The Bummers event was attended by the following from the Battalion:
14th OVI-Lt. Bob Minton, Brian Porter, John Molitoris, Bill Hart, Tom Lingeman, Tom Jahns
91st OVI-Cpl. Kyle Yoho, Sid Fragale, Scott Sharp, Paul Turner
30th OVI-Cpl. Bernie Biederman, Nathaniel Biederman
121st OVI-Jared and Pete Haudenschield
140th NY-Sgt. Mike Dudkowski
On the weeked of November 13-15th, I traveled to Macon, GA to attend "Bummers", an event sponsored by Mess No.1 and the Armory Guards. I had the opportunity of serving, as second in command, as Sgt, under the leadership of Lt Bob Minton in a foraging party of 15 men. This event, from day one, was labeled as a hardcore, campaigner event, where each man, only brought what they could carry and would survive by foraging off the land. The intention was to recreate Gen. Sherman's movements in the immediate days following the burning of Atlanta. The proceeds of the event, were used to assist in the preservation of the Wray collection at the Atlanta History Center in downtown Atlanta, which will be on display sometime early next spring.
The event went official at 9p at which time the first cluster occured. Taking away several minutes for the men to wander around and find the correct division to which they would be marching with, we did the army thing, hurry up and wait. Earlier in the evening, 1st division apparently missed instructions to fall out and acquire the Fri night rations consisting of bacon, and the order came down that each party would contribute to their well being. Being resourceful, and acquiring extra Fri night rations, our party, the 30th Ohio, made a small contribution to the well being of the 3rd division. Per the overall Union commander, Capt Tripp Corbin, a few men from each party lit their torches, and we marched off, passing the overfilled parking lots, passed by some boy scout cottages, and into the night. Of course, these torches would not stay lit for long, and they would burn out spurradically, none the less, the army moved on. We followed down a dirt trail for a few minutes, running parallel along the Flint River, where parties ahead of us, took occasional fire from the Georgia militia, who were wandering about in the area. The column finally came to a head, where the commanders thought a good place to give chase. Our party took fire from the left flank, atop a hill. We were given the order to climb said hill and drive those devils outta there, and so we did just that. We moved uphill, in the dark, over boulders and shrubbery, through trees and obstacles, all the while taking fire from militia. We came to a flat spot about halfway up, where our party reformed the best we could. We were only 1 of 3 parties that had made it this far. We remained silent for any evidence of militia, but to no avail. Pickets were sent out for safeguard, reminding the men not too far, for captives can and would be taken. Other parties arrived shortly, bringing with them the order that this would be our camp for the night. Men threw down in close proximity to eachother, worrying not about rations for the evening. The mission now was to survive any further harassment by the militia until daybreak...
And so it began. I arose at approximately 530 to the multitude of campfires dotting the hillside. The men began to wake, one by one, exhibiting the finest specimen of camp cough that has been heard in awhile. A secure camp was first on the list of to-do's, followed by a close second of water refill and bacon cooking, for we had no idea what time we were to move out. As soon as I woke, I rolled up my pack in preparation for the quick move. All members of our party, had a role in the cooking, whether it was ramrod, bayonet, stick of canteen half, we successfully cooked and ate a couple of lbs of bacon in a short while. Pvt Ryan would have been proud :) The few dishes we had were cleaned and fires were covered and doused. At approximately 8a, we were given the order to go back down the hill and fall in on the road for it was time to make our push across the Georgia countryside. Prior to lining up, we grabbed a wonderful view of that "river" along the road, where I was confused at whether it that was a local river, or perhaps the mighty Mississippi. Reports came in that hurricane IDA had hit just a few days earlier, and we were witnessing its wrath. Several small buildings in the vicinity were in danger of being flooded out, and some eyewitnesses would say they thought the levels actually rose over the course of the night. So we lined up and made haste, pushing down the path. Perhaps a half mile or so down river, we came to a point where the road was flooded out, so we would have to transverse the hillside in order to stay dry. The men at the front of the column were literally creating the trail as they went, for it was the organizers' intention to follow the road until we reached a cut on the hillside. So up and down the hill we went, up and over rocks, along a slippery, narrow path, some parts not any wider than a foot or two. The further down the "trail" we