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Posted By: John E. Schultz on: 11/02/2007 08:24:40 EDT
Subject: Cedar Creek 1st Sgt AAR

Message Detail:

I promised an AAR this week and here it is. I apologize for the lateness but at times life interferes with our hobby and we have to deal with things.

Our unit, Signal Corps of the James was detached from Richmond and sent to the Valley to report to the Army of Northern Virginia's Commanding Officer, General Bob Tolar who was to be located in the vacinity of Middletown Virginia.

The core of our unti arrived on station Thursday afternoon and found the General's Staff encampment and requested space for our camp. Once that was granted we begin the task of unloading the wagons and setting up our camp planning the layout such that the others who were in our unit and arriving later would have space on our street.

Tents were set and firewood was obtained. Dinner was promptly prepared and we settled in for an enjoyable evening around the fire.

Weather the first night was very pleasent, only in the mid 50's.

The next morning saw the normal routine of coffee and breakfast which was excellent.

Throughout that day we received the rest of our unit's compliment bringing us to the strength of 18 overall in camp with 11 military.

Saturday morning our unit's drummers woke up the camp while coffee and breakfast were being prepared. I completed the Morning Report and gave it to the ANV Adjutent who stated that, again, we were the first report.

A letter to PACS and Longstreet's Corps Signal Officer was drafted and sent by armed guard to their respective camps requesting a meeting for planning purposes.

At 9:00 a.m. Signal Corps of the James fell in for Muster. I addressed the troops, put out the standing orders, reminded each person of their camp duties as well as handed out the "period terms" we were to master that weekend. When I was finished I called the unit to Attention and we were addressed by Major Dailey who stressed the importance of training and vigilance of all of us because we were the eyes and ears of the Army. He went on to explain the importance of the campaign we were in and how our cause depended on our work over the next few days.

After Muster we assembled in the field with Captain Stecker (PACS Sig. O.) for Flag training. Twenty minnutes into the training we were officially informed that General Tolar would be stepping down from Command of the Army of Northern Virginia and our unit was specifically requested to attend a special dress parade in his honor. We happily obliged and marched out smartly.

Directly after the Dress Parade I took a few Privates and proceeded to the Demonstration area and was met by Captain Nelson of Longstreet's Signal Detachment. His group and mine performed a flag demonstration for the spectators at about a distance of 50 or 60 yards while I talked to the crowd and handed out informational packets. A special thanks to Captain Nelson and his crew for assisting in this demonstration.

After the demonstration, flag training resumed until it was time for lunch.

Around that time York Signals detachment arrived with two military members.

After lunch the men had a bit of free time to visit the Sutlers before First Call. While I was at the Signal Demo, Major Dailey received the "battle plan" from the Army's Chief of Staff and had made up Signal Assignments. He and I reviewed them and agreed that they were sound. The day's battle was to be Cedar Creek.

The battle started on time and we sent only a few signals (mostly Advance) due to the fact that most Commanders and men were familiar with the scenerio. We had five Signal Parties with the Infantry, including Headquarters and an additional three with the Artillary. At one point during the battle General Tolar requested that I inform Artillary to clear their guns as our men fell back. We tried reaching that party and were unable. Major Dailey immediately thought 'outside the box' and obtained line of site by himself and sent the message with his hat. Cpl. "B-A" of Pacs Signals, in charge of Artillary Signals, promptly recognized the signal and took immediate action. A special mention of Corporal "B-A" and Major Dailey is noted for their prompt action.

After an initial success our forces were pushed back and we lost the battle. However, we did gain some very needed supplies as we passed through the Yankee camps. Although the army had lost a battle we gained what we needed to keep morale higher than it's been in quite a long time.

After retiring from the field we relaxed in camp while we collected our detachments' reports and prepared the master Signal Action Report for submission to our Army's Chief of Staff.

For the rest of the Afternoon our unit's folks relaxed and prepared dinner. That night, some of the boys from the 2nd South Carolina started playing in the main tent and a "ball" was held. They were excellent!

This night was much colder than the rest with lows in the upper 40's.

Sunday greeted us with a morning battle. Signals did not participate and we woke and prepared breakfast. Again, our morning report was the first one delivered to the Army's Adjutent.

After breakfast was finished our unit went up to meet with the photographer to have our picture made. R.J. Szabo, one of the best period photographers made our tin-type and it turned out just excellent. (will post a digitized copy later).

From the photographer we hastily returned to camp where our unit - especially the civilians - were treated to a lecture on Civilian Spies and Activities by the good folks from Chesapeake Signals (PACS). The lecture dealt with specifically how to use females to perform spying actions and report back using the flag code during reenactments. The training was very well received by all.

Major Dailey received the Battle Plan from the Army's Chief of Staff and we decided to have the same signal assignments as the day before with some small modifications. Signals were going to be important in this scenerio because we had some forward deployed mountain howitzers that needed to be commanded by Signals from Headquarters. Major Dailey walked the ground and spotted the area where the artillary would be deployed and then found our area for line of site (and where there was NO line of site).

The battle started on the "Belle Grove" side of the property and was largely an infantry action. The Yankees pushed forward into an overwhelming line of our boys in Gray. One of our infantry elements maneuvered to their flank and then rear as the rest pushed forward and eventually surrounded them on three sides, coming very close to cutting them off before they skedaddled completely. Signals were used to coordinate every move of the infantry during this open field battle. The air was buzzing with the fluttering of our flags sending urgent messages to advance - advance - advance! Our boys, being fed well with new supplies they liberated the previous day from the Yankee camp, pushed the blue-bellies back and they ended up in full dis-array running for their lives.

Eventually they reformed but our Artillary came up as we followed them very closely. This part of the battle happened on the Heater House side of the property. Our main line of cannons opened up a withering fire on the enemy as they hastily retreated. At the correct time our infantry advanced through our guns and was in hot pursuit - all the time Signal Flags waving orders for the Army to "Advance - Advance - Advance!"

When our line reached the top of the ridge facing the Heater House we saw the Yankee Cavalry coming onto the field and it was then that our forward deployed Howitzers were ordered to fire. They fired with GREAT effect and combined with withering infantry musketry they quickly retired from the field and yet again we were ordered to signal "Advance - Advance - Advance!"

We pushed down over the dry creek bed and up to the Heater House driving the enemy back ever further toward their own line of Artillary as we were ordered to Signal "Cease Fire".

At the end of the battle shouts from the ENTIRE ARMY went up, "TOLAR - TOLAR - TOLAR - TOLAR - TOLAR - TOLAR - TOLAR" in tribute to the General's fine work with the Army of Northern Virginia.

His presence on the field will be sorely missed by this First Sergeant and everybody in the hobby.

Camp was quickly struck and we were dismissed after thanking the General to return to Richmond to await further orders.

In all - the event was tremendous. Good weather - light winds - and effective use of Signals were the highlights. Ample firewood and water were available and the outhouses were cleaned efficiently and timely. The variety of Sutlers was excellent and I have no overall complaints at all.

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Signal Corps of the James
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