Captains Column

 July 27&28… Glenview, IL

Which is larger; a 37-cent stamp, or the Glenview battlefield? Those of you who thought the battlefield was small in previous years, surprise, it was 50% smaller this year. That said, I would like to thank all the members and guests of the 104th who attended this years sweat fest. To think that it could have been worse, had the sun came out on Saturday, ouch. Matt’s friend Austin came out for the weekend, for a first timer he did an excellent job, and he sings too. I hope we see him at more events. Good job Matt, on getting him prepared. Matt thought that since Austin was there, he would get off easy that weekend, NOT. Recruit Mike Wieske made it on Sunday and commented on the hot day. Mike was with us Sunday at Rockford, another hot one, for his first event. I hope the Parade on August 4th is cooler.

August 4, Riverfest Parade… Ottawa, IL

Well, it wasn’t cooler. As a matter of fact, it was hotter and more humid. We have had our share of heat and humidity this year. We had a float for the parade this year, and I am glad for that. I don’t think any of us could have finished the parade if we were marching. Even riding the float took its toll. Everyone who was there will tell you. I would like to thank Kevin Cassady, Matt’s dad, for the use of his truck and wagon, and Zeller Inn for sponsoring us and supplying the banners. A sincere THANK YOU, to all who attended; rifles, music, civilians, and guests. You have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

September 7&8… Lockport, IL

This event is a 1st Illinois Battalion event and voted a MAX EFFORT for the 104th. In addition to the battle re-enactments, this event will be used to polish our company drill and also our battalion drill before we march off to Perryville, KY.  This event is close to home for almost everyone in the unit, so let’s make every effort to attend and have a great time.


September 28&29… Greenbush, WI

This event was voted as an ‘OPTIONAL EVENT’ for 2002 because of Perryville the very next weekend. If anyone is interested in attending, please let me know ASAP by e-mail; or phone. If there are enough members interested, we will go as a unit, if not, we can hook up with another unit attending.

October 4-6… Perryville, KY

We will be going down with the 1st Illinois Battalion, the first time the battalion will be taken out of Illinois.  I have sent in the registration for 20.  Start getting rides organized, and if you want to form a mess with someone, get talking. It will be here sooner than you think.



Saturday, October 5th, 2002

Sunday, October 6th, 2002

 The official event website is: This site is full of history, information, directions, and schedules. Take a look for yourself. I will have information to pass out for those of you who do not have access to the web. Plan to be on site Friday.

October 19-20… Minooka, IL

This event is a 1st Illinois Battalion event and voted a MAX EFFORT for the 104th and the season finale. A must attend event, always fun and exciting.  Try and make it there at least one day.

I’ll see you in the field,
Paul Skalak
Capt., Commanding
104th Illinois Vol. Inf., Co. H
1st Illinois Battalion


Cyber War

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2002 Schedule

Following is the schedule for the upcoming season, as voted on by the participants of the Annual Meeting.

September 28,29 (Optional)          Greenbush, WI

October 4-6                                       Perryville, KY

October 19,20                                      Minooka, IL

December 8                                                      Drill

From the Ranks..

Been a busy month.  First Glenview, otherwise and forever more known as, “The Battle of Postage Stamp Field.”  Then an unusual way to do a parade in Ottawa. 

But I guess the biggest news is that of the recovery of the gun turret from the USS Monitor.  One-hundred and forty years later, this large relic was brought to the surface.  Nine large dents in it, from its battle with the Virginia.  They also recovered the body of a soldier who had gone down with his ship.  This brave warrior will be buried with full military honors.

This month’s from the ranks comes from our ole friend and scoundrel, Thomas Adams.  Thanks Private.


Sword of Mars

The Sword of Mars was sharp indeed within the camp of the 104th Illinois. It was the wee hours of Saturday morning at Glenview. Before dawn, sharp-eyed soldiers waited anxiously for their commanders to cry “havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war.

At least, somebody told me that.

I strolled into camp about 10 AM.  A light rain had pushed drill back an hour or so. Upon arriving, I noted with some surprise that there was no fire pit in the 104th’s camp. Clearly, Roger, Steve and Brian were all absent. Saturday’s company drill proceeded nicely. I believe we had over a dozen muskets on the line. There were some fresh fish in ranks, but our veteran corporals and 1st Sergeant made everything run smoothly.

A comfortable afternoon was spent in camp by our hard-drilled company. I must say the re-enactor’s amenities at the event were quite nice. There were chits for free meals, a king sized mister to keep our potbellies and balding pates cool, and a wagon with cool water, tea, and a barrel of water with a lemon floating in it. Or half a lemon (lemons are expensive!). RJ the bugler also spent the weekend in our camp entertaining spectators and re-enactors alike with stories and music. That is always appreciated. If any of you know somebody with more knowledge of period music, or more skill with a bugle, then RJ, I would be surprised to hear about it.

