Being A True And Faithful Account Of The Battle Of Filbert Grove

[Note: This post, as is occasionally my habit [1], has a title that is a gentle parody of the typical style of writing in the 19th century. Today I spent most of my day io solo mio at the Civil War Reenactment held at the Willamette Mission State Park. There was a battle there, but it was not fought near the mission building, which I did not see during my travels at any rate, but was instead fought across a sizeable area, mostly involving a grassy area outside of Flibert Grove, which is how I have titled this fictitious battle.]

Shortly after 9AM, I arrived at Wilamette State Park with a program and ticket in my hand, intent on enjoying what would be seen in what is billed as Oregon’s largest Civil War reenactments. As it happened, few people arrived early, since much of the audience for this particular event usually spends their morning in church. In what would be the first of several serious blunders with the program I was given, I ended up only going to the church services held in mid-19th century style by chance, since it was held a fair distance from how it was labeled on the map. At any rate, as was the case throughout the day, I found most of what I was looking for, so long as it was going on, even if it was not necessarily in the places labeled, and even if some places were not really labeled at all.

As it happens, church services were quite interesting, given the context that I was way underdressed, given the fact that the vast majority of the people there were in period costume and were the religious folk among the reenactors. The format included some Bible readings, like Psalm 24 and Joshua 24:14-27 (the famous passage where Joshua promises that he and his house will worship God forever). It included a lot of singing (“I Sing The Mighty Power Of God,” “Our God, our help in ages past,” “Jesus Shall Reign (?),” and one verse of “Blessed Be The Tie That Binds.” There was an open prayer requests, where the requests ranged from praying for the repentance of our country to the healing of cancer for a relative to helping a family member out with a troubled marriage to rain [2] to a child’s prayer for a lollipop. The chaplain gave a message on three layers of meaning about wearing the uniform–an appropriate message given the fact that most people were dressed in either civilian or military uniforms from the mid-1800’s–the uniforms worn by liveried servants, the uniform of a soldier (Ephesians 6 came up for mention in both of these sections), and the dress uniform of a royal prince, showing our trifold identity as servants, soldiers, and sons (and daughters) of God. It gave me much to ponder, as much as I felt out of place given my own religious beliefs. After the service ended with a benediction, I chatted with some of the people playing refugees, and the younger sister of the person I was mainly talking to, a young lady with Down Syndrome, gave me a hug, and then when I gently hugged her back she grabbed all of her other relatives and insisted on introducing them to me.

After that I went to the battlefield area near the grove and saw the Confederate cavalry demonstration. The person demonstrating the reasons for early Confederate superiority in cavalry and their later decline made some intriguing points about the fact that the war was so hard on horses that the average mount for both armies lasted through only six weeks of campaigning. Once the Union troopers gained familiarity with horses and once southerners had lost their initial mounts, the advantage went to the North in attritional warfare. Ironically enough, that same fellow, who was portraying a North Carolina cavalry trooper portrayed him as a reluctant rebel, who had voted against secession and believed it to be unwise, but whose identity was too locally focused on the state without a great deal of familiarity with the nation at large, and who fought in the Confederacy out of honor, because no one could hold their head up with everyone else having gone to war. Are we so much different nowadays, with our local and parochial bonds of age and class and region? Are we any better to make wise decisions in the face of mass insanity? Again, it gave me more to think about and ponder over, along with the ironic commentary that I was in one of the few places where one can see a Confederate flag fly and it be socially acceptable, at least for now. Given my own life history and ideological commitments, I do not think I would ever be able to roleplay as a Confederate soldier.

After watching the demonstration, or what amounted to a Civil War version of dressage, I wandered over to the Union camp. I chatted for a while with a couple of relatives who were military veterans in a Pennsylvania regiment made up of Irishmen out of the Philadelphia area and its immediate suburbs. They were friendly to talk to, and figured that anyone as knowledgeable and interested in the Civil War as I am needed to help present it. I then wandered around the camp, looking at some of the other regiments, and spent a fair bit of time talking to some of the older and more scholarly gentlemen out of the 20th Maine/1st Oregon. I found it very puzzling that the gentlemen there (and almost all of them were gentlemen, yet there were a few women who tried to pass themselves off as men to enjoy the fake fighting themselves) were mostly married or engaged or dating, and some of them even had their partners staying in the civilian town during the reenactment weekends, but they seemed to assume that as a single man that I would have an easier time doing it, despite the fact that my budget is at least a little constrained by the need to repay the national debt (otherwise known as my student loan burden). That gave me more to think about.

I then watched the battle in the heat of the early afternoon. The battle opened with some skirmishing fire out of sight, and then involved several complicated interchanges. The rebel artillery on the far left of the battlefield were gunned down, several companies of regiments of the Union came up to take the guns, while engaging fire with a heavily outnumbered Confederate unit behind a fence line. By the time Confederate reinforcements came, there was a cavalry duel and some horse cavalry coming from the right among the Confederates, followed by an eventual retreat by the woefully outnumbered Confederates. So, the good guys won the imaginary battle, but there were no charges. The afternoon battle was, of course, canceled on account of the heat, and concern that soldiers in woolens would suffer from heat exhaustion and sunstroke, which seems a reasonable fear to me. After the battle I ended up talking to two ladies in period dress, one of whom was waiting for her boyfriend/husband(?) to finish taking care of his horse, and the other had come from California on her first trip to an Oregon reenactment, full of interest in the jobs of women during the war and the lack of historical preservation in some parts of the United States. I was waiting for the speed firing drill to begin, but given the heat, it was not to be, so I walked to my car and left, with a lot to ponder on and muse over.


[2] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, History, Military History, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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