Captains Column

Wauconda, IL

This event was the first full 1st Illinois Battalion “Event”. With the latest Virus outbreak, I was not able to be there on Saturday. I was up there on Friday night and found out they were going to have a company competition again like we did at Yorkville. Knowing that I would probably not be up on Saturday, I ran through a few scenarios with the NCOs present, I hope it helped. It seems I did not miss much since the first shot of the competition killed the company commander. The battle on Sunday went pretty well for us. We captured 2 artillery pieces and the last of the Confederate Infantry along with Colonel Houston himself. Great job.

Lockport, IL

This was another 1st Illinois Battalion event. We missed a few of the regular faces, but we still had a better than normal turnout for this one. With help from the 13th Illinois, we were able to field a 23-man company on Saturday, and a 19-man company on Sunday. This should be our normal numbers especially at Illinois Battalion events. The weekend was great, and the party at the Sgt. Majors was top shelf. The battle on Saturday was good, but I was a little disappointed about the Sunday battle. I think I was on the field for about 5 minutes before taking a hit, and the whole battle lasted what seemed like 10 minutes. Oh well, it was still a great time. Then of course there was Ira who needs to learn that you have to get up pretty early in the morning to pull one over on the good 1st Sgt. 

Greenbush, WI

This was a Black Hat Battalion event. It was wet and cold and everyone who went said they had a great time and could not wait till next year. The event coordinators rearranged the whole setup this year. The battlefield was in the old parking lot, complete with 2 stone walls, a sunken road, and split rail fences abound on the field to finish it off. On Saturday, the Colonel jumped the gun at sent us out before the start of the battle. We were charged with a false start for the battle and we got a 20-minute penalty and a loss of yardage. The drills were interesting to say the least. Ask someone who was there, because there is not enough room in this newsletter to talk about it, except to say, “There is no place like home”.

Princeton, IL

The weather and the camping were great. The members who made it were entertained Saturday by the 33rd Illinois Brass Band, and Mississippi Fife and Drum on Sunday. Good music the whole weekend. This event also had excellent ground charges setup for both days’ battles and they took safety to the max. All of the commanders were shown exactly where the charges were and how far away they needed to stay. This event had new organizers this year and is in the rebuilding mode. I was disappointed in the numbers overall, but especially on the Union side. The 1 Union company was less than the smaller of the 2 confederate companies of infantry, and had a joke of a battle on Saturday to win. I was disappointed in the overall Union commander at the event in his organization, battle plans, and his many single man charges on the Confederate battle line. Other than the battles, this was a fun weekend. The re-enactors are treated well the whole time there.

Minooka, IL

This continues to be one of the best events of the year, and the best in Illinois. The weekend was great, though we did miss a few key members. The music all weekend and the Saturday feast at the Della Vedova’s was top shelf. Thanks to all who were able to make this the success it was. There is a write up later in this edition telling a more complete story. FIRE! FIRE! FIRE! played by the fife and drum now has a special place in my heart, and my shoulder.

Ottawa, IL

We attended the re-dedication of the stained glass window in honor of General Wallace at the Christ Episcopal Church. When we were getting ready by the cars, and a lady driving by saw us and said, “You are the 104th Illinois, right? What are doing here today?” We told her what we were going to do and she parked her car and went to watch Thanks to those who were able to attend.

December Drill

Great weather, and a special thank you to Kevin McDonald, and his family for the use of their place for our use and abuse. Remember, no bayonet practice on the big white polar bear in the purple hat and coat.

Annual Meeting…

Saturday, January 31, 2004. The meeting will start at 4:00 and we have the room reserved till 9:00 if we need it. We will have a pizza buffet that will run $8.00 per person plus tax and tip and there will be a cash bar. The unit will kick in some platters of hors d'oeuvres. This is an election year and everything is up for grabs, both military and executive board positions. Be sure to attend to voice your opinion, vote for your favorites, and help set the schedule of events for the 2004 season.

