Report on the Battle of Beaumont Ranch, Texas
Scouting for the Unit, Pvt. Cleon Plunk arrived at Beaumont Ranch, south of Fort Worth, Texas, on Thursday evening, 3/27/2003.
He helped forge alliances with other units and took part in reliving history for the local schoolchildren on Friday.
From all points of the compass members of the 77th Pennsylvania descended on Beaumont Ranch Friday evening.
Pvt. Brad Robinson came up from Houston to the south. Sgt. Claude Lamoreux and his family, including Pvts. Jason, Adrian
and Daniel Lamoreux and Musician Calvin, arrived from Lawton to the northwest. Capt. Danny Hill, Quartermaster Sgt.
John Miller, Cpl. Rex Griffin and Pvts. Chris Harris and Clint Leduc came from due north.
On Saturday Pvt. Glen McClain and his wife, Judi, along with Pvts. Wayne and Ron Frisby, Ron's wife, Patti, and Pvt.
Willie Wayne Hood arrived from Tulsa to the northeast.
Saturday morning broke windy and cold as 77th members sought out the Federal camp, which was perched atop a
hill overlooking the battlefield. With the exception of Pvt. Plunk, soldiers staying in the Federal camp had arrived
in darkness and waited until the next morning to set up their tents. The Lamoreuxs, the McClains and the Ron Frisbys
set up in the civilian camp behind the sutlers, just east of town.
Practically as soon as camp was set up, and before breakfast could be cooked, the 77th Pennsylvania was ordered
to fall in for Battalion drill. This was the Unit's first time to fall in under Major Greg Benefield, the very capable
commander of the Federal infantry for the First Battalion of the Frontier Brigade. With 14 armed men,
the 77th formed the Third Company, with the 1st US forming the First and Second Companies.
Unfortunately our first impression on our compatriots was probably not a good one as they, already in formation, watched
us scramble to fall in. As a battalion we stepped out smartly, though we still had some members dashing to catch up.
Major Benefield put us through the Manual of Arms, probably testing our drill skills. Again, we were not very impressive,
making several mistakes in the process. But the men of the 77th Pa probed to be fast learners.
Within minutes we were accomplished in the Manual of Arms and progressed to battalion drills. After weapons inspection,
as the Third Company, we marched by the flank, marched and fired at the oblique, did left and right wheels, marched around
obstacles and marched by company into line. Drilling lasted the better part of the morning and eased into early afternoon.
Just past noon we marched back to camp and fell out for about 20 minutes, long enough to replenish caps and cartridges,
but not long enough for a hot lunch. Then we formed as a battalion--Federals on campaign. (Pvt. Plunk was particularly
well-equipped as a campaigning soldier.) A Federal Marine, whose name escapes me, was posted as Second Sgt. to Third
Company, along with others who fell in.
As a battalion we made the long march down the hill, across the battlefield and into the town of Beaumont, brushing aside
those few Rebel troops who tried to interfere. Once inside, the town was put under martial law, with sentries posted
at both ends of the main street.
Each company took their turn guarding the approaches to the town. Cpl. Griffin and Pvts. McClain and Plunk watched
the north end while Pvts. Leduc and Harris were posted to the south end, checking passes, watching for spies and warning civilians
of the likelihood of attack.
The battalion was ordered to fall in as word came of Rebels massing near town. More recruits fell in with us as
we marched toward battle. With our cavalry in support, we crossed a long field to face the Secesh. We formed a
battle line as their cavalry attacked first, but we beat them back with a hail of lead. After a few volleys, we, the
infantry, broke off and were marched to the side of the field, then across a bridge to take up a reserve position between
the creek and our supply depot atop the hill.
From there we watched as our Federal cavalry, both mounted and dismounted, fought furiously against the mounted Secesh.
After driving their cavalry, Rebel infantry infested the field, causing our cavalry to fall back. We steeled ourselves
to repulse the Rebs as our own cavalry, dismounted and mounted, fell back across the bridge.
