Monday, December 15, 2014

Richmond Hill GA - Battle of Ft. McAllister

Ogeechee River

     We are taking a brief run 50 miles back up the coast to Richmond Hill.  This last Saturday was the 150'th anniversary of the Battle of Ft. McAllister, which represented the end of Sherman's march to the sea.

     Like him or hate him, he sure made a name for himself.  As is the case in any war, there were many thugs who seize the opportunity to prey upon their fellow man, and the stories of what the men following Sherman are everywhere through the Carolinas and Georgia.  They purposely ruined water wells, equipment, burned any type of property or other historical records, they raped, pillaged, robbed and murdered seemingly at every opportunity.  The idea was the to defeat the south they had to be ruined economically, and to that regard Sherman did his job well.

     A large group of spectators has gathered to watch the re-enactment of the battle.  Sherman watched it from the roof of a house across the river two miles away.   If you didn't see my photos from here when we came through last week, just click here to see what this fort looks like with no people.  

     But the story here today is not so much about the battle that took place long ago, it is about those that gather to play the roles as re-enactors.

     This is Andrea Schmitt from Bavaria Germany.  She explained to me through her thick accent that she and seven others came here from Germany for this event.  Some of their ancestors were German mercenaries who were stationed here at the fort during the battle, so they all decided to buy period dress and come to the United States for the event.  They are spending two weeks here, and on this day she had three big iron kettles of stew cooking on a fire that she was preparing for those that were doing the re-enactment.

Michael Falco

     Meet Michael Falco,, a photographer from New York City.  Michael has taken it upon himself to go to all of the major 150th anniversary reenactments over the past few years.  He shoot photos at every event with this large-format pinhole camera.  In his words: "For me, this is a personal odyssey along the lengths and breadth of America's deepest wound.  I trust the images will evoke the wonder, the awe, and, ultimately the peace I've found on this pilgrimage through the country's consecrated domains."

     Here are some images taken by a civil war era photographer 150 years ago:

     Michael's images are haunting - click here to view his work.  He strikes me as genuine and deeply connected to his work.  He is several years into it now, and I understand some of his work from this project is even making it into the library of congress.  If you have time, read the section titled "pin hole cameras."

Russ Powell

     This is Russ Powell from West Virginia who retired after 27 years in the US Army.  Russ travels to events six to seven times a year to portray a blacksmith.  He enjoys educating people on the techniques and equipment used back in those days.

Buddy Jowens

     This is Buddy Jowens of Guyton Georgia, a 27 year employee of Gulfstream, the corporate jet manufacturer.  He has researched bugle calls from the old regiments and plays the bugle at re-enactments when he can.  There was a pretty sophisticated system of bugling on the battlefield which allowed the bugler to express an order, identify who the order came from and who it applied to.  Back in the day, they used to make up little songs to go with the different bugle patterns so soldiers could remember them and know what they were supposed to do.  In an active battle, a bugle was still effective for several hundred yards.


     There were some young ladies who sat, knitted and sang carols for those who happened by.

     There was even a drummer boy.  There is a story at one of the forts about the drummer boy who was leading a column, and did not realize that everyone behind him had been shot.  As he approached the enemy line, the soldiers waved for him to turn around and go back.  When he looked and saw no one behind him, he spun on his heel, then deliberately marched back the other direction, still beating his drum.

     Some of the people you can tell what they role they are playing - others are not so easy.  I am not sure if this fellow was portraying a wealthy local land owner or part of the military.

     And then there was "Press Row."  Somehow I ended up with a press pass (Thanks Valarie Ikhwan) and was standing in everyone else's way.  I have become what I despised for so long.

     There were even some fellows playing the role of cavalry here.

     So the Union Army advanced through the woods, led by scouts and snipers.  The re-enactment took place 150 years to the minute of the original battle.  It was getting dark, so image quality suffered a bit with my camera.  In the following photo, notice the fellow crouched down behind the tree.  

     That is Michael Falco, doing what he does.  I have so much respect for those that have a vision and see it through.

     Soon the main lines of the Union Army started approaching the fort. . .

     . . and those in the fort fought back, firing cannon and rifles.  Since there were about two hundred men defending the fort and four thousand attacking it, the battle didn't last long - in history or in the reenactment.

       Back in the day, everyone was in a hurry to get their flag on the flag pole.  Here are the Union fellows breaching the walls of the fort and hurrying their flag up the hill.

     In short order, all of the echoes from rifle and canon fire have faded, and only gun smoke remains in the outer ditches.   There was only one fatality 150 years ago - the fort's pet cat was killed.  

     And here is the scene from a week ago:

     Prior to the event, I asked one of the re-enactors if the outcome would be any different this time.  He said that it wouldn't - he played a Confederate every year and every year he lost.  I asked him if he had considered some more modern weaponry, to which he gave a tight-lipped smile and wandered off.

    Just down the street we stop at a small marina at Kilkenny that I missed on the way through last week.  

There are numerous of these small marinas in this stretch.

     Meet Robert Bacot, who co-owns the marina with his brother Danny.

     Robert is quick to assist boats coming in - here is a pleasure boater heading for Jacksonville Florida that he helped moor.  

     Robert's father bought this property back in the early 1960's and ran it for twenty five years.  Robert and his brother took it over in 1984 and have been at it since.  That is fifty years of being run by the same family - a long time for any business in this day and age.

     Here is the old plantation house that was built on this property back in the 1700's.  Today it sits vacant, but it is owned by Robert and Danny's mother and they still take good care of it.

     And for today's parting shot.  Remember that the only fatality was the fort's pet cat?  Well, out of nowhere this cat appeared yesterday and began hanging around the marina.  I wonder . . .

     EMAIL me if you like, DONATE if you can, Read Today's Meditation if you have time, but whatever you do be sure to . . .

Have an awesome Tuesday !!

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