went, the more narrow and, frankly, more dangerous, it became. It was in this terrain, where we would appropriately acquire the nickname of "Uncle Billy's Goats". For this terrain would only have been suitable enough for a damn goat, and even he may have thought twice about scaling this ground, looking for a more suitable and less hazardous trail, but nothing will stop the army. Nothing! And so we pushed on, along the trail, all the while seeing that dirt road beneath the hillside completely flooded out. Apparently, the water from the mighty Euphrates rose so much overnight, that our dirt road was no more. In fact, we would later learn, that a water supply and food source had been located at the end of the road, just at the cut where we were supposed to ascend the hill, but it had been totally washed out, a sacrifice to the gods Im sure. We made slow progress along the hillside for the next few hrs, actually, four hours to be exact. Yup, four hours, along a narrow and treacherous trail, in the 75 degree Georgia heat (when your used to the temp only being in the mid 40's, its heat we speak of), having nowhere to refill canteens, you should have been there. We finally made enough elevation, where we were able to get off the hillside and onto a plateau, requiring every man to get on his hands and knees and ascend, first handing up his musket to the man ahead of him, and then transversing the hill himself. We finally came to a clearing on the hill, along another trail, at approximately 1215p or so. We came to a clearing along the trail, where 2nd division would drop packs and take a breather, indicating to 1st division who had arrived earlier and had since been resting, to pick up their belongings and get moving. At this point, no food had been found and there was no water in sight. Some men were down to a half of canteen, some with less than that. I rested for only a couple of minutes, as word came down the hill, someone at the top was requesting a medic. I sprang forth and ascended until I came across a group of men who were looking at me, bewildered as to why I was there. I asked what the problem was and what they needed a medic for, when in fact they were looking for their commander, last name of Medich (sounds like medic). Ugh! I descended back down the hillside, just in time to throw my pack on and go back up the hill. This was the first time today, that we laid eyes on our division "leader", Capt Schneider, seemingly well rested, having arrived at the beginning of the column. So we made the trek up the hillside, waxing and waining to avoid trees, other men, militia, whatever lay in our path. The slope was relatively steep, rocky and slippery with pine needles galore. We pushed forward for another 30minutes or so, hearing rumors of a water source ahead on the trail. Many of the men, not only in our party but in other parties as well, were moving with an empty canteen, and some had been empty since mid morning. The men wanted to rest, but I continued to urge em forward. The best explanation I could think of was, "the water and food arent coming to us, we have to find it." "And if other foraging parties make it there before we do, were gonna be out of luck." We continued on just a few more minutes, where we came upon a couple foraging parties filling their canteens from the portable water buffalos. Another rest was ordered, unsling packs and wait for that cool refreshing water that will soon be ours in a matter of a couple of minutes. Beautiful!! It was realized, at this time, that all of our men were completely empty, making a water refill even more pleasurable. Our canteen detail was several men back in line, when, ugh, word had spread back, the buffalos were empty. Say it isnt so!? We would later find out, those buffalos were meant for 2nd division, and 2nd division only, but because the road flooded, all 3 divisions were forced up the hill, and those before us scampered off with our water. Damn them! Damn them all! The Lt and NCO's of our party, decided it best to move on, water now becoming the main objective. We moved down the trail for several minutes, hearing word yet again, there was a buffalo down the hill. We made haste down that hill, our negro guide confirming there was in fact water down the hill, and he would show where it lay. Perfect! After all, the men were talking mutiny, and that would not have proven healthy. We came to the point at the base of hill where the water was, our guide confirming with his map, yet no water! No water buffalo at all! I could see the concern in his eyes, yet making no incling to the men in the party, for it prove useless to do so. There was no reason to nerve the men more than what was already necessary. Yet in my mind, I was thinkin how this could be. Was our guide lost? Did the organizers not place water there? Did the militia get to it first? Who knows!? Back down the trail to the hill is where we went, being pushed on only by anger and rage. The Lt went up the main hill to confer with the Captain, and I reformed the company to get a head