We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

Touring Brandy Station on the 150th

Yesterday, I was able to walk parts of the Brandy Station battlefield with Clark “Bud” Hall, Eric Wittenburg, Craig Swain and 150 of my closest friends. The Loudon County Civil Roundtable arranged the tour.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, there is no better way to understand a battle than to walk the ground. Sam Elliot, who played John Buford in “The Movie” (as we called it in the Gettysburg Discussion Group) understood this and knew walking the ground would help him get into character. When we stood on Buford’s Knoll with Bud Hall, he related the story of guiding Sam Elliot on the battlefield. Elliot asked where Buford stood during the battle and so, Bud pointed around them and said that Buford had been on the knoll. Sam wanted something more specific, so, Bud tells us, he picked a spot and Sam went and stood there. For a few minutes, they stood in silence, Sam examined the ground and getting into character as Buford. It was as though he was commanding the battle silently, watching his orders unfold. I need to re-watch Gettysburg to see Sam Elliot talking about the ground and the troops marching. I think he truly felt it, for Bud says he turned to him after standing on that spot and said, simply, “Hot damn.”

The folks from Civil War Trust were there, and, often during the day, we talked about their ongoing efforts for battlefield preservation.

Sadly, I had to head back to Washington early and missed being on Fleetwood Hill and an evening of conversation with my friends and fellow historians. It was a good day, but too short due to my prior commitments.


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I thought Sam Elliot’s portrayal of Buford was excellent. I didn’t realize that he’d studied the battlefield like that, but I agree that looking at and walking the ground is the only way to really understand an action. You’ve got to puff your way up those hills, an experience you cannot get from looking at a topo map.
This past weekend, the Vermont Brigade held its annual meeting and encampment at Ethan Allen’s restored homestead. Besides electing Dave Bridges of 2nd company, Bennington militia, to a two year term as Brigade commander, the encampment drew in a record number of visitors to this much neglected historic site. The largest number of troops at the encampment were from 1st company, Colonel Seth Warner’s regiment (warnersregiment.org) and drills were performed both to show visitors the equipment and tactics used in northern New England in the 18th century, but to retrain the troops after a long winter of inactivity. The lightr infantry drill, adapted from Lord Sir William Howe’s 1774 manual requires a lot of practice. Our next event will be at East Hubbardton, VT on the 5th,6th and 7th of July. This takes place on the original battle site, where the American rear guard of Warner’s, the 2nd New Hampshire and the 11th Mass, under the overall command of Seth Warner, stopped Simon Frazers light infantry and grenadier brigades cold, probably savng the northern army, under Arthur St Claire from being trapped and destroyed.

Comment by Gerard A. Mullen

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