Friday, August 3, 2012

Engineer's Report - "Battle of Windy Hill," Rutland , MA. Spt. 2011

Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant
All Federal Armies

Brig. Gen. M. Burbank
New England Federal Brigade

Major D. Erickson
Commandant (Acting)
U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers

Esteemed Sirs:

I beg you kind indulgence to present my Engineering Report for the subject event.

We boarded the train in New London for Rutland Mass on Friday Morning, and arrived in Rutland in the afternoon.  A short carriage ride from Rutland brought us to the Windy Knoll Campground.  The pwagonsrevious days rain had rendered the ground very wet and only heavy farm wagons drawn by double teams of horses could navigate the soaked fields.  We transferred our goods to a wagon and were taken to our selected place nearby the 32nd Field Hospital and General Grant's tent.  There we met with Capt. Germain and Major Duarte.  Captain Germain had already arrived and had finished setting up his tent.  We set up the Topographical Engineer's Field Office and made the assignments;

--Lady Germain to draw the top of the skyline of Windy Knoll;

--Captain Germain who had already drawn the grounds at Windy Knoll on a previous encampment, to draw a diagram of a Corduroy Road across the worst of the
        muddy field;

--Major Duarte would draw a current sketch map of the camping area,

--Corporal M. Grossman (Pioneers) would erect two sets of Cheveax de Frise on the Campground as a field fortification display.

--I would attempt to finish the model of the Corduroy Bridge started at a previous encampment.

Within an hour or so of finishing the Field Office, our coach came with Lady Mathews, and a visitor, Lady Duarte.  We were taken to an inn  just a ways out of town which served a fine meal, and then to a lovely old house, which claimed to be the residence of General Putnum of Rev War fame.  There we met the proprietors and had a very nice chat about the encampment and other topics relating to the house and our visit.

With the morning light we were up and tucked away a wonderful Breakfast, well prepared and well served, then we left for the encampment.  Major Duarte and I walked into cam from the road as the field was badly chopped up from the wagon wheels transporting goods to the campground through the night.  The day was passed well doing our projects, and the battle was announced.  The artillery pieces were hauled onto the field and the fight was on.  The battle was really to far away to make out much detail, but the cannon were firing steadily and within the hour the Federal Troops marched back into camp.  The Confederate Camp was on top of the hill and across the main road.

One of the local newspapers interviewed Captain and Lady Germain, as they had arranged on the previous day.

In the afternoon Sgt. Moss from the Artillery brought a letter from the Artillery Commander who asked to consider drawing up a plank road for use across the muddy portion of the field.  We discussed the proposed project, and decided to honor the request.  I asked Captain Germain to draw up a plank road diagram, and include the 10,000 board feet of lumber that had been found at a local sawmill, according to Sgt. Moss.  The agreement was that he would return on Sunday for the diagram.

The engineers continued their assigned work for the rest of the afternoon.  At 5:00 p.M. lady Mathews once again picked us up and we went to dinner at a very nice Asian (Thai) restaurant, which was a special treat.  After supper we retired again to the Putnum House for the night.  The next morning found us at camp, the evening had been chilly as the Fall temperatures were beginning to show themselves and the fog was hanging close over the forest.  The weather throughout the day got  generally worse and the fog closed in to the extent that the top of the hill was nearly invisible.  Sgt. Moss arrived to get the promised plans, and I gave him the option of returning the drawings that day or mailing them to me.  He had told me previously that he might have to leave early.  However, Captain Germain wanted his drawing before he left so he went to the Artillery Commander and retrieved the drawings.  Major Duarte left his drawing with the Captain asking only that he make a copy later.  In the morning a tactical battle was planned and carried out in the nearby woods.  The skirmish field was extremely muddy and the fog  put an end to the use of artillery, so around noon the Brigade Commander made the decision not to have a Sunday skirmish and the Brigade began to break camp.

Breaking camp would be fairly easy, but the problem came in transporting the camp gear to the main road.  The wagons and carriages from the Confederates lined one side of the road and the Federals on the other side.  The orders were that the camps that were the deepest down the lower field would taken out first.  Captain and Lady Germain decided not to wait for the wagons and carried their materials out on foot.  When they were finished they said goodbye and left the farm.

Major Duarte and I continued what we were doing, talked with some last minute spectators, and broke the Field Office down except for the tent and tables.  About 3:00 P.M. were told that we were next.  The Major and I dropped the tent and finished up breaking down the camp when the wagon and teams arrived.  The team driver was kind enough to help us load the wagon.  I had twisted my ankle and was not much help.  When we reached the main road Lady Mathews was there with the carriage and again the wagon driver assisted us with unloading the wagon.  Major Ozealius also was kind enough to help, and soon the carriage was packed.  I thanked those who had helped and made my compliments to Gen. Burbank and his Staff for the excellent organization of getting the Brigade out of the field.

Lady Mathews then took Major Duarte to where his carriage was parked and found his wife waiting for him.  They had to leave immediately for New Haven so we said goodbye, and I thanked the Major for staying to assist me with the camp.  Lady Mathews and I then had a leisurely supper at  the "Ladds" restaurant, and then made our way home.

In regard to the event, I found it to be a fun event even though the weather was foul.  The new idea about arranging a project with the artillery was a good idea I thought and Major Duarte agreed.  The corduroy bridge is about 75% completed and will be completed during winter quarters this year, and displayed at Fort Trumbull, in New London, CT.  The two Cheveax de Frise erected by Corporal Grossman were very favorably commented on by many of the spectators on Saturday and Sunday morning.  Lt. Webster, and Lady Webster were involved in working with the artillery and getting the guns moved onto the trailers.  Lt. Webster brought  a hand grenade for display, and left it with us.  We discussed briefly an article in one of the Civil War Magazines which talked about "log bombs" which were developed by the Confederate Secret Service for use against civilian steamships.  When coal was introduced for the steamboats on the Western Rivers the "coal bombs" were introduced.  I encouraged Lt Webster and Major Duarte to consider making a model of a "log bomb",and I intend to do the same.

As in all reenactments I always learn something and this instance was no different.  If again invited, I shall be pleased to seriously consider attending once again.

Respectfully Submitted;

Ian McKay, Brig. Gen of Engineers  (by brevet);
Chief of Staff / Chief Engineer;
Lt. Gen. U.S. Grant's Military and Personal Staffs

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