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Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

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  • Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

    Photo By Tom George Davison

    AFTER ACTION REPORT - PIGS & TOMATOES: THE 1861 HOUSTON EXPEDITION

    May 17-19, 2019

    INTRODUCTION - A QUALITY EVENT NEAR HOME

    When the 2019 EBUFU event schedule came out, Mess No. 1 was ecstatic that there was going to be an event relatively close to our home base here in Ohio. This one would only be a four hour drive. On top of that, we were excited about the prospect of attending something produced by the 36th Illinois, Company B. We have been to many events where we interacted with them and always thought they were a really talented group of guys. In 2017, they brought a large contingent to our Fort Henry Event and we had a blast with them there as well. We knew that anything they put together would be worth attending.

    The scenario was also intriguing to us. It would be a chance to do an early war impression with full immersion and interact with civilians in a town with relocated historic buildings. No spectators would be present. We would have the town to ourselves for the weekend. Time to break out the state jackets, dark blues and dressed Hardees and get into some real first person as we would finally discover the difference between pigs and tomatoes in Missouri.

    ARRIVAL ON FRIDAY - THE ANTICIPATION BUILDS

    Five members of Mess Traveling to this one were Scott Bierer, Ken Cornett, Jeremy Snyder, John Wickett, and myself. By the time we left for the weekend, there would be another new member, but I will get to that later. Halfway there, we picked up John outside of Indianapolis. We arrived on site just before dark. The weather was perfect, if not a little on the warm side. We were eager to get into our kits, but were pleasantly delayed by seeing old and dear friends - some of whom we had not seen for several years. Once we had everything together, we moved along to registration tent, dimly lit by candlelight. Little Tom Travis stared up at us from the registration desk. Spirits were high. Rations were issued which consisted of salt pork, hardtack and coffee. After registering, we were directed to follow a path to some woods on the outskirts of the small village. We could see the fires in the bivouac up ahead and the familiar smell of campfires. The sun was beginning to set.


    Mess No. 1 Pictured - Front Row, L-R: John Wickett and Eric Tipton. Back Row, L-R: Scott Bierer, Jeremy Snyder, Terry Sorchy, Ken Cornett

    Just as darkness fell, we situated ourselves in a small clearing next to a fence. On the other side was a pond where the bullfrogs were signing their chorus. The ground was soft from recent rains as we began the routine of setting up our bedding for the night. I always enjoy the first few minutes once you get camp established. You lay down and see the candles and fires and listen to the excited discussions off into the woods. To me, these are some of the most authentic moments at events - where you can imagine what the originals experienced, the smells, sights, and sounds of camp. The men silhouetted against the light of the fires. Gradually, the excitement dies down to a murmur until finally, the whole camp drifts off to sleep, thinking about the next morning and the adventure that was about to begin.

    SATURDAY MORNING - TIME TO OCCUPY THE TOWN

    We awakened as the sun rose and immediately put our packs together and got a fire going to make coffee. As usually happens, just as the coffee prep got going, we were called to formation for roll call. There was a trail running through camp where we assembled. Since this was an early war event, we would have a large company. As the groggy men of the 36th Illinois fell into line, I looked for the end and it stretched own the trail as far as I could see. For the first time, I noticed the uniformity of our ranks. Almost to a man, everyone had dressed Hardees and state jackets. It reminded me a little of the Shiloh Event in 2012. When each of us put the Jefferson Eagle on our Hardee, it seemed like a cool thing to do. Seeing it in person where EVERYONE had an Eagle on their hat was spectacular. Same goes here. The Mess has never done an early war event with fully-dressed hats. Seeing a large, early war company was impressive. Hats off to everyone who attended for make the extra effort. (Pun intended). It really did pay off.

    After formation, we were finally able to get some coffee and breakfast and began to get antsy about moving out. When you are ready to go, the wait is excruciating, but such is the army, right? If you have been around long enough, you know that the best way to figure out when you are going to move is to watch the officers. When they begin stirring about, it is time. First call! Time to roll!

