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Camp Chase Gazette article, 
January 2003

I was walking around sutler row at the 140th Antietam/Sharpsburg event after the Saturday morning battle; when I saw a very authentic looking Reb sitting on his horse in front of the old red barn. He looked battle weary and ready for war's end, seeming to want nothing more than to walk back into the arms of a family left far behind - a Kodak moment if I ever saw one. Some reenactors look as though they are at a weekend outing, while a rare few seem to be incarnated souls of warriors who eternally live a struggle from which they are unwilling to relent. Unfortunately, a constant crowd of spectators would not leave this soul alone long enough for me to get a shot at him (with my camera). But as I gave up and turned to leave, I walked right smack into a dozen rag-tag, non-uniformed Rebs sitting atop their horses under a copse of trees, taking advantage of what little shade there was to be found. I had not even noticed them there before.

A rougher bunch of riders I had never seen; they looked like they had just ridden off the pages of a Louis L'Amore novel. At first they appeared out of place. They looked more like heavily armed civilians - I wondered if they were at the right reenactment. Yet the more I watched them the more they seemed like common soldiers at ease sitting off to the side, awaiting eventual orders that would carry them off on the day's mission. Not the usual pards who spend down time walking sutler row with big blue bottles of root beer in their hands. There was a tension under the surface, too. Like a pack of wolves lying in the shade on a hot summer's day - tame enough if left alone, but you best not rile 'em. Then I heard one of them answer to a passer-by, "We're Texas Rangers." They were there as Texas Rangers and they proudly stayed the Texas Rangers every minute of the event.


I, like many Civil War novices, possess some passing knowledge of a few major battles, so to say that I never knew that Texas Rangers fought in the Civil War may not seem like a great revelation. But I have since discovered that while their organization may indeed be known to many re-enactors, few actually know that these men were often relied heavily upon by the likes of General P.G.T. Beauregard, General Nathan Bedford Forrest and especially General Braxton Bragg for whom they doggedly protected his retreat from Kentucky. Texas Rangers (8th Texas Cavalry) even tangled and slowed Sherman's march through Georgia, causing Sherman to often curse their existence. heir shock attack tactics earned them a fearsome reputation as one of the best cavalries in military history with accolades similar to this statement reported by General Hardee: "...the old guard of Napoleon, the men at Thermopolye, and at Balaklava were not their equals."

So as soon as I returned home from Sharpsburg, I enthusiastically began investigating Texas Rangers on the internet. I was a little disheartened to discover that even though their reputations were well known by Confederate generals and despised by Federal generals, there are few popular accounts of their exploits. Were it not for Texians who keep their memory alive through living history, the perils and triumphs of the Texas Rangers would be a lost footnote to history. Today there are more than a hundred reenactors serving as Rangers (Texians and non-Texians) in companies from Texas, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Georgia, California, Illinois, Washington and Arizona.

As luck would have it, I stumbled upon a group of Terry's Texas Rangers who were planning to attend the National event at Perryville, Ky. (Oct. 2002). Terry's Rangers had distinguished themselves at Perryville in Wharton's Brigade, making it an historic reenactment for the Regiment. I corresponded with Capt. George Amelia of Company I, Terry's Texas Rangers, who was planning on making the long trip from Texas to Kentucky.

That's a long enough drive for any reenactor with a car load of equipment, but can you imagine dragging along a bunch of horses, too? Cavalry reenacting is a major commitment of time and energy. You've got to do more than show up, you've got to live it. Officially known as the 8th Texas Cavalry; the original Rangers preferred being known as Terry's Rangers after their founder and first Commander, Col. Benjamin Terry, who was killed during their first action.

