Red River 1999

(Notes by an anonymous private)

Anonymous author
Not to be used for any commercial purposes.
(c) 1999 Doug Dobbs on behalf of author


April 8-9 Thursday/Friday

Drove all day Thursday. Spent night about three hours from Shreveport, then stopped at Mansfield State Commemorative site on Friday. Nice little museum but not much of note. Arrived at Pleasant Hill early PM, not much going on. Registered, changed clothes, picked up some vest buttons at the sutlers (for a home project), parked car, and rode back to "Old Pleasant Hill" village (start point). Weather beautiful but a tad hot (85 F) - likely to stay that way, they say. (Because of the hot weather I carried only one blanket, a poncho and no tentage.)

April 10 - Saturday

Things are off to a slow start this morning - got up at first light - no bugle, no reveille roll call. Did hear some distant picket firing. Only about 20 - 30 troops here at mid-morning - got word from my Capt. we will move to start area "about dinnertime". Camped next to some "hardcore" boys and noticed they don't look any different from the rest of us.

Midday - weather variable, clouds and sun, windy. Still little activity, although there is a lot of sawing and hammering in the village. Spotted first pair of white gaiters - on a Reb! Couple of cavalry horses broke loose and led their would-be riders on a merry chase through the village.

April 11 - Sunday

After today's march the word "cluster----" comes to mind. I'm sure it's a little unfair considering that none of the planners involved are professionals. Marched about 8 miles, the last of which involved a hunt for water - a problem we never should have had. Had two rather silly skirmishes w/ Rebs - nobody died. Many encounters with pickup trucks, ATVs, etc. And I saw one staff officer drinking a Heineken - and he didn't give me any! Only a few fell out - I think we lost 2-3 from our Co., which seems about average. Col. Dom (Dal Bello) says today's march will be the worst - we shall see.

April 12 - Monday

Absolutely no attempt at first person acting either last night or this morning. Woke up this AM to hear two cavalrymen telling an idiotic joke about folding up a stroller with a baby inside. The company next street over is telling stupid, warmed-over reenactor jokes. At least today's march should be only 4 miles.

Afternoon - first real trouble with my feet today, hope it will be the last. Put moleskin on a callus on my left foot, and it pulled it off! Also got a blister starting on my right heel. Surgeon treated both of these and they feel better, time will tell. Also both ankles and both knees are sore - I'm getting a little old for this sort of thing! Battle was a little disappointing in that it appears that the vaunted AOP (Army of the Pacific) doesn't drill any better than any other lot of reenactors. However, we behaved with cohesion, which is to our credit considering we haven't done any battalion drill!

April 13, Tuesday

Feet are better this morning after a good dinner (cabbage!) and a good sleep. I hope last night will be the low point. Bad news - the wagon broke down and will not be coming with us - could be fixed but owner doesn't want to try with the team of horses he has, which aren't very good. Still have to pay $750.00 for these, which is being collected from the troops - the Col. kicked in $250.00 out of his own pocket. Rumor has it that a storm may be coming in the next few days - oh joy.

Noon halt - hot day, miserable roads, hard marching. We lost another young man today with heat exhaustion. Happily my feet (and others) seem to be rebounding. Hope we're more than halfway to where we're going. Today's skirmish with the cavalry was better, but they are still too tenacious. I hope we don't have to return by today's roads if it rains - if so, we'll never make it. (Author's note: We did.)

Evening - the worst campsite yet - in the woods on a forest path. At least we're out of the sun and rations arrived on schedule. Final leg of the march was brutal in hot sun, I think we lost two more men. A couple of the companies almost came to blows over comments - I hope we don't have more trouble later. Next few marches are supposed to be the same as today's - they say they are six & a half miles but they're lying, it's more like 8.

Apr. 14, Wednesday

Well, the camp wasn't so bad after all - sheltered from the wind and no morning dew. However, we now have an overcast sky and freshening breeze. I wonder if rain is coming?

In camp - A long, hard and eventful day. Rain showers came as expected, but just enough to settle the dust most of the time. Marched 8 miles (officially), one of which was due to a wrong turn. Sane pace was maintained until the lunch halt, at which point a "hardcore" company took the lead and set a pace which I believe was deliberately calculated to "winnow the farbs". We lost a couple of men, they lost one who they just left by the side of the road - evidently it's "sink or swim" with them. In the battle which followed we were deployed as skirmishers and guarded the right flank while the battalion broke the enemy. Not a bad battle - at least what I saw before I took a hit. Rained on us a couple of times in the morning but cleared off for the afternoon march and battle. Hope our guys can make the rest of the march - we have a number with bad feet because the officers can't stand to slow down.

April 15, Thursday

Feeling in better spirits after a night's rest and meal. Cloudy this morning - not more rain I hope? We will retreat today over much the same route as yesterday, hope the officers keep the pace down.

Noontime - Good battle this morning, then began our retreat toward Pleasant Hill. Weather much better for marching than earlier in week, cool and becoming sunny. Lead company is still trying to go too fast but now their officer's feet hurt and that is slowing them down. I even heard the "hardcore" company's captain begging for mercy at one point, that's a switch.

Afternoon - Halted on a logging road in a patch of woods which it appears will be our camp. Did probably 7 miles today and the strain is showing. Two guys fell out of one the hardcore groups; hope it won't be my turn tomorrow.

Evening - Capt. says we did 7 miles today. Feeling better after a good meal, probably we will have a cold night. Tomorrow is the last long march - hope it goes well.

April 16, Friday

Afternoon - Long and eventful day. Night was COLD, then we were hit by the Rebs (trucked in no doubt) before breakfast. Had planned to destroy the creek bridge but were thwarted by a detachment of Reb cav specifically posted to prevent this. Rest of march to Pleasant Hill uneventful. Beautiful day for marching - clear and cool, more like April in the North than La! Feet felt fine this morning - don't know whether the cold air numbed them or what.

April 17, Saturday

Beer party last night hosted by the "hardcores" - they aren't bad people once a few beers are exchanged. DAMN cold night (maybe 35 F) - glad a comrade loaned me an extra poncho, may have saved my life. Sore throat and a nosebleed this morning - hope I'm not getting sick but better now than earlier.

Evening - What a day! Marched a mile and a half to the original battleground (Pleasant Hill) and were ordered to build two lines of breastworks - 1st division (two companies) in front. Began work with two shovels, a load of bayonets and tin plates and considerable doubts, but after 3 hours (and the arrival of more tools) they looked quite respectable. Nearly lost them to Reb cav who made a yahoo raid at lunchtime, but the Bn. took arms very quickly & "fit 'em off". We then changed history, but kicked some ass - they threw cavalry, artillery and infantry at us in succession and we gave better than we got. We were prepared to abandon the first line in accordance with the scenario, but they never came on - and took so many hits that they couldn't make it work. So we charged them and pressed until they showed the white flag. We were quickly dismissed and I hiked the one & a half miles to the car, refusing several kind offers of a ride. Total distance until today was supposed to be about 50 miles, so I guess that makes 53.

Author's postscript:

I think what's interesting here is the way my state of mind changed during the campaign. After the first couple of hard marches, I quit worrying about "unimportant" things like anachronisms and modern talk, and started worrying about essential things, like my feet. It's also interesting how my mood always improved just after ration issue.




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Last revised:March 19, 2001