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After Action Report of 77th Pennsylvania Infantry
Ft. Washita, Indian Territory

  

Day 1 - 26 September 2009

            After several days of hard marching, we arrived at the camp location of the Frontier Battalion just north of Fort Washita which is currently held by a Confederate force. Upon arrival we have learned of Captain Griffin's illness caused from the days of marching in the unexpected September heat wave. With Capt. Griffin at the hospital, 1ST Sgt. Plunk took over command as the acting company commander as we set up our new homes and settled in.

            As the morning light dawned upon the camp, the men awoke to begin their daily routines of preparing meals, servicing uniforms and equipment, and preparing for drill and classes for the fresh fish replacements we received earlier in the week. By the smell of the food being cooked, the men were able to forage quite well and consume a well deserved hearty meal before forming up for Battalion Drill.

            After drill was completed at all levels, the men were allowed to go back to their respective camps and relax some more as the Battalion staff and Company commanders held a meeting on what to do about the fort. Scouts, from other companies, reported that cannons were a thorn bush around the fort and needed to be silent for any attack to work. That job was handed to the 2ND Colorado but soon changed to the 77TH Pennsylvania after learning that the 2ND was mainly replacements of fresh fish just days ago. When the battle plan was laid out, the order was given to form the battalion on the colors. Then men cootered up, formed the company, and took their place as 3RD company in the battalion battle line.

            We marched strait to the west end of the open field west of the fort as 3RD company deployed as skirmishers to the front and advanced upon an enemy who quickly manned their artillery pieces to slow our advance. The 77TH did as they were ordered and in quick order, made their way quickly up the half mile open of field, up the hill, and with sharpshooters in place, took the guns while under fire.

The men were able to spike 3 and disable 2 cannons before the enemy fell upon us. In the disarray, the men fought their way to fall back to the main lines. We lost four to capture and six to infantry fire as the enemy took their cannons back to have them replaced or repaired, our lines advanced up the hill to attack.

As we reached the top, we could see Confederate soldiers pouring into position all over the place. With overwhelming fire, the battalion returned as much lead as possible but soon forced off the top of the hill back to the bottom. They did not peruse our fall back as LTC Gross decided we needed to storm the hill again and attack. The men of the 77TH were in good moral and marched without fear into their defense to pour volley after volley onto the enemy lines.

The men fought as hard as they could, advancing up and down the hill five times, only to find more Confederate soldiers at the top each time. The Confederates, finally realizing that we were the only Federal force in the area, advanced against our lines in full force. The 77TH held their lines in the face of the Devil as we were all to be later routed by companies back to camp.

A special mission was sent out later on that day to gather information about the land and location of the enemy forces. Figuring that the enemy would attack our encampment, LTC Gross ordered that all trails and roads be blocked to slow the advance of enemy. Pickets were posted and companies were to set up in place for ambush if the enemy comes down a trail or road. It was figured that they would attack in divided units on all possible roads and trails.

The first location hit was the 77TH Pennsylvania on the 3RD bridgehead with an opposing strength of roughly a company. The fight was hot as we held our bridge and the enemy tried to out flank our position by moving to an open area our right. I requested that I take a small group to that position and hold it. I also recommended that the enemy could get into the clearing between the 3RD and 4TH bridge, threatening to cut off those at the 4TH bridge and routing the 77TH back to camp if left open.

With myself and my team in place, the 77TH were able to hold our bridge, and our lines against a relentless fight, denying the enemy access to outflank the Federal lines at our assigned bridge; even after the enemy had attacked our bridge were reinforced by another company.

As things calmed down on the right flank, we were ordered by Captain Trent, our wing commander, to advance on the fort and take it back. But first, we needed to secure the 4TH bridge and advance from there. Upon entering the clearing west of the fort, we took to the trees and began our assault. To our surprise, the Confederate companies that had engaged us earlier were not around. The only force that stood in our way at the time, were colors, color guards, one officer, and a handful of Confederate soldiers. Confederate cavalry rode up in support defending their left flank should we attack there. The second team was left behind to keep the Confederate cavalry at bay should they attempt ride in from behind our boys in the first team. As we advanced, the first team made it up to the tree line by the fort where it all went to hell.

