for every unit event ensures clarity and adequate logistics.
-Yelling "Sam" instead of "Joe" when I need something done around camp or in the field works surprisingly well.  Huzzah, Sam!

Fort Ticonderoga Festival of the Horse After Action Report

Fort Ticonderoga After Action Report

Submitted by Trooper Harry Moloney

On the weekend of 2-4 October 2015, Troopers Harry and Rebecca attended the Ft. Ticonderoga Festival of the Horse event. We were attached to the 1st Vermont Cavalry, commanded by Capt. Tim Short. 

We traveled to the town of Ticonderoga, New York on Thursday and Friday, laying over en route at a farm in central Pennsylvania on Thursday night and arriving in New York about 4pm Friday. 

We performed an initial reconnaissance shortly after arrival. We soon found and were welcomed by the event director, Stuart Lille, Ft. Ticonderoga Senior Director of Interpretation and fellow mounted Revolutionary War reenactor. We were the first to arrive and with Mr. Lille’s blessing, had free rein to ride and explore the operating area to include in and around Ft. Ticonderoga itself. The daytime temperatures were in the low 50's, accompanied by a significant wind chill. The horses seemed to enjoy galloping the open fields and nibbling the grass in the nicely maintained parking/camping area. 

Saturday was clear and dry. The wind had died overnight and the little rain that fell around midnight had dried and gone. Temperatures were still in the low 50's but direct sunlight made the day very comfortable in shell jackets.

We saddled up on Saturday morning and prepared to scout the area for new arrivals. After our early morning scouting ride, in which we located a horse drawn supply wagon and an ox team pulling logs, we joined the recently arrived 1st Vermont for drill. The 1st Vermont and 2nd U.S. totaled eight troopers, including Capt. Short. We worked out our formations and horse holding arrangement then rode to the King's Garden to check in with the organizers and complete the area scout.

We drilled again in the garden area, this time in front of an audience, and then moved outside to the cornfield for our formal demonstration. Capt. Short led us in drill at all three gaits, mounted fire from revolvers and carbines, dismounted carbine fire, and a saber melee. One of Ft. Ticonderoga’s historians, who was mounted and in Civil War cavalry uniform, narrated the event.

After the demonstration we rode into Ft. Ticonderoga’s central courtyard. This required us to duck down to our horses’ shoulders as we rode under the long and low and stone archway, and into the central part of the fort. Capt. Short suggested a spontaneous drill demonstration, which we did in front of numerous spectators who had been exploring the fort when we showed up. Drill was executed well, and more so considering we had approximately 80’x80’ to work in. Afterward, we returned to the cornfield and watched a foxhunting demonstration performed by members of the Green Valley Hunt Club, then talked with them about horses, foxhunting and riding in upstate New York and the vicinity.

The following morning, Trooper Rebecca and I followed the scenic routes toward Albany and home. It was a successful event for horse and human alike.


Trooper Harry


Waynesboro at War After Action Report


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

September 23, 2015

The First Battle of Waynesboro is over and in spite of overwhelming odds and some horse issues it was a great success. My thanks to the twelve mounted troopers and one civilian who came out to support a new event that the organizer assures me will remain cavalry-centric in future years. With only one battle per day we had time for some battle drills and individual trooper skills, making it a combined mounted training/battle reenactment event. Look for a discussion of this event at our Winter Meeting to gauge the unit's interest in our continued involvement in it and ways to improve it.

Saturday brought us scattered showers but these not impede our drill or the battle. We did lose two troopers to horse issues, so we entered the battle with ten mounted and one cannon in support. Our enemy, ably commanded by Bill Scott, consisted of the 2nd Virginia Cavalry, 4th Virginia Cavalry, 14th Virginia Cavalry, 49th Virginia Infantry, and two cannon. We had them right where we wanted them with the odds at about 10:80. As in the actual battle the Union cavalry, which included elements of the Old Second, was caught off guard and forced to fight a retrograde action, starting dismounted then remounting for a pistol skirmish and finishing with a saber melee. The arrival of a body of Confederate Infantry on our flank signaled it was time to skedaddle (then as now).