count. I was missing Corporal Biederman. Where had Cpl Biederman gone off to? Did we lose him along the trail? Did the militia get him and all of us not know? It was then I looked down the trail and he came walking down with a freshly filled canteen, taking donations from men along the trail, who earlier had previously emptied the water buffalos prior to us arriving. Everyone took a sip, just enough to realize how thirsty we were. Shouting and gun fire now ensued off in the distance, surely a sign of militia and Uncle Billy's Goats going after eachother. I moved 3 privates and Cpl Yoho off to the opposite end of the road to cover our flank if anything progressed our way. We rested for a few minutes and we were summoned back up the hill, all of em looking like the same hill being ascended multiple times over. Lt Minton had gotten better directions to a possible location of a village. We made haste toward our goal, although it was clear that some of the men were adamentaly against moving another foot, until we knew for a fact where we were going. Tempers were running short, men needed water, and some were thinking about food now, we all stepped off. This time our negro guide in the lead. His name was Joe, an escaped slave of the area, he was supposed to know these woods like the back of his hand. But, up until this point, he hadnt done much to prove his worthyness, and, in fact, I heard men speaking of the term lynching and the like. Things werent gonna be pretty for much longer. We traveled a distance when another foraging party ahead of us, found a basket in the woods. It was filled with food stuffs and the like. I even saw a whiskey bottle glistening in the sun, filled with the real deal, but they got it, fair and square. They immediately forgot how thirsty they were, after all the excitement of their find. Our party trugged on, keeping our eyes open, for if there was one basket, there would be another, and, maybe another. I managed to get ahead of the group a little bit, motivated by the find of the other party, looking for anything unusual that just didnt quite belong. It was about 315pm when I crested a hill and from the land, rooftops of two buildings appeared before me, white canvas over log framed huts, currently occupied by civilians, or possibly refugees of the Georgia countryside. When word reached to all the others coming up the hill, it was every man for himself. There was no order to the method that the men took in acquiring badly needed supplies. The civilians stood back while Uncle Billy's Goats took what they could, and in a most expedient manner. A table top was full of jars and crocks, pickles, honey, whiskey, soup on the fire, boiled ham in a kettle. Civilians were displaced from the buildings themselves where havoc wreaked inside. I had to talk out a young lady, who had barricaded herself inside one of the huts, armed with a revolver, fearing what energetic and hungry men of Sherman's army may do. After a few minutes of talk, and I giving her my word that she had nothing to fear if she came out quickly and quietly, she did just that. Civilian haversacks were pillaged, appearing from them apples, potatoes, carrots, onions, a head of cabbage, twine, matches, baked goods. I even witnessed a pair of chickens being strung up, very much alive and clucking, no doubt in my mind that they were going to be the guest of honor at the next campfire feast. There was other locations on the ground too that proved to be valuable. There was a well off in the distance, used by the civilians as a reliable water source. A detail under arms were sent out at once to guard the well and fill all of our canteens. After all, who knows where the militia are? We were moving blind, in enemy country, where even the civilians could be sympathizers, and so noone was to be trusted. Each man was bringing back their forage to a central location, guarded by the presence of the few men who opted to stay back and watch the food- damned smart men in my opinion! Word would soon trickle down from the commanding officer, that this was to be our camp for the night. Gear was stripped off, canteens were filled, fires were built, blanket rolls were laid out, and men immediately took advantage of the rest that appeared to be imminent, well for some anyways. In a coordinated effort of the foraging party officers, it was determined that after the bare necesseties were taken care of, pickets needed to be formed and deployed. I wasted no time cooking, instead eating some already smoked ham, and cut some raw slices of potato, carrot and onion for my meal. Through coordination of the officers and Lt Minton, it was determined that our party would supply the first round of pickets, apparently because no other officer in the said meeting would speak up. So Lt Minton took the bulls by the horn and ran with it. Having no idea what lay in the field ahead of our woodline, I took 5 or 6 men to form picket line while others stayed at camp to enjoy the relaxation that was afforded to them. I reported to the off coming Lt of the picket