Salerno's Restaurant,
1804 N. Larkin Ave.
Joliet, IL.  60435
Ph. # 815-725-6000

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

1stIllinois Battalion


2003 Schedule

Abee, abee, That’s all folks

Drill Schedule – 2004

January 31st – Annual Meeting – Joliet

February 8, 2004 - Oswego

March 14, 2004 - Oswego

From the Ranks...

A busy year has wound down.  A fun year it was with new recruits (and good ones) and good events.  Our season wound down with two events that lived up to expectations.


The last few years up there have been a little disappointing.  Who recalls the endless speeches we have endured standing in formation on windy hills, listening to historians tell how one Wisconsin unit or another not only won the war single-handedly, but discovered atomic power, landed on the beaches of Normandy and then cured cancer.

Then the privilege of doing battle on the stump field.  The same scenarios up the hill, limiting the battlefield to a small patch of ground where hundreds of spectators were jammed.  Then going home to ice down the ankles which were turned in ways they weren’t meant to.

Greenbush was becoming just another event, and a far one at that.  I went up there this year not expecting much and with the real possibility that I may not be coming back soon.  How wrong I was.

Calvin and the Little Lighthearts climbed into their Conestoga and headed north that Friday night.  We were driving through Milwaukee, listening to the Brewers putting a drubbing on the Astros, thereby assuring that my beloved Cubbies were guaranteed a place in the playoffs, and provide another wonderful choking opportunity.  Why do I mention this in a Civil War newsletter?

This is Civil War history too.  The Chicago Cubs team started in 1869, most of its players most likely veterans of the war.  And the last time the Cubs (and the Sox for that matter) won a world championship, the stands would have been full of Union veterans, with most WWII soldiers not having been born yet.  Another reason to idolize those vets.  They saved the country and saw the last Chicago baseball championship.

But back to Greenbush.  I had a great time.  The organizers put us back on the original battlefield, that had for the last few years been serving as the reenactor parking.  This is a fantastic battlefield, with the sunken road and stone walls.   

During battalion drill, I noticed something that should make us proud.  Of the nine companies of infantry out there drilling, two were especially sharp while we were doing some different battalion maneuvers.  The 104th and 10th seemed to be on the same page; that of the battalion command.  I can’t say as much for the remaining units.  But I did notice a lot of new officers for some of these units, and they were learning the ropes the hard way.  Give em credit though.  But let’s give credit where credit is due.  Captain Skalak did a tremendous job!  Our unit looked sharp because of our command.

Having arrived a little late, I was sent off for guard duty.  I make this a fun time.  Have fun with the spectators, the kids, and of course, the Ne’er do well in the plastic porta pot with the fart machine.  Who could ask for anything more?

Then a strange thing happened.  As we were being relieved from duty, there approaching the post, was our corporal, Steve, drunk out of his mind, with the smell of the dutch gals on him.  We tried to smuggle him by the guard, but he caught us and sent us to the Colonel.  We tried to explain that he had a medical condition, but the colonel smelling the demon rum, and the incoherent state of our poor dumb corporal was all the story that needed telling.

Poor young Steve was remanded to the Captain for punishment. But those low down officers.  Turns out the corporal was the son of the Captain.  No punishment!! Imagine if old Calvin had come into camp that way. 

Shortly afterward we were called to action and the companies formed up.  Seemed like we had an awful lot of guys in the ranks.   It started to rain lightly as we formed into ranks on the field.  Not bad.  Too often, our summer battles are more about avoiding passing out from the heat.  This was cool and wet.  With wool, just perfect for me.  In this light rain, we started the battle and gave the rebs a wompin’. 

Plenty of good sutlers and plenty of good food.  The trap pies up there are great; a favorite lunching spot.  There had been such a dirth of sutlers all year at many of the local events that I spent most of my summer looking for a part for my Springfield.  I was finally able to get the part I needed for my Springfield at Lodgewood who graced us at Greenbush.  Our camps were close to the fields and the sutlers, so we didn’t spend a whole lot of time walking.