Sunday's weather was much improved, enabling us to run at heads and go over jumps after church call. That afternoon's battle was a reprise of Saturday's, as having ten of us chase eighty Confederates off the field would have stretched even my imagination. One additional feature was our very own Lieutenant Sopko's reenactment of the event for which Lieutenant George N. Bliss of the 1st Rhode Island Cavalry was awarded the Medal of Honor. Seeing an opportunity to blunt the Confederate's advance, Lieutenant Bliss gathered a group of troopers and led a charge on the enemy line. About halfway through the charge the troopers following the intrepid Lieutenant decided that discretion was the better part of valor and halted, calling out to their fearless leader to do the same. Whether out of rashness or because he was hard of hearing, Lieutenant Bliss charged the Confederates alone and had his horse shot out from under him. He was captured, finished the war in Libby Prison, and was awarded the Medal of Honor thirty years after the war.

Logistics for the event went smoothly for the most part, with ample food, water, shade, and conveniently located latrines. The company street was correct and the camp FARB-free during visiting hours. Hay was a bit short thanks to the unexpected arrival of a unit that did not pre-register, but our troopers brought enough to make up the difference for our mounts and the organizer acquired more on Sunday.

Conspicuously absent was Trooper Joe Womack, who repeatedly failed to respond to his Commander's calls of “Joe!” whenever some tedious, difficult, or nasty task was at hand. The fact that he is a “Rat” at the Virginia Military Institute and spends his days doing tedious, difficult, and nasty tasks in no way excuses him.

Mentioned in dispatches is Trooper Brianna Chazin, who bravely worked with a recalcitrant mount until it became obvious it wasn't going to happen this weekend. Huzzah, Brianna! Also each and every trooper in the company who kept things positive and pitched in to help with cooking and cleaning duties. Thanks to the above the event was a success.

Lastly and most importantly, please keep Charlie and Jeannie Doutt in your thoughts and prayers. Jeannie is having some significant health issues and they both need all the support we can muster.

I look forward to our next opportunity to ride at Fort Branch.

Very Respectfully, Your Obedient Servant

Scott E. Womack

Captain, Commanding

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

Lessons Learned:

-Horses, like people, can just have bad days. The difference is they can't tell you about it in words but can and will "act out."

-Always bring spare hay and draw the entire weekend's hay ration upon arrival at an event.

-Numbers matter, but attitude, discipline, and speed of execution make them matter less.

-Hitting an apple with a saber is harder than it looks.

Gettysburg National Military Park Living History After Action Report

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

July 17, 2015


Nine intrepid troopers of the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A, four from the 11th Pennsylvania Cavalry, and one from the 17th Pennsylvania Cavalry braved the heat and thunderstorms of July at Gettysburg National Military Park for our annual living history demonstration. The event was well attended; in particular the flow of visitors in camp, and the unit did an excellent job of interpreting Civil War Cavalry to the GAP (Great American Public).


Mentioned in dispatches:

- Trooper Doubt received a safety award from Ranger Holbrook on behalf of the unit, which has earned a great reputation with the National Park Service. The award is rarely bestowed to reenactors, especially mounted ones, so it is a great honor and a tribute to the hard work of each and every one of you. Bravo.

- Sergeant Barry led the drill and schooled the captain on how to maneuver on the drill field that seems to get smaller every year.

- Hank Happy provided our meals this weekend, so naturally we ate well. He also rode in the ranks in an amazing feat of 19th Century multi-tasking.

- Dave "Chappie" Chapman served as photographer and logistics support when he wasn't keeping us abreast of the latest developments from the Bureau of Military Information.

- Dave Mize did a great job, as always, with the narration. Huzzah, Dave!

- Last but not least are the troopers that are backbone of the unit: they pitched in with wall tent/fly/picket line setup and tear down, firewood collection, dish washing, etc, and this made camp a pleasant and efficient place to be. FARB stuff was at a minimum and the weekend was a "negative wave free" zone, which made it a great experience in spite of the heat.

Lessons Learned:

- Humidity and heat are implacable enemies: pay attention to yourself and your mount!

- Trailers with air conditioners are great assets in the event of heat injuries.

- Execute what the Captain meant to say, not what he says. Just learn to read his mind.

- Remain flexible with schedules: what was planned was changed and the SOB that didn't get the word (with apologies to JFK) was yours truly.

Very Resp'y, Yr Obt Svt,
Scott E. Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D

Red River Campaign Ride After Action Report

Photo by Robert London

June 7, 2015 in Washington, Arkansas

Submitted by Major C. Doutt, 1st Squadron, FCA Cavalry

My Fellow Dragoons, 

I know that many of you can imagine what it might be like to return to the modern world of family and occupation after a trip of 9-10 days. With that said, I have aired my excuse for the tardiness of this report, I will now offer that report. The First Squadron consisted of the 2nd US Cavalry Cos. A & H, 1st US Co. C, and 1st Colorado Volunteers. 

