The dead fell to the floor. Wave upon wave sinking into the knee length grass like waves breaking on a sandy beach – shot at close range on a battlefield filled with gun-smoke and the echo of violence….
In 1861, the United States of America split into two, the industrial North and the agricultural South. The reasons were complicated enough, but the motivation for the split revolved around the election of Abraham Lincoln as President. One of his policies was the abolition of slavery, which he saw as being against the principles of the Constitution. That same Constitution outlined that each state could act ‘in its sovereign and independent character’.
These ‘state rights’ were interpreted by some as the right to set their own laws and not have them imposed by federal government. To the Southern States, the threat of this was the last straw and one by one they broke away from the Union.
The Secession started in January 1861, and on 9 February they formed a government under Jefferson Davis and blockaded federal forts within their territory. Despite assurances from Lincoln on his inauguration, on 12 April, the Confederate States began bombarding Fort Sumner and the American Civil War began.
It was to last four bloody years.
At the ‘Blasts from the Past’ event in Romsey in Hampshire parts of the Civil war are recreated by members of the 18th Missouri Volunteer Infantry. As part of the Southern Skirmish Association, the living-war group portrays and interprets the lives and times of the civil war infantryman.
The ‘Company Street’ represents a semi-permanent camp from around 1863. It consists of the Company Headquarters tent at one end where the orders are posted and the Company Commander and his staff work and live. Branching off to the other end of the Street, is where the soldiers from the Company live in their tents, sometimes joined by their wives and where they prepare themselves for fighting.
It is here that they eat and spend some time sleeping and relaxing or having a drink. It is where they ready their weapons and prepare ammunition for the battles ahead. It became, at least for a short period, their home.
At the end of the street the Company colours are raised with pride each day. Carried respectfully through the Company Street as the troops stand to attention as they pass by and are placed on display for all to see. These colours traditionally marked the rally point for the troops during the confusion of battle and were carried with great pride into each confrontation. Written upon them are the battle honours won by the unit. During fighting, if the man carrying them was killed or injured, and the colours fell another soldier would quickly take his place to keep them held aloft.
On the battlefield at the event in Hampshire the Union soldiers from the North and the Southern Confederate army approached each other across the field. There had already been minor skirmishes between the scouts from the opposing sides leading up to this confrontation but as they came within musket and rifle range the engagement began.
…Volley followed volley as the fighting raged as the dead and dying began to slowly outnumber the living. They would join them soon. The Confederates launched wave upon wave against the Union lines. Fighting from the bushes and from the cover of trees they ran through dappled sunlight as they tried to overpower the walls of blue that stood on the field before them.
Like the last drops of rain following a storm the rifle fire began to end. Occasional shots disturbing the silence that now sat over the battlefield. Wounded men crawled away and as the shout went up from the Union soldiers as they claimed their victory the remaining Confederate soldiers melted away, back into the trees.
To see all my pictures from this event visit my Flickr page…. HERE
The website of the 18th Missouri can be viewed at www.18missouri.co.uk