Friday, August 30, 2013

Topographical Engineers. AAR, Aug. 2013, Woodbury, CT -- "Battle of Chicamauga Creek"

>>>> Topographical Engineers After Action Report, August 23, 1863, Woodbury, CT ---- “Battle of Chicamauga Creek.” <<<<

Lt. General U. S. Grant
All Federal Armies

Colonel Paul Kenworthy
New England Brigade

Major Greg Webster
Northeast Topographical Engineers (NETE)

Major Don Erickson
U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers

Respected Sirs;

I beg your very kind indulgence to receive my Engineering Report for the above named encampment and battle.

My staff and I left Fort Trumbull by special Army coach early on the morning of August 23, following the coastline until we reached the Connecticut River and then took the road North along the river, turning toward Woodbury, CT which was our destination.  We arrived at the Union campground late in the afternoon. 

The staff member that I have with me is Lady M. Mathews, who is the lead Logistics Staff, Teamster, and the Unit Treasurer.  The weather was warm and bright, and the camping field, was clear, from a probable earlier harvest and still damp from the rains the day before.  The encampment was bounded on two sides by the Nonnewaug River, and on one side by an extensive cornfield.  The close near side and far side of the river from the encampment grounds were heavily forested in the area between the river and the high road just above it.  The top of the encampment was covered with a dirt road, fencing, and another large cornfield.  The passage to the Confederate Camp was marked with a temporary bridge and the tent city of Unity was settled in along the right tree-line separating the campground from the corn field.  The Sutler’s tents were set up along the dirt road.  I will post the maps of the area on the blog as soon as they are completed and copied.  Major and Lady Webster arrived and within about an hour the Topographical Field Office was set up and ready for operation.  Major Webster then engaged in a preliminary reconnaissance of the Union and Federal encampments on either side of the Nonnewaug River.  While engaged in this field survey he also mapped the river fords and bridge site over the river as well as the access road and bridge site into the Union Camp.
My staff member and I had been offered a night’s lodging and an evening meal for Friday and Saturday in the village of Woodbury and we were very glad to take advantage of such after a hard day of travel.

We arrived in camp, early the next morning.  The weather was clear and cool.  No clouds in the sky with a slight breeze along the river and across the encampment.  There had been a heavy dew during the night and the grass and the tents were still heavy with the moisture.

After breakfast, Major Webster then undertook to complete the reconnaissance of the day before by finishing a survey of the river fords and and field sketch of the terrain along the Nonnewaug River.  A completed survey will follow.   

My first action of the day was to fill out and send in the Topographical Engineers Morning Report, together with Major Webster’s two battlefield sketches for the Brigade Commander’s use, which I had reviewed and approved.  Officer’s Call was sounded and Major Webster attended for the engineers.  With the arrival of Mr. Goodhue, the first item on the Topog. Plan of the Day was the assignment ceremony for BG, (by brevet) Ian McKay and Fred  K. Goodhue.  BG Ian McKay received his appointment to Lt. Col. from Lt. General U. S. Grant who has sent the letter along together with the letter of Congressional approval of the proposed permanent rank.  Fred K. Goodhue received his documentation as a 2nd Lt of Topographical Engineers (by brevet), his appointment as an Asst. Field Supervisor and various letters of congratulation.  

Following the ceremony, Major Webster and Lt Goodhue left the camp for a more detailed reconnaissance of the area and a training exercise for the new Lt.  Lt. Goodhue completed a very acceptable field sketch of this survey of the Nonnewaug River with Major Webster’s instruction and assistance.   

I was busied putting together a proposed project which would protect the Union Camp from a sneak attack by the Confederate Forces by mining the bridge into the Confederate Camp and sewing the shallow parts of the river bed with caltrops.  My proposal was turned down because the Brigade Commander told me the Confederates controlled both the bridge and the river.  I then turned to drawing a map of the Union Encampment both for the unit and the mapping files of Lt. Gen. Grant.  

Major Webster and Lt. Goodhue returned after an hour or so, and Major Webster assigned Lt. Goodhue to complete a finished, colored, river survey map from his earlier field sketch.  Lt. Goodhue was occupied for the remainder of the day drawing a third sketch map of the area that he and the Major had looked over in the morning hours.  This task the Lt. completed very satisfactorily.  All of these maps will be added to the NETE”s mapping files.