For dinner, we headed into town and had a wonderful steak dinner.  A small restaurant that looked to be a former train station.  Food was great and they packed em in there.  With the little Lighthearts in tow, I headed back to Camp Holiday Inn, in preparation for tomorrow’s battle.

Sunday was almost a repeat of Saturday’s drill and battle.  Near the end of Sunday’s battle, we fixed bayonets and charged.  The ground was littered with Union soldiers.  As we did the corny, shake hands across the stone wall, the Rebs were amazed at the numbers of federals.  And they admitted many had taken hits.  That was a first for them to admit that.

The light rain on Sunday’s battle mirrored Saturday’s battle time rain, but kept things cool in the wool.  However, it was kinda dicey trying to get over that stone wall with the moss and wet brogans.  Another good reenactor moment, was after the battle was over.  As we were taking down camp, Rusty Ayer’s group came over and played music in the federal camp for about 20 minutes.  It was a fantastic way to end the weekend.

Unfortunately the ne’er do well was let down by his mule and he never made the battle.  In fact he barely made it home.  I felt bad that I wasn’t able to get hold of him before we left.  Seems like cell phones don’t address every problem.

For me, the fun was back.  Much of it being the camaraderie of the unit.  And the organizers planned a well thought out scenario.  To a man, I did not hear one complaint about the battlefield.  No one missed the stump field. 


For about the third year in a row, the weather was wonderful at ole Minooka.  And once again, we were camped on the hill.  I have found out that if you get there a little late, the staff there won’t let you up the hill.  So I had to lug my stuff up the hill.  At Minooka, you do a lot of marching whether it’s for battle, for food, or finding your wagon.  It’s a big place.  I had all my gear, plus the ne’er do well’s tentage, as he had to leave it with me when he had mule problems at Greenbush. 

I forgot that the whole area is pastured.  With secure fencing all around.  I might have had to do a lot of heavy loaded backtracking if not for the help of some Confederate Artillerists who help me get myself and all the gear through the fencing. 

Good timing though as ole Calvin arrived in camp to miss drill, but not lunch.   I did have time to watch a bit a drill and snap a few photos of the brigade.  The camp up the hill in those oaks is about the best area I’ve ever camped. EVER.  Unless you have to hoof your gear in.

Colonel Keating was in charge of the brigade and it was good seeing him in the field.  And as usual, with him in command, we were aggressive as all hell.  We gave the Rebs what for on Saturday, but ole Calvin didn’t make it.  In fact I took a hit, and then laid out there between the lines as our unit fell back.  It seemed like a very long battle, as I lay there under both sets of muskets, firing incessantly.  Thank God for earplugs.

Saturday night, the organizers fed us.   It was some of the best food I’ve ever had at an event.  I was hoping for more.  Our thanks to the Della Vedova crew who organized the grub, and on top of it added more.  The food, the pies, everything set up for a great evening.

Due to back trouble, I have not stayed overnight at an event for a while, as it may take a visit from the paramedics to get me standing again.  But, I haven’t had back spasms in awhile, so I thought I would stay.  It was great fun, and I really do miss it.  Sitting around the fire, telling stories, jokes and lies with the guys in the unit is something I missed.  After dark, a bunch of us headed down to the ball, where we finally coerced some of the younguns to go and dance with the young gals. 

Of course, we had an awful lot of fun with the fart machines that night.  After heading back to camp, I decided not to take chances with my back and slept in my wagon. 

I awoke in time to participate in the tactical.  Actually it was mostly a walk (a long walk!) in the early morning woods and fields.  The Rebs never put up much of a fight.  We rousted a few groups of infantry, but for the most part it was a bust.  I would rather have slept in.

In 2003, McDonald’s introduced the McGriddle Breakfast Sandwiches, a mix of English muffin and maple syrup.  Also in 2003, at Minooka, we were introduced to Capt. McGriddles, a mix of stumblin, bumblin Capt. on slippery brogans.  During Sunday morning inspection, seems like the Capt. got awful hungry and decided to whip himself up for breakfast and threw himself on the fire.  With the help of the unit, we turned him over so he wouldn’t burn on one side.  I was reminded of Christmas; Chestnuts roasting on an open fire. Actually, the Capt. was bucking for a promotion to Sgt. Captain. After we pulled him out (and put him out), we found he now has permanent stripes branded in to his coat courtesy of the metal grill.  Our very own Sgt. Captain McGriddles.