Saturday’s battle was merciful in its brevity. While Union infantry rested in the shade, a party of Michigan engineers laying a plank road to the local cathouse was jumped by a rebel raiding party. A few artillery shots were traded, and we jumped to our muskets. Captain Skalak made best possible use of us on the Field of Honor. However, the event battlefield had been narrowed to the point that the engagement reminded me of a fight in the Science Hall at high school. We pushed the rebs relentlessly back and they were slaughtered to a man, as befits traitors to the Union. Especially when they defy us with those ferocious all-white battle flags.

Later came one of the event’s high water marks. We spent a while in camp re-enacting the starvation conditions of the siege at Chattanooga, eating candle wax and fishing in buckets. Eventually, we figured out the Cracker Line wasn’t opening up, so most of the company went up the road to Johnny’s Tap for supper. Johnny’s deserves special mention. The Greek bartender poured me the sexiest pint of Guinness I had seen since Dublin last May. About half of us had the pork dinner with pine nut dressing. Delicious. I could spend the rest of the newsletter talking about that, but suffice it to say that if you didn’t have the pork at Johnny’s, your event was only half as good as mine.

Later that evening, some of the younger blossoms of the 104th felt like attending the ball for social enlightenment. Ricky and I followed to chaperone. And when I say chaperone, I mean passing a flask to Major Dellinger to allow enlisted men to leave camp. A good time was had by all who went.

Sunday’s drill was even more satisfying than Saturday’s. We focused on skirmish drill, and skirmish virgins Austin and Chris were soon deploying like veterans. I’ve been with the 104th since the early days, boys, and I have always been excited about and proud of the skirmish line we can deploy and maintain when we throw our backs into it. Our work at Glenview was up to scratch.

The afternoon brought some unexpected events. A group of charming young ladies introduced themselves to our camp for the purpose of bringing “aid and comfort” to our homesick and heart-weary campaigners. Taking them for a stroll is what I mean, of course. Was your humble servant Thomas among the lucky number? Well, I can’t say it’s true and I won’t say it’s not. I will say I suffer greatly to help my comrades. I will also say that afterwards, I understand, some wireless telegraph numbers were exchanged. Kudos to our young heroes and padawans.

Sunday’s fight was better than the day before, even though we lost. 1st Sergeant Holman led a skirmish line to define our position. When the rebel main body manifested itself, he had his platoon “advance to the rear” with a swiftness and professionalism that would have brought tears of pride to Franz Siegel’s eyes. The company consolidated behind some works, and fought like demons until we were overrun and cut to pieces. In fact, most of us had a reunion in a straw heap outside the surgeon’s tent. As I lay there in the straw clutching my debilitating wound (bastards nicked my earlobe good!), I saw poor Matt shuffle off this mortal coil and assume room temperature. Sad it was.

But as I was carried off to be poked and sewed by the sawbones, I was heartened to see Austin standing melancholy sentinel over our fallen comrade Matt, quiet testimony that the fighting men of the 104th will always look out for one another.

I remain, etc.,

Thomas Adams
Pvt., Co. H, 104 IVI

Thanks for the contribution Thomas.  And gee, we all thought you were illiterate. 


Some of you have done the Ottawa parade.  Because of when it is held and the length of the route, the closest comparison is to a forced desert march after Rommel, wearing all the clothes you own at one time.  I bet that if you went to Ottawa the day after Christmas, it would still be 90 degrees, no clouds and 410 percent humidity.

We last did the parade in 2000, a few days after I had moved 6 rooms of furniture myself.  Needless to say, I finally gave out two blocks short of the end.  This year would be different.  We were on a float this time, but the weather hadn’t changed a bit from 2000.  Maybe it was a little hotter.  We had a flag bearer, four musicians, and a lazy first sergeant. And three very brave, dedicated, handsome (at least one of them was) infantry men who did all the work (including yours truly).  Oh yeah, five civilians in period dress and the support staff.  You would think that riding on the back of a float, not walking, would be easy, but I’ll tell you, the heat still got to me.  I couldn’t wait for it to end.

The parade route is about 2½ miles long and completely unshaded.  Going at slower than walking speed, after having rallied for an hour in the sun at the gathering point, I think that the smell of barbecue wasn’t coming from the spectators grills but from underneath my sack coat.  What we also noticed this year is that we were the only music we heard along the route.  A parade without marching bands.  But the way this parade is run, there is no way anyone, including in shape marching band members could last. They could reduce this parade by 60% and still have a great one going.  In fact, I did not notice one walking group in the entire parade. 

This is one parade that is no fun.  And as farby as it sounds, I wouldn’t attend this parade again unless we were provided a float. 

Many thanks to the Cassady Family who provided the float and pickup truck.  Without them, we wouldn’t have made it. 

Oh yeah, we had a great time at Zellers.  I remember now why I agreed to go.  Yeah Zellers. 


Your obedient servant


The Ottawa Riverfest Parade

See Photo Page



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Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company

Reviewed By: Greg M. Romaneck

In the annals of American fiction perhaps no writer has a more mixed reputation than Ambrose Bierce does.  A man of undoubted talents, Bierce was also such an acerbic wit that during his career he had far more enemies than friends.  Bierce was capable of vivid writing as well as crassly insensitive literary cruelty. A cynical man Bierce once defined love as “a temporary state of insanity cured by marriage.”  Bierce once broke a walking stick to pieces over a former friend’s head in a dispute over royalties from one of his publications and then kept the pieces in order to remind him of “the nature of friendship.”  For Ambrose Bierce children were not a source of pride but rather “miscreants” who created “unrelieved slavery” for their parents.  In Ambrose Bierce’s world idealism and hope were pipe dreams to be replaced by an individual’s capacity to “endeavor to see things as they are, not as they ought to be.”  Yet, despite the harshness of Bierce’s personal views he remains one of the very few talented writers whom attempted to chronicle the American Civil War via their fiction.

While Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage remains an American classic it was written by a young man who was not even born when the Civil War ended.  No other veteran of the Civil War, save Ambrose Bierce, achieved any sort of lasting impact with their literary recounting of that bloody conflict. It is this talented but depressive writer that biographer Roy Morris, Jr. turns his capable pen in Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company.  As Morris points out in this splendid biography, Bierce was like literally millions of other Americans when, in April 1861, he gleefully joined the army.

A resident of Elkhart County Bierce enlisted in Company C of the 9th Indiana.  In time the men of the 9th were to gain a reputation for both their fighting prowess as well as their survival skills.  Like so many Western regiments Bierce’s comrades excelled in foraging.  Indeed, at one point they were proudly described by a hometown reporter in this way, “the boys can steal, dress, and eat a hog, while on the march, without breaking rank.”  It was with these rough and ready colleagues that Bierce was to enter into the realities of war a zone that he never really recovered from.

Over the four years of his service Bierce saw action across a wide array of battlefields.  Initially, he and the 9th saw the elephant in West Virginia under the overall command of McClellan.  Then, after serving as garrison troops in Northern Alabama they marched to Shiloh under General Buell.  After Shiloh Bierce eventually moved on to places such as Stone’s River, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, Franklin, Nashville, Resaca, Pickett’s Mill, and Kennesaw Mountain.  At Kennesaw Bierce was badly wounded in a way that should have cost him his life.  As Morris points out Bierce described his wound in a pithy way when he later wrote that his head had been “broken like a walnut.”  Only good fortune allowed Bierce to not only survive but also rejoin the 9th at a later date.

During the war Bierce rose to the rank of First Lieutenant and served on the staff of General Hazen.  He was a brave and capable officer who did his job well.  However, Bierce never bonded with the men around him.  He remained aloof and, unlike many other Civil War soldiers who rated comradeship as one of the saving graces of an otherwise brutal life, Bierce never alluded to any “band of brothers” mentality in his Civil war experience.  Bierce once wrote with satisfaction that “ in military life one may keep to one’s self.”  Yet, although Bierce was to always remain separated from the masses he did file away his wartime experiences for future reference.  For, it was on the bloody fields that Ambrose Bierce trod that the intellectual seeds of his post-war short stories were planted.

At the end of the Civil War Bierce turned to a variety of vocations before hitting upon his native field of journalism.  For the remainder of his life Bierce wrote for a variety of publications inclusive of a two-decade stint at the employment of William Randolph Hearst.  However, while much of Bierce’s biting work remains obscure what have stood the test of time are his Civil War stories.  Short stories such as An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, What I Saw of Shiloh, Horseman in the Sky, and Chickamauga remain the clearest fictional account of the Civil War experience that we possess.  As biographer Morris points out in this fine book, Ambrose Bierce had actually been to the gates of military hell and later was willing to share those images with his readers.  Bierce’s stories are not moralistic or hopeful.  Main characters generally die, the gory realities of battle are described, and noble causes are ground to dust.  Still, the way in which Ambrose Bierce, a Western soldier, was able to redraw the literary map of the Civil War and display it for the uninitiated public remains striking.

In the end, Ambrose Bierce apparently never achieved the type of happiness in life that most people quietly strive for.  A father of three children Bierce was detached from them and lived to see his two sons die in odd ways.  Bierce’s marriage was not surprisingly flawed and resulted in separation and the untimely death of his estranged spouse, Mollie.  Ultimately, in 1914, Bierce declared he was going to Mexico to see what the bloody revolutionary struggle south of the border had to offer.  While it remains unclear as to whether or not Bierce actually did travel to Mexico in search of Pancho Villa what is known is that he disappeared. 

Theories abound as to Bierce’s death but that remains a secret locked in eternity.  What is known is that Ambrose Bierce’s greatest contribution to his oft-times despised fellow human beings was the body of Civil War fiction that he generated.  Bierce may have defined the common man as “an immortal ass” but he provided that same public with stories chilling in nature yet revealing in depth.  It is through Bierce’s fictional renderings of the Civil War that he both purged himself of the demons of memory while also recording in literary form a likeness of the Civil War that should not be forgotten.  Roy Morris’ biography of this talented yet troubled Civil War writer is one that will allow aficionados of Bierce’s work, as well as Civil War enthusiasts, a look behind the scenes of a man who was gifted but also “alone in bad company.”

Morris, Roy, Jr., Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company, 1995, Oxford University Press, New York: NY, 306 pages, $15.95, ISBN: 0-19-512628-9.






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The Music of the American Civil War (1861-1865) 
for permission to use his MIDI file of 
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