When our last horseman was across, we delivered a deadly volley full into the face of the oncoming Johnnies. They
stopped, hesitated, then came on again. Our murderous fire took a terrible toll on the Secesh as we fell slowly, grudgingly
back to a better firing position in a shallow depression along the tree line. The disloyal forces had taken a terrible
pounding and lost innumerable men when we, with the dismounted cavalry on our flank, charged across the field and drove the
few Rebels left back across the creek. We were full of pride as we watched them scatter and run like rabbits for safety.
We had whipped them soundly, but realized that we hadn't heard the last of them.
Major Benefield marched us back to camp and declared that, with the enemy in such close proximity, we would fortify our
position and post pickets for the night. He allowed the Second Company to fall out while the First and Third built a
breastwork and abatis atop the hill. Then, allowing the First Company to fall out, the Major kept us, the Third, in
position to repel any mischief the Secesh might be inclined to pursue.
Facing the cold north wind as the sun made its way toward the horizon, we, like good soldiers, complained about the weather
and the chow and our orders and everything else we could think of, all the while keeping a sharp eye peeled for the Johnnies.
Finally, after what seemed an interminably long time, we were ordered to fall out. Sgt. Miller had fixed red beans and
rice for our first hot meal of the day and we all ate voraciously. We took a little time to relax, visit the sutlers,
some visited their families. But at 1900, we took our places in the picket lines. Capt. Hill, Sgt. Lamoreux, Cpl.
Griffin, Pvts. Wayne Frisby, Daniel Lamoreux, Plunk, Harris and Hood all took their positions atop the hill. The Cpl.
and all the Pvts. also took their turns as outpost pickets, challenging and checking all those who crossed into or out of
camp, keenly watching for the Rebels.
Major Benefield gathered a patrol and probed the enemy lines in what became a viscious firefight in the darkness.
It is unknown how many Rebels were killed in the melee, but all of our men came back safe and sound.
Later that night, Pvts. Plunk and Leduc set out on an extremely brave and reckless mission to penetrate the disloyal
camp and steal one of their battleflags. Pvt. Leduc stood guard at the bridge while the stealthy and courageous Plunk
sneaked into the Rebel camp. Wrapped in a gray blanket, ostensibly against the cold, he patiently held to the shadows
while minutes ran into hours as he sought out a Rebel flag. His heart racing like a runaway freight train, Plunk cooly
furled the flag inside his own coat to protect it as he evaded sentries by crawling through the brush back toward our camp.
Entering camp, he unfurled the flag and showed it to some cavalrymen whose eyes almost popped out of their skulls.
At daybreak, Plunk could hardly contain himself as he showed off the captured flag. Though accomplishing a feat
of extreme skill, daring, courage and devotion, Plunk was unaware of the gravity of what he had done. Much like watching
your son beat up the local bully, Unit leadership was extremely proud of Plunk but did not want him doing it again.
General Mark Dolive, commanding general of all Union forces at Beaumont Ranch, offered to return the stolen symbol without
revealing who had taken it. Plunk, not knowing who the man was when relating his thanks, was speechless when he found
out it was Gen. Dolive.
Unlike the previous days of blowing cold, the dawn brought on clear, sunny, warm weather. Sgt. Miller prepared
a delicious breakfast of sausage and eggs, bacon and potatoes that Sunday morning. While some went to Sunday services,
others broke down their camps, including Pvt. Robinson who had to leave for medical reasons.
Approximately 1100 hours, the battalion fell in again for drill. With a couple of exceptions, including the First
Sgt., the 77th was ready this time. Though Major Benefield had mentioned several times, and would again Sunday,
how much he appreciated us joining the Federal battalion, it was especially gratifying to members of the 77th Pa
when Gen. Doilive made a special effort to welcome us to the First Battalion of the Frontier Brigade.
Mentioning that we already had a reputation, and that the spirits would be forthcoming, the General seemed very pleased to
have us on the Union side.
Marching in columns of 4 and 2, we once again took to the drill field. Unfortunately Cpl. Griffin, acting in the
absence of the missing First Sgt., badly misexecuted the order of by company into line, reflecting poorly on the Unit's skill.
With the return of the tardy First Sgt., the 77th resumed its standard of excellence.