Sunday, the running 104th was in rare form.  We were busier looking for an out rather than fighting.  As I rapidly advanced to the rear (in single formation), I believe every federal officer on line took a shot at me.  I died like the dog I am.  Shot in the back by my own men.  As I ran to the rear, I had visions of raising my arms in triumph as I crossed the tape in camp, much like Jesse Owens in ‘36.  Instead, a waste of humanity.  And very good looking and modest humanity at that.

We used the opportunity of Minooka to take the kids pumpkin picking.  It’s become an annual rite of season.  A great reenactment, coupled with the pumpkinfest. 

It was a great way to end the season.  Two fantastic events.  We even got to see that dog Devereaux, the cheatin tinsmith.  Next time, we rocket scientist of the 104th will figure it out and turn that cart over. 

Can’t wait to put the woolies on for next year!!  See you in the field!

You’re all my obedient servants


Ramblings from the high private…

A new season is upon us and looks as though it may bring some new events to attend. The Atlanta Campaign comes to mind, as it’s the 140th anniversary. For those wanting more information go to and check out the site. It’s not complete at the moment but they’re working on it.

Locally, it appears as though Lockport has bitten the dust. I didn’t think it was a bad event and it was close for most area reenactors. And, for those who never had the pleasure of going to Uncle Richie’s on Sunday morning for a Bloody Mary, you missed it. The best Bloody Mary’s around in my humble opinion. Maybe the Park District will change their mind.

With the Atlanta Campaign just a week after the Lockport dates we may get a better turnout for a trip to Georgia. We had a blast at the 135th Chickamauga several years ago and there’s much to see and do around Hotlanta.

Unit elections will be held at our annual meeting on January 31, 2004 and I would like to announce my intention to run for president once again. Since no one tried to impeach me I thought I might be able to buy, er, uh, gather enough votes to win a second term. Vote early and OFTEN. It's a long time tradition.

Calvin talks about singing in camp and has included the lyrics to “Marching Through Georgia” in this issue. It reminded me of an incident from Chickamauga as related by First Sergeant Philander Talbot, of Company B. Talbot wrote, “About sundown the enemy made a third desperate attempt to take the ridge, when they were driven as before and charged with the bayonet beyond their own former positions. Our boys then struck up the “Battle Cry of Freedom,” the whole line taking up the strain, and when they came to the words, “Down with the traitors, up with the Stars,” every fellow emphasized them with a vim that made the woods and rocky hills ring. It was one instance where “Music hath charms to soothe a savage breast,” for although the firing continued for some time there was no further effort made to drive us from the ridge, and about 7:30 we moved toward Rossville.” We must have had about 70 people singing at the Yorkville Camp of Instruction last May, everyone having a great time. Personally, I would like to see more of this type of camaraderie among the battalion members.

I’m looking forward to the coming season and hopefully I’ll see all of you at the annual meeting on January 31.

Rick Keating

The following review comes from our good friend, Greg Romaneck.  Thanks for the contribution. I can’t wait to see this.

Saul Levitt, The Andersonville Trial, 2003, Chatsworth, CA: KCET/Hollywood Television Theater, (DVD Format--141 min.), $24.99

At the conclusion of the Civil War only one man was charged with war crimes, tried, found guilty, and executed. That man was Confederate Captain Henry Wirz, the military commandant at Andersonville Prison in Georgia. At Anderson-ville, Henry Wirz presided over a military prison where approximately 40,000 Union soldiers were held over a thirteen-month period.  During that period of approximately one year 14,000 Union men died of various causes at Andersonville.  The conditions at Andersonville were simply hellish.  While prison life both North and South during the Civil War was horrendous, Andersonville does stand out as the worst sort of example of man’s inhumanity to his fellow man.  Wirz died because he stood responsible for the actions and results that accrued at that terrible place while he commanded.

