Saturday, March 8, 2014

Travelogue: Civil War Re-Enactment, Part 7

Battle of the Schoolhouse

Event: Civil War Re-Enactment
Date: Sunday, February 16, 2014
Location: Calico Ghost Town


The yellow ropes are back.  This time, Union soldiers occupy the upper road at the top of the main hill.  Their cannons point across a gully, toward the Confederate cannon on a second hill, where the old schoolhouse stands.  A Union soldier explains the ropes are for our own safety.  The gunpowder's real, and it's dangerous.

"Why don't you use real bullets, too?" quips a member of the audience.

"We'd have a hard time recruiting new people," the soldier replies.

Union Cannon Faces Confederate Cannon

I can't see the schoolhouse at all--one of the restaurants blocks it off.  The best I can do is peer across the gully from cannon to cannon.  The Union troops wait in lines, as the cannon is loaded.  Warning is given.  The cannon blasts.  At the same time, a unit of Union soldiers breaks off from the main group and makes for the schoolhouse.

It takes me a minute to figure out why.  The barrage of cannon fire gives the infantry cover.  They can march more safely when everyone's distracted by the Boom!  Sure enough, each time the Union cannons fire, another unit of foot soldiers take off.

Union Barrage

The Confederates fire back.  I don't know what kind of gunpowder they're sticking in, but their Booms! seems exponentially louder than the Union's.  Maybe it's because I know when to expect a blast from the Union cannon--I see the men load it and hear the leader shout "Fire!"  The Confederates take me by surprise; that makes the noise louder.  So I start to watch the Confederate cannon very closely.

Boom! goes the Confederate cannon

Boom! replies the Union cannon.

Suddenly, cheers break out from the audience.  I turn my head just in time to see the last unit of blue-coated soldiers go running down into the gully.  The flag bearer stands tall, as Union troops kneel and fire.  Snap, snap, snap.  Smoke wafts around them.

Charging Across the Gully

The artillery can't deal with this.  It's up to a few Confederate gunmen to hold the hill from the advance of Union troops.  There's something very Western about the scene.  The Confederates play a feisty group of bandits, the Union is the long arm of the law.  As the blue-coats fire their riffles in unison, a Confederate falls.  The audience Awws sympathetically.

Other stuff's going on, too.  The cannons keep firing.  Union soldiers sent out earlier are most likely conducting some awesome raid on the Confederate camp that I can't see at all.  Some green-coated Union sharpshooters invade the gully itself but die before they reach the cannons.  (I question the veracity of the term "sharpshooter.")

Fighting in the Gully: Confederates and Green Coat

Mostly, though, I'm entranced by the drama taking place at the base of the hill.  It's a shoot out!  Even though the Confederates have the high ground, the Union's superior numbers prove to be too much.  The Confederates drop like flies, until only a single soldier remains.

It looks like a firing squad.  The Union blasts at the lone Confederate, smoke pouring forth from their riffles.

Fun fact!  Do you know that the riffles in the Civil War were atrociously inaccurate?  Why, only a few hours earlier, some of the Confederates told me that getting hit with a bullet was considered an act of divine providence--if a minie ball pierced your heart, God clearly meant you to die.

Last Stand

And so, despite the fact that the lone Confederate is maybe ten feet away, not one of the Union soldiers can bring him down.  The Confederate gunman shoots a pistol into the thick of blue-coats.  Same result; not one of the enemy dies.  It's almost comical how close they stand and yet can't kill each other.  This would be a good time for bayonets, but those are banned for safety reasons.

At last the valiant Confederate receives a shoulder wound.  He holds his ground, but it's over.  The Union soldiers shoot, and he falls into the dust.  Now the Union soldiers are free to capture the cannon.

Union Takes the Hill

From the furthest edges of my vision, I see the porch of the schoolhouse.  Union soldiers have taken it.  They march to the Confederate cannon to join their brothers in claiming victory.  The star-spangled banner flaps triumphantly in the wind.

Then, as if on cue, the dead soldiers rise zombie-like from the ground.

The audience applauds.

Confederate Cannon

* * *

To Be Continued...

Disclaimer: All quotes are approximate.

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