Brigade Trains

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Brigade Trains Empty Brigade Trains

Post  Gery Barker on Sun Jul 19, 2009 8:03 am

In The Van: Trailing Kirby Smith

In August of 1862 General E. Kirby Smith’s Army marched from East Tennessee to link up with Braxton Bragg invasion of Kentucky which would end at the Battle of Perryville. Crossing the Cumberland Mountains, Smith assigned Ledbetter’s Brigade of Heth’s Division to assist the Army’s trains across the rugged terrain. During the move they encountered Unionist “Bushwhackers” as well as mountainous terrain, bad roads and inclement weather. We are recreating one brigade’s trains in General Smith’s Army.

The brigade trains will be made up of wagon companies, a supporting Infantry company, and possibly Artillery. There may well have been a traveling forge, an ambulance, a sutler, and refugees following the column.

The event will be held on 12,000 acres of private land with a minimum of modern intrusions near Crossville, Tennessee from Sunday, August 1st Saturday, the 7th, in 2010. Sunday will be registration, we will march Monday morning and we will muster out Saturday.

This will be an adventure like no other. We expect multiple wagons, teams and animals. The terrain is rough but manageable. The work will be strenuous. Our intent is to recreate an accurate experience of a part of life in 1862, including food, living conditions, supply, administration, and work. This is an opportunity to learn how soldiers, teamsters and refugees lived in a world dependent on animal transportation; and, the coordination necessary between the various elements of an army, Infantry, Artillery, Cavalry and their support under realistic conditions. We expect to be moving wagons over obstacles, cutting firewood, improving roads, and gathering forage. It will be physically strenuous. This is a deep immersion, living history event. We expect participants to maintain first person attitudes, actions and conversation for the duration of the event. This is NOT for beginners.

For more information:

Military: Rob Murray,
Refugees: Terre Lawson,
Wagons and teams: Gerry Barker,

Last edited by Gery Barker on Wed Aug 05, 2009 4:33 pm; edited 2 times in total
Gery Barker
Gery Barker

Posts : 24
Join date : 2009-04-08
Age : 75
Location : Edmonton, KY

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Brigade Trains Empty Wagons/Wagoners at Brigade Trains

Post  Gery Barker on Sun Jul 19, 2009 8:05 am

In the Van: Trailing Kirby Smith
Wagons and Teams

Wagoners intending to bring their outfits to In the Van: Trailing Kirby Smith should be aware that the conditions will be serious and animal management will take a lot of thought. The terrain is hilly but not as bad as Piney Woods or Marmaduke’s Raid. Trails are sand with rocky spots, but not as harsh on an animal’s feet as crushed limestone. There is good grazing and this year anyway, more than adequate water. Expect daytime temperatures in the nineties with nights getting as low as the forties (F). Thunderstorms are a possibility.

The enemy is local Bushwhackers, both mounted and dismounted, possibly as high as company strength. They know the terrain much better than us. Their drawback is that while they are good hunters and farmers, they would have little or no military training and very little military arms or equipment.

Rolling stock may be any wooden wheeled wagon or cart that roughly conforms to the configurations of mid nineteenth century vehicles. Single, double and triple box wagons will be allowed. Since it takes an expert to tell the difference between the cast iron hub with a Babbitt metal bearing and a Sarvin hub, we will permit Sarvin hubs. Modern draft breeds, Belgians and Percherons, as well as modern Holsteins will be permitted.

For this reenactment safety is a paramount consideration. We are taking people and animals in harms way. A panic stricken animal can wreck a wagon, hurt itself and crush humans. Even without the disaster that a runaway could cause, a wagon wheel on a hard surface can cut limbs or appendages off. Basic safety practices have to be observed. First, never trust your animals. They must be in control at all times. Do not leave them untied and unattended. Teach everyone around you (inexperienced Infantry) to stay away from the wheels. If in doubt, ask for help. Always have an assistant so one of you can stay with the animals. We will not allow anyone to steal animals on this project.

Animals must have current health papers. Horses and mules must have Coggins. Cattle must have a current health inspection certificate from your Vet. The site keeps a copy of your Coggins or health certificate, you can save time by having a copy with you.