In 1971 Saul Levitt’s hit Broadway drama based upon these events and entitled The Andersonville Trial was brought to the attention of millions of television viewers.  At that time actor George C. Scott, who had starred in the theatrical production of Levitt’s play, took on the task of directing a teleplay version of this fine work.  Featuring the strong talents of performers such as Jack Cassidy, William Shatner, Cameron Mitchell, and Richard Basehart this PBS production garnered three Emmy Awards for writing, technical direction, and best single dramatic production.  Sadly, despite critical acclaim, The Andersonville Trial then disappeared from view.  Now, through the resurrection of this fine production in a DVD format a new generation of viewers can see and appreciate this first rate dramatic effort.

The action of The Andersonville Trial takes place entirely within a courtroom setting.  The task confronting the Federal Judge Advocate and prosecutor N.P. Chipman, portrayed by William Shatner, is to make mincemeat of a man who was demonized throughout the North.  Only a few months have passed since the murder of Abraham Lincoln and bad blood flows throughout the North.  In Wirz Chipman has a captive worthy of scorn and he sets out to destroy him.

Defending Wirz is Baltimore attorney Otis Baker, played by Jack Cassidy.  For Baker Wirz and his cause are not entirely sympathetic.  Yet, Baker does not see how Wirz can be convicted of simply following orders.  If moral choice is to be the criteria for guilt and innocence as per orders then, perhaps, the defeated Confederate leaders were justified in making a decision to fight against their Federal Government on moral grounds.  Further, Baker strives to break down the isolated testimonies of witnesses who base their opinions on hearsay, projection, or lies.

The defendant, Henry Wirz, is strikingly portrayed by the fine character actor Richard Basehart.  Suffering from wounds of both body and spirit, Wirz relies upon a defense similar to the German defendants at Nuremberg after World War II.  He was a soldier and soldiers are trained to obey orders regardless of personal opinion. At one point Wirz confides to his attorney, “The real crime I committed was that I chose the losing side.”

Presiding over the trial in this military court is General Wallace ably represented by actor Cameron Mitchell.  For Wallace the concern is to get through a distasteful event as soon as is practicable.  In Mitchell we are afforded a capable recreation of a military man who wants the trial to focus on issues of fact and conspiracy.  Time and again Wallace chides the Federal jurists to keep the examinations on the solid ground of fact and not morality.  However, despite this guidance the case moves steadily into the area of moral choice and how we are each held accountable for the decisions and actions we take.

Perhaps the most powerful and gripping element of this fine Civil War courtroom drama is the scene wherein Shatner probes the Wirz character to address the grim reality and weakness of the argument that simply following orders absolves one from any responsibility.  Andersonville, under Wirz’s tenure, became “an animal pit.”  One witness, indeed a Confederate military inspector who visited the prison, described Wirz’s stockade thusly, “In that place men were driven to the disposition of beasts.”  With little food, tainted water, limited shelter, no shade, and trigger happy guards what could Andersonville have become but a hell on earth?  If so, as the Shatner character projects, who would be more responsible than the leader who presided over this atmosphere? Given such human degradation is it fair to take the stance that Wirz did in relying upon the supreme right of his superiors to control his destiny and those of the men who suffered under his charge?

In the end, Wirz persisted in declaring his innocence.  He adjudged the Union officers who tried him as unfit to pass judgment upon him.  At one point Basehart as Wirz declares, “You are the victors here, and you make up morality.”  But was that not a shortsighted argument.  Rather, can we not see that each of us, inclusive of the long gone Henry Wirz, is captain of our own conscience?  As William Shatner notes late in this

outstanding film, “No man has authority over the soul of another.”  Further, by seeing only his responsibility to obey corrupt orders Wirz had reduced the Union prisoners to the status of mere material goods.  He saw them as a burden rather than as his fellow men.  Or, as is stated during his examination, “In your mind you had canceled them out as men.”