In my quest to emulate an 1860's Cavalryman, I have always been impressed with the attitude and grit possessed by our hobby's membership of like minded Crazies. This event didn't disappoint me. We traveled a long way together; we suffered and endured together for some of the hottest and toughest days that I have ever spent in this hobby. I am proud of the civility and compassion extended by each trooper to one another. Our experience and training prevailed in all areas, but how we managed our horses under those extreme conditions insured our mission's success in the field. This experience also lent itself to our traveling with no incidents, no breakdowns, and coordinated rendezvous at appointed locations.

I do not intend to single out anyone in particular in this report because the Red River campaign was a US event, we truly executed as a team. Up most days by 0400, Standing to Horse by 0500, fighting and riding hard until late afternoon, drinking horse warmed water throughout the day, (well water down there was lukewarm at best), resting at every chance on Terra Firma, scouring through our daily rations for something edible to eat, something that didn't need a fire, were some of the daily challenges that were to be overcome. When opportunity presented itself to be the static Camp, the 6th Ohio gals did a tremendous job of tending to our nutritional needs. One tough night though, on the Campaign, with particularly sparse provisions, manna came from heaven in the form of contraband pizza smuggled into our camp from who knows where, we were in the middle of nowhere, nothing for miles!

A trip to the 150th Shiloh Battle Reenactment had rekindled my love for this hobby. The outstanding charges and maneuvering executed by the Eastern Federal Cavalry still remains with me. What I had witnessed that weekend had shown me that our time together, coupled with mutual unit cooperation, had paid major dividends. I actually was embarrassed for our Confederate counterparts. In the back of my mind still, was a lingering notion that the victories achieved that weekend at Shiloh, might have been a fluke. I had to go to Red River to see how we would measure up again against the "western" Confederates, especially of the hardened Texas variety. Rangers, I believe they proudly called themselves. 

I was privileged, as an officer, to (1) know that the Confederate Cavalry were going to outnumber us; (2) it was generally known that they had a large chip on their shoulders and it would be a grudge match of sorts, and (3) since some Confederates were local, they would have the tactical advantage of knowing trails and ambush points. I knew that we would have to be at our best to gain the upper hand during this campaign. The Confederate Cavalry had also taken steps with the event organizers to neutralize two of our four weapons. We were told not to bear our sabers, and they didn't want our horses touching their mounts. The Confederate Cavalry relied on their troopers carrying multiple pistols and shotguns. We countered that with our long arms of the Sharps, Smith, and Spencer variety, intentionally and effectively staying out of their shotgun range. Colonel Mike Church instructed me, that my squadron was to continue to carry sabers, and to use sabers when necessary, especially when weapons were empty. "If" the Confederates got in our way, we were to move them by whatever means deemed necessary. He didn't have to draw me a picture.

Our duties on this Campaign primarily centered on performing the functions of a true to life Civil War Cavalry Regiment. Cover the main body of Infantry, scout and report enemy activity, guard and escort our horse and mule drawn cannons and drawn supply wagons, and provide offensive and defensive tactics to gain the advantage over the enemy.

On first day of the Campaign we gained our first major tactical victory over the Confederate Cavalry, catching them when fully deployed in battle formation, in a trap between the 1st and 2nd Squadrons. Then with the close support of our remarkable artillery, we sprung the trap. Those present can attest to that action. That victory, we would come to learn, would set the tone for the week. You see, the Federal Cavalry had done some planning and studying of their own of the terrain to offer a tactical advantage to the Blue Bellied Troopers of the FCA Cavalry.

As I write this report, I have to temper my enthusiasm and pride for the action of our Cavalry Brigade. After the first trap, I am convinced that we really got in the heads of our adversaries. If we didn't own them then, we would when we severely spanked them again on Day 2. The 1st Squadron had been detailed early to guard and escort our artillery and support wagons (no Ford F150s hauling cannons to hill tops on this Campaign!) to a bridge being constructed by our engineers. I had found out early, that the bridge wasn't near complete, a major disappointment and set back to our high command. However, we carried on; each of us knowing that it was going to be up to the horse soldiers and the amazing artilleryman that we are bonding with, to gain the day.