My goal was to photograph these dedicated historians reliving history at Perryville, on the very soil their historic comrades rode. Company I, as well as all of the Ranger regiments, pride themselves on an authentic campaign impression, carrying only the necessary items a mounted Ranger would need. Meeting Capt. Amelia provided me with much more than I had hoped for. These unsung heroes of the Civil War who sacrificed everything while expecting nothing of glory, were ironically being paid homage through unceremonious reenactment at a National event. While ten thousand spectators and reenactors flocked to the other side of the park for the scheduled reenactment of "Maney's attack," approximately 250 mounted and dismounted cavalry accompanied by 6 artillery batteries, reenacted the historic charge of Terry's Rangers at Perryville. Without spectators or fanfare they took the field their historic comrades fought and died on -- Confederate and Federal units together reliving and keeping alive a little known footnote of American history. And I was there to witness it.

They came thundering up over a rise in the rolling hills of the Perryville battlefield, a long line of fours, charging at full gallop. As the mass of horses and riders rounded down the slope, they maintained their tight formation until reaching the bottom of the hill. As they climbed the slope to the artillery batteries, they spread into a wall of controlled chaos. Then, as if a single voice managed to shout above the din the command to fire, they all seemingly fired at once. A massive wave of rebel yells, pounding hoof beats, and flashing pistols crested and crashed against our position with amazing expediency. Dumbstruck, I managed to get off three or four hurried shots in their general direction before they over ran me. Even though I knew they were coming, it all happened much faster than I ever expected. Then as quickly as they came, they withdrew, only to be followed by a second wave ....

"At Perryville, Ky, when no mistake could be made that would not prove most disastrous, Gen. Bragg asked of his advisors, who shall be sent on the wing to attract attention and interest and open the battle while the army moves across the open field to attack? I want the best cavalry that we have, and the fighting will be necessarily very severe, and they must stay until the army gets over and into battle. His advisors said the Texans; but, said Bragg, these men are not made of iron, they have been now in the saddle and under fire for thirty-five days and nights; but, said he, send for Gen Wharton and we will see what he says. Whatever the reply was, the Rangers fired the first gun, captured the first battery and stayed until the bullets from Bragg admonished them to retire. Their action in this fight aided (more than other) Gen. Bragg to continue his retreat out of Kentucky."
-- from Marshall Claiborne, 1891 Adjutant, Company "F" Terry's Texas Rangers.

"Our Invasion of the Commonwealth of Kentucky had been underway for a little more than six weeks and the last few weeks and the last few of them had been under the duress of a severe drought that tasked both man and horse. Our branch of the Army of Tennessee was in want of suitable watering holes and it was of this cause that we move don Perryville, only to find General Don Carlos Buell's boys awaiting us. Not knowing that this force represented the lions share of the Union Army in that area, we were ordered to attack."
-- Trooper Jason Crow (Perryville 2002 Reenactor)

"Of course all this talk of a Company of Cavalry would be meaningless were it unable to replicate the feel of that unit during the 1860's. The real test comes on the field. There are some units who parade around in sets of four and maybe, even form into a line of battle, but Company I must be able to make every change in. position or perform any assignment during a battle and still maintain that disciplined formation. NO maneuver is accomplished except by the use of prescribed methods. The primary function of every trooper is to maintain his position in his set. Each set leader must maintain his set's position in their section, which must always be aligned with the platoon's right and left guides. These guides maintain the platoon's alignment by always aligning themselves with the companies right and left guides. All this must be under the skilful direction of platoon commanders in precise coordination with the company commander.
Company I devotes the majority of its time to drilling, sometimes six hours a day during a weekend event, trying to attain that level of authenticity. The only way to do that is to drill. Even the battles are just drills at the center with the guns going off and the people yelling from every quarter. Discipline is what makes it happen, each member must discipline himself to be part of the team. With practice, the maneuvers become second nature. Ultimately, when everyone is self-disciplined, we will all be having fun and perform all the tasks safely, and the end result will be a cavalry unit that brings honor to those original Rangers. We'll do that by not placing wreaths or making speeches, but by giving all our fellow Americans a glimpse into sacrifices that were made by one group of Rangers in the name of honor and the pursuit of freedom."
-- Capt. George Amelia, Commanding Officer Co. I, 8th Texas Cavalry, Terry's Texas Rangers (reactivated.)

