Three Razberries for those in Command of the Southern Forces!
And a Guarded "Thank You" to the Event Organizers...
By Cpl. Phil McBride
Raymond II was another lesson in the dangers of sequels. Raymond I in 1998 remains a highlight to all I speak to who were there with me. We bivouac camped, we marched, we skirmished, we were well ambushed, we waded Fourteen Mile Creek and fought a fine defensive withdrawal from the field. The idea of doing it again was met with great anticipation, ten-hour drive notwithstanding. Sadly, Raymond II, for all the obvious planning and good intentions, never made it out of the starting blocks with any hope of finishing in the same class as Raymond I. What a shame.
I canít think of many endeavors that would include more diverse details than organizing a large scale campaign reenactment event. Each of dozens of details are open to criticism, and many of them will halt the show if things slip sideways. Like water availability. Like adequate directions given to the commanders to insure tactical situations are understood. Like a nut with lead in his pistol.
Having driven all night, we arrived at Camp Peavyhouse around 8:00 AM Friday morning, ready to go. Instead, we sat. And sat. And watched folks arrive until late afternoon. Our battalion numbers did grow impressively. In fact we grew to regimental strength as the RIB, a great group of authentic boys from somewhere else fell in as our left wing of two companies of about thirty rifles each. Then six Norwegian volunteers were escorted in and assigned to the Color Company (Cos. F and K and some old hands from the 7th Texas unit out of Waco). Our company did portray an international impression common to frontier communities with our San Antonio Hispanic lads marching elbow to elbow with the Scandinavian volunteers. We finally marched a couple of miles down the old railway road. We did fall out into a field once to fend off a company of federal cavalry, but the excitement was short lived. We marched to the end of the railway cut, and marched some more crossing a creek and proceeded some small distance further with no sign of more federals. Word that seeped into the ranks was that their water source had broken and the yanks had withdrawn until
re-supplied with aqua. O.K.
The next twelve hours or so were the highlight of the weekend, in spite of some obvious command problems beyond the battalion level. More on those in a minute. We marched back across the creek, threw down our knapsacks and blanket rolls on either side of the dirt road and waited to learn what the big bugs had in mind for us. We were soon told that this was our evening home. Quickly canteen details were sent way back down the road to the last water spigots. I missed that detail, but was soon ordered to form a firewood detail and get a couple of fires going. Drawing ďvolunteersĒ from our blended company, we pulled washed-up limbs out of the creek bed and started back to camp, each loaded with an armful of dead wood. Except Joey, that is. Joey, the largest Norwegian, hell, the largest guy in the battalion, brought back a whole dead tree slung over his shoulder like an Enfield. Good fella, that Joey. I really wanted him in the front rank right in front of me.
By the time the fires were going, Sgt. Yonder tells me Iím gonna set out the first detail of pickets for the battalion. He hands me a list. I reminded Yonder I couldnít read since I lost my specs a while back and he knew it. He told me to round up the detail anyway and I better remember the sentry stations if I was gonna pull that blind crap. O.K. At dusk my sentry detail set out to find the chosen spots to protect the battalion from an expected night attack. One station was up on a bluff in the woods overlooking the creek where we hoped they might try to cross. I enjoyed using one-word directions with lots of arm waving to let my Nordic volunteers know what to do when they saw blue approaching in the dusk. Whatís Norwegian for shoot, shout, and skedattle? As it turned out, no Yanks appeared but our sentries did hear lots of northern accented talk across the creek.
Around midnight our dirt road became a highway for horses and troops coming and going, and a testy command confrontation held down the way a bit. It seems that Big Bug One expected one thing to happen, but Big Bug Two neglected to let the battalion leadership know just what that was, all the while Big Bug One thought things were going as he planned them. Or something. Hell, Iím just a rifleman in the ranks and go where Iím pointed. But thatís the way the fly on the horseís butt described the midnight command conference to me.
Whatever transpired by the light of the moon, by dawn we had risen, packed, and were on the road, first this way, then that way as we quickly learned we had been treated to a lovely blue pincer movement which revealed large federal battalions on either side of us, eager to complete their tactical triumph.
Then the idiot stopped the whole show when he let fly real lead that darned near killed a fellow reenactor. The tactical shut down immediately as ambulances and police arrived on the scene and we all endured an hour of waiting and an inspection for lead where there should only be paper and powder. The victim survived, thank God, but minus a testicle and with a damaged penis.
It was barely eight in the morning and from then until four-thirty in the afternoon we mostly sat and waited. In í98 the fight for Fourteen Mile Creek was a fine, well-developed demonstration of what we brag reenacting to be. In í01 the Red River Battalion held the creek line for a while, then retired. That was all for us, and as I watched, that was just about all there was for the whole southern force. Again, a lack of communication among the high command and probably too little space for the large number of units led to a half-taken opportunity to put on the show we were capable of doing.
At that point the battalion started its march back down the railway road, and I skedattled myself, having to be home for a church event on Sunday morning. I donít know what happened on Sunday, but Iíve read on the forums that there werenít any more tactical clashes. I suppose the climatic battle of Championís Hill provided a good show.
Our battalion leaders deserve our three cheers for both the fine manner the Red River Battalion, and guests, performed and for having to professionally endure the ineptness of our military leadership. Lost opportunities for high quality tactical activities at the brigade and division level were clear even to me. How many hours of sittiní does it take to figure that out? We really did nothing more than march up and back a single road with a teasing, but unfulfilled, hint of night battle.
The shooting tragedy aside, Raymond II never got untracked as the large-scale campaign event it was in í98. Iím sure that are lots of good reasons why, like trying to conduct a campaign with more troops, but in half the area that was available in í98. The event organizers truly did appear to do Herculean work in putting together the logistics of the weekend. As a national event, it looked to work just fine. The organizers seemed to me only let down by poor tactical plans which they themselves may or may not have had a big hand in planning. Yet, whatever the factors were, the razberry cheers are in order for unmet expectations for a lot of men who drove long distances to be there.
For all that, the Red River Battalion shined. The comparison of our collective impression to the many other infantry and dismounted cavalry units was obvious. We may not all be gaunt, hollow-eyed warriors, but we sure did project a look and manner that came closer than did our fellow units. I was right proud to be a part of the Red River Battalion, and am still eager for the next chance to stack ourselves up against the rest.