I was told at Officer's Call early that morning I was to dismount my squadron to help the engineers finish the bridge. On the march to the bridge Col. Church devised a plan to use the artillery's mules to accomplish the task. The mules were amazing, responding to the task at hand and the bridge was finished in short order after they had been unhitched from their guns. By now, the infantry caught up to the war and were guarding the newly finished bridge, guns and wagons. 

In the far distance, one could begin to hear the spirited gunfire coming from Major Bob Vance's 2nd Squadron, as they fought to defend our army's withdrawal. This action set up, what I believe, was to be the true spirit breaker for the Confederate Cavalry for this week. Having been in constant close contact with Vance's 2nd Squadron all morning, the boldness of the Confederate Cavalry manifested itself as they pushed persistently, though blindly, against Vance's rear guarding squadron. Coming into play for the Federals was the fact that the 1st Squadron hadn't been seen, or for that matter, fired a shot all morning. Fully loaded and ready for a fight was the 1st Squadron. We were deployed into an area with good cover on the backside of a draw along the route of withdrawal. As Vance's troopers fell back in good order, to the rise at the end of the draw, the Confederates recklessly rushed in firing at will, bellowing their rebel yell. As the last 8 man Confederate rank rushed in, the 1st Squadron responded, galloping into their rear firing fully loaded pistols to pin the entire Confederate Cavalry between the 1st & 2nd Squadrons, the Confederates were neatly packaged in neat rows of 8's in this draw, with mostly empty weapons, and completely spent horses. This joyous officer witnessed firsthand the embarrassment and shame exhibited on the face of the Confederate Commander as he was challenged to yield and surrender his command by Colonel Church. 

With the Brigade in good spirits from the victories, we were ordered to stand down on Day 3 due to the extreme heat. We were ordered to send pickets and dismounted patrols out within the town of Old Washington, just after hostilities opened again within the town, and patrol of Confederate Cavalry charged into our camps firing and racing their horses back and forth in the heat in an effort to provoke us into hasty reaction. What they encountered was a stout dismounted defense of our position. I remember thinking during time that their horses, already worn down from the previous day's exertion, would be rendered useless for any action in the days to follow. I wasn't wrong, and we did not see them again during the Campaign. Rumor also had it that Commander J. Beam might have visited the Confederate camp during the night.

Day 4 started with an early march, catching the rear of the Confederate column as they retired. I was ordered to dismount the 1st Squadron with the 2nd Squadron to provide effective fire on the Confederate rear. Once the Confederate army moved away under cover of their artillery, our Infantry came up and passed our squadrons in pursuit of the fleeing Confederates. We had taken this lull in the action, to unbit our mounts and graze them on the lush grass present, taking advantage of the nutrition and moisture. The heat already was nearing the low 90's early that morning and combined with increasing humidity levels as we remounted and set to our mission to harass and flank our enemy. The 1st Squadron was ordered to lead the column, after a short march, we witnessed our infantry making camp and stacking arms, their main focus was on making fire for their morning coffee. Really? As we continued our pursuit of the Confederates, we encountered intense rear guard action from all Confederate branches. This action delayed our advance; our scouts were dispatched quickly to feel out the flanks, looking for crossings to attack the Confederate flank in the densely vegetated stream bottom. 

Soon one of our scouts returned with news that he had found a crossing. During this temporary calm, Colonel Church ordered the 2nd Squadron to do the same on the left flank. I would come to know that Major Vance had dismounted his command and were pouring fire into the left flank of the Confederates. This action completely surprised the enemy, especially the Confederate Cavalry. If they would have been shooting live rounds there would have been many of the saddles empty. It seemed apparent that they just couldn't dismount with those shotguns. The Confederates had to be thinking "how are they doing this to us?" With Vance's Squadron hammering the left, and a crossing found, the 1st Squadron crossed streams and raced across the bottom into a clearing that lead us to the rear of the Confederates, to our surprise we galloped around the bend in the terrain to find the unguarded Confederate supply wagons, half of the Confederate infantry also was resting with weapons stacked. Another Bounty collected! Had this officer had better vision, he would have quickly recognized the Overall Confederate commander present and had him captured before his prompt escape. 

Day 5 & 6 offered more heat and humidity; those two conditions were rapidly draining man and beast. We fought to a stalemate on Day 5, given what history had dictated 151 years ago, we yielded reluctantly to honor that history, retiring from the field in good order closing the Battle of Prairie Deanne. 

