Shiloh, TN, April 2017, After Action Report
I think I just now have the energy to sit down and put
some thoughts down in regards to Shiloh, as I was exhausted after the
event. I'll go into more detail in a
post on the Grand Armies of the Republic page about noting all the logistics
and pre-planning done by the event staff (Earl Zeckman and John Nash Jr), and
the (not kidding, 2 site visits and (by my count) 8 conference calls led by the
overall commander Bob A Minton who did an amazing job at getting this event
I arrived on Wednesday and was greeted by Terri Cooney
Zeckman working the registration table.
After setting up on site we worked through a pretty windy and rainy
Wednesday and Thursday, but by Friday things were starting to shape up for some
great weather. We had most of the
company, battalion and brigade leaders on site by early Friday afternoon so we
met to discuss the schedule for the weekend.
I enjoyed camping next to 1st Battalion Steve Lundburgh who was great to
work with all weekend.
I was honored to command all the infantry for the Friday
afternoon battle, and we had three battalions that, while never worked together
as a brigade, performed beyond expectations.
2nd Battalion 4th Company Captain Ryan VanMaldegen was tasked with being
the bait of the scenario and led his company in drill in the field. One the attack unfolded he was joined by 3rd
Company Captain Douglas McComas.
Eventually the battle unfolded with the 1st Battalion (led by the fierce
Colonel Dave Brunner) and Federal Calvary coming to our aid. The Confederates didn’t put up too much of a
fight so we opted to retire off the field.
Saturday morning’s battle started off early with a 6:00a
First Call. This battle was in two parts
with us initially marching out with some interesting fog and deploying on the
hill. As we covered for the rest of Army
retreating behind us, our 1st Brigade fought a very stubborn delaying action
allowing the rest of the Army to reform in the next field where the battle
continued. Excellent work by Brian Riley
and Aaron Sayles on the 1st Battalion Right Wing as well as Captain William
Behrman of the 2nd Battalion 2nd Company.
On Saturday afternoon, we performed Brigade Drill which
was something we don’t get to do very often.
I must say all the Battalion and Company Officers did a GREAT job with
this drill. There were 5 or 6 specific
things I wanted to do in terms of deploying and forming and we got those down
so quickly, there was no reason to make it last any longer. (I only deployed our column of Battalions
incorrectly one time…one time only….pretty sure no one noticed except Ian
Fulford. 1st Battalion 2nd Company Greg
Kohn was great to work with on this drill.
Saturday afternoon had a delay but it was due to the
incredible number of spectators coming for the event. In part, these are the folks that pay the
bills and I for one supported the delay in order to allow more of them to come
see the event. The battle had an
impressive display of artillery. After
the battle, Lt. Colonel Jesse Poe led a patrol into the town of Purdy which was
something we don’t get to do very often.
It was right after the delayed battle so I know the guys were tired but
I made the mistake of staying to long (or maybe going at
all?) to the 3rd Michigan Infantry Co. F's camp where someone hit the ‘on’
button for Gary Houghtaling. I was also
supplied green liquid and for the rest of Saturday night there was probably as
much fog in my head as there was on the battlefield Saturday morning.
The Sunday battle had us march into the farthest corner
of the battle field to stage. Our
battalion kicked off the fight with an initial assault. A few observations here…the men of 1st
Battalion looked amazing. I really saw
Lt. Colonels Howard Morgan and Ted Opran do a fantastic job. I commented to Dave that their battle line
was as straight as a ruler. Jason Andrew
Brunner was great as 1st Company Commander, setting the pace, all the companies
looked fantastic. (In a national event,
what better place than 1st company, 1st Battalion??) I had to dispatch Marty Walker to the middle
of the field to act independently, and he did a great job not just during the
Sunday battle, but all weekend ‘appearing’ right in front of me when I needed
him most and figuring out my hand signals.
Our final push drove the Rebels from the field and we marched back to
Compliments to 2nd Battalion Sgt. Major John Vohlken for
his excellent work on the Guard Mount (several commented to me on it), and to
Thomas Berlucchi, my Chief of Staff who I could not have done the event
without. TJ Berlucchi filled in for
drumming at several formations and did a great job as well, and last, thanks to
my ‘bugle translator’ Tom Emmerick, for keeping me honest to the bugle calls
for 1st Brigade.
