It is a distinct privilege to have provided this guest post for my friend Ree – The Hotfessional, during her well-earned travel absence from the U.S. during December 2009. Have a safe and great trip, Ree!
***From the Coast Rat.***
The World is a small place, indeed.
In October of 2000, Blond Girl and I hit the road and drove down from Wisconsin to North Carolina to visit our son and his family, who live there, in Durham.
It was an amazing trip traveling at that time of the year, catching the beautiful fall colors on the trees, as we drove through Ohio, the Hotfessional’s West By-Gawd Virginia, and Virginia, on our way down to Durham.
The timing of the trip was planned to coincide with the Cedar Creek Civil War Battlefield Reenactment, an annual event taking place on the grounds of the Cedar Creek Battlefield State Park, in northwestern Virginia.
It was my hope to meet several of my ‘pards’ from Company K, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry there at the Reenactment, and fall in with them in the Black Hat Battalion for at least one day of the battle reenactment, before heading on down to North Carolina. I had last seen those fellows, mostly from New Jersey, and from Pennsylvania, the year before, at the 135th Anniversary Reenactment of the Battle of Gettysburg, in PA, where some 28,000+ reenactors of us took part in that largest civil war reenactment ever held in the U.S.
As it turned out, Blond Girl and i arrived after dark on the Friday evening of the Cedar Creek reenactment, and found that a couple of Co. K members had made the trip over from New Jersey for the event. We visited a bit, and made plans for my return the next morning, in Union uniform, to take part in the Battle scenario that was to take place.
Sunday morning dawned sunny, bright and cool to begin with, as Blond Girl and I made our way from a nearby town where we had stayed the night, down to the battlefield and looked up my friends, in preparation for the battle to start.
There was a good sized group from the reenactment community on hand for the battle, both Union and Confederate, and I was fortunate to be able to spend time visiting and remembering our week-long experience at the Gettysburg 135th event the previous year.
Co. K Captain at the time, Capt. Bob Patterson, was kind enough to lend me his musket for the battle scenario, and just after noon, we got ready for the battle to begin.
As many people are aware, Civil War reenactment battles and skirmishes are entirely scripted, as to troop movements, and who wins the day, including which and how many participants “take hits,” on both sides in the battle, attempting to accurately portray what actually occured during the original event almost a century and a half ago.
At Cedar Creek, a large Confederate force surprised a large camped Union force in the morning, scattering and routing them several miles from their camps at Cedar Creek. Later in the day, Union forces rallied, and regained the original ground they had lost in the morning, including what was left of their camp and possessions.
Our reenactment started out with our Union infantry force being ‘surprised’ by Confederate forces and driven across the battlefield almost a half a mile, fighting and firing our muskets all the way, at the advancing rebs, in what was termed as a “strategic withdrawal,” as often was the case in many of the civil war engagements of that war.
During our retreat across the battlefield grounds, I probably loaded and fired some 30-40 powder rounds, and eventually had to borrow some powder charges from a fellow Union infantry soldier I had been fighting beside all the way across the valley we retreated on. I had seen this fellow the evening before during our brief visit, but never got a chance to meet or talk with him.
When our Union infantry force had finally reached the point of retreat where we were to stop, we rested briefly and then, start advancing back across the 1/2 mile we had just given up, ‘attacking’ the confederate infantry back across the same ground, to the original starting point.
It was during our brief rest, while we were taking water from our canteens and briefing talking with each other, that an amazing incident occurred.
It was then that I turned to the fellow infantryman stranger beside me, who I had fought right beside all along during the Union retreat, and who had given me a hand-full of his own powder cartridges, and I shock his hand and said: “Hi, I’m Lance; glad to soldier with you.” He said: “Hi. I’m Chris; from DC, nice to soldier with you, too.”
I said: “I’m from Wisconsin, on my way to North Carolina, and I am portraying my great great grandfather, Albert Harland Rolfe, who was a member of the original Company K, Sixth Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, who fought with the Union Army of the Potomac in the civil war.”
Chris said: “Wisconsin, huh…, are you from anywhere near Beaver Dam?”
I said: “Beaver Dam…, yeah, I’ve got a sister and brother-in-law, Sue and Mick McConaghy who live in Beaver Dam, about an hour and a half from my home.”
Chris said: “McConaghy, huh…, do they have a daughter named Michelle?”
I said: instantly alert and somewhat startled by Chris’s question… “Yes….., why do you ask?”
Chris said: Is she marrying a guy named Paul next summer…?”
Even more startled, I said: “yeeesssss……., why do you ask?”
To my absolute astonishment, Chris said: “Yeah…. Paul is my brother, and I’m the Best Man at their wedding next summer!”
As my mouth dropped open in amazement, I almost fell over, and replied: “You have got to be kidding me!!! Here we are, complete strangers at a civil war reenactment in Virginia, who end up fighting next to each other, within two feet of one another for an hour of historic reenactment, and our paths and family ties are so connected! This is truly, incredible, just incredible!”
Family connections back then in that terrible event were close, and today, observing that historic event, family ties are still connected and close.
At Paul and Michelle’s wedding that next summer, I had the pleasure to photographing their reception in Beaver Dam, and renewing my new friendship with Chris, including having our picture taken together with us both wearing the “Black Hats” of the 6th Wisconsin Infantry.
One really never knows what connection one may have with a stranger next to you.
One thing is for sure: The world truly is a small place.