As I conclude this report about this action, I think back to a line from the movie "The Untouchables" that may help to sum up our Cavalry experience against the heralded Confederate Cavalry at Red River. It came from the lips of Sean Connery, who portrayed a tough, street smart, old beat Sergeant, in the movie when he said "here endeth the lesson!" A lesson was indeed taught again by the Federal FCA Cavalry.

My profound respect goes out to Barry Kruis, Hank Happy, Ace Moreau, Rebecca Crispin, Jill Czarnowski, Frank Blaha, Dan Burtz, Bill Fuzia, Rick Smith, John Perry, Jeff Harrison, Pete Czarnowski, and Larry & Matt Raskin who endured this adventure with me. You all heightened my experience by your willingness to go beyond the normal realm of conditions attending this Campaign. I have learned that 2 members of the 7th Michigan have come down with Rocky Mountain spotted fever and had to be hospitalized.

Respectfully Submitted,
Major C Doutt
1st Squadron, FCA Cavalry

Yorktown National Battlefield Civil War Weekend After Action Report

Submitted by Mark Sopko, Lieutenant, 9th Virginia Cavalry Rgmnt, Co. D


May 25, 2015

Mon Capitan, Dragoons,

I am proud to report another safe and successful Living History weekend at Yorktown National Park. Great friends, great weather, great riding; this was a Memorial Day to remember. 

The 9th Virginia Company D displayed its skill to an audience of record size, with two demonstrations and practice running at the heads on Saturday. We had two more demonstrations on Sunday. All told, over 800 spectators attended our demonstrations and at least 200 people walked through our camp.

Many thanks to all who participated! Big thanks to Jan Chat for providing lunch fixings both on Saturday and Sunday. She, of course, brought her cookies and all her contributions were well received. She even had coffee ready for Sunday AM, which was a nice relief for yours truly.  

We had eight horses on the line and in the demonstrations, which filled out nicely for the charges. Corporal Ace Moreau led us in drill with Amy Moloney as guidon.  Myself, Dave Mize, Corporal Mike Scholl, Harry Moloney, Rick Smith, and Marci Drewry rounded out our line. We looked good and even with one new horse, demonstrated the drill like the veterans we are. 

Narration was done by Trooper Mike Riggleman on our first day's demonstrations. Miss Megan Mize had bowed out of the narration due to a slight injury; however, after desperate pleading by Trooper Mike, she stepped in and assisted the narrations for our Sunday drills. Miss Megan was accompanied by her equally lovely mother, Ginnie Mize. They and Betsy Smith added a bit of beauty in their period dresses and parasols to our Cavalry Camp. 

Dave Langston and his two sons, Mike and Patrick as well as Will Drewry, set up a nice Civil War weapons display for the crowd. Chappie Chapman attended in full correspondence regalia, even having an old style camera that takes digital photos. 

We also made the news. Here are a couple of websites and photos of our unit last weekend: 

Colonial National Historical Park - Yorktown Battlefield (Facebook) 

Daily Press Video

Daily Press Photos 

Many visitors came through our camp, but one older gentleman stood out in my mind. This gentleman, in his straw hat and sunglasses, proudly stated he was 77 years old. During our conversation, he indicated that, as a very young boy, he would listen to his Grandfather's stories about riding in the Virginian Cavalry during the Civil War. Distracted, and getting ready for our next demonstration, I was polite, thanked him for coming to see us, but recommending that he go to watch our demo. After the demo, this gentleman approached me, and with a trembling voice, said "Thank you!…Watching you,… I saw my Grandfather." 

I have the honor to be your most humble servant, 

Mark Sopko, Lieutenant
9th Virginia Cavalry Rgmnt, Company D

150th Grand Review of the Armies After Action Report

Photo: unknown

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

May 16, 2015 in Washington, DC


As promised, some more email traffic for your reading pleasure, an after action report (AAR) for the 150th Anniversary of the Grand Review of the Union Armies:

On 16 and 17 May 2015 fourteen stalwart troopers braved storms, a geographically embarrassed (read lost) Captain, Washington DC traffic, registration chaos, and plenty of hurry up and wait to honor the brave soldiers of the Army of the Potomac and Army of the Tennessee, who marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in 1865 to mark the end of the American Civil War. I promised a rodeo and delivered one, so three huzzah's to everyone involved for your patience and professionalism.

