Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Faces of Birney's Division

We got lucky this year and had a number of excellent professional photographers show up at Hale Farm. Here is a series of pics that features a lot of familiar faces from our organization.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Photos from Hale Farm

The following link is a great set of photos from Rodney Johnson taken at Hale Farm this past weekend. Enjoy!


Monday, August 16, 2010

Birney’s Division - After Action Report – Hale Farm, 2010

This year was a big change for the event at Hale Farm and Village. Everything from the organizational structure to the camps and the battle scenarios themselves. For many months the staffs from the Army of the Ohio and the 2d Battalion of Birney’s Division, along with Medich’s Battalion on the Confederate side, have been working together with the HFV team to develop a whole new approach to the event.

The first major change was moving the Federal camps into the village. I have been putting that idea on the table for years. Filling the green up with military streets is something you have not seen at Hale in 12 years. It is an impressive site. I hope it worked out well for everyone and I would very much like to hear your feedback. We didn’t get any complaints as people came in. They seemed to be pretty happy with where they ended up. Before you send in the one gripe I am expecting, we know wood was an issue. HFV will continue to work on that. However, I did receive photos this morning of a great number of left over piles of wood in the camps. With that I wonder why we keep hearing of a shortage.

The other big change was to the battle scenarios. The over-all Federal Commander Col Bob Minton from the Army of the Ohio is quite a visionary when it comes to looking at a piece of ground and developing a unique combat scenario. Contributing to this was the addition of Confederate Cavalry. With 30 mounted riders and 150 Reb infantry, against just shy of 200 Federal rifles, plus artillery on both sides, this was the biggest and most even “dust up” at the sleepy little home of Jonathan Hale in quite a number of years.


The morning started off indicating things to come. Steamy and hot. Though the majority of the Federal Army didn’t know it, the Confederate forces would start this engagement by bringing the fight right into our camps in the village. Thank you so much to everyone who stood a guard post and especially the 5th Ohio Sharp Shooters and 83rd PA for their key roll in identifying the enemy as they approached.

Consisting of cavalry and infantry, the boys from the South hit the camps like a sledge hammer. 2d Battalion quickly got tangled with Rebs from two sides but we pushed them out of the back end of town as the 1st Battalion engaged to push them back through the middle. Once 2d Battalion moved Col Medich and his boys across the fence and into the North Pasture, we held up on the road waiting for the signal to move forward and cross the fence ourselves. This signal was in the form of Col Perry’s men being pushed out of town and across the fence about 100 yards further down the road by the 1st Battalion.

Let me take this moment to talk a little about scripted scenarios. I know there are many times when people in the ranks say or think, “Why aren’t we doing this?” or “Why are we doing it THIS way?” Though some things may seem odd at times, just remember I am guiding us through a scripted combat presentation that includes visual cues of when certain things are to happen. If the timing gets out of sync, you may have to idle until it realigns. It is just like a script for a movie or TV show. Everyone wants to see Rudolph fly, but you can’t until they sing the song about the Island of Misfit Toys (See… I bet you never thought you would read a reference to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” in an After Action Report, but there it is. Now you can tell your grandchildren about it).

Just at the moment things were getting back on track, someone went down with the heat. Saturday was in the mid-90s and the heat index was 109. That is a danger zone. With having already fought for a half hour in the village, and a lag time in the arrival of ice in the lines, people where overheating. The original plan was for the battle to explode out of the village and to see soldiers from both sides streaming over the fences as the fight moved into the pasture and in front of the spectators. Once we stood down while the ambulance attending to the person in need, it really let the wind out of our sails.

Though I think everyone would have been happy as clams if the battle had concluded with just the fight in the village, we had an obligation to the paying public to conduct the portion of the battle meant for them. I appreciate that some units had to retire. I also appreciate those who continued the fight once we got into the pasture. I will never ask you to do more than you are willing to do. One of my primary jobs at a Battalion Commander is to be concerned with your safety and to make sure you go home Sunday night in one piece.

