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!