line we were relieveing, being sure to take any orders or information that might be necessary in the fulfillment of our duties. I placed our pickets in line, conversed with each for a minute or so and was on my way back to the road to see off the retiring Lt. On my way back, my attention focused on the sounds of footsteps in the distance, seemingly closing in on our position, but from where? I c! ! ould see nothing across the open field, no calvary, no infantry, no rolling artillery, yet I knew something was out there. I told the men to take cover and asked the leaving Lt to wait for a minure or two. Then it showed its ugly head, the tips of flag poles cresting the hill, turning into heads of gray which turned into 3 full companies of Georgia militia at roughly 20 or 30 men in each company. Such audacity to try and take on Uncle Billy's Goats, the men were tired, sore, thirsty, and under such conditions, I knew the boys were ready for a fight. After all, up until this point, we hadn't set eyes on any sort of militia, it was on. Pickets were ordered to load, take cover, and mind their ramrods. Per the event organizers, ramrods were to be used when loading, in order to simulate real time loading and firing phases, a much different genre than what some men were used to. A runner was sent, shouting "To Arms! To Arms!", to recruit what men we could to repel the horde of devils trying to roll up this army. As the militia got closer, the pickets opened fire, working in detail with their comrades in arms. As the militia continued on to our position, we fell back, working slowly and efficiently, as an in depth firefight was not our goal, but to survive and hold them off, that was the real goal. Each side exchanged musket fire for a couple minutes. Reinforcements arrived slowly, one man here, two or three men here, until finally, full parties were deploying on line. When we had our masses deployed, we halted and fought for several more minutes, until, they finally realized their assault useless, they now fell back. Our position was just too fortified and we out numbered them now, 2:1. They thought the better of their actions and withdrew to safer ground, presumably for the night. Captain Corbinn, by this time, had made it on line, and devised a plan so that we would have pickets in place to defend off the evil horde if they chose to rear again. We fell back off the line and sauntered back into camp, where some men finished their meal, while others rested, some regailing over the just concluded firefight. Lt Minton came back to camp, informed myself and the 2 corporals, that we would draw the first round of picket duty, from the hours of 6p to 10p. Each NCO/officer would take a 1 hr shift alongside a detail of 4 other men, after which we would have the remainder of the night to enjoy a much needed rest. Pulling guard duty right off the bat and not having to wake in the early hours of the morning, is the best scenario, a tired man could possibly hear. And so upon hearing this news, the men geared up once more, readying themselves for the duty that awaited. Once assembled, we moved out, making a pit stop at the "well" to fill up canteens and the like. I spoke with 2 solemn, homely looking men who were in possession of a large cooking pot, no doubt pillaged from one of the civilian huts. I couldn't help but notice what was inside the pot as they filled it with water. Why, it was those 2 chickens, no longer strung nor clucking. In fact, they were already killed, plucked, and gutted, now in their final preparation for the meal of the evening. The one lad described having to step on the chicken's neck while pulling sharply up on the feet, which in turn made the neck snap. The same process was repeated for the 2nd except I remember something about the use of a rifle butt in the deathly act. We wished them well for supper, and moved down the line to our post. The men were detailed out at once to stand guard, while 2 fires were built behind the picket lines, to be used for warmth, cooking or coffee. I drew the 1st shift as the NCO on the line, staying close to the road, in the event our position was challenged. As time was moving on by, we could hear bugle calls in the distance followed by verbal commands to troops, presumably to the militia camped out in the area ahead of us. A few minutes elapsed, when we had our 1st encounter. In the open field ahead of us, traveling in our direction, rode a man on horseback, unaware of our exact location. We were well informed that calvary had been spotted in the area, and that they were the proud captors of at least 1 foraging party, earlier in the day. As he approached, I commanded him to halt, and inquired as friend or foe. Of course he replied friend, so I had him approach, as I looking for him to reply with the counter sign. The sign/counter sign was Atlanta/Enfilade, respectively. I gave him the sign of Atlanta, twice in fact, possibly he didn't hear me the 1st time, and the only response I got, came from the barrel of a revolver pointed in our general direction. He