Thursday, September 25, 2008

Chalk Hill AAR

Sir: I have the honor to submit the following report on the action and happenings of 20th - 21st instant September at Chalk Hill near Uniontown Pennsylvania.

Arrived at Chalk Hill about 6 pm and went right to the camp area in a handsome, mature stand of woods. Major Cope was already on site assisting in setting the camp area and company streets. At night fall the last of the troops arrived and camp was completed by 9 pm. This was a very good level site and very convenient to the sinks as well as a very ample supply of seasoned hardwood for fuel was all right at hand. This site being occupied by a fine winery, afforded us an opportunity to sample some of their fine product. Friday evening at night fall, the owner of the vineyard visited our encampment , and in appreciation of our presence there offered us samples of their various "fruit of the vine" which I can say were very good! Their hospitality was very appreciated and welcomed! We spent a very quiet restful night in camp, very much needing it after our journey ; the quiet only being interrupted by the occasional owl.

Saturday brought Reveille at 7 am, the Third Maryland Fife and Drum section performing camp music duties then and for the rest of the encampment. After getting the reports and inspections completed I took the sections from the 105 PVI , Third Maryland and dismounted elements of the 3rd Pa Cavalry at about 11 am to a flat plateau on a hill overlooking the roads and access to the area. At this location we drilled the men in School of Soldier and Skirmish drill and drew a crowd of locales that found what we were doing very curious. I am certain they felt safer with our presence there as it had been reported that there were some of the enemy seen in the area and that they were trailing a small field piece with them so were no doubt definitely up to some mischief. After seeing the men fed dinner and rested after drill we got about our business of cleaning weapons, securing gear and readying ourselves for what might come in the afternoon. The alarm was raised about half past 2 pm that the enemy had been spotted attempting to set their gun at a place on a near by hill in position that commanded a vital place in the road near our encampment. Our men fell in quickly to the call to assembly and we right faced and moved to counter the threat. Upon inspection of the enemy position, I decided that given the terrain and the expediency of the issue that a direct assault was necessary. We moved forward under heavy fire and dispersed into a skirmish line trying to avoid direct fire of the gun. We concentrated our fire and quieted the gun and then charged the position and over ran the foe..the day was ours and we gathered up some prisoners but we lost a few of our brave lads in the action.

We tended to our wounded and returned to camp secured our arms. We were then treated by the vineyard owner to a fine meal for supper and invited to their large bank barn for some entertainment and a good old fashion barn dance. They had procured a very good group of musicians to treat us with fine music and the men's hearts were lightened to be able to find ladies there in which to share the dance and merriment!! We were certainly overwhelmed by Mrs. Klay's (the vineyard owner)hospilitality and had a fine time ! We returned to camp and had a wonderful time around the fire renewing friendships and relaxing listening to camp music.

Sunday brought Reveille at 8 am. The men once again attending to the weapons and gear and it being Sunday a reduced duty schedule, I feeling it not necessary to drill today. We had a fine church service in camp at 10 am lead by Pvt. Jones of the 105 PVI which was very inspirational. We were once again treated to the hospilitaltity of Mrs. Klay as she provided a fine Dinner of a very good chili con carne the likes of which I haven't seen since the Mexican Campaign days. After seeing the men get their fill we assembled to take up a position on the high ground (hill) overlooking the strategic road intersect we were there to guard stacked arms . We were afforded not only a good view of the road but a beautiful panorama of the whole area from this point. There assembled a large crowd of local citizens upon the hill near our position, them curious again about our being in the area and we got reports of yet more enemy activity in the area and possibly another Prairie gun in tow with a small group of Confederate Infantry or secess bushwhackers. At about 1 pm we soon found out about this report as a shot rang out and Major Cope who had been observing the road area was felled by an enemy sniper round. We sounded the alarm for the men to retrieve their arms and I cautioned the civilians to take care and stay well behind us under cover. The enemy 'unmasked' their position at the base of the hill and at once opened up with their field piece. We came on line and gave them a few volley fires with good effect and advanced toward the enemy by assuming a dispersed skirmish line to minimize the effect of the gun. The lads moved forward in fine fashion and bravely overcame and routed the enemy and took their gun before it could be spirited away! It was a fine action and our brave boys were once more victorious!! And our mission had been completed ;the enemy threat in the area had been eliminated.

After having a few words with the locals and assuring them we had rooted out the enemy in the area we commenced to break camp and proceed to our next post.

I remain, respectfully your obedient servant & c....,

Dennis Rohrbaugh, Lieut. Col.
1st Battalion, Birney's Division

On a personal note: I wish to express my appreciation to Mrs. Klay and her employee's for the great hospitality at Christian Klay Vineyard. Also, thanks to Sgt. Major Donahue who saw to the details of this expedition.
This is certainly a beautiful location in the extreme ,300 acres, diverse terrain and would lend itself to all kinds of actions. This is centrally located for a large number of troops, being within an hours range of them. The vineyard has the draw factor for a spectator event and benefits both them and us in many ways!

If you have read Col Essigs comments you noticed he was discouraged by the CSA attendance. I must also comment and address this issue. I would really have liked to have had more 1st Battalion troops out to this event and would have been nice to have the one's show that in fact said they were..when you commit to an event, (1)not only do your friends and comrades look forward to and expect the support, but, (2)funds are expended to secure the amenities for the numbers reported for everyone's benefit and comfort. (3) The Field Officers (myself) plan actions and scenarios based on what is projected and then when we get on site and have a small remnant of what is reported, all the planning goes in the sinks!

Again, if you read Col. Essigs remarks ,the points I have stated here are , I believe, the source of his frustration as well and of anybody that tries to organize an event. We are asked to provide new, fresh events on a regional basis and are very discouraged when it appears to be blown off by folks when they are provided!

I very much understand that things come, family etc... all very understandable reasons not to be able to support an event, I have this in my own company and have no issue with it.

I appreciate all you in 1st Battalion very much and am always proud of you men, I am just at a loss to understand what happened at Chalk Hill.