As compared with Saturday's drill, Sunday's was much abbreviated. Casualties and attrition had reduced the battalion
to two companies. The Captain of the First Company seemed picky during weapons inspection, though one can never be too
picky when it comes to weapons safety. Most of the drills were the same as Saturday with the exceptions that there was
no live fire and that we were given the difference between wheeling and turning.
Once marched back to camp, we thoroughly cleaned and inspected our weapons and generally lay around in the shade.
Some even fell asleep. We had visitors who were interested in the 77th Pa, evidently curious about this new
unit. (Many of our Federal bretheren were curious and eager to meet and find out more about us.)
The battalion was called together for battle again that afternoon, marching down the hill and onto the battlefield determined
to crush the disloyal units once and for all. We marched across the creek and to the east end of the battlefield, whereupon
we stacked arms and took refuge again in the shade. Our "hurry up" was followed by a long wait, the Federal cavalry
immediately behind us and artillery (Gatlin guns) to our left.
Ordered to take up our arms, we watched in shock and awe at the destruction the Gatlin guns could wreak. We then
marched to our left and back across the bridge, taking position in the same spot as we had the day before. Thinking
at first we would be held in reserve for some time, we were stunned at the number of Rebel reinforcements. Secesh infantry
looked like it covered half the battlefield. we knew we were in for a scrap.
Across the creek our Federal cavalry advanced and was quickly driven back. We, now the Second Company, advanced
to the creek bank and, firing at the left oblique, attempted to cover our cavalry with a wall of lead. The Johnnies
took us under intense fire and we were ordered to fall back at the double quick, to a depression up the hillside. From
there we fired volley after murderous volley, covering a similar retreat up the hillside by First Company. Our cavalry
disappeared as the Rebs, like water pouring out of its container, poured across the bridge and onto the foot of the hill.
Our muskets were growing hot as we fired furiously into the swelling Secesh ranks. The anguished cries of the wounded
mixed with the angry thud of lead hitting flesh as our fire and that of the Rebs grew into a crescendo of fury.
We fell back to another depression, further up the hill, as the undulating mass of the enemy followed close on our heels.
We covered the First Company as they fell back to a third depression, the Rebs right behind us. Finally we were ordered
pell mell to the top of the hill, to dig in behind our breastworks. At that moment, as we were pulling back, Capt. Hill
fell to a Rebel bullet. Wounded and unable to follow, he attempted to hold the enemy back by himself to cover our withdrawal.
Without orders and without regard for their own lives, in the face of a torrent of enemy fire, Pvt. Ron and Wayne Frisby and
Daniel Lamoreux went to the Capt.'s rescue, Lamoreux providing covering fire while the Frisbys dragged the Capt. up the hill.
What was left of our cavalry tried to hold the west side of the hilltop, but was overwhelmed by the swarming Secesh soldiers.
We got off one last volley, maybe two, before finally being overrun by the Rebels on our flank (we held off the ones to our
front). The victory went to the Johnnies, as those Unit members who were not killed were captured.
The Rebels were magnanimous in victory and congratulated us on the good fight. Not wanting to feed us all, they
pardoned us on the spot. But there was one problem the 77th still had to deal with.
It was reported that during the battle, Pvt. Chris Harris deserted in the face of the enemy. He was stripped of
his blue coat and manacled with a ball and chain, then marched down the hillside, across the creek toward town. Curious
onlookers were warned not to speak to the cur, as he showed cowardice in the face of the enemy. Under the direction
of a miraculously cured Capt. Hill, an 8-man firing squad marched Harris through the sutler and civilian camp and through
the town of Beaumont. Some residents spit at him and called him names, while his mother, pleading for his life, begged
us to let him go. Al to no avail. The cowardly cur, given a last chance to speak, could only utter the feeble
excuse, "I slipped. I-I-I slipped." Then, with the Capt.'s order to fire, he was shot dead in the street, an example
to all those who exhibit cowardice under fire.
At that point it was late afternoon Sunday. The best part of the weekend was over. From there, we all went
back to our seperate camps, packed our gear, said our good-byes and headed for home.
Your humble and obedient servant,
Cpl. Rex Griffin 77th Pa/17th Ark