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A letter from the colonel!

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  • A letter from the colonel!


    Perhaps no other action during the American Civil War intrigues me more than the Overland Campaign. After almost three years of campaigning and fighting, it now came down to the two armies each occupying, almost entirely, the counties of Orange and Culpeper. From Clarke's Mountain and Pony Mountain to the west- both observation points for the two commanders- and along the multiple fords of the Rapidan stretching east to Mine Run, the landscape was turned into winter quarters, earthworks and redoubts.

    The two armies prepared. One confident that this would be the campaign that would win the war. The other confident that they could turn the enemy back again. As we all have read, a number of soldiers felt that this campaign was going to be hard fought. The very name of our event is taken from a Confederate soldier's letter, "....things are looking very warlike here....". As if to say, it's going to be different this time and it's going to be worse than previous experiences.

    May 4, 1864- the date in which our event is primarily focused- it could be argued-was one of the most important days of the war. As the Army of the Potomac began to cross the river at Germanna Ford that very day and the Army of Northern Virginia began rushing troops up the Orange Turnpike and Orange Plank Road- it was truly the very beginning of what was ultimately the end. The men in the 13th Virginia had a unique experience that day and for them, as well as numerous other regiments, it could be said that they never rested again for almost another full year.

    We know what transpired on May 5th 1864. We know what followed and we know the end result. To me, there is no way to recreate what unfolded on May 5th and 6th. We cannot replicate that combat scene, nor any other, in any way. What we can do is recreate the preparation of May 4th. We can facilitate the breaking of a camp, the loading of supplies and the hurried movements dictated by an uncertain future. We can function as a portion of the army in camp and in a state of readiness on the eve of a campaign that would never end until the war itself ceased. While those men had their thoughts of what might be the immediate future- we know exactly what took place. We know their losses on May 5th, May 30th and October 19th....but they didn't. That is one of the interesting aspects of portraying a particular regiment in full. Based on returns and other existing documents, we know how many men were in the regiment on that particular day. One may reflect on those numbers while looking up and down the ranks and imagine how few would be left a year later.

    We've all been to the Wilderness and most of us have probably been involved with a program at the park. If not that, then at some point, we've probably been to a "Wilderness" reenactment. We have, in the past, focused on the battle, the command decisions and the casualties. But we have rarely turned our attention solely to the moments leading up to a battle- the decision to leave a portion of the army at a different location, breaking apart a fairly comfortable camp and picketing because, again, they didn't know what we do.

    Pegram's Brigade would be divided on May 4th. On May 5th, a portion would be in action at Saunders Field. I fully admit that I cannot truly picture Saunders Field, but I can picture the events to the west along the fords. We have horses to pull wagons that will be loaded with tent flies, camp equipage and biscuit ovens, you'll have to decide as they did-what do I carry? Blanket? Overcoat?

    At our last event-Prelude to Invasion- we focused all that we did on the 8th Virginia's final days in camp in June of 1863 before departing the Culpeper area. We issued the same rations that the records for Longstreet's Corps indicate were provided to the men, we slept in the same tentage and we represented that regiment in its entirety. The plan for the 13th Va along the Rapidan in 1864 is essentially the same- issue the same rations, follow the same orders, our equipage and clothing to follow the records and to represent them at full strength.

    We left Brandy Station as if we were heading to Pennsylvania. We'll be leaving Raccoon Ford like we're heading to Saunders Field. Although the event obviously ends before that destination, we will have followed the script of this regiment up to the moment when there was no turning back- because it would be "warlike" until the end.

    I hope that anyone who is willing to attempt to live this regiment's life on the eve of the Overland Campaign will sign up and come be a part of this event. I can assure you that everyone involved with planning is looking into every detail possible. This event has been created to give you a soldier's experience of being in a full regiment with aspects of daily camp routine as well as campaign movements. The men of the 13th Va, just like the men of the 8th Va at Brandy Station and the 87th Pa at Sailor's Creek will be represented by giving our best, all-out effort. I truly hope to see you there!

    With Best Regards,

    Fred Rickard

    Field and Staff.JPG
    Michael Clarke
    Liberty Rifles
    True Blues
    Black Hats