    We formed up, counted off and the order was given to move. A dead pig was brought forward wrapped in a sheet. Two gentlemen found a long branch and hung it by some rope and carried it on their shoulders along on our march. The "Pig" from "Pigs and Tomatoes" had made its first appearance. Wonder when the tomatoes would show up? Now, I knew what we were going to eat for dinner!



    We were moving very deliberately, stopping every hundred yards or so. The terrain soon became very hilly. We moved down into a ravine. Skirmishers were thrown out on our front. We came upon an open field and formed a battle line along the tree line. As we quietly waited, a civilian came down a trail on the right of the clearing up ahead. He was carrying some sort of satchel. He explained that he is the postal carrier and was just doing his regular route. He was asked why he had stayed hidden. He said it was because of the very thing that was happening now. He explained that he was nervous that we were out here. "How did he know we were here?" I thought to myself.

    We moved forward in a battle line across the field and saw the trail off to our right that the postman has just traveled. It went up a slight slope and you could see buildings. We had arrived. Time to move into town.

    We marched into town, which consisted of around a dozen buildings of various sizes. There was, of course, a town square and in the middle of the square flew a blue flag of some sort. After a brief discussion with some of the townsfolk, the officers endeavored to lower the flag and raised the stars and stripes as we stood at attention and saluted.

    The first thing we did was enter the general store where two older gentlemen (Scott Cross and Brian Baird) were the proprietors. We asked them some questions to establish their loyalties and kept an eye on their actions. At one point, one of the gentlemen reached behind the counter for something. I told him to come out from behind there and to stay out in the open where we could see his hands. The first person for the weekend had begun in earnest.

    We reassembled in the yard and the commanders broke us into two platoons. We were in the second platoon and would take the first shift on guard for the next six hours or so. Initially, we were in grand reserve, so we found some shade under one of the large trees, munched out of our haversacks and started a game of Euchre. The sun was really beating down now, so we stripped down to our shirt sleeves and proceeded to relax and enjoy the scenery of the town as we called, trumped and carried on.

    That was about the time we saw some men with pies and oysters. Well, by gawd, that's exactly what I wanted right then. We asked our sergeant if we could go to the general store before they ran out of pie! We entered the same store we had been in earlier. The event organizers had handed out period script when we registered and we put it to good use. I devoured an apple pie and a tin of oysters and damn was that good! It was late morning now. We had been up since five AM or so. Time for one of the most authentic activities you can do at an event. Nap time! Under the shade of the tree with a slight breeze and little humidity, I soon dozed off, my belly satisfied and once again, the sounds of the Civil War lulled me right to sleep.

    It was around this time that Ken Cornett asked Terry Sorchy if he wanted to join Mess No. 1. Terry is an old friend of ours and this event was the first time we had seen him in around ten years. Happily, Terry accepted and now we were six.

    Maybe fifteen minutes later, a loud noise woke me up from my reverie. We put on our traps and formed up, but the excitement soon died down and we were back in the reserve, but... it was our turn next. Within the half hour, we went out to relieve the second section of the platoon. I was posted next to the cabin on the outskirts of town next to our messmate, John Wickett. For some time, it was quiet and we chatted back-and-forth. Tom George Davison came along and just as we were in the middle of our conversation, we heard gun fire from the tree line we had come from this morning. I called for the corporal of the guard, got behind some cover and fired back a couple of rounds. The corporal came running up, out of breath. He was a younger fellow and was a touch excited. "Can I fire back at them?" he asked. "Well sure", I said. "They fired at us first." Robert Warren brought up the first platoon, who happened to be drilling at the time, moved them into the middle of the field and fired off a couple of volleys and eliminated the threat. Back to quiet, for now.

