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Riding with the “Winder Cavalry:” A newbie’s perspective Part II

Posted on Friday, February 17, 2017 at 12:50 pm

It has been several months since our first call to The Winder Cavalry’s president, Ruth Shipley. Later, my husband and I (Bill and Shelly Cartwright) attended the unit’s all day training event at the Union Mills Homestead. After returning home from our introduction and training, we were very excited to be preparing for our first real weekend event, the Carroll County Farm Museum reenactment in Westminster, MD.

After working all day, we arrived at the reenactment Friday evening. The company officers had the picket line up in a strand of trees, to keep the sun off of the horses. The unit’s supply tent was up, and campfires already burning. Tents were going up all around us, as the folks came in. Bill and I managed to erect a borrowed 9×7 A- tent and loaded our cots and gear into it. We were informed “Friday night is pizza night. We all pitch in and buy pizza for dinner.” That sounded good to us, as it had been a busy day. After we ate and got settled in, I expected a night around the fire with some small talk. After all, most of the people worked that day, before coming over and setting up camp…. wrong. “Let’s go for a ride” echoed down the company street.

We all tacked up with uniforms being optional, no weapons, “at the gaggle,” meaning walk together, but not in formation. We mounted up and rode around the property, to become familiar with the battlefield. It was well after dark, when we returned to camp, after my first night gaggle. Now the horses had to be settled in for the night and a watch established. With our tents facing the horses, this was an easy task. After an hour around the campfire, most went to their tent for the night.

Saturday: The Colonel and Captain were up early, 5 a.m. With the horses checked and all given a flake of hay (we always feed at the same time to discourage horse fights). As the camp fires were being stoked, 1st Sgt. Steve’s bugle sang out reveille.

Prior to the event, Ruth had sent out the meal schedule by a group email. We don’t have a cook, everyone was to bring something. This morning was French toast and bacon. Everyone was required to be in uniform by 8 a.m. and have the camp righted. The morning progressed quickly, as we all formed up for company uniform inspection, weapons inspection and orders of the day.  Next, the horses were watered and walked. We loaded revolvers, and then tacked up. At 9:30 a.m., 1st Sgt Steve’s bugle sounded first call.  At 10 a.m., the bugle sounded again, this time to mount and form up. The order was given to “Count fours, file off, mounted drill, and scout the area.”

Lunch was is in the field that day. After lunch, we rode our way back to the battlefield. Our scouts had found the enemy, a mounted Yankee cavalry. Both sides charged, as revolvers sang out. “Reform,” cried out the 1st Sgt.  “Draw sabers,” yelled the Captain (you’re kidding right?). Both sides charged again, sabers clash, as the cannons announced that the infantry was on the field.

The cavalry received orders to cover the flanks and screen the enemy’s cavalry. The colonel sent the first squad to cover the right flank and the second squad to cover the left flank, until the dismounted cavalry, (those who don’t have a horse), could get into position. When we were sure both flanks were covered, and the infantry and artillery were keeping the line busy, the colonel attempted to turn the flank by riding his main force to the right flank, in hopes of overloading that side. The Yanks held, so he left a few of us to hold the right, while the remainder of his command rode to the left flank. The yanks saw us coming, and mounted a good fight, on the left flank. This was our first real battle with spectators. It only lasted about an hour, but there was so much to take in, with all the orders, riding, sabers, pistols, carbines, cannons and infantry action. The battle wound down and the bugle sounded to end the fight.

After meeting our enemy, the federal cavalry and exchanging pleasantries the 1st Sgt. reformed the company. He called out “Meet and Greet” and we rode past the spectator line, as Ruth led us in song. We then stopped to let the people see the horses and ask questions, before returning to camp.

Back in camp, the colonel gave us a few inspiring words and we were dismissed. We had just put in five hours in the saddle. Now, it was time to take care of the horses, then maybe ourselves. Dinner was much like breakfast, with the entire camp pulling together. I was tired, but not these guys. Someone called out, “How about a ride to sutlers?” We were back in the saddle, at the gaggle, and off to sutlers. It seems that the sutlers are the Civil War shopping mall for reenactors. We tied the horses and went shopping. After a long shopping trip, we found our way back to camp. Again, we took care of the horses and the camp fires. The horses always come first, but now we have time to sit around the campfire and talk. Camp life was good, with homemade cake or cookies, they even churned ice cream. Our colonel does not drink alcohol, but has a firm rule; enjoy yourself, just don’t be loud or rude. My husband was pleasantly surprised to find some beer and homemade wine, at one of the campfires. After a very eventful day, the picket duty was posted and finally I got to bed. Just as I fell asleep, 1st Sgt. Steve’s bugle sounds “Taps” to end the day.

Sunday, we did it all over again. As we all packed up to go home, the camp conversation turned to the next event. There was talk of building a structure, just to burn it down. A night ride with torches was even suggested. I was too filled with thoughts of the weekend, to even think that far ahead. After 12 hours in the saddle, with two night rides, two battles and loads of good camp life, our first full weekend event had come to a close.

It took me several days to recover, but by Thursday, I was thinking about a possible night ride by torch light, and looking forward to our next event. Bill and I have definitely found a new hobby that comes with an extended family. If you’re at a Civil War reenactment, look us up. We are part of the Winder Cavalry, “We Ride, We Fight.”

Founded in 1996, 1st Maryland Cavalry, Company E, CSA, “The Winder Cavalry” is a member of the Valley Division. We are headquartered in Gettysburg, PA. For more information the website is 1stmarylandcav.com. The Valley Division is one of oldest serving umbrella groups, with independent member units throughout the eastern seaboard. Valley Division website address is http://valleydivision.com/. Shelly and Bill Cartwright live in Elizabethtown, PA. They can be reached thru the 1st Maryland Cavalry.

-By Bill and Shelly Cartwright