Saturday's ride of the Second Bull Run battle started hot and humid and ended with a drenching downpour. As our British colleagues like to say, "time in reconnaissance is time well spent," and your faithful captain was only able to recon about 1/3 of the trail prior to the start of the ride. As a result we spent some quality time in the pouring rain trying to find the trail that looped around the Confederate positions - to no avail. "I shall return." That said, we were honored to have Norm Hoerer join us for this portion and his insights into the battle were most valuable. I heard nary a complaint as the rain poured and thunder echoed around us and I am grateful for that.

Saturday's camp site was, er, unique. Set on the bucolic grounds of an 18th Century Plantation in Fairfax, VA, it was also right next to an eight lane highway with no fence or guard rail and within a mile or two of Dulles International Airport. After our wet ride we were greeted by Jan and a pot of chicken chili, drinks, chips, and cookies. This was a huge morale booster: thanks, Jan! Becky Colaw kindly provided the kitchen and some bunk space in her trailer and also arranged for transportation for six horses. Hank, Harry and Mark got the picket line up in a jiffy so the evening passed pleasantly.

The lead-up to the parade on Sunday was actually smoother than I expected but still had ample opportunity for confusion and "hurry up and wait." Kudos in particular go to the stalwart trailer drivers who had to brave downtown DC with no escort or organized convoy system as was promised. A special thanks to Marci for taking a stray horse (not one of ours) and holding it for a guest rider at the last minute.

The parade itself was short but moving. Our unit looked every inch the seasoned veterans we are and the opportunity to ride down Pennsylvania Avenue was one not to miss. Brianna Chazin broke in the new unit guidon and Brittany Coldiron sported bugler attire. As far as I could tell from the front all riders had their mounts in hand, which is important in an urban area. I noted a good deal of FARB stuff out there but none of it in our unit: I was proud to be able to demonstrate what "right" looks like.

Again, I appreciate everyone's positive waves during what was a trying event for horse and rider. Some lessons learned appear after the signature block below. I look forward to the rest of the campaign season and will send out an updated schedule (there have been some changes) in the next week or so.

Very Resp'y, Yr Obt Svt,

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

Grand Review Lessons Learned:
- Leader recons pay off.
- Marked trails frequently aren't.
- Always keep a poncho on your saddle.
- GPS routes through major urban areas are not always horse trailer friendly.
- Maintaining convoy integrity through urban areas is challenging unless one treats traffic signals as suggestions.
- Attitudes are infectious for both good or ill: keep those positive waves coming.

Appomattox After Action Report

Keith Rocco, "The Surrender"

Keith Rocco, "The Surrender"


April 12, 2015


Thanks to the professionalism and good humor of the troopers of the Old Second the 150th Anniversary of the Battle of Appomattox Station and Lee's surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia was a huge success. Although this event marked the end of the 150th Anniversary season it included a number of firsts for our unit, and we rose to the challenge like the Regulars we portray. Drill, of which we had plenty, was impressive and I appreciated the focus of those in the ranks given that we did not have a mounted training this year. The unit looked magnificent. The comments that appear below are a mixture of mine and input from unit members who attended.

FCA: First among firsts was a Federal Cavalry Alliance chain of command that created two "squadrons" under a Regimental HQ. Due to a relatively small number participants from eastern states, our squadron consisted of only one company. This created the surreal effect of orders coming from a variety of sources, either in succession or directly: Major Doutt, Captain Womack, First Sergeant Sopko, or Sergeant Barry. The flexibility of the unit showed itself here and orders were executed promptly and accurately no matter their source. For its part, the leadership showed just how effective of a team we have by not letting any personality conflicts or power plays get in the way of a good time. The FCA leadership also proved to be effective at managing two distinct but equally effective styles exhibited by the two squadrons on the field and in camp. This organization is proving to be a winner a so far.

NPSisms: The next "first" is the "battle demonstration" system used by the National Park Service (NPS) on Thursday morning, which recreated the Battle of Appomattox Station on the exact date and time as the original. Fighting dismounted for 2.5 hours, as 1,200 troopers did against 9,000 Confederate infantry 150 years ago, was unprecedented in my 25 years in the hobby. When we do dismount it is usually for a few rounds then it's back in the saddle, and entire battles generally only run to an hour or so. While monotonous, it was a valuable lesson in the realities of Civil War combat, and combat in any era for that matter. Much of "seeing the elephant" is really a lot of sitting around waiting for something to happen or exchanging desultory fire with the enemy punctuated by moments of sheer terror when something does happen. Lastly, the two cavalry surrender demonstrations were entertaining and touching in equal parts, with some great acting (or was it?) by our Confederate counterparts.

