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Posted By: on: 08/20/2000 22:08:40 EDT
Subject: Commander's Notes.

Message Detail:
Friends,

Well, in the last two weekends, I have gained a new respect for this hobby, and have had experiences and feelings that I have not had since I was a fresh fish some five years ago. One, I'll cover now, and the other, I will get to in another post.

Anyway, I had the honor of commanding an infantry unit in battle this past weekend, and have learned many things. All line infantry enlisted men often gripe and complain about officers and how things are done, and how they could do them better. How do I know this? Simply, because I have been in the lines and heard the griping and done the complaining myself.

In an infantry battle line, you are elbow to elbow, and with men either in front or behind you. Though exposed to fire, this gives a feeling of security.

Several things occur when you are in command, however. First, when the line advances, the officer is out front by himself, very exposed and very vulnerable. I had my command push the Union line a few times, and I was somewhat intimidated out in front during the advance. It's a very uneasy feeling knowing you are exposed, and knowing that the enemy would in reality make you a target.

Secondly, even though it was a small scale engagement, it is amazing just how fast a situation can change and how much quick thinking can be sometimes needed. Troops appear when you are not expecting them, and move maybe where you didn't think they are supposed to go, and the plans have to be adjusted and corrections made accordingly.

Also, when an officer is leading a skirmish line, again the exposure factor comes into play. The men are kneeling or lying prone, but the officer has to stay above them to see what is happening and counter as required.

I have new respect for officers, needless to say. It requires extreme focus and concentration. An example of this all is that during today's skirmish, we had two Union artillery pieces that were literally pounding the snot out of us. They each fired 23 rounds in the entire forty minutes that we fought. How many rounds did I actually hear? 3. I was so focused on what was going on in my front, that I tuned them entirely out.

Also, it is quite a bit discomforting to turn away while sending a courier with a message and to look back to find half of your line gone.

The one tendency I had was to rush the firing. It seemed that no matter how fast my men were loading, that not nearly enough fire was going out, and I rushed them a few times. The whole thought is that," We are in serious trouble, so let's keep it hot".

This is a totally opposite way from how I normally look at things. It caused me to see things a different way, and I am very grateful for the opportunity. It was quite a learning experience, and I have a newfound respect for all the boys on both sides, both the leaders and the followers, and new hope for the hobby in general. The old magic came back, and it is good.

JR


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