Nestled among rolling hills and heavily wooded Arkansas terrain, the Cane Hill reenactment site emerged at the end of a winding, crunchy,country road. Having missed out on the first days" double feature" battles. I arrived on Sunday afternoon hoping to salvage what would be for many the last battle reenactment of the year. As I made my rounds to survey the field, reenactors as well as spectators could be heard recounting tall tales of Saturdays engagements. Talk of charging up the hills and all the officers being shot to pieces seemed to dominate the airwaves. I sensed a lot raw enthusiasm and excited energy ready to be unleashed for the final battle.
The battlefield provided some very rugged terrain with tall undisturbed grass and weeds carpeting the gentle sloping ground. Flanked by heavy woods and hills the fields were ready for more action. A small creek carved out near the Union camp added even more texture and character. No obvious modern-day distractions except for some aluminum fixtures near the creek.See photos shown below.
Prior to the battle, I observed a small determined band of Union cavalry plotting a surprise attack. (pictured below left) Unsuspecting Confederate sentries supposed to be guarding their camp, were engaged in a turkey shooting contest of sorts (or something,photo-below right). Racing to a thundering gallup, the Blue Horsemen of the Apocalypse reigned terror and sudden death upon their enemy! Taken totally by surprise, the Confederate picket line was completely shattered and demoralized! Embarrassed and humiliated, the soldiers tried to regroup and lick their wounds. Only laughter and joy for the blue bellies. A nice little piece of drama before the main event for those of us who happened to be nearby to witness it.
With show time just minutes away, the weather warmed up quit comfortably for a November weekend. The sun even made an occasional appearance breaking through the clouds now and then.. Some spectators were even wearing shorts!. the crowd was positioned on a high hill overlooking the entire landscape. It was a little rough in spots and at times very far from the action, but nevertheless a good view. Two large leafless trees blocked some of the action but also added to some of the pictures with some interesting branches emerging in the foreground.(see sample photo below right).
The battle began with fighting near the creek as Union troops tried to cross over to the other side. Not much to see at first because the woods blocked the view of the approaching Union soldiers and we could not see down into the creek. Soon enough however, troops poured out into plain sight and much maneuvering and action littered the battlefield. The constant and vigorous roar of cannon fire intensified throughout the battle. The action swayed and swirled in different locations of the battlefield allowing us to view the fighting at different angles and distances. This is always good because it can be quite boring watching the troops engage each other from the same viewpoint for the entire battle. The enthusiasm I felt prior to the battle now had certainly manifest itself on the field. You could really sense the intensity and energy of the soldiers. The battle had the feel of a playoff game and everyone was giving their best effort to make it to the Super Bowl or win an Oscar award! One soldier took several hits before dying gloriously in plain view of all the spectators. His performance prompted one young boy to yell out, "Hey great acting dude!,great acting!" Another youngster marveled at the sound of what he thought was Indians joining the battle. "No honey, that's the Rebel yell, not Indians!" his mother explained.
BLOOPER OF THE BATTLE
In the heat of the battle, I noticed one Union soldier stop to attend to a fallen comrade. But instead of helping him, he pulled out a modern point and shoot camera and took his picture. Must have been for forensic purposes !Nevertheless his action certainly qualified for the blooper photo of the battle!
The fighting was fairly intense throughout the battle as the armies constantly harassed each other. Cavalry units collided fiercely around infantry and artillery batteries sending riders off their horses and artillery crews desperately seeking shelter under the very guns themselves! ( bottom right photo) After about forty minutes of action, you could sense a dramatic conclusion drawing near. A small heroic unit of Union infantry suddenly bolted for a Confederate artillery battery about to reload its deadly ordinance. Hand to had fighting broke out as the Yanks easily overpowered the stunned artillerymen.An armful of muskets and two guns were now the prize of the advancing Union army. Both armies had now concentrated their infantry and were on a direct collision course.
As they advanced, heavy Confederate musket fire tore into the Union flag bearer sending both him and the colors crashing to the ground. The flag was quickly rescued but the standard bearer was lost forever.
Now even more determined, the Federal forces advance escalated into a full scale charge with vengeful shouts and cries of death spurring them relentlessly forward. Equally motivated, the Confederate forces met their enemy straight on and the armies clashed in a climatic conclusion. A great ending to a very entertaining battle!.
There were over 5,129 spectators who attended the 2001 reenactment event. Some 407 uniformed reenactors and 30 civilians participated. The event has been rated a great success and will be brought back in 2003.
View complete photo gallery of the battle /View photo gallery of the camps/view posters of this battle
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