In the mid-morning Master Ray Manzi, the encampment master asked me if I would be willing to narrate for the expected spectators, the two battles that would take place on Saturday.  I replied that I should be pleased and honored to do so, and carried out the effort with dispatch on both occasions.

The skirmishes both followed a usual plan or pattern:
--Skirmishers (trained and experience infantry) advanced from both ends of the battlefield.  Their purpose was to locate the enemy force if possible and estimate the enemy strength to be provided to the army commanders;
--The skirmish was followed by an Artillery barrage which attempted to “soften up” the enemy and to break up the enemy guns and wagons on the field;
--The main infantry force of each army then entered the field and began volley firing at the enemy force,  The skirmishers rejoined their armed forces.  Both volley firing and independent firing are used against the enemy forces.  The Confederate forces often split their detachment into smaller groups and try to flank the enemy and force him to direct his fire in more than one direction;
--If there is a cavalry unit, it is here that they launch an attack on the opposite forces;
--Both sides push each other until one or the other is reduced to surrender or retreat;
--On occasion, the two force commanders will meet to determine how the battle will end, and then the two sides will leave the field.

During the day there was a steady arrival of spectators wishing to talk with the engineers and review the engineering display.  The items of the display which seemed to attract the most attention were the period pistol display and the field fortification models.   

Major Webster submitted a plan for the erection of some field fortifications around one of the Union gun emplacements, which I approved.  Both the Artillery Commander and the Brigade Commander also approved this work and Major Webster, with some assistance from the artillery staff of the Battery “B”, First Rhode Island Light Artillery, set up the field fortifications.  The barrier was designed to slow the attack on the guns by troops or cavalry and consisted of a line of Frazee, and Cheveau Des Frize, protecting the battery emplacement for the one gun.  In the early evening my staff and I returned to the inn for supper and a long sleep.  

On Sunday morning we got into camp, again at an early hour, and found that Lt. Col. James Duarte had returned from his assigned detachment.  He brought with him a letter from Lt. Gen. U. S. Grant requesting that Major Webster construct a pontoon bridge across the Nonnewaug River.  The following is the text of the letter:

“Major Greg Webster 
NETE Commander
Fort Trumbull, CT


I would like to order you to make a pontoon bridge over the Nonnewaug River by Aug. 24, 1863.  You have 100 men from my command to do this in the time I ask.  It could be done by 50 men from the Army of the West in 1/2 the time;

Very Truly Yours;
S. Grant”           

Major Webster asked me to draw up the plans for such, and I spent the remainder of the day Sunday making this sketch plan.

Following the afternoon skirmish, the crowds again began to filter through camp for an hour or so, and then the last of them hurried back to the transport buses.  The encampment was scheduled to end with the departure of the last of the spectators.

We broke camp, and after leaving the area, we settled on a dinner together with all the Topogs at a local inn which we knew.  Ladies Heidi Webster and Margaret Mathews worked very hard in assisting us to set up and take down the Engineers camp. Lt. Col. J. Duarte was also a great help in the camp takedown. Lady Webster also did an excellent job of explaining the Engineering Displays to spectators, when  the engineers were otherwise engaged.  

After a sumptuous supper Major Webster declared the just past encampment to be an excellent weekend.  All present agreed.  The encampment was from our point of view outstanding in it’s organization, and its attention to the needs of the unit.  Were we as a unit or as individuals invited to another such encampment we would be very pleased to attend.

Very Respectfully;

Ian McKay, BG, CE, TE
Corps Engineer, 25th Corps,
Chief Engineer
Chief of Staff (acting)
Lt, General U. S. Grant’s Personal and Military Staffs

Monday, August 5, 2013

Topographical Engineers After Action Report, Look Park, August , 2013

>>>> Topographical Engineers After Action Report, <<<< 

Look Park, Florence, Mass, Aug. 2013

Lt. General U. S. Grant;
All Federal Armies

Colonel Paul Kenworthy
Commanding Officer
New England Brigade

Major Steve Doucette, 
Commander (Acting)
New England Brigade

Major Don Erickson
Commandant (acting)
U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers 

Respected Sirs;

I beg your indulgence to receive my Engineering Report for the above named encampment and battles.

My staff and I arrived at the Union Camp at Look Park on Friday evening at about 6:30 P.M. after a day long trip by carriage from Fort Trumbull, in New London, CT, my current military base assignment.

