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.