I appreciate all of you did your part except one group
who left about one cord of wood stacked in the middle of the field (because,
you know, I didn’t communicate expectations there….). Having said that, there was no trash to speak
of in our camping area, so thank you for that as well as minding the 'no fire
I expected nothing less than excellence from the Indiana
and Michigan boys in terms of their performance as I work with them regularly,
but it was my first time with the MDM and KATs in 1st Battalion and they were
hands down an amazing group of guys to march with who are well led and well
trained. The other company officers I
didn’t already mention, Todd Koster, Jeff Cordell, Todd Wisnant Matt Mallory,
I am grateful for all of your hard work. (If I mixed up any company numbers / names
here please let me know).
Hope my voice comes back soon….
MI, August 2016, After Action Report
Ton of front end planning credit has to go to Thomas Berlucchi who facilitated several conference calls with
all the principals for the event prior to the weekend, thanks Tom!
When I arrived on Friday afternoon Major Greg Swank was already ‘on scene’ and forming Headquarters.
Thankfully Keith Graham Harrison had already laid out 5 company streets (which at the time I thought would
be adequate allowing for last year’s number with some growth. John Vohlken was busy providing some much
needed pest control over the weekend, thanks John.
As we compiled company reports, we were actually considering consolidating to 4 companies based on the
numbers we were seeing. When Saturday morning came our ranks swelled to not only 5 large companies, also
we were pleased to see Scot Spiekerman with the 114th PA on site with a
full company. Unfortunately due to a registration miscommunication I
didn’t have a 6th Company Street laid out (sorry guys…)
but we made it
day started with a few rough edges but by the end of the drill we were
pretty much in sync and we practiced a few maneuvers that (believe it
or not) we actually used in the Saturday battle, such as by the right
of companies to the front and to the rear. The battle plan called for
us to march out in front of the crowd and wait for the battle to start
(which we did). We also moved into the crowd to interact with the
spectators which everyone seemed to enjoy.
We engaged the Confederate forces and pushed back and forth but were finally ran off the field. A quick note
here, unfortunately the JDR Commander Greg Van Wey was unable to attend Jackson. Greg is always a
pleasure to work with. In his place was Bill Adams. You can tell these two are cut from similar cloth as Bill
was incredibly accommodating and just amazing to work with. It creates such a positive experience when you
have commanders on the field putting their full effort into fulfilling the vision of the battle, not trying to break
scenarios. Bill was fantastic to work with.
After the battle we were able to honor John Clark and Jim Newkirk for their many years of service to Cascades
Park. We were also able to have a moment to honor several folks in the re-enacting community who we have
Later in the evening we had a Parade scheduled (which I might a few people on staff seemed to think we
should cancel due to weather…) but, they were WRONG! The rain cleared off and we were able to have a
solid performance on Parade. The only thing that would have made the Parade (and the event) better would
have been to have consistent music.
We had a very solid bugler and drummer in and out of the event over the weekend, just not all the time. I’d
really like to make that a goal for next year. That concluded most of the formal activities for Saturday as the
dance was unfortunately cancelled. Later in the evening I did have the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Spiekerman
who was wonderful to talk to. I understand she keeps an axe close to
her tent but thankfully she did not feel the need to retrieve it.
Sunday’s drill we practiced the maneuvers (specifically deploying the column) we would use later in the day.
The battle plan for Sunday involved having Kevin Yeager's crew initially engaging the Confederates on our
front. Kevin, as always, put on a great show for the crowd. As for the
infantry, our plan was to march to the top of the hill behind the
battlefield and then march down through the crowd (which the spectators
always enjoy). As we came down the hill we went into a column of
companies then deployed. I have talked before about having solid left
and right ‘hooks’ as a battalion, and with Scot
Spiekerman's boys on the left and Nick Leach's AOW company on the right
(including my awesome home company of the 49th Indiana Co F), I had
them. Up until that well placed Confederate gun opened up on our
left (sorry 6th Company, we had to get through there!). Anyway, it
decimated Scott’s boys, but I was fortunate enough that the Marty
Walker's 3rd Michigan filled the gap. At one point when we may have
been turned, it was calming to see Ryan VanMaldegen in the thick of it
already anticipating what I was going to ask him…and he said he
would not allow the left to be turned.