We set up the Topographical Engineering Field Office according to a previous encampment design and settled in for the evening.  My personal staff and I were the recipients of a very kind invitation to stay with friends in the small town nearby, and we did so after a delicious seafood supper at a local inn.

The next morning I arrived in camp to find Major Webster and his lovely wife already awake and preparing Breakfast.  Officer’s call was announced and Major Webster took the call and gained the information for the day.  The Major and I then conferred about the maps that he had prepared and already issued to the acting brigade Commander, Major Steve Doucette, and then I went to the Commander and asked to speak with him about his needs / desires for the use of the Topog. Engrs.

The Commander seemed very eager to provide the engineers with his desires for both of the days prospective skirmishes.  First, he asked for a two lane pontoon bridge be laid up stream from the existing bridge.  Apparently there was some suspicion that the bridge had either been mined, or destabilized in some unknown manner.  For the second day, he asked that the end of the battle field be armed with cheavoux de frize to provide a barrier against a massive assault on the Union camp by the enemy. The engineers were very motivated by the Commander’s enthusiasm in putting the Topographical Engineering Unit to work.

After the meeting with the Commander, I was pleased to draw up a plan for the two pontoon bridges, together with a set of listings for the required materials and pontoons to construct the bridge together with the telegraph message requesting that six pontoons and all relative equipment be sent from the engineering Pontoon train waiting just South of the village of Florence.  Major Webster undertook to write up the plan and materials needed for the requested field fortifications. The materials for the cheavoux de frize arrived almost immediately and Major Webster with his set-up team immediately went to work setting up the field fortifications.  I then undertook to draw a map of the Union Camp to add to the event portfolio.

Major Webster and I had set up a display of some of the instrumentation, weapons, maps, plans, and materials used by the engineers in the field.  Of particular interest, was Major Webster’s excellent reproductions of the “black maps” that he produced on site with the help of the bright sun and some chemically soaked drawing papers.  They were quite good and provided an easy way to replicate important maps and plans for the guidance of the Brigade’s Command Staff at the battle site or the encampment.

I was very much honored by the Event Organizer to narrate the battles that were planned for the weekend, and I did so, being supplied with transportations to and from the battle sites. 

On Saturday evening my personal staff and I retired to the Florence village for a very delicious supper and rest at the provided home.  Sunday morning dawn early and we were back in camp before 8:00 A.M.  My tasks for the day were pretty much involved with narration at each of the battles that had been planned, and talking with the spectators who came by and who were interested in the Engineering Field Office and the displayed materials.  I was very pleased to meet with Lt. Charles Veit who Commands the Naval Landing Party.  This unit took part in the battles in support of the Union Infantry and the artillery.  Their naval displays were said to be excellent and many spectators visited their encampment.  I was also pleased to be able to talk with Captain Reicke of the Ninth Mass. Artillery, and he was engaged for a short period in discussion with spectators in explanation of the engineering displays while I was in the period of narration on the battle field.  

Major Webster accomplished a detailed and exhaustive field Reconnaissance and drew a rough sketch map of  the Pines Theatre Battle Area.  He will be preparing a finished map of the area from the sketch map later in the month to add to the Engineer's Map portfolio.

Major Webster also reports that he has received positive feedback and comments from the Union Infantry Units regarding the establishment and use of field fortifications, which obviously included the Cheveax de Fraise and the Frazee applications.  Both units liked having these devices, which in their view, made the battlefield much more authentic in both looks and usage.  They both evidenced an interest in continuing to use these portable fortification devices in coming future events that do not include mounted soldiers.

I am also most pleased to introduce all to the newest of our members in the Topographical Engineers, Mr. Fred Goodhue.  Fred is 64 years of age, lives in Williamsburg, Mass. and has been a long time reenactor of the WWII period and he is now interested in stepping back in time with us.  “Welcome Aboard Fred,” it is great to have you with us, and we are looking forward to working with you in the future.    

I was pleased to see that the Brigade Commander made good use of the maps and plans provided to him.  Further, I was pleased that the Look Park Event ran so well for the Engineers.  It was a most enjoyable event and if invited, the engineers will be pleased to attend once again.

Your Most Obedient and Diligent Servant;

Respectfully Submitted;

Ian McKay, BG, CE, U. S. Corps of Topographical Engineers