Fire on the Rappahannock


Without a doubt this reenactment was the highlight of our reenacting careers.  Its incredible location, outstanding organization and the best of all, its focus on the role of Engineers made this event a lifetime memory.  Congratulations must be given to all the reenactors portraying members of the 15th NY Volunteer Engineersfor a job well done.  A second and larger "Huzzah" needs to go out to Pete Berezuk for his vision and energy in accomplishing the construction of the pontoons and coordinating the 15th NYVE.

There are quite literally thousands of photos of the many portions of this event.  We've taken a few here to give you and idea of what we saw and did.

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Two of the crews prepare for the first crossing.  Onlookers are assembling across the river at the City Dock area.

 

No bilge pumps here.  The Engineers bailed out any leaking water before the first crossing.  The life jackets are not period but were required for modern safety regulations.

 

 

The Engineers prepared the ramp to load the 89th in a small run near the river.  The straw helped to make the loading a little less treacherous- but not much.  In spite of the the 89th NYVI loaded the bateaux in perfect order.  Crossing times were reduced to less than half of the practice run times.

 

One of the most stirring sights of the entire reenactment was the formation of the Union troops on Stafford Heights, well above the river.  From the river's edge we were treated to an incredible martial scene.

The Irish Brigade moved down from the heights and prepared to cross on the pontoon bridge laid down by the Virginia National Guard.  In the mean time the 89th was crossing on the bateaux to push the rebs away from the river.

 

 

First Sergeant Ball briefs one of the infantry Captains prior to addressing the various companies of the 89th directly.

The 89th embarks for the first crossing. Their discipline and attention to orders decreased the crossing time to less than half of what was expected.

 

Each bateaux is able to hold 19,000 pounds of cargo.  We never approached that due to restrictions on the number of life jackets.

 

 

Surprisingly the bateaux were quite maneuverable in spite of the fact that they were designed for stability not transportation.

As in 1862, the artillery was unable to dislodge the rebs from their rifle pits along the river.

 

Skirmishers from the 89th NYVI fired to keep the rebs' heads down as the rest of their regiment crossed on the pontoons.

 

 

Corporals at the bows of the pontoons were the leaders of each landing and handled their responsibility with great professionalism.

 

 

Each landing was an improvement on the previous ones.  Once the City Dock was secure remaining trips landed there.

 

These blurred images are not the most beautiful but really convey the sense of urgency the 89th had upon landing at the river head.  It was a bit like an 1862 version of "Saving Private Ryan".

 

 

 

The men of the 89th moved quickly to form a river head and to support the remaining landings.

The river head was pressed inland by the 89th NY and supported by the arriving troops of the Irish Brigade.

The VA National Guard put up this modern pontoon bridge.  Unfortunately they miscalculated the width of the river.  The last few feet were a leap for the Irishmen.

 

Many of the Irishmen finished the bridge crossing with wet feet, but it didn't slow them down a bit.

 


 

Fighting moved slowly through town and culminated in an attack on Marye's Heights.

 

 

Corporal Ball takes a moment to eat between making pontoon runs and presenting the US Engineer's living history.
 

First Sergeant Ball poses here with visitor Eugene Jones, an active member of the US Army.

 

Corporal Ball demonstrated the loading and firing of the 1853 Enfield rifle for a young observer.

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