Speaking of nonverbal communication, it seemed like I was also totally in sync with Russ Paul and his HUGE
Company. It was hard to yell the orders out over the noise of the battle (and the announcer) and I could lock
eyes with Russ and know based on his expression if I needed to repeat any orders or change anything. Moving
towards the center of the battalion, I also have to compliment a few more company commanders. Nick Miner
turned in a solid performance managing 4th Company and was always where
he needed to be and was great to work with. Last, 3rd company which was
tag teamed by Chad Johnson and J.R. Schroeder….gents, you both
did fantastic not only in drill, but were crisp and timely in both
battles. Great job to both of you, it was my pleasure to work with you.
I’d like to thank two incredible wing commanders, Denny Whiting and Ron Wilkins, as well as Greg Swank
for his hard but fantastic work all weekend. Also thanks to Gary 'Smith' Houghtaling for stepping up to be
Sergeant Major all weekend. Unlike Hastings, I was able to spend a bit more time around Gary and have a
huge appreciation for his sense of humor. Matt Guinn was also in cam p and on staff, and helped with the day
to day running of the event. Of special note also should be William Eichler who provided the flags for the
weekend. Last and certainly not least, TJ Berlucchi for dispatching communications to the field.
issue to discuss…some of you may have been aware there were some
vehicle break ins over the weekend. The responsible party was
caught very quickly by the local police. However, the event staff will
be taking the extra step to hire additional security at the event next
year to patrol the parking lots, so I think that is an appropriate and
responsible step on their part.
See you at Perryville! (get registered!!)
MI, July 2016, After Action Report
Apologies for my late report. We wrapped up another fantastic Hastings weekend. First, the weather. Wow, I
am pretty sure I can’t remember a Hastings where I needed a blanket to sleep. The mosquitoes seemed to be
minimal, and although there was a brief period of time where a significant storm looked like it might come
through the area on Sunday, the lake dissipated its strength and we generally had great weather all the way
Many to thank this time around. I think we all realized just how much work Keith Graham Harrison has put
into Hastings, and as always we missed him. Doing a fantastic job filling in his shoes was Greg Swank, who
not only kept the weekend running smoothly, but also pulled off a fantastic Parade on Saturday. Ivan Gucci
Vargas also did a phenomenal job making the next evolution in the battalion orders documents, thank you! The
other members of the staff did a fantastic job, including Wing Commanders Denny Whiting and Dave
Bauman, Tom Emerick and Bill Combs. I’d like to make a special note in regards to Ron Wilkins, he was
everywhere. He made sure everyone was online when they needed to be, chased down issues, resolved issues, could NOT say enough about his hard work. Gary Houghtaling was incredible at Sergeant Major, and
wow…let’s talk about Kevin Yeager…we’ll talk more about the cavalry a bit later.
Thanks to Jim Newkirk for keeping everything in motion, and as always I have to tip my hat to our noble
Rebel friends, led by Greg Van Wey.
It was an honor for all of us to form and honor both Jim Tononi of the 4th Michigan Co A Volunteer Infantry
Reenactors as well as Rich Roscoe of the 24th Michigan Volunteer Infantry, and it was such a class act for the Jeff Davis Rifles to participate in that, thank you gentlemen.
I thought the drill was quick and to the point, we accomplished what we needed to and used much of it during
the battle. Saturday’s battle on the High Meadows was certainly hard fought…but the cavalry…wow the
cavalry. Those guys did a fantastic job controlling the field. Also of special note I wanted to recognize Brian
D. Jankowski for all his input in regards to the battle planning for Saturday.
Sunday morning’s tactical required us to capture an artillery piece which, with the help of the Cavalry, I think
we had in our possession in a count of ‘minutes’. From there we pulled it back up to a hill and controlled the
field for the majority of the scenario, although I have to say there were some times when the Rebs were giving us a pretty hard push. In the end, had we not had the Cavalry, I am pretty sure the outcome would have been more to chance. Thanks to the artillery crew for lugging the gun up and down the field for us!
Sunday’s battle in town resulted in a Union defeat as our forces came on to the field and were chewed up in
pretty short order by the Confederate Army.