Animals should be conditioned for five days of heavy walking. Make sure they are doing five to eight miles with at least a full load and possibly overload for training. If you are in flat country, remember pulling in mountains is a very different experience.

Wagons should be thoroughly checked out. A trip to the wheel wright before the campaign will be cheaper in the long run than having to extract a wagon miles from a trailhead. Look at hubs, spokes and fellows. If you are not sure of the reach, replace it. Remember the reach is an expendable piece, supposed to break before a more important part of the wagon.

Those driving horses and mules, please be sure your harnesses are in good repair. A broken upper hames strap or anything in the breeching/holdback system can get an animal hurt, cause a runaway, and imperil the lives of both animals and humans. We have no way of predicting the weather. Give your harnesses good oiling before the event. It might be a good idea to have harness repair tools and parts with you. For example, on a long trip like this I usually have an extra eye bolt, and bow for my oxen, and some spare leather, awl, thread and needles to repair a harness..

Do not overload the animals. The old rule of thumb was that a draft animal can pull half its own weight on wheels, all day, every day. Thus if you have a span of 900 pound animals, they weigh 1800 pounds total and you can pull 900 pounds including the wagon. My four boys weigh about 8,100 pounds together. My freight wagon weighs 1100 pounds, thus I could conceivably put 2,900 pounds in it. For comparison a 10 pound Parrott Rifle with limber weighs 3,700 pounds; also a realistic load for my team.

If your animals have not been trained to stay on a picket line, you will need to put some time into it. I stake my animals at first for short periods of time when I can be in the area to untangle them as necessary. Then I slowly lengthen the time. I do not stake or picket an animal then walk away (out of ear shot), even after they are trained.

I would bring fly wipe or equivalent, some foot maintenance tools, first aid items (especially for colic), shoes already fitted and spare nails and my choice of grain. There will be more than one person on the trip capable of putting a shoe back on, but shaping shoes can be difficult in the field.

Although the trails are sand with some rocky spots I would do something to protect the animal’s feet. I have become a believer in Bovi-bond, but traditional shoeing is certainly adequate. If any of you noticed at Piney Woods and Brice’s Crossroads, my oxen did not even flinch on gravel.

Wagons should be equipped with enough tools and materials to get themselves out of trouble. As a minimum, have an ax, a logging chain, spare clevis and a wheel wrench. Logging chains in the 19th Century were generally a rod long (16’6”). A freighter on the high plains carried an ax, a spade, a logging chain and a tool kit for the wagon, plus a kitchen box. In the book Wagons for the Santa Fe Trade are two examples of kitchen boxes. They are basically 12 to 16 inches wide, 10 to 12 inches high and a little less than the width of the wagon. Freighters in the era were required to carry tarps to cover their loads inside the bonnets. In fact they could be fined if they were caught not tarping the load. Bring an extra tarp for your load.

There are some steep descents on the trails we will be on. Brakes were just coming in during the Civil War era. I doubt if many civilian wagons had them. If your wagon does not have good positive brakes, install chain brakes (also called hip chains or drop chains). Most farm wagons still had these when I was a boy. An example can be found in the Conestoga Wagon: 1750 – 1850 by Shumway, Durell and Frey. Another alternative is to come with a chain prepared to chain the rear wheels on a steep hill.

For this campaign, wagoners should be dressed as civilians. There is certainly no problem with mixing some military clothing in your dress, but we will all be civilian contract drivers. Refugee men and women would have been used if there were not enough other drivers. Victorian etiquette notwithstanding, drivers are generally shown in shirtsleeves without vests or jackets.

Wagoners traditionally carried trade goods, often contraband items for sale to the troops. Foods, tobacco, whiskey and luxury items would be good examples. This can be part of the living history experience. I also think that although we will be eating Army rations, it would be a strange wagoner that did not have a private stash of food in his kitchen box.

I know there are teams without wagons and wagons without teams that have expressed an interest in the event. If you will contact me I will try to get you matched up.

I will do anything I can to help people get ready for this event. If you have any questions, please ask. If you need to come here or we need a wagon training session somewhere, we may be able to work it out.

Gery Barker
Gery Barker
Gery Barker

Posts : 24
Join date : 2009-04-08
Age : 75
Location : Edmonton, KY

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