Tuesday, December 16, 2014

150th Battle of Nashville

This past weekend, Pvt. Baconator (that is Malc's reenacting name) and I (Amish Todd . . . the Brits call me Moonshine Todd) joined the rest of the 9th Ky for an event commemorating the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Nashville.  A number of historic sites in and around Nashville participated in this sesquicentennial remembrance with the 9th were stationed at Fort Negley (which was the largest inland fort built during the Civil War).  Our weekend was fairly low-key . . . doing drills and a few firing demos, but mostly just interacting with the public in the camp.  The above photo is of our encampment framed by the substantial entrance gate at the Ft. Negley Park.  It was taken after all the others had turned in for the night.  I was up because one of my favorite joys of reenacting is being allowed on a historical site after dark.

Bivouac of the dead tired . . .

Baconator and Critter up at the fort pondering my musings about the Roman emperor Pupienus Maximus.  Well, this was the last of the significant 150th events for our area.  We will be doing Bentonville early next year, which will be the last of the 150th events for the western theater and then, I imagine, will die down.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

150th Franklin

This weekend, Malc and I joined a good many of the 9th Ky for the 150th Battle of Franklin.  It was an especially notable event for Malc, as he was able to fully participate in a reenactment for the first time.  No more just a runner . . . he marched, and fired just like everyone else.  Here is Malc and Kyle going through the "school of soldier" just to make sure he was battle ready.  From what people around him told me he did great.  This was extra special because Franklin is the last major 150th event the 9th participates in the western theater (we will be going to Bentonville, NC in March). 

Malc in line for inspection before heading out to the field of battle.  Unfortunately I was at the other end of the line, so I didn't get to watch Malc's encounter with "the elephant."  *The above photo is from the 9th Ky webpage.

The last men standing . . . the rain came . . . the rebs left, and the event canceled.  The 9th, as you can see, didn't want to pack up and leave.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Auf Wiedersehen Mick . . .

Today we said auf wiedersehen to our German friend Mick.  The group of exchange students left bright and early for Atlanta and from there they were to travel home to Germany.  While he was only here about two or so weeks, it certainly was action packed.

Some of the places he visited here with the Fife clan or with his group included: Mammoth Cave, the Evansville Museum of Arts, History and Science, Lincoln's Birthplace and Boyhood Home, the Bardstown Civil War Museum, Old Talbott Tavern, the Louisville Slugger Museum, the Kentucky Derby Museum, the Corvette Plant, CNN, Martin Luther King Jr National Historic Site, the World of Coca-Cola, and Mane and Pa's in Capitol Hill, Ky.

While at Mane and Pa's we had Mick "cooter up" in full uniform and go through some basic drills and such.

I think he really enjoyed it, as you might can guess Germany is a tad bit more strict with their gun laws.

This was the first time Mick held a gun, let alone fire one (albeit just powder).

I also want to share with you a couple of our favorite questions that were posed to Mick while he visited Malcolm's school (now remember, these kids are in high school).  One asked him if Germany was a part of the United States, and another asked him if they drove here or flew.

Mick was telling Malc about the nearby Roman ruins and the abundance of half-timbered buildings in his region of Germany . . . as if he needed any other incentives to want to travel to Europe!  

Guard d̶u̶t̶y̶ doodie . . .

We went to Evansville specifically to visit Angel Mounds, but it was closed . . . I assume because it was election day.  It would have been nice if that had posted that on the webpage!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Drilling at Oaklands Mansion

This past weekend, Dudeboy, Dr. J and I joined the 9th Ky for a living history encampment (read "drilling") at the Oaklands Mansion in Murfreesboro, Tn.  We had, for once, absolutely beautiful weather the whole weekend.

There is quite a bit of history that pertains to the house . . . during the war C.S.A. President Jeff Davis stayed at the home in 1862, and in that same year Nathan Bedford Forrest defeated Thomas Crittenden in the First Battle of Mufreesboro with much of that battle taking place near here, and "it was here on July 13, 1862, that Nathan B. Forrest received the surrender of Federal forces occupying Murfreesboro."  Another nearby marker states, "July 13, 1862- Surrender of the Union garrison took place about 4:00 P.M. Units surrendered were Brig. Gen. T. T. Crittenden and staff, detachment of the 7th Pennsylvania Cavalry, detachment of the 8th Kentucky Cavalry, "B" Battery, Kentucky Light Artillery, the 9th Michigan Infantry and the 3rd Minnesota Infantry. Stores valued at $500,000, four field-pieces, 60 wagons, 300 mules and 175 horses were taken. The entire Union force of about 1200 lost 19 killed and 120 wounded. Confederate losses were 30 killed and 60 wounded. The Confederates withdrew to Readyville, thence to McMinnville after tearing up the railroad and destroying bridges."

 Dr. J at the spring below the house.

Working on the basics. 