Thank you for allowing me to serve as your Colonel…looking forward to seeing all of you at Cascades Civil
MI, August 2015, After Action Report
much to say in regards to Jackson…let’s start at
beginning. What many people did not see was the tremendous
planning that went into the event before anyone even stepped a foot on
grounds. Special thanks goes to Thomas Berlucchi , as he set
teleconferences including via GoTo Meeting (sharing computer screens)
the event the maximum chance of success.
to that, but still even prior to the event, Keith
Graham Harrison was there laying out the company streets, and the
there laying out the civilian camp, so by the time most of us were
looked pretty organized!
night we conducted an officers meeting and, much like
Hastings, we reviewed the schedule as well as the drill maneuvers we
to do. I think this was time well spent as the drill on
simply outstanding. I often find that at any event,
I’ll have one of the
drills and one of the battles I like the best, and they are typically
opposite days. This weekend was no exception, but
I’ll get to the battles
soon enough. I had two of my sons ( Rob Roy –
(22), and Ray Van (20),
at Headquarters as well to assist, which was very enjoyable for me.
staff was amazing, we had the likes of Keith Harrison as Chief
of Staff (more on him later), Nathan Malone as Sergeant Major, my
Right Wing Commander Dave Bauman, Denny Whiting did a great job as Left
Commander with his Great Lakes Battalion boys, and I had the pleasure
getting to know Robert Rock who’s service was invaluable as
Aide-de-Camp. I didn’t really get a chance to meet
the rest of his
family, but his daughters were there as well. Special thanks
artillery wizardry of Jim Newkirk, and although he was only
‘on our side’
Saturday, I have come to have a high regard for Kevin Yeager's cavalry
skills. I also would be remiss if I didn’t mention
important music is. We had a one drummer that popped in for a
(not really sure what happened to him), but a young man whose last name
didn’t catch, but his first name was Jonathon, was arguably
one of the best at
giving a beat to march to I have heard in a long time, and was there
of the weekend.
drill on Saturday we moved into battle preparations, including
a rousing prayer by Reverend Charlie Buckhahn (wow that man can
As we formed up, many were surprised and delighted to see Dave
the field as ‘Commander Emeritus’ for the battle on
marched out with us. Although it went
‘well’, it was not my favorite of
the two battles. It was too over scripted with too many last
changes, and frankly I don’t enjoy that kind of set
up. Colonel Nick
Medich was gracious enough to come over and provide some guidance as
to how we
might move him off the field, only underscoring the fact that the man
class act. We came out and pushed the Rebels off the field
and that was
basically that. One thing I have begun to rely on time and
time again, is
the solid performance of my ‘bookend’ companies,
Marty Walker and the 3rd
Michigan boys on the right, and Scot Spiekerman and his Zouaves on the
can’t tell you how assuring it is to see them
there. Also performing good
work with some punches in the middle were Captains Russ Paul , J.R.
, and several more. After the battle, the event organizers
had set up a
special ceremony to honor Dave Shackelford, Nick Medich, and (although
didn’t know it at the time), Keith Harrison. (This
would not be the first
time we had something planned for Keith he was not aware of).
recognized all three men and provided them plaques for all of what they
done for Jackson and for re-enacting.
marched back to camp with a planned parade later in the
evening. Again, tip of the hat to the Rebel Army, they came
over to link
up with us for the Parade which actually was a ceremony to recognize
Keith. What can you say about a man who has given so much, so
for so many years? Keith walked among the men after he was
pistol as recognition of his service.
Sunday we formed up for drill and this drill went well, just
not quite as smooth as Saturday’s. I hold myself
responsible for that, as
I think a ‘do different’ for me will be to have a
brief Officer’s meeting BOTH
Friday and Saturday to review drill concepts. Also before
battle, I also had the pleasure of meeting Russ Paul’s wife
for the first time.
battle (at least for me) was a bit more loosely scripted
but more enjoyable. I have to say I feel like I am really in
Greg Van Wey (the Confederate Commander on Sunday) in terms of how we
battles flow. I am looking forward to working with him more
more. We ended up getting pushed off the field Sunday, but I
bloodied their noses at bit before we did.
nothing else, I am incredibly excited about the Cumberland
Guard and the direction it is taking moving forward. I
received a lot of
positive feedback and offers of assistance.
thanks to all of you who shouldered a musket for Guard Mount,
it is very much appreciated. I’d also like to
extend an invite to ‘All
Ya’All’ to consider coming down to Hartford City,
IN on October 9, 10, 11 2015.
Find more details at http://hartfordcitycwdays.com/
you for letting me be a part of your weekend.