    Allow me to break from the narrative for a minute. It is my experience that the good events always come up with something at some point Saturday to liven things up. The mediocre or bad events allow the momentum to die during the day and when guys have nothing to do, that is when an event can go south. We need to be kept busy. While our platoon was on guard, the other platoon was learning the "School of the Soldier" and drilling. This rotation was a very good idea and worked well. Now, we had a little action on picket to keep our guard up. Nothing big. No grand battle. Just a little firing to remind us that somewhere out in the woods was opposition. It certainly helps to keep your attention. But, the bigger twist for this afternoon was yet to come... and it was going to be a memorable one. Now, back to the narrative...

    We stayed out on picket a little while longer with no further action and were soon relived and went back to the reserve. There, we rested in the shade with coats and traps at the ready and carried on a lively conversation until our shift ended. We were once again craving coffee, and two kind ladies loaded us up with that as well as some homemade ginger snaps and some kind of Swedish or Norwegian cake-type cookie that really hit the spot. "What nice people" I thought. We should come back to visit them later. In a little while, we were all formed up by our Sergeant (Jeremy Hill) and moved back into the middle of town as first platoon took our place. Apparently, it was time to learn the school of the soldier, drill a bit and then eat some pig, roasted over the fire by the 36th's cook par excellence, Chris Dayton. But, alas, the command staff had other things in mind for Mess No. 1...

    SATURDAY AFTERNOON - A FIRST PERSON MISSION

    Mess No. 1 was called to headquarters by our Captain, Scott Sheets. We were being assigned a special mission. A letter had arrived from our Colonel (See at the end of this AAR). Apparently, four William Sidney Mount paintings had been stolen from the Governor and they were somewhere in this village. They were originals and very valuable. Our task was to find all four paintings. We were given carte blanche to arrest whoever we need to arrest to complete our work. Would we accept? Well, HELL YES WE WOULD. This was the immersion opportunity we had been talking about leading up to the event. If I have one criticism about events in the last ten years, there have not been many opportunities for true first person immersion. There are two others I can think of where the scenario lent itself to good first person. One was the Southern Guard Picket Post in 2005, where we were the 42nd New York (From the Five Points) and The Immortal 600 in 2007. This scenario was the third to that trifecta and that is saying something.

    We grabbed our newest member, Terry Sorchy and the six of us huddled up to map out a strategy. We would start at the far end of the village, and go house-to-house, quietly and quickly. No knocking and post guards at the back door to block any escape. Jeremy Snyder was very familiar with the artist, so he would act as our expert to spot the paintings. With our plan in place, we went to the preacher's house. The preacher was portrayed by our old friend, Rod Miller. He had no idea what was coming...

    We entered the two-story abode unannounced and before he could react, we were inside and spread out to search. He was there with an acquaintance who eyed us nervously. "What's this all about?!?!?" exclaimed Rod incredulously. "We are just looking for some contraband. We will be out of your way quickly." I said. Jeremy pointed to the wall. We had found the first painting, hanging proudly to the right of the front door. "How long have you had this?" I asked. Rod seemed a little confused. He had been caught off-guard. "A salesman came by and sold it to us two months ago". He said. "Well, that's interesting, because this very painting was stolen from the governor recently. That's a pretty large coincidence that it ended up on your wall and you are telling us that it has been here for two months." I replied. "Since you have stolen property, I think we need to take you to our commander and you can explain this to him." "Are you calling me a thief? And what are these men doing? They are destroying our home!" Scott Bierer from our mess picked up a very large knife that had been sitting on the table. "That's a helluva knife!" Scott said with a grin. "Put that down!" "Time for you to talk to our commander" I said. "Let's go." "Who authorized you men to do this?!? This is outrageous!" Rod bellowed.

    We walked Rod and his comrade through town as the other soldiers and citizens watched. The whole way, Rod protested loudly at the injustice of it all. It was freakin' great.



    We reported to headquarters as the command staff was enjoying what looked to be a five-course meal. "We found the first painting" we reported. We brought the preacher. He is demanding to see you. "Well, you tell them we are finishing our dinner and will come to see them when we are done. Have them sit in the sun for a little while." said the captain. "All right, well, you might need to put them under guard." I said. "Will do" replied the captain. And out we went to look for the next painting.