The bastards made me a corporal!  How lowly the 9th must be . . . 
*the above photo was taken by cousin JoAnne

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Fife Family Fish Fulfilled Weekend

The Fife clan converged on Louisville for our first mega (to be annual) Fish Fulfilled weekend.  The goal being eating as much fish as we can in one weekend.  This year we hit Check's Cafe in the Germantown - Schnitzelburg neighborhood, Suburban Fish Fry in the south-end near the racetrack, Mike Linnig's on the river, and PassTime Fish House in J-Town.  Our numbers were pretty good, and I daresay fun was had by all (I certainly drank a fair amount of Falls City).  The representatives of the Fife clan included Todd, Malcolm, Vic, Phyllis and Charlie, Tracy, Scott and Ann, and Noni.  Our auxiliary group consisted of Greg "Studs" N., William and Lynn, Thing 1 and Thing 2, Pip Monster, Action Jackson, Greg G., Wayne and Ann, Denise, Brent, Marilyn and Bill.  Discussions of where to go next year have already transpired.  In honor of our youth, I suggested at some point we eat King Fish in our cars.

PassTime Fish House . . . fish attrition . . . the down to the final four.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A Day in the Life of the 9th Ky

Pards Malc and Harry . . .Photos are from the Stones River National Battlefield Facebook page.

This weekend Dudeboy and I joined the rest of the 9th Ky for a special event where one could "Experience the daily life of a soldier, and the parallel life of their loved ones at home as the men of the Ninth Kentucky keep to the schedule in General Orders No. 8 from the papers of their very own Marcus Woodcock."  Which meant reveille was at 5am and then we drilled and drilled some more . . . a typical day in the life of the 9th Ky.  Below is a copy of the actual schedule written out by Woodcock.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A milestone . . .

Today, Dudeboy is starting public school as a freshman.  The insert is from his first day of kindergarten all those years ago . . .

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The War of 1812 . . . Year Three, Part 2 . . . Old Fort Niagara

The second day of our War of 1812 --Year Three-- Kick-Ass Immersion Pilgrimage© was centered around Old Fort Niagara.  The consensus of the Fife Clan is that this fort is definitely among the best we have visited . . . and we have toured more than a few.  It possesses the triumvirate of all great fortifications . . . location, architecture, and history.  Of course, that is our own personal criteria/viewpoint, but I beg you to differ in opinion in regard to this structure.  Do not doubt me!

As proof, I submit to you The French Castle . . . built in 1726, it is reputed to be the oldest surviving building in the Great Lakes region.  It has been restored to represent its appearance during French occupation.  Here I should note, a good many of the War of 1812 sites we visit overlap with other historical events . . . for example, in Canada you will come across sites and references to the Canadian Rebellion and the Fenian Raids.  In the US you might encounter the French and Indian War, or the Revolutionary War.  All that to say, this place is no exception.

Our visit coincided with a French and Indian War Encampment and Reenactments of La Belle Famille/Woods Battle and the Siege and Surrender of Fort Niagara by the French to the English.  As this deals with another time period we will return to it later in the entries devoted to sites we saw that were apart from the War of 1812.  But that is not to say that there is not much to relate about Fort Niagara during the War of 1812.  By the way, you might notice that the date of 1678 in the above photo does not jibe with the date of 1726 I gave in the previous picture.  That is because the date on the emblem, which is on the French Castle, denotes the date of the actual first structure, Fort Conti.  Of course, 1759 is when the French surrendered the fort to the British.

Now, when talking about the War of 1812, the strategic location of the fort, which is situated at the mouth of the Niagara River, guaranteed that this would be a place of interest . . . especially given that the British had two forts, Fort George and Fort Mississauga, just across the river.  In the early years of the war, it served mainly as a base of operations.  However, given the ugly history of the region: both sides campaigning to lay waste to all, be it a legitimate military objective or homes of the general populace, some kind of action was bound to transpire here.

Dr. J and Dudeboy praying that the British will be lenient when they attack?  I daresay, a lot of the US troops were praying that the British wouldn't give as good as they got, for what transpired up to this point and led to the British attack on Fort Niagara was not one of the United State's finer moments (and that is saying something!).  

Of course, what I am alluding to is the Burning of Newark (now known as Niagara-on-the-Lake) by US troops when they abandoned Fort George in December, 1813.  US troops had occupied Fort George and Newark since May of that year.  However, as their situation was becoming untenable with US invasions checked at Stoney Creek and Beaver Dams (both in June of 1813), the worst of winter to come, the poor condition of the few soldiers left to defend, and an approaching British force bent on retaking the fort, it was decided to withdraw to Fort Niagara.

This is where things get murky . . . with the retreat, Newark was put to torch.  Ultimately the blame must lay with US Brigadier General George McClure.  Whether through incompetency by allowing/ignoring Canadian Volunteers under the command of American sympathizer Joseph Willcocks to settle old scores, or by outright intent this was nothing but guerrilla warfare.  I do think the concluding line in Wilcocks' wikipedia bio to be telling, "Willcocks lies in an unmarked grave, ignored by the country he fought against and forgotten by the country he fought for."

