Sham Battles

Sham Battles – Gary Van Kauwenbergh

Private James Northup of Co. H, 2nd Wisconsin Infantry wrote home, on 12/16/1861, that they’d been having division-sized sham battles every few days. Sham battles were apparently common when the war first started. In his recently published journal, “Eye of the Storm”, Private Robert Knox Sneden , of the 40th Pennsylvania Infantry, wrote about his unit’s first sham battle. Think reenactors have safety problem today? – read on…

September 29, 1861: “The 40th Regiment had a sham fight today which resulted in filling up the hospital with as many wounded and maimed men as if there had been a big skirmish with the enemy. Colonel Riley took one half of the regiment while Major Halstead took the other half…The howitzer gun was fired rapidly, but [was] upset several times by the recoil, and the rammer was fired away during the excitement…the colonel…with a company of men, firing their muskets within ten feet of each other so that many were burnt and singed by the wads. Riley endeavored to stop the fight, which was getting serious, when some company fired their ramrods (iron ones) at him. These struck the ground all around him, and bounded, tingling in the air, doing him no harm. The major stopped the fight after a while, and bough litters had to be made to bring those who were hurt into camp…There is no chance of the 40th indulging in this little pastime of hurting each other to no purpose for some time to come