    The next cabin belonged to several citizens. It was a wooden structure with two adjoining cabins, connected by a central hall. Think of it as a period duplex. There was no one in this cabin. We split up and searched both sides and found the second painting on the wall. We debated whether we should go find the general store owner, who lived in this cabin, but decided to keep moving. Two down and two to go.

    The next cabin belonged to those two nice ladies who had given us coffee and cookies earlier. They were walking away from their cabin as we approached. "This one is going to be a hornet's nest" Scott Bierer said. "I think you are correct." I replied.

    We approached them rapidly, but with a little more caution and tact than we had with the preacher. "Ladies, where are you headed? We need to talk to you for a few minutes." "We were just going to visit some of our neighbors. Why do you ask?" "Well, we need to search your house. There is some stolen contraband and we are searching every house. We need to look inside."

    We went in as they mildly protested and lo-and-behold, there was the third painting, hanging right on the wall. We questioned them about it and they told us that it had been there since before they rented the house recently. Despite their slight resistance, we took them through town to headquarters where a crowd had grown of local citizens, now cursing our existence. And... the pig was ready, but we weren't going to eat until we found the fourth painting.

    Problem was that we had now searched every residence and some of them twice. The painting was nowhere to be found. As I stood there scratching my head, Ken ran up to me. "I found the Pinkerton contact! He gave me the code word! You see, in the letter, we were instructed that there was a spy in the village. If we ran across him, he would say the phrase "Do you know Major Allen?" Well, Mark Hidlebaugh was the Pinkerton agent... and the postman... and he knew where the last painting was hidden.

    We went to Mark's cabin where he reached into a crevice in the wall and there, rolled up, was the final painting. We had accomplished our mission and I gotta say that this was one of the most enjoyable first person experiences I have personally experienced in the hobby. Everyone bought into the scenario. It was just fantastic. We got to watch the finale, which was Scott Sheets "questioning" the agitated populace. We stood behind the pews which were on the lawn next to headquarters and ate some pork and laughed and laughed as the stories continued to change. Smiles were all around.



    SATURDAY NIGHT - A DOWNPOUR IN SHELTER

    After our last detail of guarding headquarters was completed, the sun began to set on the day. The next goal was to find shelter for the night. There was a storm coming and it was going to be a big one. We took our gear into the general store and found spots along the wall. All told, there were probably twenty of us all laid out in there. The floor was hard, but the rest was welcomed. As with Friday night, I laid down to get some rest as I listened to the excited sounds of the town. Everything was alive. Our bellies were full and it was a very good day. And then, as things quieted down, I drifted off to sleep, contented with the sights, sounds and activity around me.

    If you have ever slept on a hardwood floor, you know the drill. You basically have to turn over every hour or so as one side gets sore and then rinse, repeat throughout the night. At some point, the downpour began. I awoke briefly to hear the raindrops pounding on the roof. Two weeks ago, I was in a similar rainstorm at Warlike Along the Rapidan and had no such shelter. That night, I laughed hysterically at our shared misery. On this night, I smiled and rolled over, content that I would stay dry until morning.

    THE CONCLUSION - TIME TO LEAVE TOWN AND HEAD FOR HOME

    In the morning, we packed up our gear, had some coffee from headquarters and loitered about for a bit. We talked to the many friends - old and new about this weekend and many other adventures we have had together over the years. I always get the feeling I will see everyone again and hope to, but as I said earlier, who knows how long it will be?

    We formed up for the last time in the town square, looking magnificent - like an 1861 Illinois company, with our dressed Hardees and state jackets. We right-faced and headed out of town and back to our cars. As we moved out, the last traces of first person left the faces of everyone as we sadly realized, the weekend was over... and who knows how long it will be until we get to see each other again.

