A Civil War Reenactment in 1861

from Eye of the Storm written and illustrated by Private Robert Knox Sneden

Private Robert Knox Sneden was a member of the 40th New York "Mozart" Regiment. This entry is from September 29, 1861.

The 40th Regiment had a sham fight today which resulted in filling up the hospital with as many wounded and maimed men as if there had been a big skirmish with the enemy Colonel [Edward J.] Riley took one half of the regiment while Major [Richard T] Halstead took the other half. Both set out in different directions to meet a mile away on unknown ground. Yet neither officers or men knew where skirmish lines were thrown forward, while the men clambered over fences, through mud and over walls. In about an hour both parts came together again, and a heavy rolling fire opened with blank cartridge.

The howitzer gun was fired rapidly, but it [was] upset several times by the recoil, and the rammer was fired away during the excitement. The major handled his part of the regiment with more skill than the colonel, who with a company were made prisoners in fun, and locked up in a barn. They broke out though the boarding and being now excited charged the major's men, firing their muskets within ten feet of each other so that many were burnt and singed by the wads. Riley endeavored to stop the fight, which was getting serious, when some company fired their ramrods (iron ones) at him. [It's all fun and games until the ramrods come out. - Jonah] These struck the ground all around him, and bounded, tingling in the air, doing him no harm. The major stopped the fight after a while, and bough litters had to be made to bring those who were hurt into camp. The colonel has many enemies in the regiment, caused by favoritism, and being too much of a martinet. There is no chance of the 40th indulging in this little pastime of hurting each other to no purpose for some time to come.