I was in the battle of Perryville, not with the regiment, but in a small detachment on the left while the Rangers were on the right. Hence I avail myself of the description of "Perryville" given by A.B. Briscoe, who kindly placed his "Personal Memoirs" at my service:

"The enemy was on the west side of the creek and our army on the east. The valley between was open field and the tops of the hills covered in places with timber. It was an ideal battlefield; there were no breastworks, but the hills on both sides were crowned with artillery. Polk was in command of the Confederate forces and expected the enemy to attack and waited for them until about 2 p.m. In the meantime the artillery was making the very earth tremble with a duet of nearly 100 guns. We lay in a little valley a few hundred yards to the rear, partially sheltered from this storm of shells. At 2 p.m. we were moved in column through the lines of infantry and the smoking batteries to the front. The open valley was before us with a deep creek spanned by a wooden bridge. Down we charged in column of fours across the bridge. After crossing, each squadron formed left front into line, which made us present five lines, one behind the other, and in this order we charged up the hill, into the woods and among the Yankees. This whole movement was made in a sweeping gallop and as if on parade. How different from the way we were handled at Shiloh! The Yankees were brushed back from the hill and woods and when the bugle sounded the recall and we returned, or own infantry and artillery had crossed the creek and were taking position on the hills from which we had driven the enemy. But again we had lost our commander, the gallant Lieutenant Colonel Mark Evans, who fell mortally wounded at the head of the regiment."
-- L. B. Giles, 1911, Company G, Terry's Texas Rangers

"Our respite from fighting was short-lived and soon we were at the head of Wheeler's cavalry, waiting behind a hill. Something told me that we were about to be employed in something quite serious and we all checked our weapons one last time before attacking the enemy position. Ahead of my set was one platoon. I stole a look behind us! Here stood the finest the Confederacy had to offer, boys from Arkansas, Tennessee and Texas anxiously waiting to defend their homes. A long gray column of bravery, determination and honor and we held the point, the vanguard of gallantry. Many of these knights of the South would lay in their graves tonight, but they did not shirk their duty. We knew what lay ahead and we were ready, sir, oh how we were ready to drive the enemy from their stronghold.
Brigade commanders were called forward and we were moved forward at a walk, then the trot, then the canter. Down into the vale and through an opening in a fence. The defilade position at this point offered some protection I am sure, but we still had to go up the hill and into the Yankee guns. Through the fence, a column right and then immediately fours left and we were in company front, then the charge.
We let go the bloody rebel yell and spurred our mounts into the fray. The hill before disappeared in a mount and we were on the guns that were hidden from view by tall grass until we were on them. The Yankee artilleryman was not up to a frontal assault from Texas that day. I saw one throw up his hands before we fired a shot and every Northern eye grew wide as we approached. At fifteen yards or so we unloaded pistols on them and then the Ranger rally was blown. Lickety-split we descended back down the hill to give the rest of Wheeler's boys a chance, but I firmly believe that the resolve of the Union soldier was destroyed by Texians. Alas, glory has it's price. I lost two troopers that day and I know that there were many more."
-- Trooper Jason Crow (Perryville 2002, reenactor)

"I believe they had about a mile to the bottom of the hill, where they crossed a bridge, and then a mile back up the other side. They charged down in a column of fours, just as we did. Because the enemy artillery was on top of the ridge, the rangers were protected from much of the firing. As the rangers crossed the bridge, or as we passed through the gap in the fence, they began to form lines of battle. In all they formed a column of five lines. Knowing that some of the companies were on detached service, because of historical writing and accounts, and that the Rangers would have less than five hundred total men at this period, we can assume that about eight or more companies were involved. Wharton also had two other regiments in his brigade, so that about 100 men were in each line. The record states that they made a column that was parade ground perfect as they moved up the hill. This is what we tried to do by having the 7th Tenn. come in behind us. Because of a road and stone wall that is now at the site, we knew that there wouldn't be enough room for more than two lines of about thirty in each line. To this point we are as true to history as possible.