    THE LETTER WE RECEIVED FOR OUR MISSION



    CLICK HERE FOR SOME OUTSTANDING EVENT PHOTOS BY TOM GEORGE DAVISON
    Last edited by Eric Tipton; 06-01-2019, 11:08 AM.
    Eric Tipton
    AC Owner
    Founding Member, Mess No. 1
    Cincinnati, Ohio

  • #2
    Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

    I had a great time and my hat's off to the 36th Illinois!

    Great to see old friends and meet new ones!

    Highlights:

    Tipton's Psychic Power:
    - Tipton says, "Man, I could use a cup of coffee"... along comes Mark Hidlebaugh with a cup of coffee.
    - Tipton says, "This event is good, but we need something to mix it up"... along comes our "mission"!

    Scott Cross retaining the legal services of a Missoura lawyer, Andrew Ackeret, esq!

    Rod Miller pitching a first person fit.

    Pre-event Conundrification:
    Riding to the event, I put on my company letter and bugle. Then, I realized I'd looped up my hat on the left for Shiloh ("per the regs", right!?). Satisified with my handiwork, I set my hat in the back with everyone else's. PROBLEM! Their hats were turned up on the wrong (right... aka starboard) side! Looking at the original photos on the event website, "Son of a ...." my hat was wrong*!
    *wrong for THIS event, that is!

    What to do...
    I spun the hat cord around.
    I took off the letter and bugle and put them on the back.
    ...and I wore the sucker BACKWARDS all weekend!

    Mischief managed.
    John Wickett
    Former Carpetbagger
    Administrator (We got rules here! Be Nice - Sign Your Name - No Farbisms)

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

      What a great weekend we had!
      So much first person to enjoy!
      Wonderful time assisting the commissary,
      Wonderful time with so many great pards!
      So great to see Mess #1 and others come the distance to join us.
      I am sure there will be more to come at this site and more to come planned by the 36th!
      Mark Hess
      Mark Hess

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

        It's been a long time since I've attended an event of this nature. This is my 20th year of CW reenacting and 19th doing it authentically. As I get older in this hobby, I need an event like this every once in a while. It's not that I don't enjoy the typical march, drill, picket type events, but this kind of event lets you experience another aspect of Civil War life that we don't get see very often. Eric mentions the events we've attended where first person was excellent. This one rates right up there with them. First person is always thought of as difficult, but it's truly not. It's more than representing a particular person, but rather just knowing the time period and interactions folks would of had then. It might take a little research, but it's awesome when near everyone is into it. And of course it made it more fun with some of those old Mudsill guys in the mix. Scott, Ezra, and Rob presented a fantastic time for everyone as it was stress free and fun. I was excited for this one and was not let down. Mess No. 1 certainly looks forward to working with the 36th Illinois in the future. It was great to see that they have a ton of young guys in their ranks and many of them stepped up in roles they have never done before. I've seen this at several events the past two years. Whoever said the hobby is dying is going to the wrong events. These youngin's are the future and it is good to know it will continue to march on.

        Again, thanks 36th for a wonderfully, impressive time!
        Ken Cornett
        MESS NO.1
        Founding Member
        OHIO
        Mason Lodge #678, PM
        Need Rules?

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

          I've really been impressed with some of these events. Year one in AC events. Blakeley was really a great event and it looks like everyone is bringing the same high caliber events all year long.
          Jason Brown
          Mess No. 1

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

            These AAR’s are definitely making me reminiscent of good times.

            Jamie Childress
            Jamie Childress
            3rd Great-Grandson of Pvt. George W. Aron, Company I, 21st Virginia Infantry

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Pigs & Tomatoes After Action Report

              Tom George Davison has posted some fantastic photos of the event:

              CLICK HERE FOR GALLERY 1

              CLICK HERE FOR GALLERY 2
              Eric Tipton
              AC Owner
              Founding Member, Mess No. 1
              Cincinnati, Ohio

              Comment

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