The battle in the North Pasture seemed like it would be a simple task compared to the village but with Confederate cavalry swarming everywhere, we still had a way to go. 2d Battalion was to push the ANV across the field but the cav had slaughtered the 1st Battalion so Col Medich came after our flank. I wasn’t expecting that but he went after a target of opportunity as he should have. However, once we became entangled, I said F it (literally). I don’t want anyone in hand to hand and though we were supposed to win the day, I couldn’t see a way to stay on scenario as we were pined on all sides. The Colonel and I had a brief pow wow and he suggested that I leave someone guarding them and they would escape. Poor Sgt Maj Donahue got rifle-butted and Col Medich and his men pulled away to come at us again along with the cav, with Col Perry and the ANV still at our front. This must have been at this point where I dozed off, because when I woke up, we had “won”. How that happened, I have no idea! General Kelly and Gen Maffei from the Division were also on the field to support the boys from the Battalion. Maybe they saw something I missed, like… a Sherman tank that came to our aid!


After a good rain shower Saturday evening, the cooler temperatures on Sunday where welcomed. As is tradition, many reenactors began packing up the things they would not need in preparation for departure later that afternoon. There was also a lot of free time during the bulk of Sunday for church, sutlering, getting a wet plate photo taken, etc.

As we did at the Zoar event last year, Birney’s and Army of the Ohio held a Brigade Dress Parade.

From there we went to our staging area for the battle which took place in the North Pasture which would hold a number of surprises. The key to this battle was keeping the crowd looking over us from behind while we engaged the Confederates in the wooded heights. Eventually the Rebs would push us closer and closer to the spectators so they could feel as if they were in the fight right behind the main lines.

Though we “lost” on Sunday, the action made up for the unexpected stutter in the fight on Saturday. Many of you came off the field and said, “THAT was a hell of a fight!!”

As we say in the film and video business, it’s in the can. Another Hale Farm has come and gone with smiles all around and thoughts about next year already.

Just from my perspective, I have a number of people that I want to thank…

Col Minton for his planning and leadership, and the Army of the Ohio staff especially Col Rusche and Lt Buker. Good friends and good times.

To the Birney’s folks, Maj Gen Kelly and Brig Gen Maffei for coming over and seeing how we have fun in Ohio. Capt Penix and Lt Strichko for their EXEMPLARY work as adjutators. Maj Van Meter and again Capt Penix for operating the Battalion Wings. And Sgt Maj Donahue for coming over to lend his “find a way to get it done” talents and voice!

All of the soldiers and officers who busted their hump in the Battalion and made my job look easy (even if I don’t call for a right face before marching out sometimes).

Our "foes" Col Medich and Col Perry.

To Pam, Patty, Joy, Kristy and Jen for helping keeping Bob, Dave, the junior staff and I watered and fed along with their own Company.

Certainly not last, Kelly and Beth from HFV who, especially in the last month, tied this thing up with a nice little bow and made the event happen.

With the 150th Anniversary of the Civil War beginning next year, large regional events such as Hale Farm and Zoar are going to be as key to bringing history home to our neighbors and friends as national events such as Manassas and Gettysburg.

Respectfully Submitted:

Christopher L. Smith, Lt Col
Commanding 2d Battalion
Birney’s Division

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Hale Farm - First Call!!

The first Birney's Division max effort event in Ohio is almost upon us. The 2010 Civil War reenactment at Hale Farm and Village will be August 13-15, 2010. As of today, there are over 600 reenactors registered.

At this time, I am asking for the following information from the units participating...

1. Unit name
2. Email contact
3. Number of military personnel
4. Number and type of tents
5. Are you already planning to merge with another company?

Please email this information as soon as possible to clsmith@5thohio.com

For directions to Hale Farm, visit their web site at http://www.wrhs.org/index.php/hale

Thank you so much and I look forward to seeing all of you there!

Your servant,
Lt Col Christopher Smith
Commanding, 2d Battalion