As is well known Henry Wirz was executed for his wartime acts.  To this day Wirz apologists persist in portraying him as an innocent victim.  A memorial to him can be found near the National Park that Andersonville has become.  As recently as a few months ago a strand on one of the more popular Civil War chat rooms sprang up deprecating the foul way in which the innocent Henry Wirz was destroyed by an oppressive and vengeful Federal Government.  Still, through the dramatic eye of director George C. Scott, we are given a dose of reality concerning the Wirz case.  No, the truth is never clear and Wirz was a soldier under command.  Yet, we are captains of our own spirit and we face the music for what we do.

In The Andersonville Trial Civil War enthusiasts are treated to a two-fold joy.  First, a fine cast, using excellent words, and directed with a clear eye provide a strong dramatic entrée to viewers.  Second, through revisiting the darkest chapter in the Civil War we learn a great deal about the depths to which humanity can plummet. Wirz paid the ultimate price for his crimes.  But, the fact that he did nothing effective to end the suffering and death of thousands men under his charge had destroyed his value as a man well before he faced the hangman.  Through great art we are confronted with the task of thinking and reflecting about our lives.  The Andersonville Trial accomplishes this task and challenges us to ponder what we would do in such circumstances.

Reviewed by Greg Romaneck

Considering that I haven’t been able to get a newsletter out for awhile, the holiday season has snuck up on us. So with that in mind, the staff of the newsletter, essentially me and the little Lighthearts, want to wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  Here’s wishing all of you a prosperous an healthy new year.  Can’t wait for the season to start!!

Michael, Abby, Julie and Jim Novak


I have an emergency issue blanket with a hand-stitched U.S. in the center and I am looking to sell it.  I am asking $25 for it. This would be great for a new fella or as an extra for an ole' timer.  For information, contact Matt Cassady at the following email address:  Mpc_ 84 @ yahoo .com


We have talked in the ranks about singing on the march.  The 104th was complimented by the musicians who indicated that they have been honored to hear singing to their playing.  I will begin to include the words to songs so that more of us can join in. 

And don’t worry about your singing voice.  I am the most musically retarded person in the world, yet when I blend in with the real singers like Matt and Peter, I don’t sound so bad.  Of course, for the sake of everyone around me, I don’t sing very loud.  Otherwise our unit will be accused of torturing animals as my singing has been mistaken for ten wild cats placed in a burlap bag and letting them screech their way out.  Below is one of my favorites.  Tear this page out and place it in your haversack to practice and enjoy!  Our musician friends will love us for it.

Marching Through Georgia
Words and Music by Henry Work
Copyright Root and Cady, 1865

Bring the good ole bugle boys
We’ll sing another song
Sing it with a spirit
That will start the world along
Sing it as we used to sing it
Fifty thousand strong
While we were marching through Georgia

Hurrah, Hurrah
We bring the Jubilee
Hurrah, Hurrah
The Flag that makes you free
So we sang the chorus from Atlanta to the sea
While we were marching through Georgia.

How the darkeys shouted
When they heard the joyful sound
How the turkeys gobbled
Which our commissary found
How the sweet potatoes
Even started from the ground
While we were marching through Georgia


Yes and there were Union men
Who wept with joyful tears
When they saw the honored flag
They had not seen for years
Hardly could they be restrained
From breaking forth in cheers
While we were marching through Georgia


Sherman’s dashing Yankee boys
Will never reach the coast
So the saucy Rebels said
And twas a handsome boast
Had they not forgot alas
To reckon with the host
While we were marching through Georgia


So we made a thoroughfare
For freedom and her train
Sixty miles in latitude
Three hundred to the main
Treason fled before us
For resistance was in vain
While we were marching through Georgia


Reprinted from the book:
Our War Songs – North and South
Published by Brainard and Sons
Cleveland, Ohio, 1887.


Thanks to Benjamin Tubb of 
The Music of the American Civil War (1861-1865) 
for permission to use his MIDI file of 
Welcome! Welcome! Gallant Soldiers. 
All rights reserved. May not be reproduced without permission. 

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