rode off, back into the night, probably to report what he had come across. I updated the Lt on our encounter, and at his suggestion, I took Cpl Yoho with me on a little sight seeing mission. We made slowly and quietly down the road, into the same open field where we had been encountered, staying close to any tree that we may encounter along the way. We made it out, maybe 30 or 40 yards, when off in the distance, we heard horses galloping, the noise gaining in intensity in our direction. We looked at eachother and, without haste, ran back toward our lines, knowing that another encounter was soon to be imminent. As we ran through our lines, we were challenged by our own men. Now, I don't know about you, but when you have calvary on your tail, and you're running with a purpose, you don't think to stop and give a proper countersign. The only thing that would come out of my mouth was "don't shoot, don't shoot!" "Friend coming through, don't shoot!" Luckily, the Cpl responded with the proper countersign, avoiding being blasted by musket fire from our own pickets. We, again, informed Lt Minton of our observation, and sure enough, the horseman was shortly behind us. Again, we made a challenge, this time seeing at least 2, maybe even 3 silhouettes in the field before us. He spoke not, only returning pistol fire instead of words. Our lines opened fire, and the horsemen were forced to retreat off into the distance. Again victorious in our stance against the rebellion. The rest of the picket went without harm, occasionally the firing of a shot off into the darkness, for they thought they had heard something. Was it an animal? Leaves falling perhaps? Better to be safe than sorry. I applaud them for their quick action in avoiding capture and injury. It was approximately 930p or so, when a runner came in search of Lt Minton, traveling with a message we would all be eager to learn of. Our commander, had negotiated a truce for the rest of the evening. No shots to be fired, no advancement on the pickets, no more capturing of the opposing force. Ah yes! A well restful night was ours to be had. We gathered the men back into our lines, doused the fires and headed back to where the main force was gathered. There was no revilling around the campfire, or boys boozing it up, or no singing of patriotic songs. It seemed that as each man made it into camp, he immediately made ready his bed for the night. Within a few minutes, it was quiet, at least in our immediate vicinity, and each man had sureendured for the evening. In fact, by the time we made it back to our camp, there were men in the next camp over, already sound asleep. The remainder of the night went without story, only broken by the occasional man waking to put more wood on the fire.
The day started again, in the early morning hours. I believe it was around 600 when I awoke, immediately heading to the fire to get her going again. I stayed relatively comfortable overnight, but, as you probably already know, the early morning chill has a tendancy to go through ya. I wandered around for the next half hour or so, collecting twigs, sticks and branches for the fire. I headed over, stoked it up, and took a step back into time. It was at this point when I had the opportunity to take in the surroundings in the calm of the morning. Men all over the hillside, rolled up the best they could to conserve heat. Some around the fire, some by their lonesome, some lay in groups of 2 or 3 or more for that matter. There were no ginormous A frames, no cots, no coolers, no air mattresses, no vehicles. Just the army of the 1860's on the countryside. It was all so simple and nothing else mattered at that point. It wasnt very long afterward, that the men started to move about. One here, one there, they all started rising, exhibiting another rousing rendition of the camp cough. Music to my ears! They moved toward and huddled around the fire, blazing away at this point, so much so that I was concerned for the well being of the Lt's blanket, for embers started blowing in his direction. I figured even if it had gona ablze, at least he would have stayed warm. Eventually, all the men arose. Not many words were spoken in those first few minutes, just everyone huddled around, staring at the fire in its awe. At this point, there was no information passed about the plans of the army, or its move out. While the thought of posting pickets had been suggested by Lt Minton, it would seem that another party had already taken that into account and the defense of our army was in place. The suggestion was made for the men to get eating and get their gear packed up, for we had no idea what schedule we would be on. It was only a few minutes later, that we overheard an officer, in another party, speak of moving out at 8 o'clock. Figured that was good enough for us, so we lay that plan into efect. The men got cooking. Coffee, vegetables and a leftover smoked ham was on the menu. Some choosing to cook the pig, while others, including myslef, chose to have it as it was, no muss no fuss. So we