The record shows that the Rangers easily swept by the infantry and artillery and drove them back into the woods. I don't know how long or how far they pushed, but the record indicates that as they were falling back, Cleburne's Division had reached the crest of the hill and made a stand. I believe we recreated that magnificent movement as we came over the hill and through the tall grass to appear in our enemy's front. At this point the space prevented any further movement.
We lingered long enough to capture or kill all the Yankees present, but had to fall back as an overwhelming Federal force emerged from the woods in our front. By this time we had taken considerable casualties, and had been all but replaced by the next wave which now covered our retreat. Since I have no record that Company I was on detached service, we can assume that they indeed made that charge."
-- Capt. George Amelia (Perryville 2002, reenactor)

After reenacting the historic charge, Company I immediately transformed themselves into bluecoats and rode to the rescue of the outnumbered Federals. On many occasions they are required to portray both sides. To quote Capt. Amelia, "We serve our ancestors by being the best cavalry on the field, regardless of the uniform."

"Computing the artillery captured by the Rangers direct, was 69 pieces, and in small arms directly, we can get no accurate computation, bet we turned into the government about 10,000 stands. This was over and above what they personally used-a six-shooter was an understood "Langniape." Wagons and supplies that were captured cannot be ascertained, but they were very large. In money, the amount is not known, but is reached over a million, in three or four instances alone. Of the killed and wounded, no definite number can be determined on, but judging of the fights, where no one else fired a gun, and of which we have the facts of their execution, the number of killed and wounded by the Rangers would reach over 12,000, and the number of prisoners about half of the number killed and wounded. Time was always too valuable to fool away with prisoners. But in one instance during the war [torn] known that any man was killed [torn] surrendering, and that was in a [torn] desperation in the first fight engaged in, and that by a boy whose father had been killed by a man who had surrendered."
-- John Marshall Claiborn, 1891

"For all of us that participated in the charge, there is little doubt that we followed in their footsteps. No amount of modern distractions could ever remove the feeling of pride that carried us up that hill. As Sgt. Cowley remarked as we rode down in fours, "Boys, this is 1862, and we are the Rangers."
As I wheeled our sets of four left at the gallop into line, I watched as those men dressed their lines, instinctively preparing for the next command which would send them headlong into the enemy's guns. Once our line sufficiently formed, still moving forward at a good gallop, and the bugler and Ranger Flag flanked me, I gave the command to charge, the reply that propelled me forward was a rebel yell that I will never forget. At the speed and close proximity of the troopers, one accidental stumble or any break in the discipline for which they are famous, could have resulted in disaster for those involved. Knowing this all too well, each man maintained his composure, each set its place, each platoon its alignment as Company I relived its heritage. I don't know if we'll ever live another moment like that, but we don't need to. For us, Perryville is not just their history, it's ours."
-- Capt George Amelia (Perryville 2002 reenactor)

For whatever reason any of us participate in this noble hobby, be it the camaraderie, the ambiance, to test our personal resolve, to pay homage, or just to get away from the wife and kids for a few days and shoot big guns, the ultimate reward is to touch the fabric of history. And if we are lucky enough, we may even achieve that magical moment when those brave souls of history reach back and touch us.

ENDNOTES -
Paul R. Scott, ed. "Claiborne's History of Terry's Texas Rangers," http://www.terrystexasrangers.org/library/scott_pr/claiborne_jm/index.html.

A. B. Briscoe "Personal Memoirs," cited by L. B. Giles Terry's Texas Rangers (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones Co., printers, c. 1911), http://www.terrystexasrangers.org/library/giles_lb/ chap6.html. (the location of the Briscoe manuscript, if it still exists, is unknown and the Terry's Texas Rangers webmaster would welcome any information on its whereabouts.)