Mess: A next first was the use of a mess system at a large event, although Marci and Corporal Happy and his team did soften this blow considerably by establishing a kitchen and bringing more than enough cookware. We had ample, tasty food and the chores seemed to be distributed evenly between the messes. However, all messes were not created equally in terms of internal communication, so if we continue to use this system its success will depend on coordination within and between messes, And, yes, more than one week's notice! Noted.

What follows are some general lessons learned from my saddle and comments from others in attendance:

A horse is a horse? Of course! Given the myriad personalities and levels of training of both troopers and their mounts it is a challenge to make everyone happy with their position in formation. We strive to put new mounts next to seasoned ones or position them where they will at least "do no harm." Unfortunately there is only one back left spot and typically more than one green or recalcitrant mount present. We'll focus on this more closely the rest of this season now that we know who gets along with whom, and I may play undercover boss and ride in the ranks more for a first hand look at things. In a mount's first season some level of stress and nonconformist behavior is normal, but if it hasn't settled down by the end of the season then it is time to ratchet training up to the next level. What is unacceptable is the shrug of the shoulder and "that's just how he/she is" approach: at the end of the day it is the trooper's responsibility to control and train his or her mount.

Camp Life. The Camp SOP places the command tent at the opposite end of the "company street" as the fire, which can in effect create two camps. To enhance cameraderie either the chain of command should move their butts to the camp fire area or we should modify the SOP. For now I'll probably choose the former option and bring the fiddle to fire. With all of the FCA meetings I had little time for socializing but I expect this will be the exception rather than the rule. It would be helpful if everyone (myself included) would learn the words to the 2nd Cavalry Song written by Dave Michel and the ones to the 2nd Cavalry version of "Over the Hills and Far Away" penned by yours truly so we can show the Cornfeds that we do have music of our own. At one point when I was trying to play fiddle with them one of them asked me for some Yankee music and either one of the above songs would have been a great way to reply.

Bugle calls. I got hit with a bugle call pop quiz on the field this weekend and got a C. I'll work on it. If anyone wants to be unit bugler I'm all for it, as I don't get exposure to bugle calls unless it is a large event with someone else's bugler present.

Quartermaster: To ensure that we have everything we need but not duplicate effort somebody besides Charlie and I need to keep track of who is bringing what to an event. I'm considering identifying a quartermaster for each event to ensure this happens, which will require some more email or phone traffic. For many smaller events this can be the event PoC, but for others like Appomattox that generate tons of email from higher HQ another trooper should handle it. If anyone has ideas in this area let me know.

Guest Units: We shared camp with the 1st Vermont Cavalry and the 11th PA joined us in the ranks. This was seamless from my point of view and I would have been lost without Tim Short identifying some of the bugle calls for me. Kudos to everyone for making them feel at home and for generous sharing of food and beverage all around.

OK, 'nuff said. Comments from the NPS official in charge of the living history portion appear below my signature block below for your reading pleasure. Appomattox was a great event and a memorable and fitting tribute to the momentous occasion it was 150 years ago. I was humbled to be your Captain on that field and thank you for your support.

Very Resp'y, Yr Obt Svt,
Scott Womack
Captain, Commanding
2nd U.S. Cavalry Company A/9th Virginia Cavalry Company D

P.S. A note from the NPS official in charge of the Appomattox Court House living history events:

Hello everyone,

I trust that you all got home safely. I want to thank you all for a great event, we heard a tremendously positive response from the public. I think that our visitors learned a lot and had an educational experience. I know that our leadership team managing the event were also very pleased.

Unlike many of the other big 150th events, living history was at the heart of this event- you were truly the center of attention.

We appreciate the time, effort, and expense that you invested in last week's event, and thank you for sharing your time and talents with us. We also appreciate your patience as we had some last minute changes and challenges with mud/rain, etc. I know we asked a lot of you, but you all delivered.

Total visitation is estimated at about 23,000 for the 5 days, I personally think it was higher. FYI, that makes this the #3 highest 150th, after Gettysburg and Antietam.

This was definitely a career highlight for me, and I hope a reenacting highlight for you all.

You''ll find some great photos on the park's Facebook page, so check it out.

Please share this message with all of your members.