dined, again a smorgusboard of variety thanks to the "kindness" of the rebel sympathizers. We had so much leftovers, we offered what we could to men of other foraging partyies. Anything that wasn't claimed, was burned, so that no militia man could benefit from our sustinence, such are the ravages of war. It was gaining nearer the time of our move out, maybe 740ish or 745ish, when our pickets and an opposing force were in the act of exchanging musket fire. Unknown to the size of force out there, we figured if any help was needed, they would call us for support. First call shouted, I geared up and moved into the clearing just outside of our camp. The men assembled for roll call, some quicker and more willing than others. No man had any injury to report and all were in fighting capable condition, although, it seemed, morale could have used a bit of heightening. So there we stood, all formed up and nowhere to go, the army sticking with its motto of "Hurry up and wait." Foraging parties started trickling in, one by one, getting into formation for a move. I couldnt help but notice a group of men across the clearing, standing near the one still useful hut, and a group of civilians that were hurriedly moving their wares out of it. Blankets and tins and boxes were taken, to a seemingly safer place. And then the cause of the congregation was made known. Torches were lit, and the 2 huts were about to be reduced to a mere smoking pile of rubble. Capt Corbin had ventured his eyes over to the activities, noticing their intention, shouting out "Hey! Don't burn that one!" Apparently, one of the huts were to remain unscathed. Realizing their mistake, the boys in blue quickly doused the flames. Canteens and a bucket of water made its way into the picture. Ultimately, it was a corn husk broom that stopped the flames from spreading along the ridge of the hut. The canvas top was destroyed, creating quite the sky light for all to enjoy. The officers took control of the scene, gathering up the herd of infantryman into line for the move. All the while, the musket fire continued on from the direction of our pickets. Those boys started falling back down the road toward our direction. Apparently, the militia must have gotten the better of em. They kept falling back, in greater hurriedness than before. It was at this point, the overall commander found it a convenient time to head out and leave no more targets for the gray mass. And so the column started out, the way we had come ! ! in the previous day. Down one hill and up the next. Same was for the next hill, and the one after that, and the one after that. The column marched and halted, in an alternating fashion, all the while being followed up by a rear guard, unsure as to how far behind us the militia had advanced. The column made a brisk stop about 40 or so minutes into the march. The men congregated at the top of one of the many hills, a water buffalo being the object of devotion. Men filled and drank, taking a few minutes off their feet to better enjoy the surroundings. It wasnt long after, the column moved out again, continuing down the never ending road of dirt and stone, more of the latter than the former. It was on this descent that the column was able to witness one of the better landscapes of the event. It consisted of a winding road down into a valley, hillsides in the distance, a few houses dotting the Georgia countryside. The troops made their way down the fin! ! al hill, this one seemingly more like a mountain, into a wood line. We meandered through, noting outbuildings and rooftops that became more frequent. The column halted, formed up, dressed down, and took aim. All weapons, in line, were cleared. We marched to the parking lot, to see eachother off, and to reminisce about the actions that brought us closer. No more foraging, no final firefight. It was over. The event that was hyped up for more than a year and a half ahead of time, was complete.
I've been asked a few times: Did you like it? Did you have fun? My answer, undeniably, without a doubt, is NO. NO, I did not have fun! NO, I did not enjoy myself! We marched around the Georgia countryside for 3 days, mostly without food, and the majority of the time without water. We traversed some rough terrain, not knowing where it would lead us. And all the while, with the Georgia militia roaming around the area, on familiar ground. When asked: Would you do it again? My answer, undeniably, without a doubt, no questions asked, would be, "You bet!" You see, this 3 day event was just a slice of the common infantryman's life. The real guys endured 5 years of the stuff, where we had just lived a slice of it. It really brought to light, the sacrfices made and the hardships endured. "Embrace the suck" was the term used by Bob Minton before heading out to Georgia, and it fit oh so appropriately. This event sucked! It was one of, if not, the hardest event I have ever been to. And for that reason, this was the best damn event I've ever been to!
Yours in service,
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