With overwhelming numbers against the enemy, they were hopping from tree to tree in attempts to use up our ammo. As predicted, the cavalry rode in behind the first team as the second team routed them out with independent fire as we advanced to the tree line where the first team was located. While advancing, their cavalry rode upon the right flank of the second team. They attempted to capture Pvt. Josh Griffith who walked right past them on faith. Lucky for him, they were out of ammo and wanted to take him without having to deal with our second team again. They left the field and our flanks alone for the remainder of the fight. Leaving Pvt. Griffith in the safety of our hands.

After a truce was called for on the field, we fell back to clear the bridges and trails incase they were held by the enemy. Moving back to bridge 4, we encountered Confederate dismounted on the other side of the bridge with larger numbers and prepared positions forcing us to surrender ourselves.

While federal soldiers were surrendering, a handful of soldiers from the 77TH Pennsylvania were able to escape without the enemy seeing them leave. They were able to keep another Confederate company at bay and gave the Battalion more time to strengthen their lines. The men who surrendered were paroled and returned for a prisoner exchange. All the men in the 77TH did not wish to surrender. They would rather fight. But the 77TH has also been trained to follow orders from commanding officers without question. Being surrender was the order given; the men did as they were told from their wing commander.

When the prisoner exchange had been completed, LTC. Gross ordered us to go back to camp and rest as much as possible. But if the federal lines broke on our end of camp, we were to take up position and help repel the enemy. The lines never fell, but the men were ready for another fight. After a good long fight, a truce was called to gather the wounded and dead. We watched the enemy march back to the fort as we placed pickets and guards down the trails and bridges.

The men reloaded their ammo, gather supplies, foraged food, and fell asleep as the artillery dueled in the distance throughout the early part of the night.

 

Day 2 - 27 September 2009

We were awaken early in the morning and ordered to cooter up and get into battalion formation. LTC. Gross explained the morning orders that the battalion was going to make a surprise attack on the fort and that it's going to be strict noise and light discipline from here on out. The battalion left faced and quietly marched down the trail to bridge 3 and crossed to the field west of the fort.

As the battalion marched forward, we could see men running around the fort screaming that Yankees are coming as we neared the west barracks. We took the artillery pieces as their gunners desperately tried to use them against us, but their attempts failed as we took them prisoner. But the big push was halted when Confederate Infantry units came online and began engaging the fight, pushing us off the hill once again. We fell back facing the enemy, while pouring lead into their lines. But no matter how much lead we gave them, more infantry units joined the fight. Seeing this, LTC. Gross ordered that we fall back fighting to the trails. A fight in the woods would give us the advantage with cover. This was his last order to his command as he was seen surrendering himself to a small group of men to the Confederates that surrounded him.

The enemy began to quickly maneuver in to cut the battalion from using the trails to the bridges. Being almost completely surrounded, the battalion formed a crude square to defend/attack the Confederates from all sides as we moved this new battalion formation to cut our way into the trails and gather better cover.

Once we were able to break through, we learned that the Confederates were flanking our camp from the east to deny us entry to our camp and supplies. Some of the battalion was left behind to deal with the Confederates trying to break through on the bridges while other units went to attack the Confederates flanking the camp. The 77TH went to defend the camp.

The Confederates were coming up the east trail across bridgehead one when we opened fire catching them in a column of fours. They began what I could only assume was a form of street fighting and something else that I cannot explain. Whatever their tactic was, they were only gaining inches, but loosing in yards.

Captain Kinzer assumed command of the battalion and ordered that the battalion allow them to advance just past the trail entrance. He had a plan that would win the day, but to an untrained tactical soldier, it was suicide to allow them to enter our camp. When they entered our camp, we fired in retreat company skirmish order lying on the heat as they tried to get back online to engage us.

Captain Kinzer ordered a bayonet charge into their lines as they tried to get online sending many into a frantic retreat as most of the Confederate battalion surrendered to the soldiers of the Frontier Battalion.

The reinforcement brigade sent to arrive on Saturday, finally showed up on Monday after the fight. The south barracks were the only barracks still standing after the battle. The Brigade commander thought is was only fair that we in the Frontier Battalion stay in those barracks while everyone else stayed outside in tents. Unfortunately, we won't be able to enjoy it for long. Orders came in from Division for the Frontier Battalion to move out in one hour. As I understand it. We are moving to the west side of Indian Territory.

 

Sgt. Daniel Hucker

77TH PA INF. /  Co. E.

Frontier Battalion

Ft. Washita, I.T.