So, objectives had changed, with the British going on attack (bolstered with the incentive of obtaining a bit of retribution for the Burning of Newark).  That isn't to say the capture of Fort Niagara was the only objective.  The British under Lieutenant-General Gordon "Drummond undertook a campaign during the winter of 1813-14, in which the American frontier was laid to waste."

The South Redoubt . . . this is one place where the British encountered much actual resistance.  The fort had been neglected and fallen into disrepair.  Couple that with "a small party of negligent American pickets (who) were surprised while playing cards at a local tavern and forced at bayonet point to reveal the fort's password"* the British managed to gain control over much of the fort . . . the exception being a group of defenders barricaded in the South Redoubt. Those who were encountered were put to the bayonet.  

Casualties for the US amounted to up to 80 killed, 14 wounded, and over three hundred captured.  Compare that with only 6 killed and 5 wounded for the British.  Payback's a b!tch.

This is the massive (24' x 28') original garrison flag that had been captured by the British.  From an online article about the flag:
The road back to Niagara has been long and arduous for the colors the British captured on that frigid night, Dec. 19, 1813. A month later, an aide to Maj. Gen. Sir Gordon Drummond, the commander of the British forces in Upper Canada, arrived in Quebec to present the flag — the trophy — to Sir George Prevost, British commander-in-chief of North America.  In May 1814, Prevost shipped the Niagara flag to London where it was laid before the feet of the Prince Regent, later King George IV.  It is generally believed that the Prince Regent returned the Fort Niagara flag to Gen. Drummond, whose family home was in Scotland. There it remained on display in a hallway for decades.
The flag has suffered over the years with a fire and such, but it has been preserved and returned to Old Fort Niagara.  Note that it is a "Kentucky flag" . . . 15 stars and 15 stripes.
Before leaving the area, we drove back to Buffalo and visited the Buffalo History Museum and their exhibit, By Fire & Sword: War in the Niagara Theatre, 1812-1814.  It was small but interesting exhibit about the area during the War of 1812.  It included some artifacts pertaining to the US Brig Niagara and battlefield finds, like the above powder horn found at the Chippawa battlefield.
A relief from the museum's facade portraying Perry giving the Brits hell.

*The War of 1812: A Guide to Battlefields and Historic Sites by Grant and Jones

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The War of 1812 . . . Year Three, Part 1 . . . Don't Give Up the Ship!

Our full first day of War of 1812 immersion year three was centered around Erie, Pa. and a good deal of that was related to Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry.  

Specifically what brought us to Erie was the US Brig Niagara . . . sunk, raised, sunk, raised and restored for the centennial in 1913 and yet restored a couple of more times.  What remains original of the Niagara is not much.  Still, it is grand to at least have what exists today.  I should add that it was intentionally sunk all those times (the first time being in 1820) for preservation.  Atop the mast flies Perry's famous battle flag emblazoned with "Don't Give Up the Ship, " which had been James Lawrence's dying words during the USS Chesapeake action against the HMS Shannon earlier in the war.  Malc was really dismayed that I appropriated and bastardized the quote by continually exclaiming "Don't Give A Sh!t" for much of our trip.

Now, when I say what brought us to Erie was the US Brig Niagara, I need to elaborate on that and explain that we sailed on the blasted thing!  We were on the ship for just over six hours, going up and down Lake Erie.  It was amazing to watch all of the rigmarole that ensues to sail the ship.  There is a complex (what appears to be) tangle of ropes and such . . . far too much for my feeble brain make sense of.

And the trip was very much participatory.  The man who appears to be passed out drunk in the top-left of the above photo is actually the captain of the ship.  Fortunately he was not drunk, but only scanning the crew climbing around up above us amongst the sails, or maybe he was just observing the wind.  What I can unequivocally state is . . . he was not reenacting the actions of the captain of the Exxon Valdez.  

I should mention that the Niagara was not Perry's flagship . . . that being the Lawrence.  Now ensconced into US lore, Perry had his battle flag removed from the disabled Lawrence during the battle and was transported at great daring and risk to the Niagara where he took command and made it his relief flagship.  There is a bit of controversy surrounding all of this, especially regarding the Lawrence's actual captain (Jesse Elliott), but I am not gonna get into that.  That can be your homework.  As you can tell from the sky, we had great weather for it.

At one point, the crew fired off a round from the carronade.  Fortunately for the rich folk out sailing in their puny (compared with our massive warship!) sailboats it was only a blank.

Malc very excited to view Perry's personal compass.  During the trip, we actually got to view many items attributed to him.

The Perry Monument at Presque Isle State Park.  During the war, six of the nine ships in Perry's fleet were constructed at the Presque Isle Naval Base, which no longer exists.  However, there is this 100' monument which commemorates Perry and his base of operation. The plaque on the monument states, "Erected by the State of Pennsylvania to commemorate the victory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry in the Battle of Lake Erie. September 10th, 1813."

The monument is situated next to Misery Bay, so named because of the many hardships endured by Perry's men during the winter of 1813-1814, many of which suffered from smallpox.  Misery Bay was also the location where the Niagara and the Lawrence were sunk for preservation.