I was along as a Camp Follower at the Battle of Cherry Valley a few years back when it was one of that year's big events. The battle of the first day was a tactical one with no spectators. The troops marched over three miles from camp to climb up a pretty large hill to the battlefield. I walked with them. I usually do combat photographer duty but it was raining so I had left my camera in the hotel. I stood at the edge of the field with the other women as the Rebel troops approached the British line at the middle slope of the hill.
After a brief engagement the British began to give ground, and the artillery began to withdraw the guns up a narrow and steep dirt path to the top of the hill where there was a fort to defend. At this point the powers that be decided that the women folk had to leave and we were shooed away. I had not come this far, however, to be shooed. A gun crew was going by pushing their piece up the road under escort of some jaegers - German riflemen. One of the latter was ann acquaintance so I asked if I could help. Camp had to leave but gun crew were combatants. Soon enough I found myself hauling a water bucket up the road. After a short while the path grew steeper and more slippery and I got a rifle to carry as the jaegers helped push the gun.
After a good climb, the gun was deployed as Rebel riflemen and Indians started moving through the woods around the road. We were under attack! A brisk engagement between the Rebels and the Jaegers and the gun crew began.
Eventually the Jaegers moved off as the light battle moved on. The gun crew and myself were left alone, therefore, when a short while later a new group of rebels moved up the trail towards us. There was little chance we could beat them, all along the rebels had ducked behind trees just before the gun had fired and had therefore taken no casualties from the cannon. Without the Jaegers the gun would be carried after its first shot.
Still, running away wouldn't do and carrying the gun off would take too long. The crew hurriedly loaded the cannon, the Gun Captain bellowing each Order in turn to hurry the crew along. The cowardly rebels, hearing the order to Give Fire being made, ducked off the road just as the match was put to the touchhole.
All chance of victory was seemingly lost when the cannon stood mute under the match. "Misfire!" called the Captain in disgust. It was too late even to run.
The rebels hurried back onto the road and formed, eager to rush up the trail and take the gun. They awaited the order to advance. Instead, however, they heard an order of a different sort from the Gun Captain, "Just Kidding!" He yelled smiling. With that he turned the match so that the burning ember was no longer safely away from the touch hole but buried in the primer.
That instant, the look on the rebel's faces, a priceless thing to behold, was blotted out in the smoke of the cannonblast. Huzzah! It was the most fun I have had at a re-enactment to date!
- T Schultz, 1NJV
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